Spiritual strongholds fall under three broad categories: territorial, ideological, and personal. Territorial and ideological strongholds are particularly important to Disciple Making Movements because they have power over groups of people living in specific geographical areas or within particular people groups. If not addressed, they can hinder Disciple Making Movements from happening. The first step in overcoming them is becoming aware of their existence in the places where God has called you to work.
In the Old Testament, the angel Gabriel apparently wrestled against a territorial spirit (the prince of the Persian Kingdom), but because of Daniel’s prayers, after twenty-one days, Gabriel was able to come to him (Daniel 10:12-13). It is also evident in the Old Testament that the high places, or strongholds, acted as the spiritual control centers of the nation for the gods who were worshiped and lived there. As Gary Kinnaman suggests, “This is why the Philistines’ capture of the Ark of the Covenant in 1 Samuel 4 was so significant. To capture the god of another nation, they believed would render that nation powerless. To have their god was to have their power.”
The New Testament sheds more light on this subject by identifying the pagan “gods” as demon principalities and powers. A multilevel system of spiritual beings is suggested by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 6:12: “rulers, authorities, the powers of this dark world, the spiritual forces of evil”. Paul also undoubtedly had this in mind when he wrote to the Corinthians, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4).
Paul warned against ideological mindsets when he stated, “See to it, that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8). These are ideas, philosophies, and religious or non-religious views that influence a culture. It is important to point out that ideological strongholds are not simply human ideas, but can be inspired and connected to the powers of darkness. Any ideology, whether communism, materialism, secular humanism, New Age thinking or any other branch of thought, has a profound effect on societies and can stifle movements.
The good news is that God has provided the means to demolish both territorial and ideological strongholds. The experience of many successful movement leaders is that they initially felt great resistance and experienced little fruit in the way of new disciples—whatever they tried did not work. But after they began to identify and deal with the spiritual strongholds, it was as if a switch was turned on, and almost anything they attempted bore fruit.
In the next blog, we will share strategies on how to remove territorial and ideological strongholds effectively.