Bo Sanders: Public Theology

updating & innovating for today



i Believe the Burnout Generation

There has been lots of discussion about Anne Helen Petersen’s  article “How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation” on BuzzFeed.

I have read and listened to some great responses and would like to weigh in to the conversation.

I was a worked with youth from 1996-2016 and saw a severe amount of change. I have also picked up some new tools as an academic that I hope will be helpful.

Millennial  generation is burned out. We should believe them.

3 insights to help move the conversation along.

  1. media culture and image
  2. consumerism and branding
  3. formed by our upbringing

Here is a short video. I would love to hear from you.

Formula For Success?

Is this a formula for success?  Not everyone thinks so!
Focused Intensity – over Time – multiplied by the ‘God’ factor
I always pay attention when push-back does not follow a predictable bell-curve.
In this case, the concerns were equally divided into quarters.
Watch this 5 min video and let me know what you think.

Life Is About To Change

11 months ago I left my church, left LA, and left social media to come to Portland for a year-long appointment as the visiting professor of theology at the same seminary I had studied at 7 short years before.

It has been an eye-opening year. The seminary has changed a lot in 7 years. Education (higher ed in general and theological ed specifically) has changed a lot in 7 years. I have changed a lot in 7 years.

I had an epiphany of sorts this spring and I reached out to my denominational friends in the Portland area. I let them know that I was interested in getting back in to pastoral ministry and that I would be transferring my ordination to their Methodist denomination. The reception was so warm and so welcoming that I took it as confirmation. The Spirit of God is up to something. I can feel it. 

Fast forward 3 months and I am just weeks away from being appointed to a church in SW Portland. I am beyond excited. The church is small and in need of revitalization, but the thing that it has going for it is that the congregation cares about things that matter and they serve their community. That is an exciting point to build on.

The two issues that occupy my imagination right now (before I start) are:

  1. Transitioning the Sunday gathering to a more conversational engagement and transforming the sanctuary to a more versatile space. I have this vision to hybrid the two excellent models from the church in LA into one dynamic experience that incorporates liturgical elements, embodied practices, and critical conversations.
  2. Reaching out to new people with an invitation to a truly different kind of church environment. I have been ‘workshopping’ some ideas with the post-evangelical folks that I know to see what they think of the plan. Early feedback is good.

So I am inheriting this wonderful older congregation, a cool but outdated building, the wisdom from my experience in LA, and a mandate for change & growth from my denominational leadership. That is an electric combination.

Add that to a year of reflection and rest and I am just about busting at the seems to get started.

Thank you for your support this past year and for your prayers in the months to come. I get appointed June 20th and then officially begin in July. I can’t wait to partner with this congregation to reach out to our neighborhood and see what God might do with us.Bo sketch sm

Big News Coming Soon

When the contract with Portland Seminary runs out in a few months, I will be heading back into pastoral ministry.

It is not entirely public yet, but I have entered into an agreement with an older congregation in SW Portland to help revitalize their small church and to transition it to be a “conversational community” where critical conversation and historic practices can be integrated with justice concerns.  :~)

  • Relational engament
  • Embodied spirituality
  • Caring for the community

SO if you know any progressive, post-evangelical, or innovative types who want to be a part of transitioning a multi-generational church to a more contemporary engagement built on conversation, practice, and service to the community … please send them along!  We will need partners who want to do (and be) the church in a different way.

Here are my videos on Preaching 2.0 and Church as Google if you are interested. 

Branded From Birth & the Web of Meaning

Some of the best feedback I got last week, when talking about Social Costructivism being my philosophical orientation within my chosen discipline of Practical Theology, came from WrdsandFlsh

Responding to my sentence:  “I do not believe in the autonomousselective nor the pre-institutional self. I am a social constructivist who believes that we are socialized, groomed and conditioned from day 1.”,  She said:

Your social constructionist theory fits well within Serene Jones’ theology of sin. We are given “scripts” form the time we’re born. Those scripts teach us consumerism, racism, patriarchy, etc. So we are indoctrinated into sin in our very language. We are shaped before we have a knowing self into the language, patterns, etc of our families/communities. And, that includes being shaped by the societal institutions of sin.

I think there is much to explore in the idea that we can never get back to our “pre-conditioned” selves. We are always indoctrinated (for lack of a better term) into the communities in which we are raised.

So, my question to you as a Pastor and not as a researcher, is to say, how do you live theology differently with this in mind? (As opposed to study theology).Perichoresis

I am always honored when someone asks about translating a theological idea into pastoral practice. It is literally my favorite thing in the world – next, of course, to reflecting on the perichoresis. 

 Four things come to mind initially: 

  •  the first is a joke I got from Peter Rollins
  •  the second has to do with expectations
  •  the third deals with authority
  •  the last addresses translation


A man walks into a lawyers office to inquire about legal council and asks “How much does a consultation cost?”

The lawyer informs him that the fee is $200 for three questions.

Surprised, the man asks “Really?”

The lawyer says “Yes. Now what is your third question?”

Rollins used this joke to reflect on the nature of ideology: we find ourselves deep in the midst of it before we realize that we are even in it.

One of the most helpful things that we can do for people as pastoral leadership in the church is help them to realize the nature of inherited beliefs and assumptions. Through our preaching and counsel we can illuminate the nature of ‘what we are caught up in the middle of’.

While I tend to try and steer away from technological analogies for humanity, this is my one exception:

When people come to us they are often  wanting help to fix A) a glitch with the program they are trying to run or B) a problem with the hardware.

Rarely do they want to address the operating system that underlies the problem. We assume the operating system ( the ideologies and assumptions behind that which we can see)  and either want to fix the program we already use or to download a better version of it.

Getting people to examine the operating system that is in place is difficult because it is a much bigger undertaking than simply tweaking the program or trading out some hardware.

If  what they are using was working they probably wouldn’t come to us – we wouldn’t even know about. Like a medicine woman or a computer repair person we see people when something is broken. Being prepared with how to access the operating system–and not just fixed the program that is running on it–is a gift we can offer people.


I have told this story before but it is illustrative for this point.

A man in my congregation would lose his job at the big factory in town on a seasonal/semiannual rotation. When the economy was in a rut, he remained jobless for quite a while and his family was devastated that God had let them down.

We prayed as a congregation, as we did for everyone, for his employment. It dawned on me, however,  during this period that we might be better off addressing the systemic problem of how the major employers in our area conducted themselves.

 In many circles the way we pray exposes a gap in our understanding. We are fine to pray for people personally and to focus on their individual piety/spirituality (mirco) And to trust in the heavenly/divine of some transcendent realm (macro).  Where we are negligent is in the connective element of systems, structures, and institutions.

The work of folks like Walter Wink on The Powers is essential here.

We do people a great disservice when we neglect this essential component and allow people to conceive of themselves and their lives as individuals – and then jump right to the heavenlies. That enlightenment notion of self and society is deadly both to the soul and Christian community.

christian unity

Authority:  Whether you have a hierarchical model of pastoral leadership or a more egalitarian/communitarian conception, we each have a role to play. That role comes with some level of authority over a sphere of influence.

By first understanding, then articulating a better understanding of concepts like original sin (see part 1 of this post),  we recognize and account for the fact that we are all caught up in a web of conflicting desires and motivations. This acknowledgment is essential for the way one conducts her or himself in Christian community and especially leadership within the community.

The people that we interact with and give direction to are as multifaceted, complex, complicated, conflicted, irrational, and erratic  as we ourselves our!  Knowing and confessing this at the beginning and in the midst of every interaction will necessarily cause us to temper our propensity to be prescriptive and formulaic.

Translation:  In the previous post “Wrestling with Original Sin”  some fairly elaborate notions of human and societal makeup were put forward.  Contemporary work in the fields of sociology, psychology, and neuroscience ( just to name a few)  have radically altered the way that we understand and thus talk about what it means to be human and to participate in human social organization (society).

A significant gap forms for Christians who’ve been look to the Bible for direction if they do not account for this. One gift that a Reflective Practitioner  brings to a community is the ability to translate divinely inspired pre-modern notions in spiritual direction into the 21st century.

By helping people to understand the reality of the gap between some portions of our sacred text and the lived realities of modern society, we can bless people with the opportunity of insight and clarity. It helps no one to give old answers to new questions and call it being faithful. Being faithful is a willingness to up with new answers to new questions in a way that is informed by the way that the traditional answers were offered in response to questions within that historic context.

This is why I have little interest in the old ‘essence’ or ‘substance’ debates around notions like depravity. They just don’t work anymore. We waste a lot of time and energy trying to convince people or convert people to a pre-Copernican world view.

Those are the four things that came to mind  in response to your comment.

I would love to get your feedback on my 4 and to hear what you might add or substitute. 

Raising Girls

There are a lot of great women in my life – women that I love, respect, pray for, listen to and learn from.  I have two sisters that I adore and who teach me much about life. I am a life-long youth pastor who is also responsible for ministry to children and families at my church.

Several things have converged in the past month to cause me to think about this subject more than usual.

  • A recent middle-school youth trip had a 5:1 girl to boy ratio … and spending a week with 12 & 13-year-old young women will make you think about the world that they are being raised in and socialized into.
  • My wife is the youngest of 3 girls and I have had the opportunity to spend time with all of my nieces (ages 5-22) this Summer.
  • Many of the church’s families are all girls.
  • I read articles like this one addressing how to talk to your daughter about modesty and healthy sexuality.
  • Trying to navigate wedding rituals when so many of the ceremonial elements are from a bygone era.
  • Flipping through the most recent edition of Esquire magazine (I know) there were a series of powerful letters to the editor. Apparently in the previous issue a reader had written about having only daughters and no sons after learning that his final child will be a girl too.

There was something about those letters that hit home with me. The women who wrote in to the editor chastised the man for his lament while praising their own fathers for not taking on that attitude.

The reason that those notes probably hit home was that my wife and I had always planned on having only daughters. After nearly a decade attempting to navigate the world of international adoptions we finally (due to health reasons) had to surrender the dream a couple of years ago.

It doesn’t mean that I stopped thinking about what it takes to raise girls though. I want to provide good resources to the families in my life who are doing so.

I am, however, a little unsettled by this thing about having only girls.  There is something there that unnerves me. I think it points to something deeper …

I brought this up to someone I trust and she said that it is because ‘what young girls need isn’t strong male role models – so men aren’t sure what that means for them’.  I pointed out that it wouldn’t be a bad thing if young women had strong male role models in their lives. She strongly suggested that was not the solution or the primary concern – that seeing women in different positions of society is a bigger issue.

There is something about the way we construct or frame gender in our western culture that is too narrow to provide  clear expectations for a father of daughters. This lack of clarity is only compounded when you consider how radically nearly everything related to the family has been affected over the last 50 years.

We live in a new era where the boundaries are quite different from what they were for many of our mothers and especially our grandmothers.

I throw this out in the hopes that you have A) some thoughts about navigating this odd section of society and history B) some good resources you might be able to point me to. Thanks ahead of time. 

Pastors don’t have the same job as Jesus

There is no other way to say this – Jesus wasn’t a pastor and it is ridiculous to hold any contemporary pastor to that standard. 

 I should probably back up.  I was minding my own business last week reading Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization by Arjun Appadurai  and I decided to take a break and check in on Twitter.

That is where I saw a tweet from the folks at Two Friars & a Fool (who I love love love) and smashed into an expectation that just seems objectionable to me.  [I have gathered their and my tweets in chunks for smoother reading]

Worrying that truth or justice will cause anxiety in your congregants isn’t “pastoral”.

More likely you are projecting your fear over job security, to excuse not speaking/living more boldly.

It is not a pastor’s job to protect their congregants from difficult truths, big ideas, or stark injustices.

I cannot think of one instance where Jesus withheld hard truths or talked around a subject out of “pastoral concern”.

My point is that if Jesus withheld them, you wouldn’t know about it. That’s an argument from silence. What we know about Jesus is what his disciples remember and re-presented to us. We don’t know what didn’t happen so we can’t cold contemporary pastors to a non-existent standard.

 They countered with: The Gospels could have had a story where Jesus was gentle with an interlocutor, then turned & told his disciples the truth.

Or we could have revelations in epistles etc… of “hard teachings” Jesus spared us from.

Or even instances where Jesus slowly led his disciples into a hard teaching with progressively less gentle versions.

I can also frame this argument positively: Jesus confronted people w/ hard truths often & is our model of what is “pastoral”.

I stated  that comparing what we have of Jesus in the Gospels to contemporary pastors in like comparing apples to oranges. You just are not looking at the same things. It’s nearly impossible to compare.

Their response:  Is comparing pastors to Jesus apples to oranges? Is imitation not implied in baptism?

I guess I would say that my job is fidelity. Do my best to see/speak/live the truth. Let the Spirit work out who can hear it.

And I’m more curious about what you think of the point that it isn’t “pastoral” to coddle congregants intellectually?

I often think pastors give their congregants too little credit & too much power.

Most can handle more than we allow, & it’s far from the end of the world if we piss a couple off.

Here is my condensed point:

If Jesus withheld teaching, you wouldn’t know about it. That’s argument from silence

You can’t be hard on contemporary pastors because of something Jesus DIDN’T say. It’s apples to oranges.

contemporary pastors are apples to Jesus’ Galilean orange 😉 Context, language, and expectations are different

Pentecost & Christendom alone would be enough. Add to it modern media, Copernicus, Darwin, Freud, WWII, 911 it’s just so different.

Pastors ARE beholden to what their congregants can hear. We know Jesus through disciples’ reports.

We know what the Disciples HEARD. We don’t know what they DIDN’T hear. Can’t be hard on contemporary pastors for that.

I just don’t want to tee-up modern pastors because of what their congregants can’t hear

You may say tough things from the pulpit – but you are situated in a location & context! What preceded you that allows you to say it?

I just can’t abide raking modern pastors w/ 401k & dental plans & seminary student debt or kids going to college for not saying things people won’t pay to hear! It is the system that we are in.

I guess what I’m saying is that Jesus wan’t even a real Rabbi in his day … let alone a post-christendom pastor with student debt, house payments, medical insurance, kids school payments … not to mention an ordination board, district superintendents, or a congregation with building – let alone tithing congregants with kids serving in the military.

It is contemporary apples and Galilean oranges at some point. 

How do I approach this? 
I have mashed together what I have learned from Cornell West, Slavo Zizek and Marc Ellis to say that all churches in North America fall into 3 primary categories: Prophetic, Therapeutic or Messianic.

  • Prophetic churches critique the as is structures to confront the system.
  • Therapeutic churches help folks exist within the system. ‘Chaplains to the Empire’ as we say.
  • Messianic churches focus on helping one survive until God delivers you from the system. This can be rapture, evacuation, eschatological, etc.

So, each of us in embedded in a unique modern social imaginary – a construct of meaning within a context, location, denomination and tradition that asks certain things of us and provides certain opportunities.

Our job is to be as faithful as possible within those parameters to the both the example and message of Jesus that we have.

We are not Jesus. No one is Jesus. Jesus didn’t do what we do for a living. We do the best we can within the frameworks that we have been given. Some are inherited, some need to be renovated, some are up for debate, some need to be challenged and maybe even discarded.

Without recognizing that located and situated reality we can not just take what we don’t see in Jesus and put it over a contemporary situation. It is just apples to oranges – an unfair comparison.


5 Biggest Pastoral Changes in the Past 5 Decades

I’m preparing to facilitate a conversation with some colleagues in the new year about ministry and honoring tradition. I want to begin – and thus frame – the conversation with the changing culture that we are products of, interact with and attempt to minister to.

It is a different way to approach the topic of tradition, admittedly, but my thought is that we start where we are and then trace threads into the past to uncover their significance. I almost always find it unhelpful to start in the past – say at the Protest Reformation – and then slowly work our way up. It is simply too limiting (in scope) and cumbersome (in process) for the contemporary expectations of ministry.

I have been reading a little Gordon Kaufman. He has me thinking about the ‘nuclear age’ and how deeply that shift, from the end of WWII, has impacted us sociologically, psychologically, and spiritually. I take this as my launching off point.

 So here are my Big 5 – in no particular order. I wanted to throw them out here and see what others who are older, or wiser, or more insightful might add to the list or modify.

 Pervasive Pop Psychology  – My dad tells a story about interviewing retired pastors 30 years ago. He asked them when things seemed to change. All of them, without exception, pointed to the window from 1968-1970. They talked about Woodstock, Vietnam, and Nixon among other things.

Many of them also talked about people’s awareness and pop psychology. I will always remember the story of a son who came home from college to visit his folks on the farm. He tried to talk to his dad about his feelings, motivations, childhood memories, his subconscious, etc.  His dad responded, ‘Son, what the hell are going on about?’ He just had no frame of reference for it. Similar stories were repeated, in differing configurations, over and over by  the ministers.

Pop psychology has permeated every facet of society. From Oprah on daytime TV to Self-Help books – it impacts what people expect from a pastor and what they want from things like premarital counseling.
In my first 10 years of ministry, I often said that I would have more prepared for the actual way I spent my week if I had gotten a degree in psychology  rather than in Bible.

Biblical Scholarship – speaking of the Bible, I am shocked as to how much different those conversations go than they did 20 years ago when I was trained in Apologetics/Evangelism.  Between the Jesus Seminar, the Da Vinci Code and Bart Ehrman popularizing the stuff many pastors knew from seminary but were not allowed to say in the pulpit, it is a very different playing field.

It is an odd split: people often know little of the Bible – because they know so much stuff about the Bible. We can’t assume even a Sunday School understanding or a surface devotional reading. But at the same time, the culture wide awareness of critical Biblical scholarship is shocking. That was not true 50 years ago.

The Internet – The Internet changes everything. From the way people spend time to the way that they shop for a church. Facebook has changed how people connect to each other. Google has changed the way people access information. It is impossible to overstate how big of an impact the Internet has had on Western society. If you are still doing church the way you did 50 years ago – and think that it will have the same effect – you are fooling yourself. You may have the same seed, but the soil itself has changed. It will not grow the same crop or produce the same fruit.

Two little examples: When kids who grew up in your church come home from college and sit in on Sunday school (for example). They will assume that they get to share their opinion. They don’t sit quietly and honor the elders by talking last. They will raise their hands and talk first. Is it that they are over empowered? No. It is that they assume that they get to help shape the discussion and their opinion is valid. They don’t sit quietly and try to get up to speed or catch up on what they have missed.

  • This is the difference between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0.  A church website is 1.0 – the staff puts out the information that it wants people to see. You read it like a newspaper. It is not interactive. Facebook is 2.0 – it creates the environment but does not generate the content. Young people live in 2.0

Doug Paggitt talks of ‘the pastor as Google’. I love this. People don’t go to Google for Google. It is not a destination. It helps people get to their destination. If it does this well, people trust Google and go it often. Pastor used to be like encyclopedias. They were a resource, a destination for information. Now, the pastor’s office is not a destination, the art of pastoring is help people find theirs. If we do that well, they trust us and come back the next time they need direction.

Pastor as encyclopedia is a repository of information. Pastor as Google is a resource that knows how to find the information.

24 Hour News & Christian Media –  Cable news and Christian radio probably have a bigger impact on the people who fill the pews that any pastor can be expected to have in a 30 minute sermon once a week.  There is no other way to say it, the narrative that is being put out on media outlets like Fox News (Clash of Civilizations) or Christian Radio (the 6 Line Narrative) is so pervasive and so monolithic that it can feel as if your parishioners are being pastored far more by their TV and car radio that you will ever be able to.

This is also part of why our country and culture have become so:

  1. polarized
  2. adversarial

I am horrified by this trend more than all the others combined. I think that it hurts the heart of God and I know that it hurts our Christian witness.

Fractured Globalism  and PostModernity – People have great troubles conceptualizing and articulating how fractured, dislocated, overwhelmed and powerless they feel in the global marketplace. Things are not simple now. Things have never been more complex and overwhelming. Look at the food on your table? Do you know where it comes from? Think about your Thanksgiving dinner last week and imagine how many miles and from how many countries those ingredients were trucked to end up on your table. You might be shocked.

Think about your car. Was it all made and assembled at the same plant? Or even in the same country. The automotive industry was fairly straight forward 50 years ago. Now it is an example of inter-national, multi-corporation conglomerates. We have been de-centered, and people feel it. The way we conceptualize ourselves, our connection to family, the way we picture the world working, the universe and thus God. The best book I have read on the subject is “Identity, Culture, and the Postmodern World” by Madan Sarup.

The PostModern Turn – speaking of PostModern, this may be the biggest of the 5 changes. It is funny to me that some christians still want to debate if the category is real just because it can not be succinctly or universally defined (how very modern!)  Look, call it what you want: late-modernity, hyper-modernity, high-modernity, or some other thing – what can not be denied is that something big and deep has shifted. Blame it on the philosophers (Derrida, Lyotard, Foucault, etc) if you want. Make up a new name for it if you must. But please stop pretending that what we are looking at is nothing radical or unexpected. Even the ostrich thinks that it is time to pull your head out of the sand!

One interesting reaction, and this applies to denominations, is the counter-modern responses that want to go back to an imagined past and reclaim a romantic pre-shift relationship between the Christian religion and

  • society
  • the economy
  • science
  • other religions

You can see this in counter-modern responses like Radical Orthodoxy (retreating to the hills of Thomism), Post-Liberal thought, Hyper-Calvinism and the Tea-Party in politics. Even if you pastor with an established denomination (and many don’t) you have to contend with these fractious groups that will impact your congregation.

Those are my 5 Big changes for Pastors over the past 50 years. I would love your thoughts!  What would you take out and what would you add?

Dealing with Demons (a progressive take)

In the weeks since Pentecost I have posted 2 blogs about the Bible (A Funny Thing Happened and Poetics)  and then 2 about personal prophecy (Why didn’t God tell me? and Process). I love the conversations that have ensued and am amazed at the number of questions that have been generated.

Recently I was asked about ‘casting out demons’ in the past and how I reconcile that now. This is one of my favorite things to talk about, but it does require a little set-up so I will be a concise as possible and then get to it.

In ‘What had changed since I was your Pastor” I explained ‘why the natural is super’:

I am convinced that the church has made a major mistake in adopting the language of the super-natural. Since the epic flub with Galileo and Copernicus the church has allowed science to have the natural (things that make sense) and has been relegated to watching over things that increasingly don’t make sense and retreating into words like ‘mystery’ and ‘faith’ as cover for that which is just not reasonable.

I do not believe in a realm (the natural) that is without God. As a Christian, I believe that God’s work is the most natural thing in the world. I am unwilling to concede the natural-spiritual split and then leave less and less room for God as science is able to explain more and more. The church is foolish to accept the dualism (natural-supernatural) and then superintend only the spiritual part.

I would prefer to reclaim the language of the ‘miraculous’ (surprising to us or unexpected) and ‘signs’ from the Gospel of John (that point to a greater reality).

SO inside that expectation, what do you do with demons and the devil?

I no longer believe that demons are ancient fallen creatures that work for some cosmic bad army in unseen realms and attached themselves to people’s souls… or something.

I believe that demons are the ‘shadows’ that result from injury, brokeness, and scar tissue in a fractured psyche (or spirit or soul). Those ‘dark’ elements or places can manifest in the exact ways that we used to describe ‘spiritual oppression’.

The Devil is a poetic-literary device for when corporate evil is so big and bad that we outsource it (personify it) to an anthropomorphic bad guy envisioned as some overlord type.

[now, I have done this enough to know that two pushbacks are coming, so let me just say: A) Don’t quote Job. The ‘hasatan’ or the satan is not the New Testament ‘Devil’. Plus you have to read Job as the ancient play that it was (it is more like a manuscript than a newspaper report). B) The temptation of Jesus plays an important role in the gospels. stick with me, it will make a lot more sense if you don’t read the devil as ‘an ancient fallen being now terrorizing the earth’. The temptation of Christ was about identity. Not if he was Messiah, but what kind he would be. ]

When we kick demons out of people (through deliverance, exorcism, or guided prayer) we use something called “Open Doors & Broken Windows”.  We invite God’s Spirit to walk them through their ‘house’ – every area of their life – and look for places that the ‘enemy’ could have gained access. Doors are opened from the inside (you have the lock & key to your own heart). Windows are broken from the outside. That is our imagery.

  • Open Doors are decisions that you make (sin, weakness, participation, etc.) that leave you vulnerable and susceptible.
  • Broken Windows are injuries from others (abuse, neglect, violence, etc.).

Sometimes we do this topically (verbally go from room to room) sometimes we do it chronologically (starting from when you were young). Once we have find something, we take back the authority that has been given away (renounce sin) or we invite the Spirit into that place of injury to repair what has been broken and fractured.

Within Deliverance circles that are two primary schools: Authority (or power) and Truth. I am a Truth guy. I simply speak truth into that place of hurt or brokeness. The words of Christ are very powerful for healing and release. Within the Authority school there are two groups: a group who talks to (interviews) the demons; one that doesn’t but simply ‘takes authority’ over them. The theory is that you have to figure out how they got in in order to take away that root of their power. I never liked that, demons lie – they work for ‘the Liar and Father of Lies’.  I even thought that back then …

 How do I process this now? I still do deliverances but much prefer ‘guided prayer times’ without the deliverance element. The only time I will do it is if the person is convinced that there is a demon present. If this person grew up in an environment where this was taught, or has bought into a place where this is the religious teaching – I never introduce the idea, but if that is what they are being tormented by, then I help them out and meet them where they are at.

I believe that demons are the ‘shadows’ that result from injury, brokeness, and scar tissue in a fractured psyche (or spirit or soul). Those ‘dark’ elements or places can manifest in the exact ways that we used to describe ‘spiritual oppression’.

This can affect every thing from internal dialogue, to relationship, to social behavior. Gone far enough, it can even look like possession. Two important things:

  1. As Christians, we believe in the presence of God’s Holy Spirit in the world.
  2. The deliverance style prayer works just as well on shadows in fractured souls.

When someone walks into my office and they are convinced that they are being a tormented by a demon, I’m not sure that is the best time to explain to them how the ancients viewed the 3-tiered universe and the metaphysics behind it that allowed for demons. It is a time to care for that person and just translate for them.*  What they have been taught to call a demon is a personification with anthropomorphic characteristics. When we have injuries, there can emerge shadows from the fractures and scar tissue. Pastors do all sorts of counseling and this can be a way of caring for a hurting person who is really struggling inside.
I can still do 80% of what I used to do and operate in integrity. I can:

  • invite the Holy Spirit’s presence
  • walk with the person through their life
  • speak the words of Christ into that place of hurt
  • help them renounce the origin, impact and collateral damage
  • take authority over that situation and for themselves
  • confess trust in God and the power to live differently in the future
  • celebrate the freedom that is in Christ and in Christ’s work

I would love to hear your thoughts, concerns, comments and questions. This has been  long journey for me and though I no longer believe in ‘the boogie man’, I understand that this language of demons is powerful in some traditions so I work with people where they are at – I don’t need to first convince them of my perspective.

* I have at times said to the person “What if I told you that there is no such thing as a demon and that what you are experiencing is something else?” Just to test the waters. About 50% of the time the person is open and was simply told by someone else (usually the person who referred them to me) that it was a demon – which terrified them. Some times they insist, so I just go with it.

originally published at HBC

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