Cultures and Strongholds

Lesson Materials

In this session, David looks at differences in culture from a Western Perspective. Sharing stories from his own travels and others, David illustrates how culture is every part of our lives through how we dress, how we interact with others and more.


TEACHING ON CULTURE | Session 6  - Cultures and Strongholds


1/ Introduction


    • Examples


2/ Brief Examination of Teaching on Territorial Spirits and Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare


A) What is meant by “strategic level spiritual warfare”?  Essentially it involves three things:


      • Discovering the name and nature of the particular territorial spirit over a city 
      • Loosening such spirits’ hold by dealing with the corporate sins that give them their authority.
      • Binding and driving them out by aggressive warfare praying.


Question:  Is this practice biblical?


B) There are references to demonic forces oppressing nations or operating in specific geographic areas - eg Dan 10, Mark 5:10 (note they operated through a severely demonised man).  Also when going to a new place, Paul sometimes immediately encountered demonic opposition - eg Acts 13:6-12, 16-21. My contention is that there is a case for the existence of these spirits or that sometimes principalities and powers operate territorially - but they are usually encountered in people rather than “in the air”.  It is often more accurate to describe them operating culturally (strongholds in cultures), or politically (eg Prince of Greece - an expanding empire but motivated demonically) rather than just geographically.  We do not find Paul engaging in strategic level spiritual warfare in Ephesus.  He preached the gospel, healed the sick and cast our demons.  


C) Conclusions 

    • I believe that there is a case for saying that demonic powers are behind the political, social and cultural conditions of the nations.
    • We do not have the authority to engage directly in warfare prayer against Satan or these “higher” demonic forces – Jude v 9.
    • What we are called to is the works of the kingdom. We are to preach the gospel, heal the sick, set people free from demons. As we do that, just as when the seventy-two and Paul did it, we can see Satan dislodged from his place of domination.


3/ What are strongholds? (2 Cor 10:1-5)


    •  What is a stronghold?  Ancient fortified cities as well as having a wall around them would also have a 'stronghold', a tower which could be defended with a few soldiers - into which people within the city could retreat.  


"A wise man attacks the city of the mighty and pulls down the stronghold in which they trust." 

- Prov 21:22


    •  Strongholds for us are wrong thought patterns and ideas which Satan and his demons influence and behind which they hide that can govern or dominate individuals, communities and nations. 
    •  Strongholds are essentially in the mind – wrong thinking.  Teaching and understanding of truth is always required.  Wrong thinking can be created through:
        • Past sins 
        • Our culture or family background
        • Our emotions.


4/ Principles of Strongholds in Culture


    •  Situation in all cultures.  Because of the fall of man, all cultures are fallen and therefore demonic strongholds have been erected in them all.  When approaching a culture we need to recognise that all have three elements:


(i) Things that make the culture open to the gospel.

(ii) 'Neutral' factors, that can be used to the glory of God and illustrate the variety of his creation and, when redeemed, demonstrate his multi-coloured wisdom, eg music, art, hospitality, attitudes to time, task/people orientation.

(iii) Strongholds in that culture which must be demolished.


Paul in Acts 17 was clear on all three things.  In terms of (i), he referred to the ‘unknown God’.  In terms of (ii), he quoted their poets.  In terms of (iii), he was clear about idolatry.



    • Blindness in our own culture.  
    • Cultural superiority.  The assumption that the culture of our nation or the way we were brought up is right.  
    • Need to overcome prejudice.  


Overcoming prejudice is a working out of our new life in christ (Col 3:5-11)


    • Notice being a new person in Christ has individual (vs 5-8) and collective application (vs 9-11).
    • In Christ we are being restored to reflect the image of God (v 10).
    • No Greek or Jew – both saved on the basis of Christ’s death.
    • No ‘barbarian’ (‘barbarian’ and ‘Scythian’, very important words and concepts that Paul was attacking) – refers to the non-Greek speaker whom Greeks thought inferior or uncivilised.


“‘Civilisation’ and ‘barbarism’ were twins… born in the Greek… Imagination.  They in turn gave birth to a ruthless mental dynasty which still holds invisible power over the Western mind.  The Roman and Byzantine empires sanctified their own imperial struggles as a defence of ‘civilised’ order against ‘barbaric’ primitivism.  So did the… colonial expansions of Spain, Portugal, Holland, France, Italy, Germany and Britain. … Few European Nation-states had not at one time or another figured themselves as the ‘outpost of Western Christian civilisation’: for the French, the Germans were barbarous, for the Germans it was the Slavs, for the Poles the Russians, for the Russians the Mongol and Turkic people of central Asia.” Neal Ascherson – “Black Sea”.


    • It is a looking down on others as being less refined, less civilised, less mature, less important. 
    • No Scythian – a people coming from the steppes of Southern Russia (Caucasus) and Crimea.  Nomadic people compared with Greeks who were settled people.  Referred to as figures of fun (to be joked about) or as brutal people.  When Greek met Scythian “began the idea of ‘Europe’ with all its arrogance, all its implications of superiority, all its assumptions of priority and antiquity, all its pretensions to a natural right to dominate.” – Neal Ascherson
    • Paul here is declaring the victory of Christ over the whole of that attitude and saying what counts is not these divisions but Christ being all and in all.  Holy living is living free of racial prejudice (v 11) just as much as living free of sexual immorality (v 5).


5/ Western Strongholds


    • Before we can help people to get free from strongholds in the culture which we are reaching, we need to be aware of the strongholds in the culture we are coming from.  Otherwise we may impose them unthinkingly on others as if they were part of Christianity.  
    •  Stronghold of Western worldview - scientific rationalism/modernism.  
    •  Stronghold of self-centredness.  

i) Self-centredness means that the pursuit of pleasure becomes our greatest goal and what we live for.  

ii) A consumerist attitude

    • The stronghold of individualism
    • The stronghold of Mammon


6/ Non-Western Strongholds - Superstition and Syncretism 


    • Ultimate truth versus daily living.  
    • Openness to the spirit world.  
    • Syncretism and occult.
    • Superstitions.
    • Shamanism
    • Other occult practices.


7/ Other Strongholds That Can Affect Culture


A) Stronghold of family domination

      • The essence of witchcraft is control.  
      • Can come through exceptional parental or wider family dominance.
      • Jesus as well as resisting the devil in the wilderness also resisted family domination and exhibited how as a single adult he could walk free of his mothers and family control.  See Mark 3:20-21, 31-34.  


B) Cultural rituals  


C) Shame

Some of the consequences include:-

      • Debt.
      • Deceit.
      • The consequences of a sin are more important than the sin leading to remorse rather than repentance.
      • Family control as above.
      • Pressure to continue in Folk Islam rituals and superstitions. 



© David Devenish

Cultures and Strongholds - Teaching on Culture - Session 6 - Bournemouth - March 2015