Thursday, February 3, 2011

Staying Ahead Of The Curve

Dr. Larry Richards
When I was a seminary student in the 70's the text book I was assigned for one of my courses was Dr. Larry Richards' "Theology Of Christian Education". Never in my life would I have ever imagined that Dr. Larry would become a friend and colleague in the starting of a new kind of seminary. The past few years have found my life enriched through the personal times we have spent together and the wonderful information he gladly and freely shares with us all through his blogs. (Check out the links in this article). Dr. Larry Richards is according to Talbot Seminary one of America's most gifted teachers and the most prolific author in Christendom. He has authored over 300 books and if you are a pastor I know you probably have one or more of his books in your library. His books and study guides are widely available at any Christian Book Store, or from one of Dr. Richards websites.

I would particularly like to recommend the new Invisible War series. These are historical Biblical novels that trace the story of angels and demons from the beginning of creation up to the modern time using the clear teaching of scriptures throughout in a can't put it down reading format.

We have had the privilege of having Dr. Larry come to our school and teach a course on the Spirit World and hold a Freedom Workshop for our students and people from all over the Southern California area.  The experience of everyone attending was one of deep appreciation for our lives were deeply touched and changed in a way that we are today more effective in ministry.

Dr. Larry is the most knowledgeable person in helping us understand and deal with the spiritual world. It's easy for us to take too lightly Paul's exhortation that "we wrestle not against flesh and blood". The real battle we are fighting is a spiritual one.

If you are a pastor or denominational executive you would be blessed as will your people by having Dr. Richard's come to your church or region. He truly is a resource to "the church" and a gift to us from the Lord of the church.

I asked Dr. Richard's if he would like to write something for my blog. I knew in asking Dr. Richard's would be willing. I asked him to write on whatever he felt the Lord was leading him to write that would be helpful to the church.

You and he don't know this, but this blog is read by pastors and leaders in over 25 countries around the world. Included are countries were it is illegal to convert to Christianity to countries in the 10/40 window where the majority of the unreached persons are. Perhaps through this post all of us can better understand our mission and ministry and that through our ministry we will do as Jesus desires and see people become truly free.

Ahead of the Curve

The other day a friend gave me the dust jacket of Chuck Swindoll’s latest, The Church Awakening, subtitled ‘an urgent call for renewal.”  My friend kept the book. But as he handed me the jacket he remarked, “It’s about forty years late.” He was referring to the fact that I’d been calling for church renewal and writing on it in back in the 1970’s. But of course, what moved Chuck to write today is his awareness that “everything has changed.” Today we live in a postmodern world, what Swindoll calls a “new dark ages.” And “doing church” in the old way will no longer do.

Ray Steadman
Of course, it didn’t “do” forty years ago either. We run church as an institution, but the church is a living organism, the Body of Christ, the Family of God. Only as we rediscover the dynamics of what another old time renewal proponent, Ray Steadman, called “body life,” with the local body led by servant leaders, will the church prosper in the present postmodern era.
But I’m not going to take this opportunity to write to look back on the 70’s and 80’s. Instead I want to look ahead a few decades, sketch something of the challenge we’re about to face, and suggest how we can prepare to meet it.


C. S. Lewis
“Postmodern” is a peculiar term, but it’s outline was predicted by CS Lewis a half century ago in the third book of his space trilogy, That Hideous Strength.  The age Lewis foresaw was be one in which humans lost their confidence that science could generate a better future. It would be an age without faith, as trust in the institutions that gave society its structure, government and religion, had been discarded. Words such as truth, loyalty and commitment would lose their meaning. Morality would no longer have an anchor, absolutes would be relativised so that what is right or wrong for me need not be right or wrong for you, and your truth need not be my truth. Left wandering in a swirling world of illusions, totally out of touch with reality, human beings would look to the occult, and the old paganism would rush in to fill the void.

Most Christians are totally unaware that Lewis’ predictions are being fulfilled today. The world is changing around us . . . in fact it has changed. Today at my last count there are some 60 weekly television series that are rooted in the occult or paranormal. Some are dramas on broadcast channels, such as “Medium,” while many semi-documentary programs such as “Paranormal States,” play on A&E and other cable channels. 

The Pew research organization recently found that some 25% of those who attend evangelical churches hold pagan beliefs, such as a belief in reincarnation, with no awareness that such beliefs conflict with the Bible. Neopagan faiths and beliefs are growing rapidly in our culture, as people see themselves as “spiritual” but have no well-formulated belief system. Wicca, a faith which emphasizes witchcraft, is the largest of the dozens of neopagan “paths” welcomed by a population increasingly unfamiliar with biblical Christianity. And the general population increasingly perceives evangelical Christians as intolerant, judgmental, and as an essentially political group intent on imposing a restrictive morality on all.

Dr. Chuck  Swindoll
Yet Swindoll is wrong in viewing postmodernism as a new dark age. Postmodernism is a return to a worldview that characterized the first century, an era in which human beings felt both isolated and helpless, and in consequence turned to the supernatural. In the first century nearly everyone relied on the occult for aid or protection. The supernatural beings referred to in the New Testament as rulers, principalities, powers and authorities, familiar titles then for demons, were called on to help achieve personal goals and to curse rivals and enemies. The spirit world was very real to the people of the first century, and demons maintained a grip on both the culture and individuals.

The Pauline Perspective

California State Christian University
Dr. Richard's is on our Academic Advisory Committe
and serves on our faculty
In his letter to the Ephesians Paul expresses a perspective which is generally absent from the church in Western world, and especially in the United States. Paul wrote, “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph.6:11,12). Today most Christians are ignorant of the devil’s schemes, have no notion of spiritual warfare, and would be amused if told that demons called rulers, authorities and powers, were active in their churches and in their lives.

I sadly fear that many pastors would share their amusement, even though they may struggle with dissention and criticism in their congregations, and refer increasing numbers of their people to counselors (who are just as ignorant of spiritual warfare) to deal with bitterness, anger, abuse and martial breakdowns.

The attitudes, beliefs and values of Christians are as vulnerable to postmodernism as those of the general population. And many in our churches currently experience a demonic oppression which is unrecognized and to a great extent ignored. Our struggle, Paul teaches, is “against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Though we believe the Bible, we’ve done little or nothing to arm believers for this kind of struggle.

A Look Ahead

My wife is currently taking a Masters in Counseling Psychology at Mars Hill Grad School in Seattle. Yesterday I met one of her professors. He looked puzzled, and then said, “Are you that Christian education guy?”  It turned out that he had used several of my books in the churches he served, and I had to admit, “Yes, I’m that Christian Ed guy.” Or I was.

Dr. Dale Salico, Dr. Larry Richards and myself when
Dr. Richards came to teach at our University
The first 20 years of my ministry I wrote in Christian education and church renewal.. The next 30 I devoted to developing Bible study resources, such as the NIV Encyclopedia of Bible Words, Zondervan’s Teen Study Bible, and curriculum for all ages. Now, as I reach the ago of 80 this year, I’m devoting the rest of my life teaching and writing on spiritual warfare and deliverance. I also conduct weekend Freedom Workshops, which teach  and apply the Book of Ephesians, with a view to delivering Christians and others who have fallen prey to Satan’s schemes.

It’s strange to be launching on a new ministry at my age. But just as over 40 years ago I saw the need for church renewal, I now see a need for deliverance ministry. I am convinced that in the coming decades Satan will intensify his attacks on believers and churches. And I am convinced that the development of a biblical deliverance ministry will be increasingly vital for local churches who are concerned about the spiritual growth of their members and reaching postmoderns.

The Bible is rich in teaching on Satan’s schemes and on the tactics of demons. The Bible is also identifies those truths we need to impart if we’re to equip believers to stand against the wiles of devil. And I believe that Christ has equipped us with authority over the demonic.

If you’re not acquainted with what I call “biblical deliverance ministry,” I recommend you look at two books. The first is How to Cast out Demons, by Doris M. Wagner, and the second is Two Hours to Freedom, by Charles H. Kraft. Each of these inexpensive paperbacks is available on, and together will serve as an introduction both to Satan’s strategies and deliverance ministry itself. They will also balance the impression of deliverance ministry you may have gained from some of the more theatrical practitioners on Christian television.

An additional resource you may find helpful is my weekly blog on biblical demonology,  And if you’d like to consider offering a Freedom Workshop in your church or community, go to 

Dr. Richards Teaching
The Freedom Workshop
Another potential resources is ISDM, the “International Society of Deliverance Ministers,” also available on the web.

Back in the 70’s I was one of the first evangelicals to write on church renewal. To date I can’t say that the church in the United States has been renewed. But many of the things I wrote about are common practice in many churches, and the “whole package” is being implemented in movements like the Organic Church. Back then I was, as my friend with the book dust jacket implied, ahead of the curve. I’m convinced that today we are rushing into a future in which Satan and his demons will become more and more active, in society and in the Christian community. Postmodernism provides a cultural climate that is ideal for the implementation of Satan’s schemes.

If you and your church want to be ahead of the curve, preparing and prepared for the attacks of those forces of evil in the heavenly realms, it’s time, now, to become familiar with his schemes. And to begin to take seriously the development of a biblical deliverance ministry.    

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