Controversial Global Vision Bible Church leader Greg Locke defended the deliverance ministry of his Tennessee congregation Wednesday, calling Christian critics challenging his decision to chase six suspected witches from his congregation "lukewarm" enablers of spiritual wickedness.
"The message of deliverance is dangerous because it exposes the enemy for who he is. But like nothing else, it also exposes the lukewarm condition of the Church in America," Locke said during the Wednesday night service.
He argued that many believers have "just got numb" to the fact the Bible states in Ephesians 6 that Christians "wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."
"As we've been doing this series on deliverance and this series on demons and sorcery and witchcraft and things that we have always been up against, but we just got numb to it," Locke said.
"We've taken an invisible kingdom and we've brought it to light, and the devil doesn't like it. He [devil] would just assume that it remains invisible because that's where its [darkness] power is. But when you take away the invisibility, you take away its power because what you do with darkness is not just be quiet in the darkness. You shine light on the darkness so that the darkness is dispelled."
In a now-viral sermon on Sunday, Locke swore that a demon revealed to him the identity of six witches in his congregation during a deliverance session with a young girl in his office last week.
He said he wrote down the witches' names, then asked them on Sunday to leave his church in an animated and forceful fashion.
"You so much as cough wrong, and I'll expose you in front of everybody in this tent, you stinking witch," Locke said during the sermon.
"You were sent to this church to destroy us. You were sent to this church to lure us in. You were sent to this church to cast a spell. Listen! Some of you been sick because you befriended that witch! … Two of you in my wife's ladies' Bible study. And you know who you are, and we going to ask you to get out, or I'll expose you in front of everybody," he threatened. "We got all six of their names, all six of them."
Locke said that since his church began their series on deliverance, which has generated several headlines in the press, it's like "we have stirred a hornet's nest."
"We have never had so many attacks on our church. We have never had so many curses and hexes and vexes and nonsense," he said. "We stirred some stuff up on Sunday. The news media so mad right now. ... They're calling me everything but a man at this point."
Locke's account about his recent encounter with demons and the revelations they made about the witches in his church went viral after atheist activist Hemant Mehta shared a clip from the sermon on Twitter Sunday night. Mehta's tweet sparked reactions from Christians as well.
"I cannot express how angry this makes me. Greg Locke is not a pastor, and everyone clapping is enabling his abuse of these people. Call it what it is: abuse," Dylan Price, a Truett Seminary-trained pastor, wrote on Twitter Monday.
"If Greg Locke thinks there are witches in his church, real witches should show up to scare him," quipped traveling pastor and theologian Jory Micah.
Locke has refused to change his message.
Earlier this month, he held a book-burning event at his church and urged his congregants to burn "evil garbage" like young adult fantasy books, tarot cards, "voodoo dolls and crystals."
He pointed out on Wednesday that in Acts 19 of the Bible, believers who used to practice publicly burned their sorcery scrolls.
"If you think what I said this past Sunday was rash when I explained about the witches … you ought to read a Bible one day in your life," he argued. "You know what Exodus 18:22 says; you ought to be glad we're in the New Testament. ... Suffer not a witch to live!"
"All I did was throw them out of church, and people went crazy. God said kill them! You better be glad we live in the New Testament. You better be glad Jesus came to fulfill the law."
He blamed witchcraft for sudden damage of equipment amounting to about $30,000 at his church on Monday and said his face broke out after a marathon deliverance session that followed his sermon on Sunday.
He said there were so many people in need of deliverance that he and his team did not finish working until 2:15 a.m. on Monday. The last person to be delivered that morning was Locke's student leader, identified only as Jesse, whom Locke described as "a man of the word."
"If you're going to lead in this church, if you're going to deliver in this church, then you got to go through deliverance. You know why? Why would I take … wisdom and council from somebody under the influence of something that ought to be cast out of them?" Locke said.
In his testimony Wednesday, Jesse recalled how his deliverance happened.
"The other night, as soon as I sat down, Pastor Greg started praying. Once he started praying, I started shaking, and that was those demons getting scared. I felt them getting scared. I wasn't in fear at all. I knew God had me at that very moment," Jesse said.
"I'm here to tell you and you pastors that are saying that this isn't real, … my best friend was sitting outside the door [of Locke's office], and the way he likes to describe it, I 'sounded like a caveman that just discovered fire,'" the student ministry leader said.
Jesse spoke of the demonic force that "had a hold of me pretty hard."
"It was attacking me in my home. It was attacking my marriage. My wife and I have a great marriage, but when the enemy starts sneaking in there, it can be powerful and it can be scary sometimes," he said.
"She kept asking me, 'what's wrong with you?' I said, 'I don't know. I can't explain it,'" he continued. "I came to Pastor Greg for deliverance, and the moment I knew I had deliverance is the moment I started weeping. I started weeping and I started praising the Lord. I've never worshipped like that in my life. … God made a mighty move in me, and I want to see a mighty move in this church."
Locke said because of the volume of deliverance requests he has received, he is working to train additional deliverance workers to cast out the devil from people in need.
"I never could have imagined that exposing darkness would cause so much craziness in the body of Christ in America. I'm shocked at what followers of Jesus will allow in their homes. I'm shocked at what they allow in their cars, what they allow in their kids' bedrooms, what they allow in their mind, what they allow in their heart," Locke said.
"I am shocked at the amount of so-called believers that are so deluded by seducing spirits and doctrines of devils that when we simply read verse by verse, line by line and story by story from the Bible, they get so stirred up. And pastors are doing entire messages against what we're preaching under this tent tonight."