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The Real Battle is Spiritual

By C. Peter Wagner   

Warfare prayer, as I have been describing it, is a new concept to the great majority of American Christians. Many are beginning to ask whether given their traditions and training it could ever be integrated into their ministry. But Americans are not alone. Even Argentine pastors struggle with some of the same theological practical issues.

Learning the Lesson

I greatly enjoyed talking to Pastor Alberto Prokopchuk of the Los Olivos Baptist Church in the city of La Plata, Argentina, because I could identify so closely with his background. His traditional Baptist ministerial training had not included a course in Spiritual Warfare 101. His ministry at Los Olivos Baptist was not much different from what we observe in so many typical churches in our American cities: good, solid Bible teaching ministry; a relatively high moral standard; the fruit of the spirit manifested to a reasonable degree and church members who pray, tithe, attend service, and witness to their neighbors when the opportunity presents itself.

All this, and no growth!

Under Alberto’s ministry, the Los Olivos church had been stalled at 30 members for many years.

Then Carlos Annacondia came to La Plata to conduct a crusade. Alberto and Los Olivos Baptist cooperated with the crusade. As they attended meetings night after night, they began learning about warfare prayer by observing Annacondia. And they were deeply impressed with the results, not only the thousands who were personally healed and delivered from evil spirits, but even more so the 50,000 who made public decisions to follow Christ.

Nothing even close to this had been seen previously in La Plata.

Watching Annacondia and his team conduct the crusade was one thing – carrying this type of ministry over to a traditional Baptist church was something else. One thing Baptists did know how to do, however, was to evangelize. So the lay leaders of Los Olivos approached Pastor Alberto and said, “Let’s have an evangelistic crusade in our own church.”

Alberto wasn’t ready for that. “I don’t have the gift of evangelist,” he replied.

“Should we invite an outside evangelist?”

“No,” his leaders said. “Let’s make a deal. You preach the crusade and we will pray that God gives you the gift of evangelist.”

Alberto, possibly in a weak moment, agreed. They organized the crusade and held the first service. Alberto preached an evangelistic message and gave the invitation. No response!

As he was agonizing to himself over this apparent lack of power, Alberto seemed to hear an inner voice saying to him, “Try it the way Annacondia does it!” In semi-desperation, he decided to go for broke and give it a try. He prayed a strong warfare prayer and directly rebuked spirits as he had seen Carlos Annacondia do so many times. When he had bound the spirits with the authority that Jesus Christ had given him, he gave the invitation once again. This time more than 15 people sprang out of their seats and actually came running to the front to receive Christ as their Savior and Lord!

Los Olivos Baptist Church has grown from its 30 members to more than 900. But that is not all. Prokopchuk has started satellite congregations in other parts of city with an additional 2,100 members . His goal for his church with its satellite network is 20,000 members by the year 2000. Needless to say, Alberto has been “doing it like Annacondia” ever since.

The Real Battle

The basic lesson Alberto Prokopchuk learned was that the real battle for effective evangelism is a spiritual battle. He learned it in his way; others of us are learning it in our own way.

The Church Growth Movement, which I represent, has been blessed by God and has been used to stimulate fundamental changes both in local church ministry and in world evangelization.

The movement began in 1955, and for the first 25 years or so under the inspiration of its founder, Donald McGavran, worked on developing the radical new technological aspects of church growth and evangelism, which have been so widely acclaimed.

Around 1980, a few of us started to explore what some of the spiritual dimensions of church growth might look like. This is not to say that any of the technology is now regarded as bad or that the spiritual will substitute for the technological. No. The technological has been extremely helpful to churches and missions and we continue to work vigorously to improve and update it.

What we have discovered, however, is that all the evangelistic technology in the world will have only a minimal effect unless the spiritual battle is won. It is like a brand new automobile with all the latest engineering. It may be beautiful and perfectly constructed, but it will do nothing until gasoline is pumped into the tank. The same thing applies to spiritual power in evangelism an church growth.

To illustrate, look at the decade of the 1980s in America. This was a decade of the mushrooming of some of the largest churches the nation has ever seen. Almost every metropolitan area now has one or more megachurches it did not have previously. Church growth seminars and evangelistic resources have multiplied. Private Christian schools and the Christian use of the media increased dramatically. On the surface it looked like Christianity was making great progress in the nation. But statistics paint another picture. At the end of the decade church attendance was the same as at the beginning, and

Protestant church membership had decreased.

I believe God wants us to do a better job of evangelizing our nation in the years to come. And we will do it, in my opinion, to the degree we understand that the real battle is spiritual.

Learning About the Battle

Around 1980, I began sensing from God that I needed to concentrate on the spiritual dimensions of church growth. Because of my close friendship with John Wimber, who at the time was being called “Mr. Signs and Wonders” by some, I knew that power evangelism would be the first item on my new agenda. I also sensed that after this, prayer would be my next agenda item although, I must admit, at the time I had no clue how prayer might relate to effective evangelism.

I shared the research I had done on signs and wonders in my book How to Have a Healing Ministry (Regal Books), which was published in 1988. A year earlier, in 1987, I began to seriously research and teach on paper. But not until the great Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in Manila, in the summer of 1989, did I fully learn about the real battle.

Although I didn’t know that much about it, by 1989 I had begun to realize two things:

  1. Evangelism would work better when accompanied by serious prayer; and
  2. throughout the Body of Christ, God had gifted, called and anointed certain individuals who were unusually powerful in the ministry of intercession.

I was in a position to integrate these new insights with the Lausanne II Congress because I happened to be a member of the international Lausanne Committee, which was sponsoring the congress.

As I prayed about relating intercession to evangelism, God impressed me with the thought of attempting to identify 30 to 50 of these gifted, world-class intercessors and challenging them to go to Manila at their own expense, bypass the established participant selection process, put up in the Philippine Plaza Hotel across the street from the Convention Center where the congress was to be held, and pray together 24 hours a day throughout the congress.

The Lausanne leaders agreed, and I asked Ben Jennings of Campus Crusade’s Great Commission Prayer Crusade to organize and lead it. Ben did a magnificent job, and 50 intercessors showed up, fulfilling our highest expectations.

Through the Manila intercession team God gave us what I like to call a “living parable,” to show us clearly what the underlying issues for world evangelization really are. Before I describe the living parable, one more crucial factor needs to be explained.

The Threefold Cord

In the spring of 1989, I began learning about another spiritual dimension relating to evangelism: personal prophecy. I will not go into detail here how individuals such as John Wimber , Cindy Jacobs, and Paul Cain helped open this new area of understanding to me, except that at the beginning I was somewhat skeptical, but I now believe that the prophetic is a valid and significant ministry in these days.

Early in the summer 1989 John Wimber told me that Dick Mills would telephone me with a prophecy and he recommended I pay close attention to it. To my embarrassment, I had never heard of Dick Mills but John described him as one of the most respected prophets in America with a well-tested track record. I subsequently learned from Cindy Jacobs, who knew Dick Mills well, that telephoning strangers was contrary to his usual practice.

Coincidentally, Cindy happened to be our house guest the day Dick Mills called my home.

I will not relate prophecy in detail here, but the item of the living parable in Manila was a prophetic application of Ecclesiastes 4:12 to my ministry: “A threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Dick said he felt god was calling me to serve as a catalyst to help bring together three cords that He desired to weave into a pattern to accomplish His purposes in the years to come. The three cords are the conservative evangelicals, the charismatics and the conscientious liberals.

Lausanne II was to play a significant role in bringing together the first two cords. Although Lausanne I in Switzerland in 1974 included only token participation by Pentecostals and charismatics, in Lausanne II, fifteen years later, they were quite prominent. Some said that by looking at the number of raised hands in the plenary sessions, it appeared the majority of participants might well have been charismatic.

It turned out that about half of those who gathered for the intercession team in Manila were conservative evangelicals and about half were Pentecostals and charismatics. I found out later that since this was the first time these two groups had mixed at this level, a variety of thoughts were going through their minds. The charismatics were saying to themselves, “I wonder if these evangelicals really know how to pray and get touch with God.” The evangelicals were saying, “I wonder if these charismatics are going to shout and scream and roll around on the floor.”

But much to the delight of all concerned, they found that when they began to pray together there was no discernible difference at all. When they entered the throne room of God together they found themselves saying the same things and hearing the same things. The evangelicals were encouraging the charismatics and the charismatics were encouraging the evangelicals. Two of God’s cords were coming together.

The Living Parable

One of the most dramatic visible signs I have seen from God occurred during the first evening the Lausanne intercession team met in the prayer suite of the Philippine Plaza Hotel. On the eve of the greatest international convocation on evangelization yet held, God gave us a living parable to show us once and for all that the real battle for evangelization is spiritual.

The 50 intercessors sat around the large hotel room in a circle. They had come from 12 nations of the world, the greatest number coming from North America. Ten of the intercessors were Filipinos and Filipinas. Although my wife, Doris, and I are not intercessors, we were invited to participate in the prayer room activities because we happened to be the originators of the idea.
Naturally, the first time of business was to introduce ourselves.

As we got a little more than halfway around the circle, a Filipina named Juana Francisco, a woman in her late 50s, introduced herself and told of the ministry of intercession she had exercised for many years. Two or three minutes later, while someone else was speaking, Juan Francisco suffered what we learned later was a critical attack of asthma. She screamed, lost color in her face, and began loudly gasping for breath. A wave of panic went through the room.

Two men took Juana by the arms and half carried her out the door into the hotel corridor. Right across the hall was the room occupied by Bill and Vonette Bright of Campus Crusade and they managed to get her onto Bill Bright’s bed. Fortunately, one of the Filipina intercessors was a medical doctor, so she went out with Juana to attend her. Having the comforting knowledge that she was under medical care, two or three intercessors prayed for her healing, and we continued the introductions.

We had almost completed the circle of introductions when someone burst in the door and shouted, “Who has an automobile? This is an emergency! We must get her to the hospital! The doctor says she is dying!”

Immediately two women jumped out of their chairs and hurried out the other door into the hotel corridor. These women had not known each other well before. One, Mary Lance Sisk, is known as an evangelical. She is a Presbyterian from Charlotte, North Carolina, and has served for years as the personal intercessor for Leighton Ford, the president of the Lausanne Movement and the highest official of the congress. The other was Cindy Jacobs, whom I have mentioned previously. Cindy is a known independent charismatic.

The Voodoo Spirit

Once in the corridor, Mary Lance and Cindy made eye contact and knew at once in the Spirit that they had received the same message from God. God told them both that Juana Francisco’s attack was due to the invasion of a voodoo spirit. Philippine voodoo had been spoken against the group and God had pulled back the protection enough to let the afflicting spirit reach the intercessor, much as He had allowed the enemy access to Job in yesteryear. In a matter of seconds, Mary Lance and Cindy grasped hands, agreed in the Spirit, prayed a warfare prayer, and broke the power of the demon in the name of Jesus.

Just at that time, Bill Bright, who knew nothing of what had happened, got off the elevator and went to his room. There on his bed was this strange Filipina woman grasping for breath in a life-threatening situation. His reflex as a Christian was to lay on hands and pray for healing, which he did just at the time Mary Lance and Cindy were breaking the curse. Juana Francisco opened her eyes, began breathing normally, and the crisis was over!
By that time Doris and I were out in the corridor. Bill Bright walked out of his room, came over to us, and said with no little emotion in his voice, “We have a lot of power! We should use it more often!”

What is God Showing Us?

God’s purpose behind parables, in this case a living parable, is to teach His people an important lesson. As I analyze this event, the interpretation is clear. Although these 4,500 handpicked Christian leaders from almost 200 nations of the world gathered at Lausanne II in Manila to strategize the evangelization of the 3 billion people who do not yet know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, God wanted them all to know the real nature of their task. I see three major lessons from the parable.

World evangelization is a matter of life and death. Medically speaking, Juana Francisco was on the verge of death. Spiritually speaking, 3 billion people in the world are on the verge of an even more terrible death – eternal death in hell. Had Juana Francisco died, she would have gone to heaven. The evangelistic crisis facing God’s people is much more serious than was the brief crisis in the Philippine Plaza Hotel because it unbelievers die they do not go to heaven.

The key to world evangelization is hearing God and obeying what we hear. Mary Lance Sisk and Cindy Jacobs both received an immediate revelation from God. As seasoned intercessors they were accustomed to this, so it did not take them by surprise. The fact that they had both heard the same word at the same time confirmed to each that they were hearing correctly.

But they also knew that hearing God was only the first step. The second was having the courage to obey Him no matter what They knew God wanted the curse broken, so they went into action, again doing what they had each done many times before. They took authority in the name of Jesus and neither one had any doubt hat at the at instant the battle had been won.

God is going to use the whole Body of Christ to complete the task of world evangelization. The evangelicals are not going to evangelize the world by themselves. The charismatics are not going to evangelize the world by themselves. God chose an evangelical and a charismatic to meet in the hallway and do the spiritual warfare. And to seal it, He chose Bill Bright, one of the Lausanne movement’s most visible evangelical participants, to pray the healing prayer and watch God raise up Juan Francisco from her deathbed.

Territorial Spirits

Previous to Lausanne II in Manila there had not been much discussion about how territorial spirits could influence world evangelization even among Pentecostals and charismatics, to say nothing about evangelicals. Although the subject was not part of the overall design of the program committee, five of the workshops at Manila dealt with territorial spirits and strategic-level spiritual intercession. Those who addressed the issue were Omar Cabrera and Edgardo Silvoso of Argentina, Rita Cabezas of Costa Rica, and Tom White and I from the United States. The interest in these workshops exceeded expectations, and I sensed before we left that God wanted me to take some leadership in further research on the subject.

John Robb of World Vision precipitated the convening of a very select group of those living in the United States who had acquired some knowledge of strategic-level spiritual warfare. Almost by default, I became the coordinator of the event. Prominent among the 30 individuals who attended the first meeting in Pasadena, California, on February 12, 1990, were Larry Lea, Gary Clark, John Dawson, Cindy Jacobs, Dick Bernal, Edgardo Silvoso, Mary Lance Sisk, Gwen Shaw, Frank Hammond, Bobbie Jean Merck, Jack Hayford, Joy Dawson, Beth Alves, Ed Murphy, Tom White, Charles Kraft and many others. Bobbye Byerly led a simultaneous intercession group who prayed in the next room throughout the meeting.

The group began to call itself, “The Spiritual Warfare Network” with the subtitle: “A Post-Lausanne II in Manila Group Studying Strategic-Level Spiritual Warfare.” None of the members of the Spiritual Warfare network considers himself or herself an expert, but all agree that the real battle for world evangelization is spiritual, and that the more we learn about it the more effectively we will be able to complete the Great Commission of Jesus to make disciples of all nations.

Some in the group are moving ahead on this. John Dawson’s excellent book, Taking Our Cities for God (Creation House) is the first analytical and instructional book we have on warfare prayer. Dick Bernal’s books such as Storming Hell’s Brazen Gates (Jubilee Christian Center) and Come Down Dark Prince (Companion Press) share actual field ministries of warfare prayer.

My book, Engaging the Enemy (Regal Books), brings together writings on the subject by 18 Christian leaders such as Tom White, Dick Bernal, Larry Lea, Jack Hayford, John Dawson, Edgardo Silvoso of the Spiritual Warfare Network, Michael Green, Paul Yonggi Cho, Timothy Warner, Oscar Cullmann and others. Cindy Jacob’s Possessing the Gates of the Enemy (Chosen Books) is the practical textbook on how we actually do the intercession. The important concept of “spiritual mapping” (see chapter 8) is introduced in George Otis, Jr.’s, The Last of the Giants (Chosen Books).

Spiritual Power in Evangelism

Not everyone who sets out to evangelize is equally effective. Since that is the case, it is helpful to know who is the most effective and what things they may be doing that others aren’t. This is one of the tasks of professors of church growth like me. I have been studying the growth and non-growth of churches for more than two decades and some of the answers have been emerging.

Church growth is somewhat complex. Three sets of factors enter the picture when analyzing growth or decline of churches. Institutional factors, the church can change if it wishes. Contextual factors, which are sociological conditions, the church has no power to change. Finally, spiritual factors, which reflect the hand of our sovereign God.

When looked at on a global scale, however, it seems that the institutional and contextual factors may not be as crucial as the spiritual factors. This becomes evident when one looks at the growth of the Pentecostal and charismatics movements in the past 40-50 years. Although some vigorous growth has occurred among non-charismatics and not all charismatic-type churches and denominations are growing, the fact remains that through recent decades the most amazing church growth worldwide has been seen among the churches that most explicitly depend on spiritual power, namely Pentecostal and charismatic churches.

The Pentecostal/charismatic movement has its roots in the beginning of the twentieth century, but its vigorous growth did not really begin until after World War II. At that time, in 1945, it counted 16 million adherents worldwide. By 1965 it had grown to 50 million, by 1985 to 247 million, and the 1991 figure is an incredible 391 million.

One Pentecostal denomination, the Assemblies of God, grew from 1.6 million in 1965 to 13.2 million in 1985. Even though it is a relatively new denomination, the Assemblies of God is now the largest or second largest denomination in more than 30 nations of the world. In one city alone, Sao Paulo, Brazil, the Assemblies of God reports 2,400 churches.

The fastest growing Christian movement in the United States is the independent charismatics. With some exceptions, the largest megachurch in almost any American metropolitan area is Pentecostal or charismatic. All 6 of the world’s churches that had a 1990 worship attendance of 50,000 or more are Pentecostal/charismatic.

Although I am not a professional historian, I would be bold enough to advance a hypothesis. I would think that in all of human history not another non-militaristic, non-political voluntary human movement has grown as dramatically as the Pentecostal/charismatic movement has grown over the past 25 years.

It seems reasonable to assume that those of us, like me, who come from traditional evangelical wing of the church would do well to be open to learn from our charismatic brothers and sisters. The most fundamental lesson, as I see it, is that they have a more advanced understanding that the real battle for evangelization is spiritual. Signs and wonders, deliverance from demonic powers, miraculous healings, sustained and enthusiastic worship, prophecies and warfare prayer are seen by many of them as the normal outworking of Christianity.

The manifestation of this spiritual power in bringing large numbers of people to Jesus Christ speaks for itself. We need only observe what God is doing in the world today to realize that the effectiveness of our evangelistic efforts depends to a great degree on the outcome of the spiritual battles in the heavenly places.

The Scriptures indicate that our chief weapon for engaging the enemy in this battle is warfare prayer.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

C Peter Wagner (August 15, 1930 – October 21, 2016) was a missionary, writer, teacher and founder of several organizations. He served as Chancellor of Wagner Leadership Institute and President of Global Harvest Ministries. He is a widely-recognized authority in the fields of church growth and spiritual warfare, and is the author of more than 50 books. Global Spheres

Used by permission An excerpt taken from Warfare Prayer. Regal Books (1992) ©.

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