Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Demon-possession in Africa

Maya asked a question after my previous post about our experience with people who are demon-possessed. First of all I would like to put it clearly that I believe that it is possible that someone could be demon-possessed. I know that people are going around nowadays claiming that Satan is just something made up in our mind so that we can have someone to blame for our own sin. Obviously Satan is something totally different from the character we found in the Hot Stuff comics which we read as children. But I think there is enough proof in the Bible that Satan is a reality and there is also enough proof around us that Satan is a reality and that evil spirits do exist. But then, at the same time, I think more credit is given to Satan than he deserves! Someone once wrote that many Christians fear the devil more than they fear the Lord.
In Swaziland we have our full quota of individuals who believe that they have the gift of driving out demons. Many years ago I was attending a youth camp, when suddenly one of the young people fell on the floor with convulsions, while screaming at the top of her voice. Now, at that point things had been going a bit hectic and the young people’s emotions were running at a high level. Obviously something had to be done and a few people picked her up and carried her into another room. Suddenly a number of people came forward who each claimed that they could drive out the demon which was causing her to scream like this. Thinking about it afterwards, it was actually quite humorous. She was lying on the floor with two or three people on each side, each trying to shout louder than the other: Phuma! (meaning: Come out!) Afterwards I thought that the demon had no idea what to do, because he did not know whether he had to exit on the right or on the left! After about ten minutes she seemed to quieten down and she was then moved to a house on the premises. My (then) colleague and I were sitting in our bedroom when we suddenly heard her screaming once again. This was now getting a bit irritating. We walked down to the house and we heard her screams mixed with the shouts of those who were trying to drive out the demon. Unsure what to do, the two of us remained outside and started praying for her, that God would take control of the situation and that He would bring peace into the girl’s life. What happened then could best be described in the words of the miracle of the calming of the storm. One minute there was this great noise and then suddenly there was a great silence. All the shouting stopped. We went in, asked the young people to leave the girl and to go to their beds. The girl was completely at peace.
Was it demon-possession? I doubt it. But regardless, we realised that evening that the driving out of demons isn’t a showcase to the world of how strong our faith is. Ultimately it is the Lord who has to do this and take control.
Would I ever “drive out” demons. I don’t think so. I have a strong belief that inconsiderately driving out demons could cause more harm than good. I am thinking of the warning of Jesus in Luke 11:24-26. I see my task as preaching the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ. When a person accepts the Lord as Saviour and the Holy Spirit comes into that person’s life, then I believe that God will cleanse that person of these evil spirits. There is no place in a person’s life for both the Holy Spirit and evil spirits.
I do realise that this is a touchy issue and that some people will differ from me, but up to now I have had no experience to show me that it is wrong to trust the Lord to take full control of a person’s life as well as of any evil spirits.
Perhaps I can share in a next post what I did experience one day and where I truly believe that a person was demon-possessed.


Saturday, August 4, 2007 - Posted by | Africa, Culture, Demons, Mission, Swaziland, Theology


  1. My mentor, of blessed memory, had an interesting way of looking at this issue. For the sake of illustration, he likened a person to an oil drum that was filled with black oil. As a minister working with our clients, we could take an aggressive approach and turn the oil drum upside down and then scrub it out with grease cutting soap and a stiff brush. Or, we could pour clean water into the drum,displacing the black ooze and do so until all the oil was washed out and the drum was clean.

    I liked the analogy because although the same process of cleansing was being accomplished the second choice was gentler. Both of us worked (and I still do) with very vulnerable people, people who have already been torn up by others and by life situations. To treat them roughly in this way would be one more assault on their mind and spirit.

    There are those times, though, when it is infinitely kinder to go the more aggressive route, but in sixteen years of ministry for me it has been extremely rare.

    Where I live in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. we have a large portion of population who are seriously into the occult. There are groups in many rural areas that conduct full on occultic ritual. Once I had a Wiccan attend my Monday Night Healing Prayer group and she did emit a very strong negative presence. It was only after she admitted being a Wiccan that it became clear why, but this is extremely rare.

    I would also be very surprised if a Christian were to also have a demonic presence (to be possessed). It seems categorically impossible to me, but since I do not know all there is to know about the spiritual realm (who does?) I like to leave room for the L-rd to show me what to do in a case by case situation.

    Thank you for taking the time to write on this subject.

    Comment by Maya | Sunday, August 5, 2007 | Reply

  2. Maya, I like that! Yes, obviously there are times when it is better and kinder to tackle the bull by the horns. But in my life I have at times bullied someone into making a decision, and it has seldom really worked effectively. I have a saying (which I always use when training people for evangelism): If I can bully a person into making a decision for Christ, then someone stronger than myself can bully them out of the decision. If the Holy Spirit convinces a person to make a decision for Christ, then neither myself nor anyone stronger than myself will be able to make them change their decision.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Sunday, August 5, 2007 | Reply

  3. The links to “Affluence: A Western Missionary Problem” (1)and (2) seem to be broken. Is there another way to access the articles?

    I really enjoy your blog. My wife and I moved from Detroit to Durban with our four daughters in January 2008. The issues you raise consistently resonate with me, both confirming and challenging my own thoughts. Thanks!

    Comment by Dan | Sunday, August 23, 2009 | Reply

  4. Hi Dan, thanks so much for alerting me to this problem. I’ve found links to the articles on another blog. You can read them here: http://www.prca.org/prtj/nov97.html#Affluence and here: http://www.prca.org/prtj/apr98.html#Affluence I’ll change the links on my blog as well. And thanks for your positive feedback. I would like to hear how you feel about my latest entry on the local church as the hope for the world.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Sunday, August 23, 2009 | Reply

  5. We i dnt hve mny words bt one thing i knw GOD gave us authority to use FAITH IN FAITH AND BY FAITH so if i scream the Name of JESUS by Faith the demon hve to go dats my, n dan sme1 wil jst hve Faith to pray in his FAITH the demon wil go if he did it by FAITH..The BIBLE say FAITH IS INDIVIDUAL..and sme hve FAITH to eat meat whl sm1 to eat veg..as so lng as its FAITH God honours, n he sad go n cast out demons in my name (JESUS) CAST OUT!!

    Comment by Nduduzo | Monday, April 23, 2012 | Reply

  6. “Was it demon-possession? I doubt it.” Are you nuts? Read your bible man. You are either very young or very traditional as in “spiritually blind” Forgive my tone, I’ll be praying for you.

    Comment by Tom | Thursday, May 24, 2012 | Reply

    • Tom, it seems you are a man of multiple gifts, being able to identify demon-possession not only decades after it happened but also at a great distance. Yes, I’ll forgive your tone!

      Comment by Arnau Van Wyngaard | Thursday, May 24, 2012 | Reply

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