The church is under attack from within—Defeating the spirit of Absalom

The spirit of Absalom: How to respond to betrayal and strategic resistance against the church

The moment you advance with prophetic and apostolic focus is the moment the spirit of Absalom is awakened. That cunning wicked spirit specializes on feeding into the deeply felt frustrations of people whose desires go unmet in the church. Satan is a master at accusation due to the never-ending practice of his craft.

…the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. Revelation 12:10b

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. Zechariah 3:1

Satan intercedes “on our behalf” night and day, accusing us before the Lord. This is yet another reason why we must have a day and night prayer movement arise in every city on Earth!

Historically in our ministry it is when we take fervent, strategic intercession to the next level that we see the accuser begin to speak loudly and convincingly to the people who are running the race with us. He preys on those who are growing in their resistance to prayer.

MANITOU SPRINGS, COLORADO

When you take prayer to the next, critical level, you can expect schisms and disruptions to come to your ministry and your life. We have seen it in so many ministries, including our own in a variety of places and in a variety of ways.

I planted and gave leadership to Revolution Church in Manitou Springs, Colorado beginning in 2001. We experienced some extremely difficult seasons, each immediately after we shifted the church into a greater prayer focus. We weren’t only praying, but we were developing a prayer culture. Prayer was the main thing, and everything that we did, as the transition happened, was to support that emphasis.

Keep in mind that Manitou Springs is an extremely dark region right at the base of Pikes Peak. One national leader told me he believes it’s the darkest city in the nation. Witchcraft and the occult are extremely intense there, and there were no life-giving churches other than ours and a small Episcopal church that was led by a fiery, Spirit-filled pastor. In fact, I was told that since the mid 1980’s, fourteen churches had started and failed within their first two years.

It was in this environment where we experienced absolutely stunning supernatural manifestations. God was on the move, the enemy was feeling the assault against his kingdom and we had no option but to take prayer to a much higher level. There were many times that we’d take teams of intercessors deep into the cave systems in Manitou Springs, turn out our lights and pray for four to five hours in perfect darkness. I can’t begin to describe how powerful that was! In fact, one extremely significant day we took a prayer journey up to the top of Pikes Peak, and that evening we went into the belly of the Earth to continue our intercession. Prayer was on the rise—and the assault was about to land.

Two of the resulting challenges were directly initiated by the Absalom spirit.

Challenge #1

My wife and I interviewed a man and his wife for a pastoral care position in the church. I am not a pastor myself, meaning, I don’t have the giftings of that particular office. Barbara Yoder who is a friend and the leader of the network that we submit to identifies me as a prophetic apostle. I don’t care at all about the title, but it’s helpful to know who you are and who you are not!

Since I was clearly not at all energized by the various demands of pastoral ministry, and I was focused on other important assignments, I really desired someone to step in to help carry the pastoral load.

I’ll never forget the slight check in my spirit that I had as we were interviewing this couple. God said, “No,” and I said, “You’re hired!”

The couple stepped right up and started connecting relationally to people. They seemed to be doing a great job! In fact, he would stand at the door every Sunday and hug people as they entered. In hindsight that should have been a red flag.

As time went by, I started to feel extremely unsettled in my spirit. Keep in mind, the prayer culture was starting to take form and, though I didn’t realize it at the time, this was the reason for the disturbance in my spirit. Resistance was increasing, though I didn’t know what the specific source was.

One day I called the staff together and shared with them the increasing trouble I was sensing and instructed them to pray. We went strong in prayer as a team—except for one. The new pastor was clearly struggling. The more intense the tongues, the more uncomfortable he appeared.

As we continued in that prayer storm I decreed that a shaking must come to our church. I shouted, “God, shake our church! Shake our church!” I prayed, in the fear of the Lord, for God to lovingly bring any necessary judgment to me and to our ministry—to make wrong things right. I knew only God, in his perfect wisdom, could resolve this trauma in the spirit.

A few days later I was sitting in the church with my Children’s Pastor and her husband, along with their baby who was sitting in a stroller. Our building was a 100 year old wooden structure with large beams along the top of the ceiling.

Suddenly the entire property started violently shaking! We looked around, wondering what was happening. It felt like an earthquake.

Then we heard a crashing sound above our heads as one of the large beams plummeted down and landed right between me and the baby. I didn’t connect the dots at that moment, but the shaking I had prayed for was manifesting. First in the natural, and next in the spirit.

Very soon after that happened I received an email from the pastor. He told me that he was resigning effective immediately. I was shocked. I emailed him back requesting a phone call or a meeting. He declined and I never saw him again.

He started his own church, took about 1/4th of our church—and then closed his church a month later and moved to Florida with his family. Everybody he influenced to leave was left to wander alone in confusion.

The Absalom spirit attacked with vengeance and it left destruction in its path.

God’s answer? Prune. We prayed for the shaking and the judgment, and while it was severe and difficult, it was necessary. Our ministry immediately became stronger and more unified after God swept through.

While I have extreme fear of the Lord on me when I feel it necessary to request the intervention of the judge, I always know that he is a good judge who loves deeply and who can be trusted fully.

Challenge #2

There was another situation in Colorado many years ago that resulted in an underground “spirit of Absalom” situation that was fueled by offense.

I started to hear the rumors: John doesn’t love people. Amy and I felt like we were hit by a train.

Someone on my staff had a false expectation about something I considered to be incredibly minor. I was unable to meet that specific request due to needing to be somewhere later that night. It wasn’t until months later that I put two and two together and realized that an underground movement of gossip was setting some on my staff and team against me. The accusation? I don’t love people because I wasn’t there for them that day. Further, since that situation, according to their analysis, revealed my true, unloving heart, and my motives in ministry were now compromised, there must be an effort to resist the ministry—and, for them, it was in the name of love!

My initial split-second reaction when I received knowledge of the situation was this: That doesn’t make sense! I love that person and the others so much. Of all things how could that be the accusation?

I was really saddened that those who I expressed love to by welcoming them onto our team, supporting them in their ministries, encouraging them to be free to lead with passion, etc. were rejecting my expression of love! Wow! Isn’t it interesting how it all works together—how the enemy can twist and turn things in such a dastardly way!

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This was the same individual that had come to me previously with a dilemma. She had to deal with a situation in the church, but she didn’t want to make waves. She asked, “John, how in the world can I handle this explosive situation and convince the person that I love them?” I simply responded, “Why are you trying to attempt to convince them you love them? Simply love them.”

If we try to convince people we love them, we won’t actually love them when administering true tough love, biblical discipline and other challenges are called for. True biblical love at times does not feel like the love our culture has defined.

My heart breaks over situations like this. Can I love better? Oh man, YES! But, I also need to help bring this issue to the surface. Too many leaders are not living according to their calling, because they are so busy modifying their personality and mandate to match what others expect!

We must love according to how God designed us. The cross wasn’t welcomed, but it was the method Jesus was mandated to use. It didn’t feel like love then, but boy was it.

As the prayer culture continued to develop, the resistance elevated. Some people broke away, and I’ll never forget the tears I could hear when I talked on the phone with my wife one day. She was wounded and broken.

Though I was supposed to take my position for a prayer watch that night, I left. I went home. I gave up that night as well. We went to bed hurting and troubled. As leaders, we were doing our best to move at the sound of the voice of the Lord—but the resistance was nearly too much to bear. Great friends betrayed us and we didn’t know what to do.

In the morning she and I woke up startled. My wife had a dream. The earth opened up underneath Manitou Springs and the entire town was sucked into Hell. I had a sharp pain in my body that I knew was due to an open door to a specific demonic attack. We both knew we couldn’t give up. The mission was still on. We repented and the split second I did, the severe pain left my body. The open door of wrongful surrender to the enemy’s threats was closed.

The Test

I will never get over how God works. He is beyond amazing. Both my wife and I will admit that we were deeply wounded when this individual rose up against us. We instantly had to humble ourselves and allow God to work on our hearts. Though we feel we handled it well, God will always test us. That test is not for God, but for us—it will clearly show where we really are with a situation.

The coming Church is going to be jealously guarded by God, a loving Bridegroom. There won’t be room for bitter, unforgiving leaders, and we have to be willing to be continually tested by God. We must crave his involvement!

Our staff member finally decided to move from Colorado to another far away state. We thanked Jesus! What a wonderful moment that was! Though we had forgiven her, it felt good that the drama was over.

A year or so later, Amy and I were called to leave Colorado and move to Kansas City to join the staff of the International House of Prayer. Though we loved Colorado and the ministry there, we couldn’t deny that God was opening doors to Missouri, and we also couldn’t deny that a fresh new season was quite welcome.

We thought we’d only be there for the three month internship, but ended up staying for two years as we gave leadership to that very same internship as Directors. It was a very exciting time for our family—until…the crisis. I won’t go into the entire dramatic story, but please understand we were suddenly blindsided and the pain was real.

We lost an unborn baby (we’ve lost a total of seven) and were replaced as Directors of the internship in the same week. Suddenly, a lot of life and joy was replaced by very real, unexpected and confusing pain. Now, understand, though we were in another trial, we were processing very well. Being replaced in the internship did make sense, even though we enjoyed serving in that ministry so much! That role called for a very different personality type and gift mix, and I didn’t realize this when Mike Bickle offered me the position. They were so gracious in the entire process, and we love that ministry deeply!

However, again, the pain was legitimate. You might wonder how this story connects with the story of pain in Colorado. Get ready for this.

Remember, God will go to great lengths to ensure we are operating in love, and that we are humble and teachable.

At this time, God began opening doors for ministry in Detroit, Michigan. In those meetings he began to move in a very dramatic and powerful way, confirming his Word with signs following. So after much prayer, we felt led that we should move to Detroit. Now in the natural, this was not the best time to sell our house in Kansas City. The economy was bad and Forbes Magazine had recently called our city the eighth fastest dying city in America! So my wife put out a fleece: if God wants us to move to Detroit, he will have our house sell for our full asking price within seven days of placing it on the market.

Miraculously, God sold our home after being on the market for only six days!

Glory to God! We were in another exciting, miraculous season!

About thirty days before we were to move from Kansas City to Detroit I sat in my last all-staff meeting at IHOP. There was over a thousand people in that meeting, and I sat in the very back, on the floor, kind of bored and ready to get on with my day. Then it happened. The impossible happened.

From the platform I heard the leader of the meeting say something like, “We would like to introduce a new staff member who will be giving leadership to a new ministry on our base. Everybody welcome…”

No way! No way! No way!

It was impossible! When I heard her very distinct, unusual name, and saw her welcomed onto the team, I was speechless. I think my jaw hung down for quite a long time. My head was spinning as I was witnessing an invasion into our fragile world.

There was simply no way that this person, who had done so much damage to our ministry in Colorado, who had moved to a far away state, could suddenly converge with our life in Kansas City!

I stepped outside and called my wife. I’ll never forget her response to my news. After I told her who was now on staff, all I heard her say, with defeat in her tone, was, “No.”

Do you realize what happened? God set up this encounter, this trial, to test our hearts.

When I got home that afternoon, we talked and resolved that it was indeed a test, and we endeavored to pray for this person and to ask God to bless her deeply!

I never did see her over the next month. Amy, however, had a very important chance encounter with her. The very last day we lived in Kansas City, as the moving truck was being loaded in the driveway, Amy went to the bank to close our account. You guessed it. Standing in line right in front of her was our former staff member.

My wife smiled big and gave her a huge hug! Amy felt so good that it was so easy to love this person!

That was the last time we ever saw her, and to this day we pray for her to be wildly blessed!

Love will certainly manifest in many different ways, but for those who are called of God, that love will be tested. The coming Church will be a love-bathed Church, and we must welcome the testing, no matter how painful it is. My wife would say the freedom and abundant life she feels regarding the Colorado/Kansas City crisis is well worth the trial she and I went through.

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Though I will share strategies on how to deal with Absalom in a moment, the primary strategy must be love. We cannot react in bitterness or resentment. Love heals.

It’s very important to understand that betrayal and resistance are guaranteed to come if we are truly advancing as prophetic and apostolic leaders. Also, to de-spiritualize it just a bit, betrayal and resistance are guaranteed to come simply because we are weak, fallible humans. We will experience push back when we lead rightly and also when we struggle and fail. This is why humility is non-negotiable. Pride is not the right weapon to use against our attackers.

I find it very interesting that resistance and rejection cause so many people to leave ministry or to leave the church. When Jesus faced the same issues to a radically greater extreme, he laid his life down for the church. Betrayal was not enough to cause him to abdicate his responsibility to serve the church by giving his life. There was no gossip, no forcing his views on people and no attempt to be validated, affirmed or understood. He simply died.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” Matthew 5:43-44

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 1 John 3:16

THE STRATEGY

Is there a response to the Absalom assignment against churches? Yes.

Let’s look at some diagrams that will help bring great clarity to the necessity and power of holy agreement—which is what Absalom is attempting to destroy.  There is a biblical process that we must embrace in the arena of differing opinions.  As humans it is normal to have a variety of different ideas from those we are in relationship with–including leadership.

Just how we handle those differing ideas is the matter at hand.  If we are holding strong to our own selfish ambitions (even if those ambitions are good!), and we refuse to place our will on the altar, problems will abound.  Churches will split, gossip will flourish and division will actually be entertained as an optional method of resolution.

However, if we embrace integrity, humility, servanthood and the preference of others above ourselves, we’ll easily be willing to die to our own opinions for the sake of the body.
When we’re agreed, we’re strong.  In the midst of different ideas, experiences, thoughts, opinions and concerns we simply agree to disagree for the sake of the mission.

Can two walk together, unless they are agreed? Amos 3:3

Your watchmen shall lift up their voices, With their voices they shall sing together; For they shall see eye to eye When the Lord brings back Zion. Isaiah 52:8

“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. John 17:20-21

Agreement must be a mandatory and deliberate position that we all stand strong in, even at the cost of personal comfort and advance.

If God is releasing you from participation, make sure you follow through in the usually lengthy process of transition from this assignment to the next.  Don’t go if there is hardness, bitterness or unforgiveness in your heart.  Go blessed and free and sent by your pastor.

Absalom-Diagram-1

Healthy argument is OK.  It’s a part of life.  We simply have seasons where we disagree, and it’s important and appropriate at times to discuss it with the our leaders.  Of course, we don’t involve anybody other than those directly involved (leaders, pastors, etc.).  We don’t gossip or allow ourselves to become irritable.  We agree to disagree and remain unified.

In Amos we see that God will reveal corporate instructions to some but not all.  The rest of us are called to respond to the call of God as given through an imperfect human, and that can be a challenge for the best of us!

But, when we humble ourselves and surrender our right to cause a disturbance we can still move ahead in strength.  The corporate mission is not threatened!

If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid? If there is calamity in a city, will not the Lord have done it? Surely the Lord God does nothing, Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets. A lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord God has spoken! Who can but prophesy? Amos 3:6-8

Absalom-Diagram-2

Here’s where the problems begin.  We know that Satan is the accuser of the brethren, and he loves it when he finds allies in the fellowship of believers to help him with his schemes of destruction.

At this point, submission has failed.  Honoring others hasn’t happened.  Personal preference has turned into a personal mission of dominance.

Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. Revelation 12:10

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 1 Peter 5:8

These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren. Proverbs 6:16-19

The sowing of discord among brethren is an abomination!  Did you feel the weight of that?  It’s not OK!

After teaching this to a class of interns one of them came to me the next day.  He said that ever since he arrived a month ago he has had a heavy heart.  He couldn’t break through it.  After this class God convicted him of embracing a divisive and accusing spirit.  He was assisting in his youth group back home, and he wanted to take the youth to a prayer and fasting event, even though he knew his leadership didn’t embrace that particular stream within the body.  So, he secretly gathered the youth together and took them himself.

Absalom-Diagram-3

So what happened?  You can see it in the diagram on the right.  Any idea what word should fill in the blank?

Absalom-Diagram-4

Agreement.  Unholy agreement.  He gathered people to himself, to his vision (a great vision) and away from his leadership. Even though his heart simply wanted God and he felt a prayer and fasting event would be entirely appropriate, his action against his authority was inappropriate. The agreement people had with his vision resulted in disagreement, disunity, with those who were their rightful leaders.

The enemy craves agreement.  He knows the power of it.  The alliance is so important.

So, this particular individual was in the prayer room here and immediately repented for his rebellion to his authority.  He said immediately he was broken and experienced God for the first time in weeks.  He cried and cried as the love of the Father rushed in.

He called his leaders in his church back home and repented.  They forgave him entirely and thanked him for his heart to make things right.

How amazing is that!  No matter how holy you think your purpose is, if you have to violate God’s established authority in your life to see it come to pass, you will have to align with the enemy in order to do so!

And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” Genesis 11:4-7

Division will lead to unholy agreement.  As we allow ourselves to align with others against leaders we are enhancing demonic unity.  Unity and agreement is powerful whether it’s holy or unholy.  Let’s endeavor for holy unity even if it’s at the cost of our own personal plans and dreams.

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I’ve witnessed many people resist authority in their lives, and I’ve done it myself. The motives can seem pure and we may have the best interest of the body at heart, but it never produces anything good. The story of Absalom should speak clearly to us in regard to this issue. 

Now Absalom would rise early and stand beside the way to the gate. So it was, whenever anyone who had a lawsuit came to the king for a decision, that Absalom would call to him and say, “What city are you from?” And he would say, “Your servant is from such and such a tribe of Israel.” Then Absalom would say to him, “Look, your case is good and right; but there is no deputy of the king to hear you.” Moreover Absalom would say, “Oh, that I were made judge in the land, and everyone who has any suit or cause would come to me; then I would give him justice.” And so it was, whenever anyone came near to bow down to him, that he would put out his hand and take him and kiss him. In this manner Absalom acted toward all Israel who came to the king for judgment. So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel. 2 Samuel 15:2-6

Absalom disagreed with his leader, and embraced the others who shared in his disagreement.  We see this occur time and again within churches.  It has a ring of honor to it as people presume to have the best interest of everybody at heart.  However, it’s rebellion in its purest form.  The results for those who embrace this spirit are often devastating.

Then Absalom met the servants of David. Absalom rode on a mule. The mule went under the thick boughs of a great terebinth tree, and his head caught in the terebinth; so he was left hanging between heaven and earth. And the mule which was under him went on. Now a certain man saw it and told Joab, and said, “I just saw Absalom hanging in a terebinth tree!” So Joab said to the man who told him, “You just saw him! And why did you not strike him there to the ground? I would have given you ten shekels of silver and a belt.” But the man said to Joab, “Though I were to receive a thousand shekels of silver in my hand, I would not raise my hand against the king’s son. For in our hearing the king commanded you and Abishai and Ittai, saying, ‘Beware lest anyone touch the young man Absalom!’ 2 Samuel 18:9-12

Just as Absalom was met with judgment, I’ve witnessed over and over people enduring long seasons of struggle and frustration after rising up against God’s established authority–even if the authority is truly in error. It’s never acceptable to speak against the President of the United States, our supervisor at work, a teacher at school, our pastor or mom and dad. We always pray and support and love with abandonment! A differing opinion should never cause us to remove ourselves from a place of agreement with these people. We unite with them and serve as people who honor those God has placed in our lives.

Rebellion against any established human institution is a serious violation of God’s divine authority. We need to know and recognize the operation of God’s authority in all human institutions. 

We never speak against or elevate our own opinions above God’s established authority. Pastors, prophets, apostles, politicians, policemen, bosses, etc. We humbly support them, unless, and only unless, they were to cause us to violate a CLEAR Scriptural truth. That’s it. If a leader is clearly corrupt and unrepentant then most certainly remove yourself from that person’s direct care.

Submit to God and be ready to serve Him through the process of love, prayer and encouragement for that leader.  Watch what you say.  Speak life always.  Do not gossip.

It’s important to understand that to submit to God’s appointed leaders in our lives only to the point where we agree with the order is NOT submission at all. Submission is actually spotlighted when someone honors his or her authority when the order is contrary to their own opinions, experience or position. We can agree with our authority while not agreeing with the order or instruction or position. It is never appropriate to remove ourselves from a position of submission if the order given is inconvenient, bothersome or irritating.

In recent years the body has increasingly put demands on the very ones who they are to be receiving leadership from. This is sin, and it must stop.

The passage in Romans goes on to say this:

For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. Romans 13:3

The enemy has caused millions of believers to be afraid of authority. It’s time to renounce the alliance with the spirits of Lawlessness and Self-government and do what is good. Many people who have been hurt by controlling pastors made a foolish decision by embracing that very same spirit for themselves–the spirit of control. We absolutely need to sever that alliance. God is our great Protector. Fear of authority will dissipate as the Holy Spirit once again takes up residence in the place where the spirits of Independence and Control once ruled.

Even when the church isn’t being run in what you would call an appropriate manner, it’s critical to support God’s government.

Gary Keiser said,

“It is better for us to live with a wrong system and uphold God’s authority than to destroy a system and thus destroy God’s authority in the process. We have to learn to submit to men and not to touch authority in a light way. In all these relationships we have to learn to know authority and practice obedience. We have to know that there are lords and masters in everything; we cannot assume to be the master as soon as we touch something. We have to learn obedience through many situations. One finds authority in the hospital. As soon as he works in a hospital, he has to obey the authority in the hospital. There is even authority in a restaurant. Some serve as managers, and we have to learn to obey them. If we touch authority in a genuine way, we will find authority wherever we go. In obeying the authority of earthly institutions, we are actually obeying God because all authorities are from God. We have to see that every authority is from God. Only a rebellious and proud man is blind to authority; only he will not submit to God’s deputy authority…. Titus 3:1 says that we should be “subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready unto every good work.” This is the proper attitude towards human government…. God’s authority in the universe is being carried out through human government.”

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