I tend to be a pretty positive person and view the world as generally good. (See Genesis 1.) Yet, events from this past week in Boston remind us that this isn’t always the case. Man has the power to destroy God’s goodness. (See Genesis 4.) Paul, in Ephesians 6, also points to the fact that there are “powers of this dark world” and “spiritual forces of evil.”
This week I was with pastors of churches that are participating in the Fruitful Congregation Journey, and they described encountering these powers of darkness and evil within their own congregations. One pastor said that it is as though a bucket brigade–members filled with negativity and criticism, spreading rumors and lies–is pouring water on the fire and passion that the Holy Spirit is raising up.
Some call this spiritual warfare. I have found over the years that whenever a church is making a Kingdom difference, it comes under spiritual attack and it typically is attacked at its most vulnerable place. That’s why Paul goes on to urge us to “put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”
These pastors suggested that we pray that God would bless the bucket brigade according to their deeds. In Christ’s name, to reclaim them! To change their hearts, or take them out. Well, they were kind of joking at that last part; however, remember Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5).
They agreed that the way to fight darkness is to expose it to the light, to lift up the unhealthy behavior, to call it what it is and to make it clear that it is harmful to the body of the church and its mission.
They are developing member covenants that leaders will sign, covenanting to behave in ways that build up the body–talking face-to-face and not behind backs, disagreeing during discussions but then supporting decisions once they’re made, regularly praying, attending worship, etc. One pastor said, that dealing with those who break such covenants requires a pastor to strike the right balance between confrontation and grace.
So, put on the full armor of God, seek counsel from trusted friends, pray, and call on the name of Jesus Christ to cast the demons out. My prayers are with all of you who are fighting such battles. May God continue to sustain you and guide you. Remember, you’re not alone!
— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development