As believers in Jesus Christ, we are commissioned to go into all the world and preach the gospel and teach all nations what Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-18; Luke 24:46-49; Acts 2:8). We are called to be ambassadors of Christ and to proclaim the gospel of His Kingdom. This means in essence, that we are invading earth with a message from heaven, just as Jesus did. To invade a hostile territory, we must first know the territory and develop the best plan for advancement. We need wisdom and discernment along with effective strategies in order to accomplish the task. This is where spiritual mapping comes in. Spiritual mapping is like reconnaissance which, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, is "an inspection of a region to examine its terrain or to determine the disposition of military forces." We are in God's army and are engaged in a spiritual battle (II Timothy 2:2-4; II Corinthians 10:4; Ephesians 6), if we are going to succeed in winning a territory to Jesus, we need to know what we are up against and get our marching orders from the Lord.
King David of Israel provides an example of how to wage effective warfare in order to gain territory. Before every battle, David inquired of the Lord for specific instructions (I Samuel 23:2,4 and 30:8; II Samuel 5:19, 23). So we see that our first step in taking the gospel to an area is to inquire of the Lord - in other words, pray. To help focus our prayers and to begin hearing God about where He wants us to concentrate our efforts, it can be very helpful to get a map of the city or region you are going into. Most cities gather statistics related to the welfare of the city. The police divide a city up into precincts and keep information regarding the amount of crime in each precinct. High crime areas indicate the depth of spiritual need. Other statistics relate to the poverty levels, diseases and causes of death, accident rates, and quality of educational opportunities, among other things. As issues are identified, prayer can then become more specific.
When Jesus sent His disciples out to preach in Matthew chapter 10, He gave careful instructions. One thing He told them was to inquire who was worthy in a particular city or village and to stay at that person's house. If the house was worthy, they were to leave a blessing of peace. If it was not worthy, they were to take their blessing back. This indicates that there are particular regions and cities and people within those areas who are ready to receive what God has to offer and there are others who are not ready or are unwilling. To maximize effectiveness, we must determine where these places and people are. Jesus said to inquire - to ask questions.
Spiritual mapping begins to give us a picture of the overall spiritual condition of an area and the parts of that area or city that are most needy. It can also reveal the areas that seem to be healthiest. Each city tends to have an overarching characteristic or "personality" so to speak, and this overarching characteristic or characteristics reveal what has been called the "redemptive purpose" of the city or the reason for its existence. Just as God has a purpose for individuals, He also has a purpose for cities, states, and nations. God wants these purposes to be fulfilled in a redemptive or restorative way.
To understand this concept a little better, think about New York City. What comes to your mind as an overall theme or characteristic? Every negative characteristic is usually a reflection of the positive destiny of a city that has been perverted or skewed in the wrong direction. New York has been the entry point for immigrants from across the globe. It has been the first stepping stone for them to establish a new life in America. God's intention for New York has been to create a haven for the downtrodden of the world to come and build a new life based on freedom, opportunity, and equality. Unfortunately, freedom has become license, opportunity has been curtailed by greed, and equality has been thwarted by prejudice. Still, there is generally far more opportunity and definitely more freedom to pursue a new life in New York and by extension, America, than almost anywhere else in the world.
As we see specific characteristics and issues, we can then go farther below the surface and examine how long these things have persisted. Places of entrenched sin can often be traced back to historical events that opened a door for a stronghold to be established. Long-established characteristics can also be traced to historical roots. Why is the city here? What brought about its development? How can we encourage the positive expression of its destiny?
When we see negative issues that have persisted over time, we are usually seeing the results of a stronghold. Paul speaks of strongholds in II Corinthians 10:3-5. Strongholds require spiritual weapons in order to break them down. A stronghold is a castle or fortification designed to hold onto and guard an area. Spiritually, a stronghold is a structure of thoughts built on a foundation of error. These thought patterns then lead to outward behavior. The behavior and attitudes can spread to other people until you see an entire area being affected by it. Drive through any city and you will notice pockets of poverty, places where bars and nightclubs are clustered, red light districts where prostitution proliferates, etc.
Even as we begin to see what the spiritual terrain looks like, we must still hear from God as to the strategy we should use. God may surprise us by directing us to an area that seems less needy than another area. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts and His ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). Too often, Christians have launched naively into places to spread the gospel without proper preparation or discernment. We must be in tune with God and be tapped into His heart and His power if we hope to make a lasting impact on the world around us.
God will begin to train us in effective spiritual warfare as we connect with Him in prayer and study His Word. We need to develop the capacity to take in solid spiritual food and have our senses trained to discern good and evil (Hebrews 5:14). One way of developing spiritual sensitivity is to simply drive through an area and observe with your eyes and tap into what you are sensing in your heart. Do you feel a sense of peace in a particular area or do you feel agitation? Begin to ask God what it is that you are sensing and what is causing it. Ask Him to increase your sensitivity to His Holy Spirit.
A city can be captivated for Jesus Christ when believers join in a common desire to see God direct their steps and reveal the plans HE has for their city. But we must first lay aside our own goals, plans, and thoughts so that we can hear God's plans and thoughts. The book of Nehemiah shows how a city wall was rebuilt, with each family taking responsibility for their part. In the same way, each church can take responsibility for a part of the city where they are planted. But for the entire city to be affected, we must link arms and receive the plans and strategies from the Lord. We must work together to accomplish the task - no one church or individual will be able to do the job alone.
In a nutshell, spiritual mapping gives us the "military intelligence" that we need in order to bring the Gospel of the Kingdom into an area effectively. As we gather information through observation, asking questions and the leading of the Holy Spirit, we can then begin to pray using what has been called "informed intercession." Using a map, we can begin to note areas of particular need and areas with particular strongholds, as well as areas that seem to be flourishing. Then we must get our orders from our Commander in Chief, Jesus Christ. Jesus also placed us in His Body and we are told in First Corinthians 12 that we need each other. We must link arms with the Body of Christ and hear what the Holy Spirit is saying to the churches.
We must learn to move together as God's army - the task cannot be achieved by lone rangers. Once the necessary groundwork has been laid, we can begin to seek the Lord for the practical outworking of the gospel. He may lead churches to walk through different neighborhoods and offer to pray for people. He may lead them to offer tangible services such as small household repairs or yard work. He may lead them to hold an open air meeting in a park. The important thing is to partner with God and follow His leading.
For further study and ideas for spiritual mapping, check out the following books and videos/dvds:
Videos: Transformations I and II, The Quickening, and Let the Sea Resound - also available in dvd format from the Sentinel Group: See faith and work resources.com DVDs link to the right of this page.
Possessing the Gates of the Enemy, by Cindy Jacobs
Informed Intercession, by George Otis, Jr.
Releasing Heaven on Earth, by Alistair Petrie
Taking Our Cities for God, by John Dawson