Why Casting Out Demons Belongs in the Western Church
Updated: Mar 17, 2019
Why is casting out demons lacking among many Evangelicals/Christians in Western countries?
Here are a few considerations:
For the first 300 years of the church, Christians taught their disciples to obey everything Jesus commanded his disciples to teach their disciples until the end of the age. To the early church, “All that I have commanded you” included “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.” See Matthew 28:20 & 10:8.
The church during these 300 years grew through intense persecution. However, that all changed around the time the Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan in A.D. 313, which made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. Consequently, the church became an insider rather than an outlier. However, the respite from intense persecution resulted in complacency and a shift within the church in that it didn’t seem as pressing to rely upon God’s power as before. This led to a decline in casting out demons, healing the sick, etc.
Since Westerners—especially considering the Enlightenment’s influence—valued thought, reason, and philosophy, then the Western church has primarily relied upon rhetorical and intellectual persuasion to convince its audience of the truth of the gospel. Thus, the Western church has contextualized the gospel message by a greater emphasis on laying out propositional truths, demonstrating that Jesus is inviting us into a relationship with the God of truth, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. c.f. Colossians 2:3. The Global South tends to contextualize the gospel to its animistic-leaning audience through a “power encounter” of mighty works, miracles, casting out demons, healing the sick, etc. in order to provide a tangible demonstration of the gospel's truth claims that Jesus is the One True God who invites us into a relationship with a God of wonders.
“For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:22-24 ESV) Both approaches for presenting the gospel—apologetics that use propositional truth, logic, and evidence (the wisdom of God), and practical demonstrations of the gospel through prophecy, healing, and miracles (the power of God)—should both be integrated into our discipleship models if our goal is to comprehensively follow the model of Jesus and the early church.
Why else should Christians in Western countries learn how to cast out demons and learn the “power evangelism” modeled by Jesus and the early church?
First, Jesus' discipleship model is to be implemented in the discipleship of all nations. “All nations” includes all Western nations and cultures, as well as those from Eastern cultures and the Global South. “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)
Second, Westerners have demons too. These demons come to steal, kill, and destroy their lives. They keep Western Christians from growing to maturity in Christ and experiencing God’s wonderful plan for their lives. Thus, rather than leaving demons inside and managing our lives around their schemes and interruptions, we should get them out of our lives when they have no legal right to stay. To quote King Julien from the movie Madagascar, “They are always annoying us by trespassing, interrupting our parties, and ripping our limbs off.” By this, King Julien was saying that demons will sometimes enter and remain in a person through no fault of or invitation from the victim him/herself, they steal our joy, and they cause division in the body of Christ.
Imagine what greater peace, joy, and intimacy we could enjoy with Christ when we get trained to cast out demons, bringing liberty to those who are oppressed! c.f. Isaiah 61:1-3.
Third, it is extremely relevant for ministry growth and success in church and para-church organizations. When I was involved in a campus ministry for many years as a college student in the U.S., I became intimately familiar with the sin struggles and ministry hindrances among student leaders in our campus movements. For instance, student leaders were hindered from doing evangelism and discipleship from the discouragement of depression and the shame of sexual sin such as pornography addiction. Imagine what freedom student leaders would have to start spiritual movements on their campuses if they lived out total freedom over lust and depression and could disciple other students to experience that same victory!
When I discovered that depression and tormenting lust had their root in demonic oppression to a far greater degree than I expected, it led to a paradigm shift in regards to overcoming those struggles. Previously, I attributed sexual sin, depression, drug addiction, etc. among Christians to our flesh, the solution to which is to crucify the flesh through self-discipline strategies like prayer, fasting, accountability, etc. To be sure, this aspect of sanctification is true and vital; but there were other aspects to sanctification and overcoming sin of which I was unaware.
The biblical command in regards to the flesh is to crucify it daily (Mark 8:34; Romans 8:13; Colossians 3:5); the biblical command in regard to demons is to cast them out (Matthew 10:8). It’s not an either-or issue, but a both-and issue of incorporation in our discipleship as we pursue maturity in Christ. In over six years of leadership in a campus ministry, I incorporated the former (crucifying the flesh through spiritual disciplines) in battling lustful habits, yet I would always succumb to temptation on a near weekly basis (see “Subduing Sexual Immorality” for more details).
However, after I learned that I fell into sin repeatedly due to indwelling demons influencing my thoughts and “forcing my hand” to sin, and also that I had authority in Christ to exercise over demons, I could finally live out Christ’s victory over this sin. Now, rather than falling and stumbling on a regular basis, it is my spiritual enemies (demons) whom I torment by the power of Jesus Christ to ensure their downfall! (see Psalm 27:2) Now I’m free indeed from sin, and it is easy for me to believe that Jesus Christ is able to keep me from stumbling as I live a life of victory not in theory, but in practice. C.f. John 8:36; Jude 24f; 2 Peter 1:10; Romans 8:37.
If you have not yet discovered how to enter a relationship with Jesus Christ, who wants to set you free from sickness, demons, and curses, then I recommend my article “Satan Wants to Take Away Your Fun.”