Tomorrow is Halloween. I loved Halloween as a kid. I don’t love it anymore.
Why not? As I described in my book Church Coup, events occurred on Halloween four years ago that changed the way I view the day forever.
Simply put, in the midst of a church conflict, my family was spiritually attacked on October 31. I witnessed the attack, along with several others. It was frightening … custom-designed … and very, very real.
The intent? To destroy my family and my ministry.
In the book, I chose not to reveal the details of the attack which did not originate from humans, but from the enemy of our souls.
Satan is real. He hates God the Father … Jesus Christ … Jesus’ church and followers … and even you. If the devil and his hordes cannot keep a person from following Jesus, they will seek to neutralize or even eliminate that believer’s impact so that Christ’s kingdom cannot advance through them.
If you’re courageous enough to keep reading, let me share a story that I left out of my book.
Kim and I had seen Satan at work in Silicon Valley nearly twenty years before. Santa Clara County has a much larger array of agnostics and atheists than almost anywhere in the United States, so it’s a spiritually resistant area. We were launching a new church in a warehouse located at a busy intersection when our family suddenly began to receive obscene phone calls at home. An anonymous caller continually left menacing messages taken from a Three Stooges short or a movie.
One time, the caller left a message taken from the soundtrack to the film The Poseidon Adventure. Gene Hackman plays a minister trying to lead survivors out of a large ship that had capsized. Ernest Borgnine’s character says to him at one point, “I’ve had just about enough out of you, preacher.” That very quotation from the lips of Borgnine’s character was left on our machine! When I consulted with Dr. Ed Murphy, a worldwide expert in spiritual warfare, he surmised that someone had put a curse on our church.
Dr. Murphy writes about this issue in The Handbook of Spiritual Warfare:
“Cursing is not used in the Old Testament with the Western idea of swearing or speaking dirty words. Cursing in the Old Testament is a power concept meant to release negative spiritual power against the object, person, or place being cursed. This is true even when God does the cursing. In fact, most curse expressions in Scripture refer to God’s action or the action of His servants in accordance with His will. It is God releasing His power or judgment. That is why I call it negative spirit power even when activated by God.”
Dr. Murphy continues:
“Many believers have been victims of the curses of the Enemy pronounced by the Enemy’s power workers…. Such curses, to be most powerful, are ‘worked up’ by invocations to the spirits and satanic magic. They are overcome only by the greater power of God. Sometimes God does not automatically overcome those curses on our behalf, however. We are to learn the world of spirit power curses and break them ourselves. Thus the importance of group spiritual warfare praying.”
After our grand opening, our church quickly became the second largest Protestant church in our city, but we constantly sensed there were strong spiritual forces working against us. When our warehouse church found itself between leases, the owner forced us to move out, and in the process, we lost one-third of our attendees overnight. It was only then that I discovered that some illicit activities had been occurring at the intersection where our church was located. The massage parlor diagonally across the intersection from us was the scene of a host of immoral sexual activity, and our immediate area had become a haven for drug dealers. When our church moved into that warehouse, we were invading Satan’s territory. No wonder he fought us so hard the whole time we were there!
Our church moved to a high school five miles away and I eventually scheduled a series of messages on controversial issues. The night before I was scheduled to speak on A Christian View of Homosexuality, all hell broke loose in our home and church. Without going into detail, the spiritual warfare I experienced before I gave that message was so real that I could almost smell sulfur – and I did give the message. But I was so attacked the night before that I felt compelled to write a resignation letter because I sensed that my wife and I had become special targets of Satan. While I never submitted the letter to the board, I resigned a few months later because, for the first and only time in our lives, our marriage had become severely strained due to events at church.
There are several more stories in the book that discuss the spiritual warfare that new church experienced. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before. While I’ve sensed the influence of Satan at various junctures during my 36-year church career, the occasions I’ve just described represent the two worst attacks I’ve experienced. Satan and his minions tend to leave pastors and churches alone when the mission is muddled, few people are converted, and the church fails to make inroads into the community. But when a church penetrates the spiritual Red Zone – to use a football analogy – the evil one begins to target the quarterback (pastor) with blitzes and cheap shots designed to knock him out of the game … all the more reason why the quarterback needs a skilled and determined line to protect him.
This is a good time of year to remember that while Satan is real and powerful … our God is more powerful still.
Jesus gave Paul a mission in Acts 26:17-18. It’s ours as well: “I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”
Our Lord and Savior told Paul that Satan is real … that he has power … that he wants people to remain in spiritual darkness … that he wants people to wallow in an unforgiven state … but that he has already been defeated at the cross.
But we cannot defeat Satan by fighting each other. Fellow believers are not the enemy. The enemy is the enemy.
Let’s unite together and fight him instead.
 Dr. Ed Murphy, Handbook of Spiritual Warfare (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1992), 442.
 Ibid, 444.