IN THE BEGINNING
It started with John Dawson's book,
Taking Our Cities for God, published in 1989 by Creation House.
The book's subtitle is: "How to Break Spiritual Strongholds. "
John Dawson, at that time, directed
Youth With A Mission in Los Angeles, California. In a quest for more
effective evangelism tools, he taught that demonic forces block gospel
efforts. He focused particularly on geographical areas such as cities,
especially cities. His thesis: the power and influence of the
"principalities and powers" over a city must be broken before
the gospel will significantly advance. He said that "satanic forces
manifest(ing) themselves in the culture of the city," (page 19) and
will prevent conversions from occurring.
TEARING DOWN STRONGHOLDS
"To overcome the enemy we must
resist temptation ourselves and then continue in united, travailing
prayer until we sense that we have gained authority and that God has
broken through." (page 21) It is also necessary, insisted Dawson,
that "the spiritual leaders of a city are walking in friendship and
respect, then the full power of God can be released against
principalities and powers." (page 100) Furthermore, Dawson
concluded that faith and obedience must be "strategically"
applied. (page 153)
The history of the target city must be
studied and understood by the evangelist who takes spiritual mapping
seriously. Certain key questions must be answered. For example, How and
why did the city begin? Who were the founders and what were their
intentions and spiritual condition? What presently characterizes the
city, or, what is it known for? This and much more information is
necessary in order to "map" the city. The latest demographic
study of the city should be analyzed. The history of race relations must
be studied along with any traumatic event the city had experienced like
an earthquake, a flood, etc. With all in hand then, the demonic spirit(s)
in control of the city will be identified and thus their power can be
broken by the use of some appropriate human effort. For instance, if a
city is characterized by pride, then the Christian response ought to be
humility. This offsetting of spiritual traits, the spiritual mappers
believe, is the key to breaking the demonic stronghold.
Now though, the seeds of Dawson's ideas
have taken root in Sentinel, a ministry based in Houston, Texas
and directed by George Otis Jr. And it is becoming the new, big thing,
at least in the USA. The following is from the web site, Mobilizing
Global prayer for Evangelism, which operates in conjunction with Sentinel.
mapping is an attempt to see our city (or nation or neighborhood) as
it really is, not as it appears to be. It is a serious effort to
discern the spiritual forces of the invisible world which directly
influence the visible, everyday world and prevent men and women from
hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
SPIRITUAL MAPPING IN MARIN
Very recently the
"servant-leader" for Marinvision--the spiritual leaders who
have a vision for Marin, the county where I live, filled me in on the
local mapping project. He was hoping to get me "on board."
George Otis Jr., he said, had great insight into Marin County and Otis,
along with many Marin pastors, was working on the county's spiritual
map. With the map completed and the spiritual leaders in one accord,
then the demonic forces would be dismantled and stripped of their
power--the gospel would prevail and we would take our whole county for
Unhappily I shocked this old friend
and "servant-leader" for Marinvision by opting out of the
mapping project; I would not be in one accord. If at all possible, I
would have liked to have been included. I do not relish standing apart
from my colleagues and brothers in Christ. Besides, I knew that to many
I would once again be viewed as a "nay-sayer" and a
spiritually outdated cynic.
It is an attractive package: evangelism
is the goal, God is to be praised, Christians work in harmony, and
prayer is the foundational method. All that is needed is a spiritual
map. How could any Christian possibly be against it?
I wish spiritual mapping would work. Here
it is, gospel preaching, praying for the lost, waging spiritual warfare
and Christians uniting as well. But let us reason together.
If this were indeed the biblical
pattern for evangelism we might expect to see some expression of it in
the New Testament. Yes, Paul does speak of principalities, powers,
strongholds, but they are not put together as Otis and Dawson have. If
spiritual mapping was the means of salvation for the lost, we could
expect a clear command, instruction or example of its use in Scripture.
Instead, Jesus sent His disciples out to preach the gospel. Jesus did
not give means other than preach, witness and disciple.
Spiritual Mapping strikes me as a
magical, works centered ploy. Consider the program: the demonic powers
over an area must be discerned by means of demographics, histories,
etc., then prayer is used, by spiritual leaders united and in one accord
in the target area to break the demonic stronghold. Whatever happened to
the sovereign work of God? All that is needed apparently is knowledge,
leaders in one accord and prayer. It is man centered, it is the work of
man, and it is magical. Do we see this in any of the great awakenings,
do we see this in the Book of Acts, did Jesus instruct His disciples
along these lines, did Paul ever employ or encourage spiritual mapping
or anything remotely like it? Certainly not!
EXTENSION OF THE CHURCH GROWTH MOVEMENT
Spiritual Mapping looks to be an
extension of the church growth movement; it takes "evangelism"
one step further. What could not be accomplished using sophisticated
telemarketing strategies, spiritual mapping would. In fact, some of the
same people who were instrumental in the promotion of the church growth
movement are also deeply invested in spiritual mapping. C. Peter Wagner,
perhaps the biggest figure in the church growth movement, has firmly
entrenched himself in the spiritual mapping movement as evidenced in his
books Warfare Prayer and Breaking Strongholds in Your City.
ABOUT THE FINISHED WORK OF JESUS?
Jesus, in His death and resurrection,
triumphed over Satan once and for all. We have been given authority over
all the power of the devil. Any "territorial demons, principalities
or powers" have no power or authority over the Christian seated
with Christ at the right hand of the throne of God. It is the power of
the Holy Spirit, working through the preached word of Christ that brings
people to a saving faith in Jesus. This has always and always will be
the only means required. It is the mysterious, miraculous work of the
Spirit of God that we need and not human invention.
Spiritual mapping is an attempt to
accomplish through human effort what Christ has already done, and is
therefore imaginary at best and dangerous deception at worst.
Spiritual mapping: What a terrible waste
of time, money and energy! What must the unconverted think of this
effort? And, perhaps even more problematic, what will come next?
Certainly the church growth movement has failed as statistics are now
showing. Even the "mighty fire" of the Toronto Blessing and
its kin is fading. Spiritual mapping has been going on for ten or more
years and, apparently, the efforts of the mappers have not been paying
off--What city has been "taken for God?" Yes, there are the
transformational videos, which purport to document cities transformed by
the implementation of spiritual mapping techniques. There are also
those, however, who say the video presentations present a false picture.
There will be something new coming
along soon enough. And there has already been a name
change--Strategic-Level Spiritual Warfare. Sounds quite sophisticated
and contemporary, high tech evangelism. But after the spiritual mapping
project runs its course, there will be something else that will entice
and deceive. My feeling that whatever it is will be more blatantly
magical than even spiritual mapping. Evangelism and Missions--This is
our Responsibility We are to preach Jesus, His cross and resurrection.
We are to bring the gospel to the entire world. We proclaim the finished
work of Jesus, including His triumph over the devil and the entire
demonic kingdom. We can be confident that God will use His own word to
bring about His desired end. He is God, and He will do it.
BEST AND WORST CASE
Perhaps the best that can be said
for the Spiritual Mapping movement is that it may result in co-operation
and understanding amongst churches. However, the supposed unity among
churches, which is said to be necessary to defeat the forces of evil,
may result in the establishment of new entities that will require
leaders, funding, and so on--another level of human bureaucracy. Pastors
joining together for prayer may be one of the outcomes of the movement,
and if so, then that is fine, too. Let us hope for these best case
scenarios. Our ultimate desire is for Jesus to be lifted up before a
fallen, lost world so that God would be glorified. May it be.
* Spiritual Mapping is a new name for
something I was acquainted with in the Jesus Movement, 1967 to 1975.
Toward the end of the Jesus Movement, about 1974, this idea emerged
though it was not called spiritual mapping. We did, at that time, pray
earnestly that God would dismantle the principalities and powers over
the San Francisco Bay Area. I was uncritical of the concept then and
jumped right on board. It was something, however, that passed rather
quickly, a fad, a gimmick, like so many that came along at that time.
Frankly, I am surprised at the reemergence of such an unbiblical
- This is an updated version of an article
written by Philpott that appeared in Evangelical Times, a publication of
Evangelical Press of Great Britain.