Hey, Stop Driving Out Those Demons!

By Tim Harlow

“Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you” (Luke 9:49, 50).

When I was fresh out of college, I became a youth minister in Amarillo, Texas. Because of a gracious grant from a Christian foundation, I was able to get my master’s degree for free. This was well before the days of the Internet, so I actually had to go to the class. The only program around was an extension program from Wayland Baptist University. Several of my ministry friends and I took advantage of the program.

09_Harlow_JNI grew up in this nondenominational movement most of you are familiar with, and I had not ventured far beyond my roots. Even though I now laugh at the minute differences with the Southern Baptists, attending a Baptist university was out of my norm.

I had no idea why someone would want to be a part of any denomination, but my eyes were opened to the fact that there are some distinct advantages (including a unified missions and discipleship approach) to go with the disadvantages (the lack of autonomy). I later studied at a Lutheran seminary and did my doctoral work with a lot of Pentecostal pastors.

I still like the way we do it, but I learned that my blinders had been pretty tight. There are many people who are for Jesus who do things differently than I do. They might even be able to drive out demons.

But my point is not about the largeness of the kingdom. It’s about why the disciples, or any disciples, would criticize or work against another kingdom worker in the first place.

A Feeling of Failure

Look at the context of the passage quoted above. Just a few verses earlier the disciples had tried to drive out a demon and failed (vv. 37-40). The guy had to go to the top—to Jesus—to get the demon out of his son. And Jesus was apparently frustrated with the whole issue.

“You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you and put up with you? Bring your son here” (Luke 9:41).

The disciples just might have been feeling the sting of that rebuke, as well as the feeling of failure, when they ran into the guy who was actually able to drive out demons.

“Hey, stop driving out those demons!”

Seriously? Who cares whether he was driving out demons in the name of SpongeBob SquarePants; the demons were gone!

Ask one of the demon-free people if they care if the guy’s doctrine was not good enough. I’m pretty sure the answer would be, “We don’t care if the guy worshipped Gozer the Gozerian, we’re demon free!”

I have lower-back issues and see a chiropractor. I’ve found that there are a few major schools of thought in back care. But if I’m traveling and have to find someone to help me, I don’t care if they are from the drop-table school or the twist-you-like-a-pretzel school, I just want to walk upright. I hate looking like proof for Darwin! Just fix me!

And actually, isn’t proof of the true God manifested through the fact that there is power over demons? Jesus said Satan doesn’t cast himself out. So what could possibly be the problem here? Why would the disciples feel this way?

Maybe the disciples had their own demon: jealousy.

So when you are tempted to cut down someone else’s ministry (and I’m guilty of that at times), stop and ask yourself, “Is this really a doctrinal issue or a jealousy issue?”

An Old Problem

Back in the early days of ministry at Parkview, we lost many good people. Changing the focus and re-missioning the church meant making some people unhappy. Sometimes they didn’t tell us; we’d just see their names in another church newsletter under the “Welcome New Members” section. Ironically, I would usually find something else in that newsletter to criticize in some way (in proportion to the financial support we had just lost).

Now I’m on the other side. Megachurch. Mega is a four-letter word to many people.

Master, we saw people baptizing in your name, but we tried to stop them because they are not one of us.

I am so over it. But listen, when you are criticized for doing something because “we’ve never done it that way,” it certainly may be because they are just comfortable and need to be challenged. But perhaps these are people who tried something before and failed, and they don’t know how to deal with it when you succeed.

I wonder how often that is the issue. If I don’t succeed in something related to ministry, I’m going to have a hard time allowing you to succeed. It’s called crab mentality in modern culture. Crab mentality is the idea that any single crab could escape the boiling pot of water if it wanted to, but it never happens because the other crabs keep pulling it down.

Ironically, the answer to this issue may be found in the conversation that happened in between the disciples’ failure and their jealousy.

“An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest” (Luke 9:46).

There it is. The problem (as always).

Tim Harlow serves as senior pastor with Parkview Christian Church, Orland Park, Illinois. 

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8 Comments

  1. Milton Kirkland
    September 21, 2015 at 1:48 pm

    Concerning the article “Hey, Stop Driving Out Those Demons!” by Tim Harlow, in the September, 2015 issue of the Christian Standard, there are some issues that I think may need some clarification.

    He says he laughs at the “minute differences with the Southern Baptists.” He also writes about his experience at a Lutheran seminary where he “did his doctoral work with a lot of Pentecostal pastors.” He therefore states his point is “why the disciples, or any disciple[s], would criticize or work against another kingdom worker.” After some discussion of passages found in Luke 9:37-43, Mr. Harlow states, “Who cares whether he was driving out demons in the name of Sponge Bob Square Pants; the demons were gone!” He goes on to say, “Isn’t proof of the true God manifested through the fact that there is power over demons?” He then asks, “Is this really a doctrinal issue or a jealousy issue?”

    Mr. Harlow actually gets to the crux of the matter in the last two paragraphs of the article, and that is jealousy. I would like to address an issue that he mentions but seems to gloss over in the article, and that is “doctrine.” The Apostle Paul instructed Timothy to “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:16). He instructs Titus to “hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it” (Titus 1:9) There are others that can be quoted, but the point is clear. When Mr. Harlow says he “laughs at the minute differences,” is he saying “I’ll believe what I want to believe, you believe what you want to believe, and I’ll see you in Heaven?” Denominational “doctrines” have evolved over the years and some are patently false, i.e., the “believer’s prayer.” This is, I believe, why the “Restoration Movement” came into being. I would therefore encourage Mr. Harlow, and others to follow the example of Priscilla and Aquila, when they took Apollos to their home and “explained to him the way of God more adequately.” (Acts 18:24-26).
    Yours in Christ

    Milton Kirkland
    Monroe, Georgia

  2. Mrs Preacher
    September 28, 2015 at 9:52 am

    Thank you Mr Kirkland for your response and clarification. I wish there was a “like” or “share” button!

  3. David Cole
    September 29, 2015 at 9:12 am

    Ridiculous attempt to preempt criticism for bad doctrine learned at Baptist and Lutheran schools.

  4. Lynn Lusby Pratt
    October 3, 2015 at 10:07 am

    Let’s say that the exorcists whom Jesus’ inner circle objected to (in Luke 9) were solid Jesus followers, that they just happened to prefer a different style of worship music or prefer dressing up/down for worship. Petty differences of opinion. Then, yes, they’re on the same team. We get it.

    But in trying to make his point, Tim went too far, conveying that if something spiritual seems to work, it doesn’t matter if it comes through a non-Jesus spiritual source. (SpongeBob gets a laugh; Gozer is a pagan god.) Our style of music and clothing is a matter of opinion, but where Christians should go for spiritual help is a matter of doctrine.

    Even experienced ministers are not savvy to the dangerous spiritual practices Christians are buying into, or they wouldn’t add fuel to the fire by joking that if something spiritual “works,” it’s OK with Jesus. I challenge ministers to learn what their congregants are involved in . . .

    There’s the man at First Christian who gets reiki treatments. Reiki is a pagan/occult practice that channels “spirit energy” into the patient. But the man says, “Who cares? I feel better.” What about the Baptist man who buries a statue of a Catholic saint in his yard, upside down, to ensure that his prayers are answered? When told “Um, that’s sorcery,” he replies, “Well, I did it before, and it worked.” Then there’s the lady who has on display in her home a little bag of colored sand, a gift from her attendance at a Tibetan Buddhist sand mandala ceremony (held in a Methodist church), where the “local deities” were invited to inhabit the sand. (“But the Dalai Lama is such a great spiritual leader!”) Christians—even among the very conservative—are employing magick circles, occult visualization, “sacred word” mantras to connect to “the divinity within.” They “love” a popular book channeled through a demon. They’re having erotic encounters with entities (they think it’s Jesus). They’re consulting mediums to contact their dead relatives . . .

    These experiences are seductive. That’s why the Word consistently warns of the dangers of false spiritual sources. Deuteronomy 13:1-5 talks of false prophets whose predictions came true. It worked! But because these men led to other gods, God’s people were not to follow them. Jeremiah 44:15-18 is clear: God’s people had gotten some benefit from worshipping “the Queen of Heaven.” Many pagan and occult practices “work”—at least temporarily. Christians can’t be naïve. It most certainly does matter when “the guy’s doctrine [is] not good enough.”

    Again, it’s because of the current spiritual climate that we must go out of our way not to imply that “whatever works” is spiritually sound.

    Lynn Lusby Pratt

  5. Dennis Free
    October 3, 2015 at 8:44 pm

    Much truth about our attitudes here, but it does not address the value of strong biblical doctrine.

    I can be loving toward Baptists without accepting the doctrine of Eternal Security; I can love Pentecostals without practing, “slaying in the Spirit”.

    Notice Jesus tells John to stop trying to coerce others into a position, but he did not tell John to go bring those folk over here and let’s have a mass rally together.

  6. Al Edmonds
    October 12, 2015 at 1:52 am

    “I am so over it”….I guess not worrying about doctrine is expedient…Keep going on…the Unitarians are waiting to invite you to their camp, too.. and keep going and soon you will be so open minded…God wouldn’t deny anyone with faith to eat at this table no matter what..inclusiveness galore….Kind of like a Universal Prayer Breakfast with the Force within us united mankind and God’s kingdom will have come on earth and we can live in Peace forever more.

  7. Joe Schneider
    October 15, 2015 at 12:39 am

    Jealousy can be a problem. But, just because someone is jealous of your success does not mean their complaints are invalid. To cast them aside because they are jealous is pride.

    However, I stopped reading at the Sponge Bob comment. You exhibited poor exegesis by missing the fact that the guy was not casting out demons by whatever the heck name he wanted. He cast them out by The Name, that is the name of Jesus. I concede the 12 were probably jealous, but that point gets overshadowed by your adoption of pragmatism about the matter. It does matter the source of the miracle because the evil one like to make false miracles to deceive. Truth and doctrine are more important than the result.

    But, I come back jealousy. There was another group that struggled with this issue that Jesus often rebuked. That was the Pharisees. They were so full of jealousy, but their real problem was pride. Instead of accepting genuine criticism and repenting, they dug their heals in, called people names, and eventually eliminated (temporarily) the voice of rebuke. We have legitimate theological and doctrinal problems with stuff that appears in the Christian Standard, as well as what happens at NACC. When people voice their concerns the response received mirrors how of the Pharisees reacted to Jesus. Instead of calling people names, listen to what they have to say. Don’t use your position as author and pastor to many to belittle people for making legitimate observations and critiques.

  8. March 1, 2020 at 4:16 am

    […] “do it differently”  because they may possess an enlightenment for such things as “driving out demons,” de rigueur views of gender, of marriage, and/or of a kind of social justice which scolds, […]

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