Taking our Cities for God: How to break spiritual strongholds
by John Dawson. Word, 1989. Reviewed by Stephen Milstead.
Taking Our Cities for God explores history, geography, demographics, and spiritual warfare as part of an overall strategy in wining a city for Christ. John Dawson gives sound biblical foundations illustrated with examples of his own experience in dealing with spiritual powers and principalities. Floyd McClung notes, “Occasionally a book comes along that is more than a good book, it is indeed a word from God. This is such a book” (p. 11).
People face a multitude of problems and opposition by spiritual forces on a daily basis. John Dawson identifies certain keys and spiritual insights into how we may overcome these obstacles, which may be instrumental in a overall strategy to winning any city in the world for Christ. He covers topics such as studying the spirituality of a city’s history; discerning the spiritual strongholds which work against a city; the power of intercession for a city; planing and gaining God’s strategy in breaking strongholds and restoring a city for God; and gaining understanding of the weaknesses of the spirit realm over a city. The book has a thirteen lesson study guide which includes an application for daily living.
Taking Our Cities for God has five sections.
Section One: Battle Stories
Besides the biblical and personal examples of spiritual warfare in missions and evangelism, Dawson devotes part of this section to teaching Scriptural principles. He describes the work of the Holy Spirit in the gift of discernment of spirits, and reveals the importance of acting from obedient will and faith. He brings clarity to a very touchy subject for many Christians. His dependence on God, and insistence of working with the Holy Spirit is evident, and brings this crucial situation to the door step of the reader, in any city.
Dawson combines his theory with experience. An interesting example occurred in Argentina when a group of Youth With a Mission workers came against the city’s spiritual stronghold (Pride) and humbled themselves by kneeling down with their foreheads on the ground praying. All over downtown Cordoba, Youth with a Mission workers preached to attentive audiences and a harvest of souls began (pages 19‑20).
Section Two: Deliver The Dark City
Over half the world population lives in urban centres (p.34). In developed nations like the U.S. the percentage is much higher, e.g. 91% of California’s population live in cities. He examines the historical issues of today’s modern cities, taking into consideration some of the changes that have taken place. For example, Los Angeles has four and a half million Hispanics, is the second largest Chinese city outside Asia and second largest Japanese city outside of Japan (p35). Since the fall of communism in Russia the remark that Marxist cities are closed to the gospel is no longer applicable.
Dawson compels the reader to ask “Why is this town here?” (p43) and gives examples of God’s purpose in the location of a city. For example Omaha was once the place where pioneering wagon trains were provisioned for the arduous trail into the western wilderness. “We believe that we are still to equip the pioneers,” one pastor told me. “This time it is to support world‑wide missionary work.” Now that’s a vision worth living for (p44).
Dawson realised the benefit of examining how a city will grow and change over the next twenty years. He develops an argument from an historical view of how relationships have changed with the modern city’s growth.
Section Three: Discerning The Gates Of Your City
Dawson’s main thrust in this section is to know the city’s history and what has brought about change. “When you look into the history of your city, you will find clues as to what is oppressing the people today” (p77).
He calls upon the prophets, intercessors and spiritual fathers to be the “watchmen” over the city, with the emphasis on repentance, reconciliation and prayer, alert to current and future trends. Uncovering these trends will help the church to advance.
Dawson studies the concept covenant over a city. He cites good examples such as the Azuza Street Revival in Los Angeles, and Wilber Chapman and Aimee Semple McPherson in Denver. He encourages the reader to seek God and find out what point of entry evil had to gain entrance to a city or nation. He lists twenty questions ranging through religious divisions, wars, poor leadership, economic corruption and racial practices.
Section 4 : Learning To Fight
Dawson concludes that we must fight because through Jesus we have regained our stewardship of the earth (p.158). He provides the reader with the foundational traits of spiritual warfare by taking spiritual discernment a step further. He has demonstrates the realities of the two kingdoms – God’s and Satan’s rebel province ‑ and includes a biblical background on angels and their origin and functions. He reveals the tactics of spiritual warfare by first focusing on Jesus, the giver of the spiritual gifts. We are provided with the power of the cross and with the truth of Scripture .
Section 5. Into Battle : 5 Steps To Victory
Dawson divides this section into worship‑ the place of beginnings, waiting on the Lord for insight, identifying with the sins of the city, overcoming evil with good, and travailing till birth. Part of his strategy involves the importance of waiting on God, and allowing God to reveal the situation in the spirit. We need to come to him with repentance and humility. Dawson gives practical advice about overcoming evil with good by resisting temptation and taking positive action through prayer and fasting. Again the emphasis is on ministry in the opposite spirit, such as overcoming pride with humility or violence with turning the other cheek.
Dawson combines his theology with practical experience in the front line of spiritual warfare. His examination of the historical and geographical nature of a city provides an excellent understanding of how the demographics of a city will effect an outreach. His examples of the size and nature of various ethnic groups within Los Angeles demonstrates the problems a local church may face in the mission field. His consideration of trends was also an interesting revelation, as most churches do operate with a catch up mentality.
Dawson gives examples of occasions when he got it wrong, and also when he got it right. He maintains a balance, observing that although he has given the reader very good keys to the taking of our cities for God, it is necessary to seek God for ourselves.
(c) 2011, 2nd edition. Reproduction allowed with copyright included in text.
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