The week before the 9/11 tragedy over two years ago, the Global Leadership Team of YWAM was meeting in Nairobi, Kenya. On the very full agenda was an item concerning the 2004 Olympic Games, to be held in Athens, Greece. We expected to spend maybe 15 minutes appointing an outreach director and committee and move on to other pressing business. So we thought.
Suddenly, we somehow found ourselves – forty or so leaders from all around the world – being dragged into an intense and emotional three-hour season of prayer for Greece and her role among the nations throughout history. A strong sense prevailed that we were in some way confronting a deeply-entrenched spiritual power – was this the Prince of Greece mentioned in Daniel 10:20? Whatever it was, our prayers expressed an unfolding understanding of Greece’s pivotal role not only in the spiritual history of the ancient Mediterranean world and of our western world, but that Greek thought revived through the Enlightenment continued to shape contemporary education and philosophy.
What power was at work to split Europe for a whole millennium along the spiritual fault line we contemplated last week? While the Greek language had been the chosen vehicle for the New Testament, and Greek had been the first foreign culture into which the church was transplanted, Greek thinking had continued to bring non-biblical distortions to theology and ecclesiology in all sorts of church traditions.
Several prayers referred to the encounter with Greek authorities when leaders from YWAM’s first ship, the Anastasis, were charged with proselytism back in 1986. What kind of unfinished business remained for us back in that land? Despite the literal thousands of YWAMers who had travelled through Greece on outreach, the numbers of Greeks who had attended a DTS, or who had joined staff, we could probably count on two hands!
What would these Olympics stir up in the spirit world? If we could conclude anything from this unplanned prayer marathon, it was that some serious prayer preparation was needed. We agreed to hold a prayer summit in Greece prior to the Games to seek our God for further understanding and preparation of mind and heart. This we held in October in the ancient spiritual centre of Delphi, the seat of the famous Delphi oracle (see WW, 23 June 2003: NAVEL-GAZING IN GREECE ). High on the hillsides overlooking a magnificent valley spilling out towards the Corinthian Gulf, Delphi was considered the pagan centre of the world. Here the temple of Apollo, the god of light and music, (also known as Phevos), was home for the oracle. A short distance down the hillside are the remaining ruins of the temple of Athena, goddess of wisdom and later the patron of the city of Athens. Is it coincidence that the official ATHENS 2004 mascots are none other than these two Olympian deities, Phevos and Athena? “Their creation was inspired by an ancient Greek doll and their names are linked to Ancient Greece, yet the two siblings are children of modern times,” reads the official olympic website – http://www.olympic.org/uk/games/athens/index_uk.asp. “Phevos and Athena represent the link between Greek history and the modern Olympic Games. “
John Dawson, our new YWAM International president, and well-known prophetess Cindy Jacobs, joined outreach director Matt Nocus and myself, along with 50 others from 20 nations in the European Cultural Centre in Delphi for three days of prayer and teaching. A giant contorted sculpture entitled “Idolatry” greeted us each day outside the centre, where no Christian event had ever been held before.
We prayed over all the islands and the five Olympic centres where outreach teams will be active next summer. Cindy spoke out very encouraging prophecies about the new things God would do in Greece, changing the spiritual environment, and reaching into the spheres of government. As a sort of first fruits of this word, an influential member of the Delphi civic community became a believer through the witness of the participants during the summit. John drew parallels with the situation facing Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20, when his worship choir led the way into battle.
But what deeply impacted me from this event, as I shared some historical background to Greek contributions to world history, is how all-pervasive this influence has been – throughout the centuries from the Patristic and Byzantine eras, to the Renaissance and Enlightenment periods, up to our Modern and Post-modern times; and throughout the various life-spheres of government, education, medicine, culture, language, philosophy and ethics.
Like a cameleon, this Greek spirit has been hugely influential in each of the major worldview categories, including polytheism (mythology), atheism (rationalistic philosophy), theism (dualistic theology and ecclesiology, influencing Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant and even evangelical traditions), and pantheism (gnosticism).
What is it in the Greek spirit that has enabled it to survive and adapt so powerfully to new seasons of church history, disguising itself as a new orthodoxy and turning dynamic movement into entrenched institution? What is it that we will encounter this coming summer? What was it that the Spirit of God was drawing us into prayer for in Nairobi and Delphi?
This is not a battle we looked for. But neither is it a confrontation we can take lightly – nor easily retreat from.
Let’s explore this more next week.