I know this sounds crazy, but...
Several years ago, during a particularly difficult time in ministry, I was laying in bed when what felt like something oppressive came over me and I heard (not audibly, it was louder in my head) accusations from previous sin/mistakes with pronounced judgments. It was the scariest thing I've ever gone through, and I felt trapped. I couldn't speak, I couldn't lift my arms. I finally was able to say to Carrie "Wake up! Pray!" After Carrie prayed for a minute, whatever was going on stopped and I was able to catch my breath and tell her what had happened.
When we think about spiritual warfare, we think about moments like that. We think about times where we feel like we're being hit with arrows from the Enemy. We think about being falsely mistreated and enduring difficulty. We think about nightmares and horror movies. But I love how my friend Sam Rainer put it:
For most of us in leadership, we'll endure a time of spiritual warfare, in fact if we're honest and faithful in our pursuing of God's calling, chances are we'll endure a number of seasons of spiritual warfare. I read about the failure of Nazi Germany to invade Switzerland, with German commanders refusing to attack. The reason? The Swiss were trained marksmen, and as one German said "Snipers don't shoot privates."
But more often than not, our seasons of spiritual warfare are more in the realm of the ordinary. What can they look like?
Distractions - If you ever watch basketball, you'll see people do everything they can to distract whoever is at the free throw line. Arizona State even calls it the "curtain of distraction," and surprisingly it works! Distractions happen whenever we're knocked off our vision and mission. Spiritual Warfare Distractions are when trivial matters are turned into life-or-death and require immediate attention. When you're distracted and focused on these, you can't pursue the calling and build on the vision.
Apathy - When we experience apathy in ministry, it can be spiritual warfare. It can be the boring of the Enemy where God's people aren't captivated by the glory of Christ. Instead, life and ministry becomes a ho-hum, nothing-happening, daily repeating of the same old same old. There's no motivation. There's no vibrancy. There's no vitality. There's no life. It's just, meh.
Molehills - Sometimes we think about the big landmines in ministry to be issues of theology. We like to think of ourselves as Martin Luther nailing 95 Theses to the door and changing the world. I was in a meeting once where I had to defend what the Bible teaches about marriage, gender and sexuality. I had my hammer and nails and I was ready to start a Reformation. But most of the time, the landmines we experience in ministry are molehills. They're not that big a deal. Yet when you step on them, you don't think anything will happen, but it turns into a much bigger deal than you thought.
Drifting - Drift happens when there's no motor, no propulsion, no power. You're just moving along with the current. You're not moving to anywhere in particular, you're just moving. It's spiritual warfare because you're not accomplishing anything. You're not going anywhere. And in fact many times we drift away from mission towards danger (ever seen a movie where they're not drifting towards a waterfall?).
Busywork - When I was in school, I hated busy work. Even in middle school, we all knew there was absolutely no purpose to the silly worksheets we were doing. All it did was keep us busy for a half hour or so. There was no point, no learning objective, no reason. Just to stay busy. And far too often, spiritual warfare is busy work. It's mindless meetings, over-structured committees, feeling the pressure to be at 12 ice cream socials in a weekend, and grinding in the never-ending cycle of activity.
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.