“Go through the Negev and then into the mountain region. See what the land is like and whether the people living there are strong or weak, few or many. Is the land they live in good or bad? Do their cities have walls around them or not? Is the soil rich or poor? Does the land have trees or not? Do your best to bring back some fruit from the land.” Numbers 13:17
When a family considers moving to a new place, they usually do their research before making a selection. When one is considering a career move, they typically look into what other careers offer, before committing to a new path in their life. In contrast, the Church is sometimes deficient in understanding the past and present spiritual atmosphere of their target community. We can become so focused on marketing our assembly to the community, that we can neglect to consider why we are not growing more, why our members seem to struggle with certain issues, and/or why the Gospel is not more attractive to the lost of our region.
Some have termed this method of diagnostic research as “spiritual mapping.” An accurate definition would be “attempting to see things as they really are, not as they appear to be.” We are all accustomed to observing and understanding things in the natural and material world. However, we are often unskilled at observing elements of the spiritual realm and their impact and connection to the material world.
This is a blog article so the intent is not to provide an intensive level of training, but only to stimulate your appetite to seek more wisdom on the subject. An exhaustive amount of resources are available upon your request.
We all have a life-story. Elements of that story have shaped the person we are today – some positive and some negative. We all desire to live in total freedom in Christ, but the reality is most of us still struggle from varying degrees of residue and bondage from the negative experiences. As well, we often over-react and “throw out the baby with the bath-water”, and sometimes emotional baggage attracts more baggage. Strongholds are established. For example, if we have had a bad experience with church planting because of insecure and controlling leadership, instead of just seeking more discernment with what future leaders we align ourselves, sometimes we decide to never again be involved with a church plant. The whole region suffers and too many people from our region remain destined for eternal separation from God while we stand on the sidelines licking our wounds.
Every city and region has a life-story as well. A good place to start is to research your region the same way you would an individual. Below are some sample directives:
- Birth – When was your town or city born? What were the circumstances surrounding the birth? How did those circumstances affect its character then and today? (Example: Some cities on California were founded as a result of the gold rush of 1849, so greed would be an obvious circumstance to consider.)
- Pain/Trauma – Did you region ever face negative circumstances such as economic rejection, natural disasters, major destruction from war and/or conflict?
- Current Statistics – What is the crime rate? Also, consider economic numbers and vitality, health statistics, etc. Notice any numbers that seem unusually high for the size of your area (per capita)?
- Native Peoples – Who were the inhabitants of your area (if any) before the arrival of Europeans and others in the founding of the New World? How were they treated? Were there any Native-American massacres or conflicts?
Most researchers and intercessors can become overly infatuated with the dark side of their region’s history and its strongholds. However, more important than strongholds is understanding the redemptive purpose of your area. Always remember that our Father God is the Creator and what He intended is always more important that what our sin has compromised. Below are some sample questions in understanding those redemptive purposes:
- What redemptive markers can be seen in my region? Are there any moments in the history of your region that played a pivotal role in its destiny, such as spiritual outpourings/revivals?
- Have there been any discoveries of new technologies/inventions/natural resources in my area?
- Was my area founded by or ever targeted by a Christian group for settlement? (Eg. Plymouth Rock)
- Are there any redemptive clues in the names of cities, towns and areas within my region?
You will also need to take into account the vitality (or lack of) of the Church in your region:
- Are local assemblies in my region growing or struggling? (Growth as in depth and spiritual maturity, not just numbers because they have an attractive Sunday show. There are many mega-churches around these days that are a mile-wide and an inch deep. They often attract people from other churches. You are looking for overall Kingdom growth, not just believers moving from one assembly to another. )
- Are there any common struggles in the Body of Christ in your region (divorce, conflict/disunity, cliquishness)?
- Do the local assemblies of the Church in your area do anything together?
- Do the pastors work together or are they suspicious of and threatened by one another?
For more information: “Informed Intercession” and the “Twilight Labyrinth”, books by George Otis, Jr.
Disclaimer and Directive: The author of this article emphasizes the importance of seeing and sensing God’s REDEMPTIVE hand at work in the present and past of your community. This is far more important than focusing on the work of the enemy and strongholds he has established. Matter of fact, let strongholds provide clues to the original intent of our Creator. (Eg. – turn greed into giving). I do not and never will endorse the practice of attempting to discern and label demonic hierarchies “over” a region. This practice is rooted in the fascination with forbidden knowledge, or the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. At the same time, neither do I endorse the idea of those who would neglect the importance of strategic and informed intercession only because a few groups or leaders have abused and misused the subject. Seek balance and a redemptive bias in your research.