“After hearing all the possible side effects, I cannot imagine why anyone would take that drug!” one lady commented. Her friend replied, “Shows how great the pain can be at times!”
Reflecting on the reality of persecution and spiritual warfare that often attach to Disciple Making Movements (DMMs) brought the earlier exchange back to my mind. This is why these two realities are listed among the critical elements. Reclaiming the spiritual territory where Satan affirms squatter’s rights often produces negative reactions.
Westerners often develop a puzzled look when I talk about spiritual warfare. They do not have the same theoretical aversions to persecution because they attribute it to people. Through resources like Voice of the Martyrs they recognize that people are harassed, beaten and even killed for their faith. They usually cannot imagine being in locations where that happens, but their worldviews allow for persecution.
But when I share statements like the following, their eyebrows are raised: “In areas where the Gospel has never been preached, or in areas where traditional religions have reigned for a significant amount of time, it is not unusual to find those engaging in DMM activities confronted by spiritual conflicts that range from annoying to life-threatening.” What is a 21st Century rationalist to do with such an affirmation? Is it possible that there are active spiritual beings who strive to prevent the arrival of kingdom proclamations from the region they have long controlled?
Many people in third-world nations don’t doubt the existence of spiritual warfare. When they read passages like Ephesians 6:10-20, they take the language seriously. They will innumerate personal examples that illustrate what Paul spoke of when he admonished, “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). Yes, they know Paul is here painting a word picture using the armor of the Roman solider that is guarding him, while under house arrest. But they also know this struggle against evil spiritual forces. They have felt the pressure of this situation.
Our greatest resource for this spiritual warfare is prayer. Mobilizing intercessors is essential for disciple makers. Like the pharmaceutical companies mentioned earlier, those of us who train people to catalyze Disciple Making Movements warn our trainees about the possible side effects. The difference is there will be attacks.
Jesus’ promise in Matthew 16:18 is absolutely relevant. He says, “I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Note that “gates” are always defensive structures. Jesus’ promise is that advances against the territory Satan has fenced in and gated can be successful. But we need to recognize it will take an offensive. Like Jesus, we have to enter enemy territory to set the captive free. There will be a struggle. We will be put at risk. Our best defense against these challenges is to have people who are lifting us up to the throne room of heaven! Be sure you have people praying for you before you attack those gates. [Note how much Paul says about prayer in this short passage on spiritual warfare!]