WASHINGTON – "I assure you, I didn't know what I was doing," the pastor confided. But he had tried everything else and nothing worked, so why not?
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He had gotten nowhere trying to help a damsel in deep distress.
She was just an average American girl next door. No obvious sign of any problems. But she had a secret, and it was killing her.
She was a very happy, seemingly well-adjusted young woman with a good family. A Christian who loved Jesus and was not ashamed or afraid to say so. No overt sign of problems or propensity to get into trouble. Except, every few months, for about two years, she had an inexplicable and uncharacteristic compulsion to use drugs.
But that wasn't the worst part.
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"Something would come over her, and her eyes would totally glaze over," recalled pastor Karl Payne. "And she'd say, 'I should kill myself, I've failed God, I failed my parents, nothing goes right.'"
Wracked with destructive thoughts and remorse, this was completely out of character for her. The pastor did the only thing he knew to do, but it wasn't working.
"We'd talk about how, with Jesus, failure is never final and discuss the Bible, and she'd be OK. And then a few months later, she'd come by again and say, 'I know you don't believe me, but something just pushed me. And I just couldn't stop it. I don't know how to stop it, and then I feel guilty.'"
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Once again, he would tell her she was just being weak-willed, nothing could make her get stoned. It just made no sense. He thought, "She just has to learn to buck up."
But they were getting nowhere. And she was getting desperate. He couldn't understand it. Nothing in his extensive divinity training had prepared him for this. So he tried something else. Something unorthodox.
Something out of the mainstream. Or was it?
"I said would you mind if we approach this a little bit different? She said sure. So, I started reading 1 John 4:1-6, which calls for the believer to "test the spirits to see whether they are from God."
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Payne told WND, that was the point when he didn't know what he was doing. But what happened next dramatically changed her life, and his, forever.
"I started reading and, right in the middle of those verses, she went fetal. Then she grabbed my Bible and started ripping the pages. And she said, 'My name is ...,' and it was some male name. And she started drooling out of her mouth."
That was just the beginning.
"My wife, who was sitting on the couch, looked up with wide eyes. By then, this girl was curled up on the floor with foam coming out of her mouth, screaming her name is something that it isn't. And I'm thinking, this person is not psychotic, this is a very lovely person with a wonderful family, and all of that. And I just thought, what is going on?"
He called in reinforcements, about a half-dozen church elders, several pastors and a retired missionary, as the good-natured girl next door screamed at them, "You're an effin this, and effin that. You're stupid, and you don't know what you're doing. We're not going anywhere."
Payne acknowledged, "After more than 10 hours of being mocked and sworn at, it was very apparent to everyone in my front room that none of us knew what we were doing, and the bad guys were winning this confrontation. Pastors, missionary, elders and a very troubled young woman left my house exhausted and confused. At some point the next day, I got on the phone with a Billy Graham friend of mine, one of Graham's lieutenants back in his day, and he said let me put you in contact with someone who knows what they're doing with this."
"Before," the pastor reflected, "I would've laughed at him and said this is silly. But now I've had someone on my floor in a fetal position screaming. It was just bizarre."
He got on the phone with a pastor from Calgary, and asked, "'How does this work?' And he said, 'It can get complicated, but let me give you a crash course on dealing with demons that I think will help you.'"
Payne explained to WND that, a few days later, the father of this young woman paid to fly in a retired pastor and missionary from British Columbia who had worked in the mission field in China with the parents of Ruth Graham Bell, Billy Graham's wife.
"In 1948, Mao kicked him out, along with his wife and Ruth’s parents. So, he went to Indonesia to work the next 18 years there. He spent 30 years working overseas."
He told Payne, "Son, we work with this all the time. It's only in North America where you people think you're so sophisticated, you don't think it's real, you don't think you have to deal with it, you mock people. Over here, we work with it all the time. Don't they teach you anything about this in Bible school? Didn't they teach you anything in seminary?'"
"Not about this," Payne replied.
The man then asked, "What do they do?"
Payne answered, "They mock it."
He then told Payne, "I am going to give you a much-needed education on spiritual warfare."
Fortunately for the woman on the floor, the retired missionary didn't mock it. And he knew what to do.
Is belief in demons and possession really outside the mainstream?
It doesn't get much more mainstream than the ministry of Rev. Billy Graham. And he believes in demons. Possession, too. And exorcism.
In a speech broadcast on radio in 1974 from Tempe, Arizona, titled "The Devil, Demons and Exorcism," Graham explained, "Now, the fact of exorcism is a reality, but it's misunderstood."
Graham described how many exorcism practices came from pagan beliefs in magic formulas and rituals to expel evil spirits, and they often involved unspeakable and insufferable cruelty.
Christ, however, used no rituals, merely his own word. "And his disciples cast out demons how? In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. By a word. The power of the name of Christ," explained the world-famous evangelist.
That is compatible with the method Payne described in detail to WND in Part II of this series, "Meet a modern-day pastor who casts out demons."
"However," Graham continued, "there is a warning. Don't go around using some sort of hocus-pocus and say, 'Be gone, in the name of Jesus.' It won't work. You have got to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and you have to be walking in the Spirit, and you have to know that that's a demon, and you have to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you have the authority of God's word. Behind the name of Jesus stands the power of almighty God."
That, too, is compatible with what Payne described.
And, like Payne, Graham contended that sin will "open the way for demonic activity," and that demons will take every inch of ground a person will give them.
Payne sees demonic oppression, demonization and possession as existing along a continuum of increasing intensity.
“There’s just different degrees of control,” Payne explained. “Slight, for oppression. Disconcerting and far more debilitating and discouraging in cases of genuine demonization. And almost total subjection of the will, in cases more commonly described as possession.”
Dr. Richard Gallagher, an accomplished and respected psychiatrist, described his work with demonically possessed patients in Part I of this series, "Psychiatrist goes demon hunting with exorcists."
What pastor Payne does is similar to what the psychiatrist Gallagher does, in that they first both look to rule out physiological or psychological causes of a person’s distress.
But, where Gallagher then leaves it for the spiritual professionals, Payne provides treatment.
What he actually does is rather simple. To remove a demon, he has a simple conversation. He gets the demon to speak through the patient by invoking the authority of Christ. Then he has the demon divulge what it has been doing to the patient. Finally, the pastor calls upon Christ to remove and banish the demon. No hysterics, no screaming, no physical restraint.
The pastor said when a patient visits, typically, "I've got pastors, staff, administrators all around me up and down the hallway. They don't even know I'm dealing with demons. It's not a circus, it's not yelling, there's no screaming. It's just a very matter-of-fact conversation."
Payne told WND, in the 35 years he's been banishing demons, he has had hundreds upon hundreds of successful cases, with the testimonials to prove it. There have been only a handful of cases where the patient did not improve.
And, if pastors don't come much more mainstream than Graham, the same could be said of Payne.
He served as chaplain and spiritual counselor for the NFL's Seahawks from 1994 through 2015, stepping down last year after 21 full seasons.
Payne is currently on staff at Antioch Bible Church of Redmond, Washington, where he serves as the pastor of leadership development and discipleship training.
He has written three books on discipleship, co-authored two books on the just use of force and Christian cross training, and collaborated on a number of works on apologetics, biblical ethics and Christian leadership development.
Payne is also the author of the phenomenally successful "Spiritual Warfare: Christians, Demonization, and Deliverance," published by WND Books. "Spiritual Warfare" is a detailed explanation of how he helps people suffering from demonic affliction.
Another mainstream pastor who has seen evidence of the supernatural at work is Carl Gallups. He is senior pastor of Hickory Hammock Baptist Church in Milton, Florida (since 1987), a radio talk-show host and the author of the WND Books bestseller, "Magic Man in the Sky: Effectively Defending the Christian Faith."
Gallups honed his observational skills during a 10-year law enforcement career in Florida as a uniformed deputy sheriff and a corrections officer.
During that time, he told WND, he observed several incidents while attempting to arrest and/or restrain "people who exhibited unusual strength, while at the same time babbling in strange languages, flailing about with frenzied and seemingly impossible body movements, and using an ominous 'otherworldly' voice that was obviously not their own."
Gallups described a memorable instance involving a young woman in her mid-twenties who lived with her parents.
"They were distraught because their normally sane and loving daughter had arrived home from an outing with friends, walked into the kitchen, pulled a butcher knife out of the drawer and began to attack them, for no apparent reason," he recalled.
"When I arrived on the scene, she immediately began babbling in another language and speaking in a tone of voice that should have belonged to a man with a deep voice. She had not done that prior to my arrival, according to her parents."
It got even stranger.
"She looked up at me when I entered the room and said, 'I know who you are. You are a servant of Jesus Christ.' Then she slumped into a chair as though exhausted. I placed the cuffs on her without a struggle while her terrified parents were screaming, 'What was that voice from our daughter? We’ve never heard that before! Why is she doing this?'"
Gallups told WND, although that was more than 30 years ago, it seems like yesterday.
"I remember explaining to them that I was a Christian and that, in my opinion, their daughter had somehow been exposed to something very demonic – perhaps on that same day."
And it wasn't the last time he saw something so strange.
"I have had similar situations as a pastor. Since I have been a pastor for 30 years in one church, and in one, relatively small, community, I am not at liberty to give details of these events, lest I might inadvertently reveal a specific person or situation."
"However," he continued, "I have seen these same manifestations, probably a double-handful of times, within that 30-year period. Some, I ministered to in a direct fashion. A few others were while assisting other pastors who asked me for help in difficult, and what they considered to be demonic, situations."
Gallups stressed that he never actively goes looking for "demonic oppression or possession" scenarios.
"I do not advertise myself as a 'deliverance' minister. But, I am a minister of the Word of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ," he explained. "I know that God’s word speaks directly to the reality of the demonic realm, and I know the importance of biblical spiritual warfare. And I have had experience identifying what I believe to be real demonic influence."
But, when he has encountered a troubled person, just like Payne and Gallagher, his first thoughts have not necessarily turned to the supernatural.
"The vast majority of problems people have, in my professional opinion, are not directly connected to demonic harassment, but rather to our own sinful nature, temptations, and disobedience to the clear word of God."
Even though 83 percent of Americans call themselves Christians, belief in demons is often seen as a primitive superstition in this age of science and secularism.
But this is also the information age, and that has led to an increasing circulation and awareness of accounts that seem to defy any rational explanation other than demonization.
As Dr. Gallagher wrote about demonic possession in the Washington Post, “I believe I’ve seen the real thing." He stressed how he could readily recognize mental illness, “But what am I supposed to make of patients who unexpectedly start speaking perfect Latin?”
'Fear doesn't die easily'
"It's real," Payne said matter-of-factly. "I've seen it, I've witnessed it, I deal with it."
But that doesn't mean it's accepted, even in the church. Even pastors fear social ostracization.
Payne's graduate studies in seminary had taught him a belief in demons would be silly. "Why would I be looking for something that silly?" he asked rhetorically.
"I was trained to ignore this stuff and ridicule it," the pastor told WND. "It took someone coming into my house and jolting my worldview to get my attention, to make me go, 'Wow.'"
He knows the risks.
"I'm supposed to be a smart guy. And I don't want to look stupid. Why would I purposely step into this stuff to be criticized and called stupid? That's why I think it's so difficult sometimes for scientists to acknowledge it."
He thinks physicians and psychiatrists, even if Christian, quickly learned to compartmentalize their beliefs, separating the spiritual from the scientific. However, when the two overlap in a way that can no longer be denied, someone like Dr. Gallagher will feel compelled to speak up.
Payne commended the psychiatrist on his bravery because of an understandable fear for his professional reputation. The pastor said it is important "when an academic stands up and says this is real. Yes, it is. And I'm glad he said it."
Because that just may be another sign of the reversal of disbelief.
"You can be perfectly sane and rational, and you start talking about God, or the devil, or demons, or angels, or the resurrection, and, all of a sudden, regardless of what your reputation has been, you're now suspect – as though there's something wrong with you. Or, at least, with your thinking. And," he wistfully remarked, "there's a lot of folks that won't take the chance."
In such cases, he observed, "the fear of man can be greater than the fear of God."
That wasn't just true for medical professionals. Payne has also found it to be the case in the church, noting, "Fear, insecurity and tradition do not die easily."
But he sees a change emerging.
"In the last several years, I have spoken on the subject of demonization at seminaries that three decades ago wouldn't have let me near the campus, including my own school, where I got my masters and doctorate degrees."
And now, he said, they gladly invite him in and say, "There is just so much going on here that we have either ignored or run from. Would you please get us up to speed?"
But some are still hesitant, afraid of what the flock might think. Payne has had pastors come to his seminars who told people back home they were going on a fishing trip, because a belief in demons has been "kind of a litmus test for who is sane and who isn't. And this is stepping out there."
"The fear is a reality," the pastor observed. "And it's unfortunate because we're supposed to be helping. And we're not. I regularly refer people to doctors. If your pancreas doesn't work, get insulin. And I regularly refer people to counseling when I think that is needed."
"It's only recently that the other professionals are reciprocating" when they can't find a physiological or psychological cause of a person's problem. Payne said those professionals will sometimes tell him, "What this person is dealing with is real, and were just not touching it."
Payne has learned to ignore skepticism.
"A person who works with demonization must get to a place where they do not really care whether sideline critics are for or against them, as long as Christians who have been suffering under demonic bondage are set free to enjoy their life in Christ rather than just endure it."
The pastor is more concerned about God's word than winning the approval of peers.
"I've watched too many of my Christian friends say, 'Let's just leave the demonic question alone,' because they're afraid of kickback. And yet the Bible isn't shy on any of that. The truth is, they want collegial support. And I'm done worrying about that. I've been in positions where there is no explanation for something. It's supernatural. Just like the psychiatrist who wrote the article. You can say that it's subjective, but I say it's been subjective for a whole lot of people for a long time."
Are there frauds who fake it?
"Sure there are," Payne shot back. "But just because there are fakes and frauds doesn't mean there isn't still a reality. Just because they're fake $20 bills doesn't mean there aren't real $20 bills."
"You reach a point after a while," said the pastor with a hint of resignation, "where you just agree with me or disagree with me. But I will ultimately bow my knee to Christ. I will give an account to him, not to you."
Perhaps it's a sign that recognition of demonization as a reality is growing: Payne increasingly gets referrals from psychiatrists and mental health professionals.
"Often, medical professionals will call and say, 'I'd like to send someone to you because I think it's the stuff you work with.' I've also had patients call and say, 'Doctor so-and-so says this is more to do with you than with them. Would you be willing to talk to me?'"
Payne also get referrals from pastors, but he calls that a sad irony. "They'll recognize the reality of it, but they don't want people to know publicly what they're doing for fear of collateral damage that may come from colleagues and constituents."
However, Payne also finds that he has to spend less time these days trying to convince colleagues that demonization is real.
"I have had people at conferences say to me, 'Listen, these people are already on board. You don't have to spend the first couple of hours saying this stuff really is real. Save that time. We get it.'"
It seems hard for Payne to understand why any Christian wouldn't "get it."
"The Bible is very upfront about demonic issues. There's no hiding it. It's replete with mentions. Why would you say, on one hand, you believe the Bible is the truth and Jesus was God incarnate, and, yet, you're afraid to talk about something that he was very straightforward about?"
On the other hand, Payne is getting more and more positive feedback from former skeptics in the clergy.
"I have pastors call and say, 'I just wanted you to know I read your book and I worked with a lot of people now, and this really works. The demons really leave. I laid down the ground rules and they do exactly what you said.'"
Missionaries in other countries have told him, "We weren't effective. Then we read your book."
Payne said, "It's simple, it's transferable and people's lives are being helped."
"I don't have to have an umbilical cord from me to them. Jesus is the one who makes this work," he emphasized. "As long as they are a Christian, they have the same authority I do. It's not that big a deal. The Bible says it's not that big a deal. So why should I assume that not to be the case?"
In fact, Payne emphasized again and again, over the course of nearly three hours of interviews, that it is not he who banishes demons, but God. Which means, any true believer can do what he does, if done correctly.
"The whole point of my book is, because Christ lives in you, and you've been delegated authority, you don't have to go to one particular exorcist or one particular person of deliverance, because the same Jesus that lives in them, assuming they are Christians, lives in you."
He elaborated, "When people say it's all about my personality gifting, it doesn't have anything to do with that. I've seen both introverts and extroverts deal very effectively with demons. I've seen people who have silver tongues that can deal with demons. I've seen people do it who are socially awkward, but they understand their authority in Christ. And demons fear Christ who lives in the believer."
"In other words," he emphasized, "what they fear is Christ who lives in you. That's who they fear."
But that was not what he had been taught.
Payne asserted there's not one answer that fits all. One answer he was taught in seminary "was usually read your Bible, pray, memorize your Scripture and everything will get better. Then you go out in the real world and find you have people who do all that, but it doesn't get better."
If medicine or counseling helps a person get better, then Payne is all for it.
"Everything is demonic. That's a lie. But I'm also not good with saying none of it is demonic."
And, he added, Christians who don't accept that "fear man more than God."
"What I am saying is, from my 35 years or so of working with this my subjective experience has been when a person is wanting help it is usually successful."
Payne does not accept pay for those services, although he does not begrudge others who do.
"I am a pastor who considers it a privilege to be a help, if I am able to do so. I have considered the counseling I do part of my work. My pay is from God almighty. I have never charged anyone for deliverance, or any other kind of counseling, for that matter, in over three decades. And I do not intend to do so in the future."
The pastor's ultimate reward may await in heaven, but he did express a more down-to-earth ambition.
"I hope God uses your articles to help others who are stuck in demonic bondage, believing the lies that there is no way out, or that demonization is just superstitious drivel."