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When Deliverance Goes Wrong

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The Dangers of Exorcism in Africa

The subject of exorcism, or deliverance, as it is commonly called today, has become one of the most contentious, controversial issues for the church in Africa. Sooner or later the Church must address and deal with it.

When it comes to the subject of deliverance, there is a lot of emotion and back and forth debate that characterises it. Especially because of the extremes that come with it.

Deliverance is mostly done out of personal, subjective experience – rather than based on the guidance of scripture.

Some deny the existence of demons and powers. Others believe in them but excessively – to the extent that everything is attributed to demonic influence and power.

At the heart of this discussion, very few Christians have asked themselves what the Bible really says about this. And in most cases, deliverance is done out of personal, subjective experience – rather than based on the guidance of scripture as we find in the Bible today.

When Deliverance Goes Wrong

So what happens when deliverance goes wrong? When deliverance becomes unbiblical, or cultural, or a subjective experience. What really happens?

And we recognise that indeed a lot of the deliverance experiences we are seeing in the church in Africa are hardly biblical or can find evidence from the scriptures.

‘Men of God’ – using scripture out of context – claim or conclude that people are under demonic possession.

Abuse, In The Name of Jesus

In fact a lot of the deliverance ministry in Africa today is established on a wrongly claimed authority. Where ‘Men of God’ – using scripture out of context – claim or conclude that people are under demonic possession. Therefore they seek to deliver them from those powers that hold them captive.

In the process we have seen people abused in the name of Jesus and of the Bible. We have seen some pastors who have told their members either to drink petrol, or to eat grass, or to perform certain weird unbiblical rituals in the name of being delivered from curses.

We have seen some pastors who have told their members either to drink petrol, or to eat grass.

Christians Living In Fear

Today we have Christians that are living in great fear. Simply because pastors have told them they are demon possessed. Even though there was no evidence to ascertain that this is indeed demonic possession, or some medical condition that closely resembles some demonic possession.

There is a great fear of spiritual power, as a matter of fact, in the church in Africa. And many people out of panic have ended up in occultism, and cultism, in the process of seeking for solutions to their demonic problems that they think they have.

Overwhelming Moral Laxity

A lot of the deliverance sessions that we see today in Africa promote what I call ‘moral laxity’. Because people are told that the different sins, or challenges, they are encountering in life, are due to the powers of demons.

Instead of somebody dealing with the sin in their lives, they blame the demon.

So instead of somebody dealing with the sin in their lives, they blame the demon. “The reason I lie, is because I’m demon possessed” or “the reason I rape young girls is because I’m demon possessed”,
“the reason I steal is because I have a demon at work in me. It forces me to do the things that I’m not supposed to do.”

What’s The Biblical Solution?

But is that really what the Bible says? That when people want to stop stealing, or lying, or cheating, they need to be delivered from some kind of demon?

On the contrary, what we find is that the whole of scripture calls people to the gospel of God’s salvation – in which people are saved from sin. And when people are delivered from sin, in terms of its penalty and power and presence, then they are in-dwelt by the power of the Spirit of God, who enables them to live Christ honouring lives.

Rather than call people to deliverance ministry, we need to be calling people to Jesus Christ.

What we are seeing today is people who – instead of running to Christ in repentance and seeking forgiveness of sin – are running to pastors, and exorcists, and spiritual leaders, for deliverance from personal sins and weaknesses that they should be bringing to the cross.

Deliverance Goes Wrong, Christ Doesn’t

When deliverance goes wrong, abuse and misuse is usually the outcome.

When deliverance goes wrong, abuse and misuse is usually the outcome.

The church in Africa needs to go back to the scriptures, to understand what the scriptures say about the ministry of deliverance. To be able to avoid the excesses that characterise this ministry today. And to ground God’s people in the gospel of God’s salvation. Rather than temporary relief in the name of the ministry of deliverance. Which, even though it might provide relief for now, might not give them a guarantee for eternal life.

And this can only be found in the gospel.

Rather than call people to deliverance ministry, we need to be calling people to Jesus Christ. The only one who can save them from their sins, and guarantee they’ll be placed on God’s right hand in eternal life.