Spiritual Warfare and Evangelism -- By: Charles E. Lawless

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 05:1 (Spring 2001)
Article: Spiritual Warfare and Evangelism
Author: Charles E. Lawless

Spiritual Warfare and Evangelism

Charles E. Lawless

Charles E. Lawless is Associate Professor of Evangelism and Church Growth at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Lawless has served as pastor and minister of education with three different congregations in Ohio. He has contributed articles to denominational periodicals, and the subject of his doctoral dissertation was spiritual warfare.

Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness, a novel describing the influence of demons on a fictional town, quickly popularized the topic of spiritual warfare in North America after its publication in 1986. Somewhat contemporaneous with the publication of Peretti’s works, C. Peter Wagner (Donald A. McGavran Professor of Church Growth at Fuller Theological Seminary) began to research and write about the worldwide prayer movement. His interest in prayer led him to become a leader of the growing spiritual warfare movement.1

It was evident by 1989 (with the establishment of a “Spiritual Warfare Track” under the direction of Charles Kraft at Lausanne II in Manila) that the spiritual warfare movement had gained an official hearing from evangelical leaders in addition to its growing popular constituency.2 The establishment of the A.D. 2000 United Prayer Track and the Spiritual Warfare Network under Wagner’s leadership further strengthened the movement.

Conferences on spiritual warfare are held throughout the country. No fewer than 100 books about spiritual warfare have been published since 1990. Like Peretti’s novels, some of these works have had popular appeal.3 Clearly, the topic of spiritual warfare has captured interest on this continent.

The Spiritual Warfare Movement and Evangelism

The message of warfare proponents is clear: spiritual warfare is a fact of the Christian life, and to ignore that truth is to invite defeat at the hands of demonic powers.

Indeed, these leaders contend that not to prepare for spiritual warfare is to be ill equipped for evangelism and discipleship in the twenty-first century. Therefore, proponents of spiritual warfare are quite passionate about the urgency of their message.

Forceful warnings and loud battle cries like the following echo throughout much of warfare literature:

We are in a holy war for the souls of men and women. We are wrestling in heavenly places against an enemy who is ruthless in his desire to steal, kill and destroy.. .. And one of his greatest weapons is passivity on the part of the believers. While we have been busy i...

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