Pastors: Spiritual Warfare in Evangelism
Ask any pastor who has had five or more years in ministry, “Where does Satan seem to hinder you the most?” You would get a variety of answers but one for certain would be evangelism. Then follow that up with the question, “How does he hinder you?” and you would again get a variety of answers. Simply put, though, they demonstrate the spiritual warfare a pastor faces in evangelism. Here though are four of the “warfare devices” that Satan often uses.
Lack of passion for unbelievers
Transparency is not easy for any of us at times and equally so with pastors. Sometimes pastors find that they do not have the passion for reaching others that they used to have. A survey taken among evangelical pastors asked, “How long has it been since you presented the gospel to a non-Christian?” The average length of time was five years!
Other times, the pastor has the passion, but his leaders and people do not share it. The pastor of a church that was preparing for one of our Wild Game Feast outreaches told me that several people in his church expressed the concern that their church might become more focused on unbelievers in the community than on their own people. Can you imagine that? I have noticed that overall, the church does not have the passion for unbelievers that it did in 1973 when I started EvanTell. In some churches, it is as though non-Christians do not even exist.
It is easy to see why if you look at it from Satan’s perspective. Never have I seen a day when unbelievers are more approachable. Because of cancer, Covid, and chaos throughout the nation, people are insecure, worried, and fearful. These are times when unbelievers are more open to the gospel. So, in a day when non-Christians are so approachable, Satan is working overtime on the church instilling in many Christians a lack of passion for them.
Problems within the church
The comment has been made, “Believers within the church can be the biggest hindrance in reaching people outside the church.”
As I speak at leadership conventions, pastors tell me that one of their biggest problems in having more time for outreach is that they are so tied up dealing with problems within the assembly. These may be people who disagree with the direction the church is going, believers who have not resolved conflicts with one another, couples having marital problems, or parents seeking the pastor’s counsel as they deal with issues with a straying teenager. Soon, the remaining time the pastor has after preparing for his Sunday morning message is taken dealing with issues within the church.
This has to be one of Satan’s favorite tools. It works when everything else seems to fail.
The church may have engaged in a very well-prepared outreach for non-Christians. But although the unbelievers were there, sometimes they were not prepared at that time to receive the good news of the gospel. It often takes longer from the time an unbeliever hears the gospel to when he responds in faith than it used to. For years, the unbeliever heard the gospel four to seven times before responding. Some studies today reveal it is often closer to fifteen times. If a church likes to see more immediate results, that can be discouraging. I often have to remind church leaders that non-Christians will come to Christ, but they might not come as quickly as they used to.
I can certainly identify. I have poured out my heart to reach a particular unbeliever here in Dallas who responded with interest to one of my messages. But despite several good discussions, he has still not crossed the line of faith. If we are not careful, Satan tries to convince us that “they are all like that.” That discouragement can keep us from sharing the gospel with others. The fact is they aren’t, but Satan tries to get us to focus on the ones that are not interested instead of those that are. Faithfulness is key to many areas of Christian living and it is vital to evangelism, especially as Satan tries to discourage us.
Contacts with non-Christians
The first step is not to think about conversions but instead to think about contacts. Contacts lead to conversations and conversations lead to conversions. But for all believers, and especially pastors, there must intentionality to develop contacts with non-Christians. Otherwise, even his free time will be taken up doing things with believers versus unbelievers. That lack of intentionality is part of Satanic warfare. Satan knows full well that personal evangelism demands personal contacts. If he can withhold the contacts, he can withhold evangelism.
There are opportunities pastors have, whether it be over breakfast or lunch with unbelievers, contacts with a mechanic or department store workers, volunteer service as a chaplain for a fire department or hospital, or participating in some sport with a non-Christian. But all of that takes purposeful thinking and intentionality – something Satan would rather a pastor not practice.
Satan uses many methods as he practices spiritual warfare with pastors in evangelism. I dare say, though, that these are his main devices. Each one can be dealt with by saying, “Get behind me Satan” and then deciding on a plan of action that causes Satan to be discouraged instead of us. As we see God use us to change a person’s eternal destiny, we are encouraged instead of discouraged. Satan soon gets the clear message that if he wants to discourage a pastor in evangelism, he will have to find somebody else. It is not working with us!
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