Sometimes the most innocent endeavor sparks a chain reaction that is like a bomb going off in your life. When that happens it must be God, and that is what happened to me in the fall of 1981 when I attended a field education class at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. I expected to be stretched and to learn a few things that would be helpful to my pastoral responsibilities. I never imagined that so casual a choice would bring me face to face with a reality that challenged almost everything I believed about being a Christian and, as a result, redirected the course of my life and ministry.
I had intentionally chosen that particular class because I knew the pastor who taught that semester. The innovative things he was doing to reach people synced with my own passions. The course was everything I hoped and I was enjoying not only the class but getting to know this man for whom I had much respect. I hung around after class, striking up conversations with him whenever possible.
One evening he said, “Today we ministered to three people who were demonized.”
That really intrigued me because I didn’t think I had ever encountered a demonized person. Later, when I became more educated on the topic, I realized I had experienced such encounters, I just didn’t recognize them for what they were. I prepared myself to engage in a fascinating conversation until his next words.
“Two of those people were Christians.”
I couldn’t have said why back then, but I did not like that comment at all. It made me extremely uncomfortable. I immediately thought, I don’t believe that. Now, I had no theology about Christians and demons. The topic had never entered my mind as far as I knew. Nevertheless, I was confident that I didn’t believe what I had just heard.
The discomfort deepened and, abandoning all my former fascination, I just wanted to get out of there. Fast. I couldn’t wait to excuse myself. I wiggled my way out of the rest of that conversation and quickly got back in my car to drive home.
I replayed the conversation over and over as I drove. I couldn’t shake his words or the inner anxiety they aroused. About half way home the Holy Spirit spoke so clearly it could have been audible, “Rodney, that’s what you have.” I’d like to say I didn’t know what He meant but I did. Holy Spirit had just told me that I, a Christian pastor, had a demon.
Righteous anger swept through me and without any forethought I screamed, “You have no right to me! Leave me!” At that moment I felt something leave.
Then I thought, Oh no! I have just had an experience I don’t believe in! I was in shock. I determined not to tell anyone what had just happened until I could figure out exactly what had happened. I never told that pastor and I didn’t tell my wife for months.
Rarely do we recognize the pivotal moments of our life when they happen and this was no exception. It was only months later when I began to understand that God had engineered that night’s events so that He could set my feet upon a path that would bring an incredible freedom and healing not just to myself, but to many others as well. I am convinced that we don’t so much choose deliverance as it chooses us.
That journey continued when I went to pastor a small church in 1982 in Bremerton, Washington. I never planned to incorporate deliverance into the pastoral ministry. I would have been perfectly content to enjoy my own personal freedom and not have anything more to do with it. However, after being there about six months, I began to encounter people who were demonized and, as any pastor should, I ministered to them.
In the early 1980s there were many practitioners ministering deliverance across the country but there were not a whole lot of resources available, especially in my Baptist circles. There were no seminary courses that addressed this topic. I felt like I was all alone delving into something mysterious and illusive until I met a few charismatic Baptists in Texas who could walk me through some basic deliverance practices.
Most of what I learned about ministering deliverance came through trial and error. It was a journey with the Holy Spirit. I made a ton of mistakes but grew a lot through them. Eventually those practitioners began to put their experiences in writing and I continued to grow and learn. As the years went on, the Holy Spirit brought me through some major shifts in my thinking that redefined how I did deliverance. Those modifications were all interrelated and complemented each other. Some were theological and impacted my scriptural understanding. Others were methodological and changed how I approached deliverance. I want to give you a brief summary of these major shifts now, but I will explain them in greater detail throughout this book as I share my journey.
Christians Can Have Demons
I remember hearing John Wimber say, “People constantly ask me if Christians can have demons. My response is usually, ‘Sure. We find them there all the time.’”
I will go into a lot more detail about this in another chapter, but this issue of Christians and demons is quite confusing, and for good reason. When the pastor told me that he ministered to Christians who had demons, my immediate reaction was that I didn’t believe in that. Now, I realize that those thoughts weren’t my thoughts because I didn’t have a belief system in place. What would make me think that? It was an immediate reaction rather than a well-considered theology.
Personally, I believe hell has a well-practiced strategy to keep people in bondage. It is called denial. If you don’t think you can have a demon, that spirit is free to wreak a lot of havoc in your life. It can safely put constraints on you that prevent you from achieving your full spiritual potential. Deception is a strategy that still works and demons are good at it. Believers who think they are beyond deception are deceived already. You don’t know you have a blind spot until some light exposes it. Paul said in 1 Timothy 4:1, “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.” The point is that demons target believers. They are deceitful and want to give you an erroneous belief system. Knowing that deception is possible keeps you on edge and sharpens your discernment.
I didn’t have a belief system but I did have an experience. I knew I had been set free because I felt something leave me and the fruit of freedom became evident in my life. I also knew that I was born again and seriously pursuing God. It was my personal experience that motivated me to figure out these two things I had believed were mutually exclusive. I couldn’t deny that I had been in bondage and now I was free. If this is your major hang up, ask the Holy Spirit to give you eyes to see His truth.