Deliverance that binds

How drama and demands employed by some preachers when it comes to setting spiritually oppressed people free is doing more harm than good

On January 3, Bishop Titus Imoite, the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya Nairobi General Secretary, posted on Facebook: “If you run into accidents often, do you need deliverance?”

One follower replied: “Yes.” Another said: “Of course, that is an evil pattern. Any pattern of misfortune needs deliverance. Accident over and over again is a spirit of death. Definitely, you need deliverance.”

Imoite, who is also the apostolic bishop at World Harvest Christian Church in Dandora, Nairobi, did not elaborate on his post and phone calls to him from the SHEPHERD were fruitless.

So what is the truth of the matter?

Nairobi resident Rebecca (not her real name) is not sure what to believe, having been taken for a ride by a pastor who claimed he could help her out of her misfortunes. She has suffered divorce, loss of a well-paying job and inability to find another one, death of her mother in unclear circumstances, diabetes and persistent depression. This is what drove her to see a city pastor who purportedly specialised in “deliverance”.

Rebecca was asked to pay a “consultation fee” of about Sh1,500 and was prayed for and given a large bottle of “anointing oil” that she was supposed to apply on her body when she woke up every morning. She was told also to attend “deliverance prayers” every Wednesday evening at the pastor’s church located in a commercial building near City Stadium. But she was not to come empty-handed.

“The church was in the process of acquiring land and I was “prophetically” told to invest Sh100,000 towards that project in order to get my deliverance. I emptied my account in addition to applying the oil on myself for about one year,” she says.

Bishop Titus Imoite

Despite doing everything as instructed by the pastor, her situation did not improve one bit. So she left the church and stayed at home for about six months before a friend invited her to Christ is the Answer Ministries (Citam) on Valley Road, Nairobi. There, for the first time, she heard messages that made sense to her and she now says the issue of deliverance no longer bothers her.

“I have learnt to cope with my situation and see the positive side of life. The messages I hear in my new church have helped me refuse to link what I have gone through to a “generational curse” or bad omen. Instead, I see them as everyday life challenges,” she says.

The issue of deliverance from unseen evil forces and regular unpleasant occurrences has been a thorny doctrinal subject that has divided theologians, gospel ministers and Christian congregations for years. While some agree that born-again and spirit-filled people can still be bound by generational curses and become victims of demonic invasions hence the need for deliverance, disagreements persist on what deliverance is and how it should be conducted.

It is common to see individuals who appear to be demon-possessed crying and shouting while being prayed for on Christian TV channels. But this is not strange because the same happened in the ministry of Jesus and the apostles as recorded in the gospels. What is questionable is the televangelists who tout anointing oil, holy water and terrific prayers which they claim have set many free from generational curses or demonic attacks.

Two years ago I attended a conference hosted by controversial South Africa-based preacher, Shepherd Bushiri, at Kasarani Sports Complex in Nairobi. Posing as a person in need, I went to the tables where merchandise that included “anointing oil”, “holy water” and other “spiritual’ items were being sold.

All the bottles bore stickers with pictures of the preacher and the contents claimed to have powers of deliverance from barrenness, joblessness, terminal illnesses, marital woes, miscarriages, poverty, bad omen and accidents among others.

I asked how much a bottle of anointing oil with a label that read “Angel Gabriel” cost and was told Sh1,500, but they could give it to me for Sh1,000. They said the oil was meant to overcome demonic attacks and erase curses in an individual’s life.

I then asked whether they had a bottle labelled “Angel Michael”, adding that what I was going through at that time needed the angel named Michael because he is a warrior unlike Gabriel who according to Scripture is a messenger.

The people manning the tables responded that the prophet had not released oil belonging to Michael because he did only as he was instructed “from above”.

“But just use this one of Angel Gabriel and you will see it works. You can apply it as many times as you want during the day for maximum results,” they told me. Then, after consulting together in hushed tones for about three minutes, they told me to enter the main hall to be prayed for by the prophet himself.

On February 9, while addressing congregants at Faith Evangelistic Ministry in Nairobi, Evangelist Teresia Wairimu delved into the issue of deliverance, saying: “We have so much drama going on in the Church today in the name of deliverance. We have missed the most important thing – the Word of God – which can set the captives free. We have come up with systems that put people in bondage in the name of deliverance.

“My spiritual authority (referring to the late Reinhard Bonnke) taught me to deliver the Word of God and it will deliver the people. Don’t talk to me about 40 days of deliverance. These are preachers who like manipulating God’s people for selfish gain. The Word of God and the blood of Jesus Christ are enough for me.”

Pastor and author K. Neill Foster writes that there is no doubt that the scriptures affirm the ministry of deliverance. The disciples, particularly the 70, were emphatically given authority to drive out demons. The Great Commission also reinforces such authority for all who follow Jesus Christ.

However, he says the great majority of exorcisms taking place in the world today fall into the category of false deliverances, which Matthew Henry, the Welsh non-conformist minister and author, would call “strategic retreats, concords with Satan, which do not affect the outcome of the war but may well strengthen the power of Satan in a victim”.

Foster, who heads Alliance World Fellowship, says there is a tendency especially among evangelicals and Pentecostals to either ignore Satan and his kingdom or to focus incessantly upon him.

“There was a vast difference between the devil going out by compact and his being cast out by compulsion,” Foster says. “The prince of the devils may give leave, nay, may give order to his forces to retreat, or make a feint, to draw the poor deluded soul into an ambush.”

Pastor and author K. Neill Foster

He adds that sometimes in deliverance, methods are advanced which do not have a biblical basis.

“The Great Commission comes first. A lost world is to be informed and God’s method is anointed preaching. A phenomenon that follows and results from that activity is deliverance ministry. Signs do not lead, they follow. Practical theological procedures which allow spiritual warfare to take precedence over evangelism, the making of disciples and church planting, are suspect at first and flawed at last,” he says.

Seek truth, not deliverance classes, says pastor

Pastor Martin Mwirigi of Nairobi Grace Chapel says what every person needs is the truth of what the Bible says about deliverance from evil generational patterns (some call them curses) and demonic attacks or oppression.

“If one realises there is a pattern of evil occurrence in his life that can be traced to the family tree, be it sickness or economic status, then that calls for a major evaluation. Living in ignorance or assumption is dangerous,” he says.

Mwirigi told the SHEPHERD last month that if a believer in Christ gives room to the devil through particular habits, he will fall under evil influence. He quoted Jesus who said in Matthew 12:43-45 that when an evil spirit leaves a person, he roams about in the wilderness then comes back to see whether or not his former abode has been occupied by a superior being – that is God and His Word.

If the evil spirit finds the house clean – meaning fit for his habitation again – he comes back with seven demons more wicked than himself and the state of that person becomes worse.

According to Mwirigi, that is why believers who start off strong in Christ and then backslide become engrossed in evil practices without seeing the need for repentance. The key, he said, was for believers not to give room to Satan.

“Those who propagate deliverance classes for people to be delivered from Satan and curses are not on the side of truth. If someone realises there are issues in his life, he should go to God in prayer and cancel every evil influence or connection in his life using the name of Jesus Christ. He should arm himself with the weapons listed in Ephesians 6 and do what is required of him, including being committed to the attending of fellowship,” he said.

Mwirigi believes some gospel ministers get hold of one truth and stretch it too far. “If you rebuke Satan out of somebody, it can’t be that you do that every time you are praying for that individual. You can’t have the ministry of deliverance as a stand-alone issue. Teach people the Word and it will set them free without you praying for everyone in the service,” he says.

Pastor Martin Mwirigi

He reminds preachers not to exaggerate the truth, giving the example of Jesus when He smeared mud on the eyes of a blind man and told him to go and wash in the pool of Siloam (John 9:7). But according to the Bible, Jesus did not repeat this with every blind person He met.

“So if you use oil to pray for one person, it might not apply to every person. In addition, it is erroneous to use items that the Bible has not mentioned while praying for the deliverance of demon-possessed people. We are supposed to cast demons out in the name of Jesus Christ and we must be led by the Holy Spirit always,” he said.

He said if a person is born-again and has cultivated a close walk with Christ, nothing can overcome him or her.

“I think the problem of the current Church is that we are more conscious of Satan than God; curses than blessings. The early Church (as recorded in the book of Acts) focused on Jesus Christ and His Word, not Satan. That is why they made an impact in their generation. Invest more in knowing Christ than in knowing Satan and his deeds,” he said.