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Why do some Christian leaders--who appear to be pillars of strength--fall into sin? Here's a look at how pastors get caught in the enemy's snare, and how they can break free.
My husband, Peter, and I have worked together in ministry for more than 45 years. There's one thing that never seems to break our hearts as much as receiving news that a colleague has fallen into sin and has left the ministry. This kind of news came to us twice within the last few months, and it filled us with sadness once again.
Most of the time, these types of failures involve sexual sins--and they leave a trail of destruction behind. Marriage promises are broken. Wives or husbands are abandoned and left to fend for themselves. Nuclear families are blown apart, and children are left virtual orphans. The financial security once enjoyed has vanished.
Churches are wounded, and the flock is often scattered. And pity the next poor pastor assigned to pick up the pieces and restore order and faith and the Christian testimony to the community.
One could go on and on. Damage control is often impossible to accomplish. Trust is lost. Things are never the same again, even though in some happy cases repentance and a measure of restoration can occur. It seems, however, as though the status once enjoyed is never quite the same. People remember, and they become tentative instead of trusting, try as they may to fully restore the person.
I am thoroughly convinced the devil knows his time is short and, consequently, has sped up his assault on Christian leaders. After all, if a Christian leader falls, the devil has gotten a prize and a good deal more "bang for his buck" because so many others are affected, and the church or ministry has suffered a setback. How does this happen?
I have been involved in deliverance ministry since the mid-1980s, and through the years I have learned a good deal. The problem seems to attack male leaders more often than female leaders. The question I always ask is, "When did the problem begin?"
These people usually start out as wonderful, consecrated, enthusiastic Christian workers. At one time they had it all together, and they set out to serve the Lord with pure hearts.
But their stories have an eerie similarity: busy, overcrowded lives; some neglect on someone's part; the freshness gone from their devotional lives; perhaps a lack of accountability to close, same-sex friends; and a loss of passion for holiness. Then a wandering eye sets in, which often leads to an affair or a debilitating addiction to pornography.
Some of these situations evolve from very harmless beginnings. For example, a young pastor is often thrust into marital counseling situations. He may make a few unwise moves, such as counseling a person of the opposite sex in the church office behind closed doors. He may not think of having a mature person of the opposite sex sit in on the meeting to pray.
It is imperative that a pastor guard himself by taking appropriate measures to stop potential problems before they can start. If it's not possible to have a third person present in a counseling session, the pastor should meet the counselee only with a door left open and a secretary sitting just outside.
It is important that pastors be warned about some of the women who will come to them for counseling. Some women's motives, of course, are very legitimate, and it is up to the pastor or the counselors on staff to help them. But there are others who fall into the category of what I call very emotionally needy persons.
These persons are greatly in need of attention and feel as though they deserve it. They will strive to get that attention by various means. They will sap counselors of time, energy and attention in order to get what they want.
These folks need professional help, in my opinion, and the pastor does well to reassign their case to someone else, preferably of the same sex. Often those needs diminish and are ministered to rapidly when a woman is counseled by another woman.
So, we have the legitimate cases and the very emotionally needy cases. But there are at least two more very apparent categories I have discovered that can be used by the devil to bring temptation into the life of a pastor.
In many churches there are those--usually, but not exclusively, women--who have a spirit of manipulation and control called a Jezebel spirit. Let me say at the outset that I believe the term "Jezebel spirit" is grossly overused, and it is very hurtful to accuse a person of having a Jezebel spirit if such indeed is not the case. It comes down to the heart of the person. There are many good-hearted people with strong personalities, and if an impasse is encountered, this term can slip out to the harm of all concerned. Having said that, let me describe the true Jezebel spirit as I have encountered it numerous times.
This can evolve out of something very good in the beginning. Perhaps the person is a true intercessor or prayer warrior and spends much time in quality prayer and service for the church and its staff. Confidence is gained and often private information is passed along for prayer to that person.
Sometimes the intercessor feels as though they have received information from the Lord that would help in certain situations, so that information is given and is found to be "right on" and useful. This means that more trust is given to the intercessor. Often the intercessor feels they have been given prophetic gifts that will be of help to the church and staff. Sometimes their words are very true and encouraging.
But at this point, some intercessors go awry. The feeling of power can go to the intercessor's head, and a spirit of manipulation and control can be given a foothold.
The proper thing for an intercessor or prophet to do is to humbly submit information to the one in authority and let it go at that. It is up to the pastor or other person in authority to judge and act upon that information. If the intercessor shows signs of anger or disappointment that the information has not been heeded or acted upon as he or she thinks it should, I would strongly consider thanking and excusing that person from their position whereby they receive privileged information.
The more serious Jezebel problem becomes accentuated when too much trust is being placed in the intercessor cum prophet. I have seen such a person also develop a seducing spirit, which then becomes very dangerous to all concerned.
I have heard several cases of pastors leaving their spouses to go and live with an intercessor, and it started with too much trust being placed in the intercessor. When the spirit of manipulation and control kicked in, the pastor succumbed to it all. Beware of this combination of spirits--it's very subtle, very prevalent and very destructive. It is a frequent open door for a spirit of lust.
Recently, I was with a prominent deliverance and inner-healing expert, John Sandford of the Elijah House ministry. We got to talking about the Jezebel spirit, and I asked him if he had ever come across anyone who had the spirit who wanted to give it up.
He gave me the answer I expected and that I have found to be true in my experience: "No!" It is unfortunate, but true, that when someone with this spirit comes into your midst, it is best not to allow such a person authority or responsibility. The pastor should keep a good distance.
Another dangerous invader is the one who comes into the church with the express purpose of working witchcraft in order to destroy a pastor's marriage and ruin the church. Make no mistake about it--witchcraft is alive and well and on the rise. These witches are assigned their task by Satan; they usually have sold their very souls to him, and they are intent on accomplishing their assignments.
Among those assignments may be things such as cursing the church into division and discontent, seducing the pastor or staff members, bringing confusion and destruction into its midst, and even cursing some to death. They may curse items and bring them into the church. If a sacrificed animal is discovered on the church steps, or if there is a wad of audio tape left at the premises of the parsonage or on the church lawn be warned: There are curses associated with these. (Witches sometimes record curses on tape and then remove the case so they can't be played back.) Someone needs to pray to break the curse associated with such items, and they need to be destroyed.
If a pastor finds that his mind is very confused at some point when he is preaching or that evil thoughts invade his mind, it is very likely that there is a witch in the audience working a curse against him.
Another way in which witches commonly work is in a very seductive and lewd manner, through mind control and working spells. The best way to counter this kind of activity is to ask God to expose it and remove it from your midst. Witches love power, and they tend to overplay their hand if diligent and persistent prayer is applied.
I hope and pray none of these satanic influences will invade your church. But you should be aware that the danger is out there. It's important to protect yourself from seducing spirits.
RESISTING THE DEVIL
The question I frequently ask this generation of younger pastors is this: "Whatever happened to holiness?" Holiness is a major key to protecting oneself from seduction.
If Christian leaders would resist the devil, he would flee from them. But some of them get tired of striving for holiness, and they want just a tiny taste of what they are missing. Sexual sins are addictive, and addictions are hard to kick. Just ask anybody who gave up smoking, cocaine or alcohol.
Why is the need for deliverance--especially from sexual issues--so prevalent among pastors and other Christian workers? I have concluded that it is because many of these servants of God have no place to go to seek help.
Can they go to a friend with the assurance the secret won't escape? Not usually. Will they go to a superior and risk getting fired? Of course not. Unfortunately, even intercessors don't always keep information confidential. And to ask for help from a board of deacons or elders might not fall on sympathetic ears.
And how does internalizing problems affect a person's ability to minister? Can that person preach a sermon on steering clear from pornography or lust without feeling like a hypocrite?
Frequently demons of pornography bring other demons along with them. Lust, of course, is usually the head honcho of the cluster. But the scenario gets played out in many ways.
Often symptoms such as generational lust, compulsive masturbation, fantasy lust, fornication, adultery, child abuse, homosexuality and lesbianism can be found. If there has been adultery or fornication, soul ties need to be broken.
There is almost always guilt and shame to deal with as well. I find that after true repentance takes place, there is usually a need for forgiveness to be extended to someone, somewhere along the line.
Just how prevalent is the problem of pornography among clergy? Every time I read a new study on the subject, it seems to be getting worse and worse. Internet porn is the main problem, since it is so readily available. According to a survey in the winter 2001 issue of Leadership journal, more than half of the pastors surveyed (51 percent) said Internet pornography is a possible temptation for them; 37 percent admitted it is a current struggle.
So, if nearly four out of 10 pastors admit that they struggle with Internet porn, we have a problem. They need deliverance, but many don't know where to go to get it.
I have had so many pastors come to me with tears rolling down their cheeks--men who have prayed and prayed and tried and tried but are stuck. The enemy wants them to be defeated and to defect from the army. And many are on the verge. They are not in control of their lives. Porn or adultery control them, and they feel hopeless and helpless. But there is a way out for those who want to be free.
I find that there are two categories of pastors who have played around with things such as porn or an extramarital affair: There are those who want to go underground with their sin and continue in it, and those who want out now.
Those who choose to go underground will find that it will catch up with them. Sooner or later, they crush their own lives and the lives of those around them. And unlike the childhood fairy tale, it is very hard to put Humpty-Dumpty back together again.
However, deliverance ministers delight in working with pastors who want out now. And deliverance is often required at this point because demonic strongholds have been set up in the pastor's life.
I thoroughly understand there is a doctrine floating about out there that says that a Christian can't possibly be afflicted with a demonic bondage; frankly, I think it is keeping many from freedom. My experience simply shows otherwise.
The fact is that if a believer allows exposure to sin in his or her life on a repeated basis, this continual experience becomes an open door for a demon to set up a stronghold that will aggressively torment the host person until it is confronted.
The first step in dealing with a demonic stronghold is that the pastor must want to get rid of it. Strangely enough, some choose to go on in their sin, and all we can do is fast and pray for them. I have sometimes even prayed God would make them miserable enough for them to want to turn from their sin and seek help. This must happen with an addiction of any sort.
The next step is that the person must repent and change his or her attitudes and behavior. This step--especially with pastors--is all too often hindered by pride.
Humility brings great rewards with it. The battle is almost over when a person swallows his or her pride, truly repents, and is willing to change attitudes and behavior.
Pastors and ministry leaders need a safe place to receive ministry for the issues they face. But a person seeking deliverance must know that a requirement for freedom is a willingness to break habits, cut off wrong relationships, cleanse the home and the computer, and vow holiness unto the Lord.
If you are willing to be set free, God is certainly able. You can be delivered and see your ministry rise to a new level.
Indicators of Demonic Activity
Here are the five most common clues that indicate the possibility of a demonic presence in someone's life.
When speaking of demonic activity in a person's life, the best words to use are "afflicted," "in bondage," "oppressed," "demonized," and in severe cases "tormented." The most common word used nowadays is "demonized," which denotes a demonic presence--although it certainly is not demon possession in the case of a Christian. It is more like a demon attaches itself to something, such as a recurring bad habit, and has reason to be there.
Whether you're wondering about your own life or that of someone to whom you are ministering, here are five of the most common indicators of a demonic presence at work:
1. No personal control. Is the person totally in control, or do they continually repeat, "I have prayed and confessed and cried but cannot get the victory over this besetting sin." When praying, confessing and crying are not quite enough, it is a pretty good clue that perhaps a demonic presence is involved. In other words, the person does not control that particular problem; the problem controls the person.
2. Sense of hopelessness. Similar to the point above, but instead of only a feeling of helplessness setting in, hopelessness does, too. It could be something such as hatred toward a person who wronged you, and whenever the thought comes to mind or you see a picture of the person, the emotion boils up again. Even after confessing it, it just won't go away.
3. Something comes over the person. This is a pretty telltale symptom. A person can be in one frame of mind one moment and then, like the sudden switch of a light going off, darkness overtakes the person. Something "engages," causing a totally different frame of mind to kick in, and generally the person gets out of control in some emotional area or behavioral action.
4. A voice says to do something terrible. Usually the voice tells the person to commit suicide or some violent act. Experts say some mental illnesses can be accompanied by voices that are not necessarily demonic in nature. But when the voice tells the person to do something clearly sinful, evil or deadly, you should investigate the possibility of demonic activity.
5. Past involvement with occultic groups. These groups range from engaging in the worship of a deity other than Jehovah God and His Son, Jesus Christ, to making use of magic or curses to harm others, to involvement in witchcraft and satanism.
This includes Freemasonry, in which unholy vows and covenants are made that are demonic in nature and provide openings for curses.
All such curses and activities must be renounced and broken in the name of Jesus and by His blood. Then, demons can be evicted.
Adapted from How to Cast Out Demons by Doris M. Wagner, copyright 2000. Published by Renew. Used by permission.
Encountering Generational Spirits
A person's family history can be a key entry point of demonic activity.
Those in deliverance ministry have found that there seem to be certain spirits assigned to family lines because someone in the past opened up the door for them. These are usually called generational, or hereditary, spirits. Following are five frequently encountered generational spirits:
1. Spirit of rejection. Many people feel emotionally abandoned by their parents. Typically, their parents were treated the same way by their parents. Hereditary rejection frequently manifests itself with physical abuse of some sort. When this spirit is in the family line, the normal response on the part of the parents is frustration, anger and disappointment, and their method of discipline is abusive.
2. Suicide, anxiety and depression. These can often be traced to deeper issues in family lines. When any emotional or mental problem turns up, the next thing to do is to delve into family history. If the identical problem afflicted a family member in a previous generation, then you must first address that generational spirit by name before addressing the spirit currently troubling the person.
3. Spirit of lust. If someone says something such as, "My father had an affair; my grandmother wasn't faithful; and my uncle ran a porn shop," this would indicate a generational spirit of lust that has been passed down. When problems with lust appear at an early age, look for a generational spirit that is trying to get the person hooked on something very young in life.
4. Ancestral involvement with palm reading or astrology. Such practices may have allowed witchcraft into a family line. Witchcraft is particularly strong, and there are generally curses, spells and unholy covenants that affect children born into these families. Persons with this generational spirit will find themselves drawn to psychics, magic, astral travel, New Age, necromancy, tarot cards, the Ouija board, horoscopes, séances, astrology and many other related activities.
5. Spirit of addiction. Addictions to things such as alcohol, drugs, gambling, overspending, compulsive exercise, food, caffeine and the like are commonly known to run in families. A spirit of addiction can take on many forms and still be the same spirit. For example, a mom may have a problem with alcoholism, but her son may be afflicted with an addiction to drugs if alcoholism has not hooked him.
Adapted from How to Cast Out Demons by Doris M. Wagner, copyright 2000. Published by Renew. Used by permission.
Doris M. Wagner is CEO of Global Harvest Ministries and the World Prayer Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She invites pastors seeking freedom from personal problems to attend her upcoming seminar, "Understanding Deliverance Ministry: A Practical Seminar for Leaders," in Minneapolis, May 30-June 1. Call Glory of Zion at (888) 965-1099 to register.
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