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SO-CALLED “Strategic-Level Spiritual Warfare” (SLSW)

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SUMMARY: The above is the title of a chapter in Deliver Us from Evil: An Uneasy Frontier in Christian Mission, edited by A. Scott Moreau et al and published (2002) by World Vision Resources (
Scott Moreau of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelisation wrote the chapter. He and the publisher gave CWM permission to publish an adaptation in CETF. Instead I have decided to summarise the major points, add my comments and direct you to the internet version of the chapter, the insights of which reflect thorough investigation that is well documented. I commend his article as fair and thorough even though I disagree with some of his assertions, suggestions and conclusions:
READ IT AT: php?loc=kb&view=v&page=v&id=3027 &pagenum=1&lang=EN

Philip Powell
SO-CALLED “Strategic-Level Spiritual Warfare” (SLSW) was invented by Peter Wagner. It is one of the more disturbing non-biblical innovations that abound within Christendom.
It is especially concerning on account of its popularity within Pentecostal-Charismatic circles. Good Christians are sucked in by the term and idea. Of course there is real biblical spiritual warfare. Unfortunately, there is also this fi gment of over zealous imagination that masquerades as “spiritual warfare”. It has many faces. The name of its moneymaking programs and expressions is “legion” for they “are many” (c/f Mark 5v9).

I agree with Scott Moreau’s bottom line conclusions that:
• SLSW is unsustainable biblically or historically without stretching the accounts;
• SLSW (discerning/ naming demons) is based on animism and magic not scripture;
• SLSW leans heavily on the myth of “redemptive violence” that pervades our time;
• SLSW cuts across biblical warnings of exploration after spirit knowledge/ power;
• SLSW is not supported by the Bible and so demeans it and scriptural authority;
• SLSW externalises the enemy and so tends to avoid personal responsibility for sin;
• SLSW ignores the will (choice) of wicked men and promotes spiritual elitism.
In his introduction Scott Moreau shows how Peter Wagner et al have been influenced by modern culture and by fi ction not fact e.g. the novels of Frank Peretti “did not so much chart a new direction in thinking as they described the path many were already walking. ...
His novels This Present Darkness, Piercing the Darkness, The Prophet, The Oath and The Visitation ... vividly portray angels and demons in fi erce battles over schools, towns, and whole territories. ... selling well in both Christian and secular markets.
This follows the ... trend of growing cultural fascination with spirit beings, including angels [and demons] . ... the rise of the dungeons and dragons fantasy games, ... [and] movies ... from comedy (Ghost Busters) to horror (The Haunting). ... angels (and the afterlife) have also ... [featured]. ... [in] secular bookstores ... [with] new titles related to the spirit realm.
Web pages advertise psychic angel contacting services (an interesting combination of technology and spiritism which echoes the rise of materialistic magic portrayed by C. S. Lewis in 1961) and angel paraphernalia is being widely sold as good luck charms and protective icons”.

With this background Moreau tries to explain 15 the activity and rationale of SLSW mostly critically. I summarise using his headings and mostly his words, albeit severely edited:
• SLSW involves: praying, naming, mapping, binding, releasing, saving ... people research an area ... identify spirit(s) ... in charge ... so ... “smartbomb” praying may loosen the hold of ... spirits ... [so] people ... may ... come to Christ ... Core Ideas and Strategies
• SLSW has developed a new theological vocabulary; their own jargon —
Identifi cational Repentance: ... corporate repentance for corporate sins. ... 4 steps ... : 1) Identify national sin; 2) Confess the sin corporately and ask God for forgiveness; 3) Apply Christ’s blood; and 4) ... repair the damage ... Reconciliation Walk: Originated by Lynn Green of YWAM ... to incorporate ... identifi cational repentance and prayer journeys ... tracing the path of the Crusades and repenting to Muslim(s) on behalf of the original Crusaders. Levels of Spiritual Warfare: C. Peter Wagner [quote] ... “spiritual warfare involves 3 levels.”... ground-level ... casting demons out of believers. ... occult-level ... “dealing with {co-ordinated} powers of darkness... “ 3rd level ... confrontation with the high-ranking territorial spirits ... (c/f 2 Cor 4:3-4). Prayer Journeys: ... field trips to practise prayer walking ... short-term mission trips ... to strategic cities or sections of cities in a country/ continent. ... trip taken by believers into ... 10/40 Window countries to pray for the lost. ... does not entail evangelism or mercy ministries.
Spiritual Mapping: ... George Otis coined the term, which: “... involves ... superimposing our understanding of forces and events in the spiritual domain onto places and circumstances in the material world. ... Spiritual mapping is a means by which we can see what is beneath the surface of the material world; but it is not magic. It is subjective in that it is a skill born out of a right relationship with God and a love for His world. It is objective in that it can be verifi ed (or discredited) by history, sociological observation and God’s Word. {“Subjective” – “Objective” – do I smell an oxymoron?}
Queen of Heaven: ... Ultimately, according to Wagner, “... she is the demonic principality who is most responsible under Satan for keeping unbelievers in spiritual darkness ... Beelzebub (Luke 11:22) is a “high ranking principality in the order of the Queen of Heaven.” Wagner’s most recent emphasis has been the Celebrate Ephesus event, ... orchestrated by revelation given to Wagner through several prayer and ministry partners. In it a variety of forms of SLSW against the Queen of Heaven were practised over the course of several years, culminating in a four hour praise and worship service in the amphitheatre in Ephesus which held the demonstration for Artemis described in Acts 19. Wagner anticipated that this series of events would break this top-level territorial spirit’s stronghold on uncounted millions of people in the 10/40 Window and free them up for fruitful harvest.
Confronting Territorial Spirits:
• SLSW advocates may be divided into three groupings re Territorial spirits —
Confronters: ... promote and direct public confrontation of ... territorial spirits ... organize spiritual mapping projects, prayer journeys, and sometimes local praise marches or rallies as means of confrontation. Moderates: ... emphasize unity of local leadership, centrality of prayer, and priority of dealing with strongholds ... Conservatives: ... maintain that we do not see in scripture or church history specifi c SLSW encounters of the type being described today. ... advocate ... repentance and reconciliation ... modelled on ... Ephesians.
Points of Appreciation:
In this section the author gives credit to SLSW for:
1) Emphasising prayer and taking Satan seriously by focusing on the demonic and not just “finding new ways to generate decisions”. He thinks this is a healthy corrective for “Western missiology, which tends to be too managerial in its orientation.“ I would tend to disagree. Do two wrongs make a right? And SLSW clearly demands its own management.
2) Recognizing “that divisiveness weakens prayer.” SLSW stresses “the unity of the church in fulfi lling its mission. They seek co-operation rather than competition”. Is this a real benefi t? Does “divisiveness weaken prayer”? I think Elijah would probably disagree.
3) Focusing on “the ultimate goal of saving the lost. Many of the proponents emphasize that the ultimate goal is not casting down spirits, but bringing the lost to Christ.” Well the goal is commendable BUT does the method adopted really achieve the goal?
4) Recognizing the “evil spiritual dimension of culture. All cultures have elements which together work as domination systems, which entrap people and keep them blinded to spiritual realities.” That seems to be a reasonable statement.
5) Discerning “areas in which the church needs to repent. ... corporate repentance. Certainly this is a positive action which unleashes the power of God to work powerfully in a location or people, and one in which we should be delighted to participate.” Hmm — No doubt I would be out of step and seen as divisive if I were to suggest that biblical repentance is not principally corporate. It always starts with the individual and relates to personal sin and not some historic national failure real or imagined.
6) Seeing “themselves in some respects as experimenters who are following God’s leading rather than sensationalists who simply want to make names for themselves.” Another hmm. Paul the apostle claimed to have taught “all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). Is there room for experimenters such as SLSW advocates, the leaders of which have certainly made a name for themselves. I think a bit of cynicism is called for.
Points of Disagreement:
This section provides what was my opening gambit — a list of bottom-line conclusions with which I most certainly agree.
I would suggest that refi nement is too kind a word. Can you refi ne “lies” and “exaggerations”? Some time ago CWM published an article by Olympia Barczynkska entitled Refl ections on the Transformations Video. You can read the article at: van2001/video13.html

Olympia wrote: “... when one simply seeks to compare what is shown in the video with the truth presented in the Bible a very different picture emerges. The same would be true if one tried to examine the physical evidence of the claims in their actual locations. A great inconsistency would become apparent ...” The type of deception and blatant untruth that is published by advocates of SLSW calls for something more than “refi nement”. It calls for repentance. Additional material published by CWM on Spiritual Warfare and kindred subjects is available at: sermons.html. Scroll to the bottom of the page and select the four short messages on signifi cant issues of our time in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format.
• Who is the Foundation of the Church – Christ or Modern Day Apostles?
• When is a Prophet NO Profi t? Is Cindy Jacobs Really a Prophet to the Nations?
• Serving God or Mammon? Can a Gospel that is Free be sold for Money?
• Binding and Loosing: What Does the Bible Teach about Territorial Spirits and Spiritual Mapping?
A. Scott Moreau calls for caution “in the use of exaggerated claims and anecdotes as the means by which SLSW is established.”
What does that mean? Can anyone tell lies “cautiously”?
He suggests care “not to confuse coincidence with causation”; a reasonable comment. It is possible to be confused. It’s an honest thing to openly acknowledge it.

His comments here are well worth reading as is the entire chapter. Effectively he shows that it’s not mere refi nement that is called for, especially taking into account the anecdote relating to the “border town straddling Brazil and Uruguay in which people are responsive to the Gospel on one side of the street (in Brazil) and unresponsive on the other (in Uruguay).
This is attributed to the power and infl uence of territorial spirits. ... however, ... the missionary from whom it originated did not even remember the name of the town ... from one afternoon of witnessing during a four month evangelistic trip in 1947!”
The REFINEMENT section concludes:
“Finally, our goal must be to integrate the spiritual, the personal, the cultural, and the social and to stop placing all the blame on the spirits and start recognizing the human side of choice to rebel against God’s established order.”
A. Scott Moreau ends his dissertation with what he calls “an excellent eight-point summary given by Clinton Arnold which I would consider an appropriate starting point for a Lausanne statement on engaging territorial spirits in spiritual warfare.”
Personally I would suggest that any ongoing discussion calls for basic old-fashioned honesty on the part of all involved to recognise that the entire SLSW programme and projection is based upon a lie that distorts both the anecdotal facts and biblical truth.
Not much is taught in the Bible about Spiritual Warfare so really it’s inexcusable not to get what it does say, right. I agree with Lausanne. Let’s have a serious ongoing discussion on the topic. God willing, in future CETFs, we will examine scriptures such as –
Or else how can one enter into a strong man‘s house, and plunder his goods, except he fi rst bind the strong man? and then he will plunder his house (Matthew 12:29).
No man can enter into a strong man‘s house, and plunder his goods, except he fi rst bind the strong man; and then he will plunder his house (Mark 3:27).
When an armed strong man guards his own dwelling, his goods are in peace: (Luke 11:21). For the weapons of our warfare are not of the fl esh, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4).

For we do not wrestle against fl esh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual wickedness in heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).
Gloria deo.


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Appeared in Issue 21.1 CETF NR 35 April 2006
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