The first point that stood out to me in this book was MacNutt saying that the ministry of evangelism for Jesus and the earliest disciples was always connected to spiritual power as well as the message. MacNutt writes of his preaching before his involvement in healing and deliverance ministry
“I was not preaching the Gospel fully because I did not understand the need for the power to heal and free people from evil spirits. Basically I saw myself as a teacher and did not experience the Spirit’s power that Jesus always gave His disciples when He sent them out:
‘When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick’ – Luke 9:1-2”
I like this point because it drives at the truth that Jesus calls us to walk as He walked (John 12:26, Luke 6:23) and deliverance ministry was an integral part to His ministry. I also like how MacNutt points out that deliverance ministry is not much in itself but ought to be connected to preaching the Gospel and leading others into the faith.
A second point that I took from this book was that there is a serious gap in churches today for healing ministry and especially deliverance from evil spirits. MacNutt believes a lot of this comes from ministers not wanting to seem too superstitious and to try to avoid the stigma of things live the early American Witch Trials that we all learn about in school. The sad result of this is that many people who need help go unhelped. This is why MacNutt wrote this book to try to talk through some of the misconceptions of deliverance ministry but even more so to equip the “lay” believer to be able to confidently face certain kinds of basic deliverance.
Here its worth quoting his description of the history of deliverance ministry in the Christian tradition:
“In the earliest days of Christianity, all believers were assumed capable of praying for deliverance. Witness to this belief is the end of Mark’s Gospel, where the first of the five signs to “accompany those who believe is that “In My name they will cast out demons” Mark 16:17″ Other verses that give evidence to this are briefly Luke 10:11 (Jesus sending out the 70 and giving them authority over demons) and Acts 8:7 (deliverance followed even non Apostles as they went out to preach the Gospel).
There is evidence from early rites that deliverance was a common part of the church observances, even for baptism.
He then goes over the writings of multiple important Church figures who lived and wrote from 1-300 AD that describe deliverance from demons as a normal part of the ministry of typical believers. MacNutt notes “In all those early days we find no evidence that a Christian had to be ordained to cast our evil spirits. It was possible for any Christian to perform an exorcism” However, MacNutt also notes that there is mention in the early church of certain people who seem to be especially gifted in the ministry of driving out demons. This leads one to believe that although all believers in the earliest church were expected to be able to perform deliverance there was a special gifting some had for doing so, so that to them this ministry came easier.
By the third century we do start to see more specialized persons used by the church, one such person is referred to by Cyprian in the third century as “an exorcist”. Who was called to cast out a demon from a false prophetess.
Eventually the Catholic church did narrow this ministry to priests then to a special class of priests. In 1614, MacNutt believes in part in reaction to the excesses of the Inquisition and the lack of a perceived need for exorcism, the Catholic church began to require a person show highly unusual signs such as levitation to need the ministry of deliverance. Since then the ministry of deliverance from evil spirits has only become more restricted. Protestants did not embrace deliverance ministry for the most part considering it as an outdated Catholic superstition.
The ministry of deliverance began its modern resurfacing with the rising up of Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movements. These movements got people thinking about the need for more spiritual power in ministry. MacNutt directly associates the Baptism of the Holy Spirit being associated with a renewed ability to perform healings and deliverance ministry.
In MacNutt’s opinion we should learn from history. One, that all believers are called to and can be equipped for deliverance ministry. Two, that having some specialized persons in this type of ministry who are especially gifted in this area is a big need for delivering people from more powerful demons especially surrounding occult/satanism involvement. I believe the early church ideal is most true that no Christian needs to fear the demonic, we have One who is greater than Satan living in us.
MacNutt gives three steps for before starting to do this kind of ministry:
1. Be baptized in the Holy Spirit. “If you have not received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, study about it, then pray to receive it. The Spirit enables us to minister deliverance more effectively and it brings with it those charismatic gifts essential for a full rounded deliverance ministry.” He especially mentions the gift of healing and discernment of spirits.
2. Look carefully whe you pray for people for signs of demonic activity. He shares here that actually those who are under oppression by demons normally know they are but are afraid to talk about it with anyone for fear of seeming crazy. He also encourages people to be discerning and ask questions, don’t assume demonic activity but learn as much as you can about the situation first.
3. If there is demonic activity then decide if this is something you are comfortable praying for deliverance for or refer them to someone who can help (don’t just leave them without help). There are though certain kinds of spirits its best to have experience before trying to deliver such as occult spirits or spirits that come from satanic rituals and practices.
Types of spirits
There are a number of types of spirits identified by MacNutt and others in the deliverance ministry. This was really helpful actually as it give me a better picture of how common demons can be at work. This isn’t a surprise when I think about the Biblical picture (For instance scripture says we were all once blinded by satan 2 Cor. 4:4) but I personally had more of an understanding that demons were only involved in rare unusual circumstances like a something out of the exorcist.
Some kinds of spirits:
Spirits of sin: these spirits seem to be assigned specifically to compel some people toward areas of sin such as lust, anger vanity ect. It’s as if spirits of this kind agitate areas where the person is already susceptible to and give that sin a kind of mastery over the person. These spirits often have names associated with the sin they influence. To deal with a spirit of sin the victim must first deal with the sin itself in front of God, this is difficult and requires compassion on our part to help people deal with. Once that person has dealt with the sin repenting and seeking God’s help to live right then the spirit of sin can be cast out.
Spirits of trauma: these spirits are different than other ones because the victim may be completely or at the very least mainly innocent. A child who was sexually abused may have a spirit of fear that attaches itself and keeps that person living in a fearful state. These spirits have names associated with the reaction they bring. These spirits require inner healing work before they can be cast out. Since inner healing is complex I won’t get into the details here but once the root issue has been dealt with this type of spirit can more easily be cast out.
spirits of occult: These are spirits that attach themselves through a person’s connection with occult activities. It may be something as simple as playing with a Ouija board or something more sinister. These spirits have all kinds of names and from the experience of MacNutt and others these spirits seem to be on the upper hierarchy of demons such a Beelzebub. These spirits often take more time and effort to cast out and may cause a danger to the exorcist if the person has been involved in a coven or demonic worship, MacNutt comments that most of the time a prayer to bind the spirit will be sufficient but sometimes a team is needed to restrain the person if they have been “programmed” to attack if prayed for. This is why it is advised only experienced exorcists try to cast them out. MacNutt has several chapters dedicated to this kind of demonic activity and says he just covers the very surface level of the issues involved; if someone is interested recommend they read up on it.
Familial spirits: these are something like ghosts or Chinese ancestor worship.. sometimes spirits with people’s names will influence a person or have control over some aspect of a person’s life. This kind of spirit may be associated with some kind of ancestor worship or may be associated with some sort of tragic event that has taken place. Sometimes those root causes need to be dealt with first. MacNutt notes this kind of spirit has the least known about it.
spirits of curse or spirits over a certain area: MacNutt mentions some of these at the end of the book. One example is a spirit in a cathedral that made those going near it feel dread and depression. Sometimes this kind of spirit can cause headaches and other reactions. Having a home blessed and spending time in prayer over the space where this spirit is often can deliver a place or person from this kind of spirit.
Would recommend people listen to some of Derek Prince’s talks or read Francis MacNutt’s book for how to deal with each kind of spirit. This overview is meant to just give an idea of what each one is like not to give a comprehensive answer to how to deal with them. There are good materials that give that kind of answer.
Can Christians be demonized: MacNutt makes a good argument on how Christians can need deliverance. Biblically, we see the disciples being interfered with even while they are with Jesus (Jesus called Peter “satan” “get behind me satan”) and in the early church in Acts 5:3 Peter says Ananias was influenced by satan to lie about giving their some of the money they had received rather than all of it. On a logical level it makes sense that although we as Christians give our lives over to Christ we often have areas we keep back, strongholds of sin or simply a lack of submitting to the Lordship of Christ.. when we do so we open yourself up to demonic influence. Finally experientially there are a number of examples of this type of activity given by MacNutt, Derek Prince and others leading me to believe that Christians do indeed sometimes need freedom from demonic influence.
Demon activity in western countries
One thing that was particularly interesting to me in this book was how MacNutt described demonic activity in western countries. Before starting this book I had the idea that demonic activity was minimal except maybe in some overarching influence over society. From MacNutt’s stories from his own ministry in the US it seems that those Biblical strong demonic reactions still happen here in our country today but it takes them interacting with someone who has spiritual authority or has been involved with this kind of powerful ministry in the Spirit. MacNutt reports him and his team having individuals suddenly shift there facial appearances, rolling on the floor, shouting out or having other similar Biblical reactions when afraid of being cast out. This seems similar to what we see when Jesus walks into a place and the demons being to shout at Him. In one case this even happened in the middle of a Synagogue.