16 Aug 2000 · 22 Aug 2000
LCWE’s focus is World Evangelization. This involves an inescapable element of “spiritual warfare with the principalities and powers of evil who are seeking to overthrow the church and frustrate its task of evangelization” (Lausanne Covenant, article 12). The purpose of this consultation was to get a Biblical and comprehensive understanding of
- who the enemy is
- how he is working
- how we can fight him in order to be most effective in the evangelization of all peoples.
This purpose was achieved through input from Biblical scholars, missiologists and practitioners in areas like:
- Biblical and historical foundation
- Theological interpretations
- Contemporary and geographical contexts of spiritual warfare
- Missional responses and strategies in the local church and in world mission
“We believe that we are engaged in constant spiritual warfare with the principalities and powers of evil, who are seeking to overthrow the Church and frustrate its task of world evangelization. We know our need to equip ourselves with God’s armour and to fight this battle with the spiritual weapons of truth and prayer. For we detect the activity of our enemy, not only in false ideologies outside the Church, but also inside it in false gospels which twist Scripture and put people in the place of God. We need both watchfulness and discernment to safeguard the biblical gospel…”
From article 12 of the Lausanne Covenant – on Spiritual Conflict
There were several reasons for giving priority to this consultation theme:
- There has been a greatly heightened interest in this subject in Evangelical circles in the last decade or so. This, however, was preceded by trends that built up this interest.
- In the secular world there has been growing disillusionment with a purely rational approach to life.
- In the church there has been serious decline in in the mainline denominations who were closely linked to the rational approach.
- The West has been invaded by occult ideas and practices from the East since the 1960’s. This is seen in the high interest in New Age ideas.
- The drug culture has greatly expanded in the youth scene in the same period.
- Pentecostal and Charismatic churches have grown greatly with their openness to new spiritual experiences and the practice of exorcism.
- Christians have had more contact with Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Shamanism as a result of large scale immigration to the West.
- There are fuzzy borders and a variety of interpretations and practices on issues like prayer in spiritual warfare, possession, demonization, territorial spirits etc. What is the Biblical, extra Biblical and non Biblical/Christian?
- The presence of ethnic churches in the West and wider and swifter reporting through modern media have given Christians greater familiarity with their forms of spirituality.
- How should violent ethnic conflicts like the genocides in Bosnia and Rwanda be understood in the context of spiritual warfare?
- There have been changes in belief and practice in evangelical circles fostered by a flood of books, courses and seminars which have disseminated a new vocabulary with prominence given to demons, spirits and supernatural beings of different kinds.
- The churches have tended to fall into one of five categories.
- Those who dismiss the idea of the spirit world with disdain.
- Those who are just not aware of the world of the spirit to any degree and have not, therefore developed any disciplines related to it.
- Those who are aware of the world of the spirit, pray, believe in the supernatural and who have absorbed and gone along more or less with current changes of practice but have many questions and some discomfort and frustration about it all.
- Those who have accepted the views of their leaders or examined it for themselves and practice unquestioningly the recent practices associated with spiritual warfare.
- Those who have always had what they considered to be biblical views and prayer disciplines related to the spirit world and who dismiss the new approaches as unbiblical and unacceptable.
This is having a divisive effect among evangelicals at a time when there is a greater need than ever for the church to understand and use all the armour of God in view of:
- The extensive efforts being made to reach unreached peoples and enter countries where there is almost no Christian presence.
- The need to combat the effects on the church and the world of secularization and the experience-centered cultures of post modernism in the West.
- The vigorous counter attacks of the powers of darkness on many who are in frontierevangelistic situations.
- Some of the trends in section 1 raise serious questions for world evangelization.
- The Christian ethic could be undermined where human responsibility is set aside by referring matters inappropriately to demonic activity.
- Questions of the proper contextualization of the gospel in a culture are often avoided because the answer is just to do the appropriate spiritual warfare.
- The nature of the authority of scripture is called in question by the willingness to consider ideas and follow practices that are admittedly extra biblical.
- The question of a proper hermeneutic in dealing with the biblical teaching of “the powers” is raised.
- The unity or even the ability of believers to cooperate is undermined.