42 New Churches & 11,098 Converts in Three Years in North India
Proponents of what is called “spiritual warfare” in the heavenlies may be aware that it is not clearly supported by Scripture. Nowhere in Scripture is found any instance where a disciple directly rebukes and attempts to drive out principalities or “territorial spirits” from geographical areas. (We are not referring to intercession or prayer to God here, but offensive action directed specifically against powerful demonic beings in the heavenlies.)
The prophet Daniel was not performing such warfare in Daniel 10 when the archangel Michael engaged the prince of Persia in the heavenlies over him. Rather he was praying and fasting when God sent Michael to help the angel who had been sent to Daniel but had been detained by the prince of Persia. It is not recorded that Daniel was in any way aware of the warfare taking place in the heavenlies until the angel was released and appeared before him. Clearly Daniel was not involved in the struggle.
Neither Jesus nor any of his disciples engaged in such a practice as recorded in the New Testament. If “spiritual warfare” is such an important and necessary factor in evangelism, why does New Testament Scripture not record a single clear incidence of it? If the early disciples did not need to conduct such “warfare” and were nevertheless very fruitful preaching the gospel in their time, what makes us think that we need to do it today? It is clear that if we are not fruitful today in evangelism, it is not because we are lacking the dimension of “spiritual warfare.” We must be lacking some other dimension—a dimension which must be clearly evident and staring at us from the pages of New Testament Scripture.
Later in this article we shall discover what that missing dimension is.
The Scriptures often cited from Ephesians 6:10-18 by spiritual warfare proponents actually refer to a defensive posture in which the believer puts on the full armor of God in order to take his stand against the devil’s schemes and against the rulers and authorities. “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” These verses cannot be used to support the practice of believers directly rebuking rulers and authorities in an offensive way.
Does the end justify the means?
Finally, nowhere does Scripture explicitly command disciples to drive out territorial spirits in the name of Jesus. But since the practice is not expressly forbidden in Scripture, its proponents support its active use. Part of the reason the practice is justified by them is because of apparent results achieved in evangelism where the practice has been applied. There are some reports of areas where people had been closed to the gospel. But after spiritual warfare was performed with regional territorial spirits rebuked, people in the area were suddenly open to the gospel and accepted Jesus Christ in response to the gospel.
All this would appear well and good, especially when the salvation of souls and the Great Commission is at stake. However, we as servants of God must consider an important question before taking a position on this issue. Can the ends justify the means? The answer is no. Faithfulness to Scripture must take precedence over “results.” For example, we should not sweeten or water down the gospel—as is done so often today—in an attempt to bring more souls into the kingdom of God. The desire for “numbers” or “results” should never tempt us to compromise the gospel.
Moreover, there can be danger for us when we engage in offensive action which we have not been specifically authorized to perform. There is risk involved when we take action presumptuously, especially in the realm of the supernatural.
Numbers 14:44 Nevertheless, in their presumption they went up toward the high hill country, though neither Moses nor the ark of the LORD’s covenant moved from the camp. 45 Then the Amalekites and Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and attacked them and beat them down all the way to Hormah.
Another compelling reason not to do spiritual warfare
But there is now another and at least equally compelling reason why we should not engage in spiritual warfare in conjunction with preaching the gospel. By simply obeying the clear and unambiguous commands Jesus gave his disciples when he sent them out, we are now seeing unprecedented results in North India without the practice of direct “spiritual warfare” in the heavenlies.
Luke 9:1 When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. …6 So they set out and went from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere.
Luke 10:9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’
Matthew 28:19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in a the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
In 2007 The Elijah Challenge conducted the Basic Training in North India. Servants of God were taught how to heal the sick and cast out demons as Jesus taught and commanded his disciples when he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God. After that Simon Haqq and his team began to conduct monthly Evangelistic Feeding Events in which the gospel was preached, the sick were healed, demons were cast out of people, and the people were fed.
In such a way, 42 churches have been planted and 11,098 people (predominantly Hindus) have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ in mostly unreached villages. This took place between July 2007 and June 2010 when this article was written. Other churches networked with The Elijah Challenge have planted another 118 house churches in various parts of North India. By God’s grace there is a great move of the Holy Spirit throughout North India. Feeding Events and Elijah Challenge-trained churches are now being used by God in the area of evangelism and church-planting. “Spiritual warfare” is not a part of this.
Moreover, churches trained by The Elijah Challenge are now the fastest growing churches in North India. This is based on progress reports and testimonies Joshua has received from full-time pastors, workers, and churches networked with The Elijah Challenge. In the days to come, Joshua and Simon desire to bring millions of souls into the Kingdom of God through the approach the Lord has entrusted to them.
The difference between the two approaches
There is very significant difference between the current approach of spiritual warfare against territorial spirits followed by or in conjunction with preaching the gospel, and what is being done by Joshua and Simon in North India.
The current approach involves first spiritual warfare in an attempt to dislodge territorial spirits. After that the sick are prayed for—not necessarily healed as Jesus taught and commanded his disciples. And the gospel is preached. Now there are two unscriptural components in this approach. The first is of course the spiritual warfare. The second, surprisingly, is praying for the sick. Jesus never commanded his disciples to pray for the sick when he sent them out. Rather he commanded them to heal the sick—which is very different and involves actually performing miraculous healings in real time to confirm the truth of the gospel to the listeners.
The scriptural approach which Joshua and Simon are now using involves preaching the gospel, actually healing the sick as Jesus commanded his disciples in Luke 10:9 to confirm the message to the lost, and then feeding the people. The meal is used to draw the people to the event and for fellowship with the new believers afterwards.
Both approaches, it is claimed, result in people turning to Jesus Christ. But one involves some unscriptural practices while the other closely follows the commands given by Jesus to his disciples.
Which approach is preferable? Most obviously, the approach which follows scripture closely is to be preferred. It results in the advance of the kingdom of heaven on earth, and there is no risk of counterattack by vengeful rulers and authorities in the heavenlies which we may have angered in our presumption when waging “spiritual warfare.” God is not obligated to protect us from their attacks in such a case.
Luke 10:19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.
This verse applies when we trample on earthbound “snakes and scorpions” which likely refer to spirits and demons attacking people on earth at ground level. It does not apply when we attempt to trample on powerful beings in the second heavens which we have not been commanded or authorized to do.
Let us now return to the word of God to understand how to fulfill the Great Commission. Let us be faithful to obey Scripture. Let us remember the rallying cry of the Protestant Reformation: Sola scriptura. This Latin phrase means that Scripture alone is authoritative for the faith and practice of the believer. The Bible is complete, authoritative, and true. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).
The “spiritual warfare” approach to evangelism adds a foreign dimension which is not taught in Scripture. It is not necessary, and could in fact be presumptuous and lead to unnecessary risks and suffering for ourselves and our loved ones.
We have ministered in some of the spiritually darkest places on the face of the earth. In Africa, we boldly challenge witchdoctors to a contest of power in the fashion of Elijah with the prophets of Baal at Mt. Carmel. And we consistently witness miracles and victory after victory over the enemy without having to resort to the practice of “spiritual warfare.” And we are blessed with a side-benefit: we do not suffer from trials due to enemy retaliation and counterattack. We are convinced that we are shielded from them because we have not gone “beyond what is written” but simply done what the word of God says we should do. We are thankful also to our intercessors who blanket us with prayers to the Lord on our behalf.