27-year veteran leaving pastorate to launch 'ministry of deliverance'
MT. PLEASANT, S.C. (BP)--After 27 years in the ministry, a South Carolina pastor is giving up the pulpit to enter what he terms as "a ministry of deliverance."
Brian Connor resigned in September as pastor of First Baptist Church, Mt. Pleasant, to continue his research and writing on spiritual warfare and to avail himself of opportunities to deliver spiritually oppressed people. He will continue as interim pastor.
To some, his decision "might look crazy and appear illogical," Connor acknowledges, "but God clearly told me that he's got something else for me to do. And I need to get out of the pastorate to have time to do it."
The "ministry of exorcism" was first introduced to him in 1985 through an encounter with a woman who claimed to be a third-generation satanist, Connor recounts.
During an intensive 13-year period while serving in Maryland, Connor says he dealt with more than 40 people whom he believes were spiritually oppressed. He kept careful notes and audio recordings, and in some cases he asked people to write reflections of their experiences.
"Exorcism is often seen as entertainment, and Hollywood has trivialized it in such a way that Christians back away from it," Connor says. "When I first saw it, I probably didn't believe it. But when one experiences it face-to-face -- when one sees evil, smells it, feels it, has things thrown in his face, encounters evil prowling around like a lion -- then you know there's a spiritual warfare going on all around us."
A graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., who holds a doctor of ministry degree, Connor maintains that spiritual oppression is a real part of biblical metaphysics, which includes angels, demons and Satan.
"The topic is shunned, overlooked, feared, if not scorned and relegated to fringe theology," Connor says. "The church has missed a significant part of its calling," continues the Charleston, S.C., native.
"It's an historical mandate of the Christian church," he notes. "Jesus did this throughout his ministry. And, in the early Christian church, it was part of their duty to deliver people from demonic oppression."
The church has defaulted on this responsibility, he contends. "Consequently, there's a whole subculture of demon-oppressed people looking for help through counseling or medical protocol. They don't get the spiritual help which is available only through the authority of Jesus Christ."
Even those inside the church can be demon-oppressed, Connor states.
"By belonging to Jesus Christ, we are forgiven in terms of salvation," he explains. "But we can still make wrong choices which open doors within us to satanic oppression by dabbling in the occult, attempting to communicate with the dead, using crystals, accepting New Age beliefs, following spirit guides, participating in rituals.
"Anytime someone reaches out to an evil spirit, that spirit puts down roots and will torment and oppress that person," Connor states.
Evil is animate and absolute, Connor warns. "Evil is not a concept, but a living force. It is absolutely bad. None of it is acceptable in your life because it is out to destroy your soul and drive a wedge between you and your heavenly Father.
"There are hurting and oppressed people who labor under the darkness which has come upon them because of poor choices," he says. "The answer is Jesus Christ, who has the authority to drive out evil."
What should a church do for a person caught up in spiritual oppression?
Here are some suggestions from Connor:
-- "You must identify and deal with the source of oppression if it is some overt sin, like pornography, occult, drugs, alcoholism or sexual abuse," Connor explains. "Through these, the door to the heart, the inner spirit, is opened to oppression, and the ability to resist evil is compromised."
-- Through forgiveness, lost ground given over to Satan must be reclaimed for the Lord. "We must have repentance and yield again to the authority of Christ for deliverance,” Connor says.
-- The authority of Christ must be asserted by speaking directly to the force of darkness to drive it out. Sometimes evil spirits will manifest and speak, Connor warns. "They are visible, physical sensations which sometimes will throw things at you." But Christians have no reason to fear confronting evil, Connor asserts. "Greater is he that is in you," he affirms. "When you stand firm in the Lord Jesus Christ, you've got him [Satan]. Resist him in the Lord's name and he will flee from you."