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Tactics of the enemy that work against the gospel - psychological warfare

Psychological warfare has been around a long time. Even Ghengis Khan used it to intimidate his enemies by camping outside a city and flying different coloured flags to announce his intentions.

It uses misdirection and confusion to distract someone from seeing the way forward or understanding what is really going on. The term is used "to denote any action which is practiced mainly by psychological methods with the aim of evoking a planned psychological reaction in other people". 1 The techniques used are aimed at influencing "a target audience's values system, belief system, emotions, motives, reasoning, or behaviour." 2


It should not surprise that this approach is used by the kingdom of darkness.


Acts 19 records an example of psychological warfare. In Acts 19:32 it says:


"The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there."


The New Testament greek word for confusion is sygcheō. According to Strong's Greek Lexicon it means 'to disturb the mind of one, to stir up to tumult or outbreak, to confound or bewilder."


The apostle Paul is in Ephesus at this point. He has travelled around the cities of Asia Minor proclaiming the good news, first to the Jews and now to the Gentiles (mainly Greek speaking non-Jews). Acts 19:23 says "about that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way (a name given to this new christian movement)." This great disturbance happened because Paul was preaching against the false gods of the Greek and Roman pantheon. This really upset the religious people (again) and was also a threat to the silversmiths who sold idols of the local deity Artemis. They felt their livelihood was being challenged.


Their accusation according to Acts 19:26-27 was "you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all. There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited."


The psychological warfare has two aspects in this situation. First it is commercial or financial, second it is religious. People feel the pain if it effects their money, and they are threatened if their religious traditions are questioned. Money and man made religion are powerful strongholds and if they are threatened, there will be a strong reaction, both at a human and spiritual level.


Psychological warfare is "the planned tactical use of propaganda, threats, and other non-combat techniques during wars, threats of war, or periods of geopolitical unrest to mislead, intimidate, demoralise, or otherwise influence the thinking or behaviour of an enemy." 3


This battle is a war of the mind. It seeks to undermine ideas, to discredit even before anyone has heard what is being said. If satan can cause people to doubt or question before the message is even spoken, it makes it even harder for people to hear the good news. It is a form of reverse psychology because the accusation against Paul is "this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people." In other translations it says Paul has persuaded and turned people away as if he is seducing people from the truth.


In his 1949 book, Psychological Warfare Against Nazi Germany, CIA operative Daniel Lerner details the U.S. military's WWII Skyewar campaign. Lerner separates psychological warfare propaganda into three categories:

  • White propaganda: The information is truthful and only moderately biased. The source of the information is cited.

  • Grey propaganda: The information is mostly truthful and contains no information that can be disproven. However, no sources are cited.

  • Black propaganda: Literally “fake news,” the information is false or deceitful and is attributed to sources not responsible for its creation.

Lerner wrote, "Credibility is a condition of persuasion. Before you can make a man do as you say, you must make him believe what you say.” Belief is at the heart of psychological warfare, it is a battle of world-views in order to gain control. This is why some places are harder to reach than others with the good news. In the words of Jesus, the ground will need rid of weeds and rocks in order for the seed to take root and grow (see Matthew 13).


How can we resist this psychological warfare?


The first thing is to recognise the tactic, it is a ploy of the enemy to confuse, to discredit and undermine. He is the originator of fake news. Don't be naive. Whenever political or religious spirits are stirred there will be psychological warfare.


Second, choose your battles. In Acts 19 Paul wanted to speak to the crowd but wise heads prevailed. Acts 19:30 says "Paul wanted to appear before the crowd, but the disciples would not let him."


If you are a good news person, psychological warfare will always come your way. So choose which fights to get involved in. Some are a distraction, others need to be tackled head on, it requires discernment to know the difference, and we will get it wrong at times.


I would suggest getting intercessors acting on your behalf. I also think it is wise to have people around you with prophetic gifts. That way, anyone on the front line of mission has prayer and prophetic cover, exposing and revealing the tactics of the enemy. This might sound dramatic but after twenty years of frontline evangelism and mission, I have been side swiped too many times to not take it seriously.




  1. Szunyogh, Béla (1955).Psychological warfare; an introduction to ideological propaganda and the techniques of psychological warfare. United States: William-Frederick Press. p. 13. Retrieved2015-02-11.

  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_warfare

  3. https://www.thoughtco.com/psychological-warfare-definition-4151867

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