Exposing a Chief Stronghold
by Scott MacLeod
EXPOSING A CHIEF STRONGHOLD OVER NASHVILLE
The Word of God tells us, "Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them." (Ephesians 5:11) In this writing my goal is to expose a major stronghold and the works of darkness that continually radiate from it. For far too long now this darkness has been successfully holding back one of the most strategic cities in America from it's spiritual destiny and purpose.
The city that I speak of is Nashville, TN. It is time to expose and bind this strong man that has wrecked havoc in this region. For years now I have been wrestling with the Lord as to why Nashville, which is packed with unlimited spiritual potential and resource is such a tough place to get a city wide spiritual break through.
One time I asked the Lord to specifically reveal to me what the principal stronghold that is holding us back from the fullness of His purposes. The Lord plainly said to me, "Race-ism." His answer was surprising to me. He continued, "Race-ism is the greatest stronghold in Nashville." In my mind, I immediately began to think of the well-known racism of the south between black and white. Then the Lord interrupted my train of thought as he said, "No, it goes even deeper than that. It is more wide spread than one race or people group against another. The real problem is that everyone is racing against one another. It is a Race-ism that literally resembles a race. Then I understood that the Lord was talking about 'competition and rivalry.' All at once, this all made sense to me.
I have lived in Nashville for over 18 years now and I have seen this "Race-ism" on almost every level. I have seen this wicked spirit ravage many good people, churches, and ministries. It especially targets pastors, leaders, and gifted people. I have also felt the sting of this spirit up close and personal as it has turned brother against brother. I believe that there are few other things that the devil loves as much as to trip us up by deceiving us into spending our best energy and spiritual weapons fighting ourselves and each other rather than fighting him. This spirit of Race-ism and rivalry is inbred into our sinful nature.
In a biblical sense, it could also be called a spirit of "Diotrophes," or the spirit that was on Diotrophes. As we see in this next scripture, this spiritual leader loved to be first and wickedly slandered Paul and others to keep his position and to stay on top. "I have written something to the church, but Diotrophes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us." (3 John 1:9)
The great tragedy has been, that instead of completing one another in, and as, the Body of Christ we have been competing against one another. Like contemplative athletes we have been wasting much time and energy on the petty vision of seeing who can come out on top. In actuality, this is a demonic vision. While under the influence of the spirit of Race-ism, everyone is desperately trying to win and be "first". However, the stark reality is that no one wins when this spirit is left unchecked. What will end up happening, even in Christian circles, is that instead of defending one another we will be contending against one another. Instead of preferring one another, we will pursue one another. Instead of denying ourselves, we will be busy promoting ourselves. Instead of pulling together for a greater victory, we will be striving against one another and therefore we are only seeing diminished returns for our lives efforts.
The spirit of race-ism perpetuates a terrible waste of time, talent, and energy. It is a disgrace for the Christian Church to remain in!
This spirit of Race-ism is the primary force that has been destroying the unity, the effectiveness, and eventually the entire witness of the Church in this region. The world can see through it. They are used to seeing the 'dog eat dog' spirit. They can smell it, and too many times the Church smells just like the stench of the world, except worse -- it reeks of hypocrisy, which is the ultimate stench. We smell like refuse rather than a refuge and that is why sinners are not breaking down the doors to come in. This spirit turns brother against brother and, if allowed to fester and mature, it can ultimately release the lethal spirit of jealousy, which stops at nothing less than murder. It roots right back to the historic strife, envy, and the contention that rose up in Cain to turn against Able.
Rivalry between Churches, ministries, and Christians is what's holding back our unity, and therefore holding back the ultimate manifestation of victory that is ours by inheritance. Instead of carrying one another's burdens, we ended up in the rat race; "Who's on top, who's first, who's the best, who's the biggest, who's the hippest, and even who's the closest to God." There is even competition over who will get revival in their church. Musicians compete for the top places of renown and the 'number one' songs. Even among worshippers there is an unspoken rivalry that presides. All of this is done the name of Jesus of course! This spirit hides best in religion because it is hard to call it out for what it really is when so much of who we are and what we do is covered and smothered in religious rhetoric.
All to often, we are too self-righteous to be real and confess it as sin and get clean and free of it. "We are busy going after God," that is why we feel justified to leave our brother in the dust or in the gutter. This is a spirit that God explicitly warns us about, just as He did Cain. However, if we ignore his warning and we persist to harden our hearts, this spirit will cause us to not only neglect and reject our brothers; it will pit us against our brother, until ultimately it pushes us into actually stalking and destroying even those close to us... just as Cain did Able.
The fully manifested spirit of Race-ism is nothing less than an evil spirit of murder. It kills what the Spirit of God, which is a spirit of unity, is trying to bring forth. If it is allowed to continue, it has one purpose, which is to tear us to pieces, all to one inevitable result, to leave us completely devastated and defeated.
So the big question is, "What do we do to combat the spirit of "Race-ism" and cut it off from our lives, community and city?" The Lord has shown me three tactics that I believe are remarkably successful in overcoming this demonic force of Race-ism. I have seen each of these strategies work well in real life situations. When these tactics are exuberantly implemented they obliterate the Spirit of racism.
1. WE MUST WALK IN AN OPPOSITE SPIRIT.
What is an opposite spirit of Racism? I believe it is expressed in honoring and preferring our brothers. Paul writes, "Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." (Phil 2:3,4) Honoring one another means that we highly value him or her. Preferring, means we allow others to go before us. It no longer becomes all about us making it to the finish line first, or building the biggest best thing in the name of Jesus, but it becomes about helping others fulfill their calling.
God is raising many people whose primary calling is literally to help others fulfill their calling. They are true shepherds If we hope to see any real progress in our cities and communities, the days of us only looking out for our own interests must come to a quick end. We must start looking out for the interests of others. This literally means taking time to see God's calling and destiny on someone else. It means freely investing in others, whether they are part of our team or organization or not. We need to be willing to look and reach beyond "me and mine.
2. WE MUST BECOME FATHERS (AND MOTHERS).
Leadership in the Church that is not actively becoming fathers and mothers are actually impostors. God gives grace and time to let us grow upinto this spiritual parenthood, but there are many false shepherds who use the sheep for their own selfish gain. This is a very dangerous and foolish thing to do. We cannot call the Church, 'Family of God' (which it is to be), without actually becoming it. To go on calling it family, but not becoming family, is false advertising and ultimately straight up hypocrisy. To call Church 'God's family', and remain a perpetually dysfunctional family is also a misleading mockery. All families starts with parents. The mark of true parents is that they genuinely care about the well-being and success of their children. This is proven, because they are willing to sacrifice and even lay down their lives to see their children come into their full potential and purpose. One of the reasons why so many people are willing to sell their soul for ministry or other endeavors of temporal success is because their spiritual identity is not secure. Healthy spiritual family defines, establishes, and secures identity. The reason why so many people even within the Church are willing to clamor for the top and step on others in the process of ascending to some desired position or place of "success" is because they are in reality hollow and aching on the inside. They do not know the fathers love. Without true identity there is no rest... only restless striving for success, power, and recognition. Therefore, the hearts of the fathers unselfishly turning to the children is a powerful step in stifling and paralyzing this orphan spirit of Race-ism. We must be willing to slow down enough to help and invest in the up-coming generation.
3. WE MUST BE WILLING TO GIVE TO THOSE WHO CANNOT REPAY US.
Jesus commanded us to do this in Luke 14:12-14. "Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." Jesus explicitly exhorts us to give to those who cannot repay us in this life. He speaks of the profound eternal rewards that would be awaiting those who would take him at his Word and do this. William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, echoes these words of Jesus when he once said, "the world believes in the survival of the fittest we believe in the survival of the unfit." Much of the Western Church cannot say what William Booth said because our actions give us away. For decades now we have catered to the rich and we have moved on to greener (green speaking of money) pastures. We have moved out of the places where the poor and suffering live, and in doing so, we have moved away from the true Harvest fields. To serve and care for the helpless and hopeless is God's unequivocal mandate for His Church. He has commanded us to love people the way we want to be loved. When we begin to value those who cannot enhance our position, or even build our Church, or make us look good, then, this kind of selfless love will surely put a stranglehold on the upwardly mobile spirit of Race-ism.
Lord, please help us move in these three opposite spirits of Race-ism... so that we all... together, may win!