Evangelism and the Paranormal

October 8th, 2012

Between now and Halloween, I’m going to be publishing a series of blog posts called Supernatural October. The supernatural and the paranormal are uncomfortable subjects for most congregations. I’ve observed that many liberal and conservative churches, both non-denominational and mainline, have hangups about anything they can’t easily explain. Some Christians take the position that things like demons and ghosts are figments of the imagination. They don’t deal with these topics at all because they don’t take them seriously. Others believe in paranormal phenomena on some level, but they avoid the subjects of evil and the supernatural either out of fear or because they just don’t think it’s appropriate for a church to “go there”.

I believe the church is missing a big evangelism opportunity when we don’t talk about these things.

There’s a reason young people are fascinated by ghosts, witchcraft, the occult, and vampires. Humans are spiritual beings, therefore we are naturally drawn to spiritual experiences. Unfortunately, some of us have focused so much on the intellectual and doctrinal sides of Christianity that we’ve ignored the spiritual dimension. Because spirituality is so subjective, unpredictable, and sometimes uncomfortable, we’ve essentially sanitized the mystery right out of our faith. Instead of owning the spiritual realm, some of us have run from it. That's part of the reason some young people are going elsewhere. Unfortunately, too many of them are going to dangerous places.

Some churches rightly teach young Christians to avoid things like witchcraft and the occult, but they don’t give them a truly Christian outlet to explore spiritual things. From my experience, even some Pentecostal and charismatic churches seem to be long on doctrine and short on legitimate experience. And the way some well-meaning Christians embellish tales of supernatural events, it’s almost embarrassing. (Peter Böhler told John Welsey to “preach faith till you have it”, not “tell stories till they happen!”)

People need a safe place to ask questions about the supernatural, and the church is the best place I know of. But we must go deeper than simply admonishing people to avoid the topics altogether. 

Many people experiment with the dark side of the supernatural because no one has shown them how to explore the good side. Ultimately, some of us just want some kind of proof that there’s more to our existence than what we can see. Churches that are willing to take some risks in this area will reach new people—of that I'm confident. We should be prepared to help people explore the other side of the supernatural: things like spiritual gifts, prayer, healing, prophecy, and the presence of God. But we don't have to define everything so rigidly. A little mystery is a good thing.

Over the next several weeks, I’ll be looking at topics like ghosts, demons, exorcism, spiritual warfare, death, Hell, witchcraft, the occult, psychics, vampires, and Halloween. I realize this isn’t standard Ministry Matters fare, but I also know that church and ministry leaders sometimes get questions on these subjects. I’m not an expert on any of this, but I enjoy exploring difficult topics, especially those dealing with good vs. evil. It should be an interesting series.

If you have any ideas or experiences you’d like to share, send a message to feedback@ministrymatters.com.

Read additional posts from this series.

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