Exorcism versus deliverance: What's the difference?

Portuguese demonologist Fernando Nogueira preforms an exorcism.
Portuguese demonologist Fernando Nogueira preforms an exorcism. | Reuters/Jose Manuel Ribeiro

Both the Bible and everyday experience show believers that evil is very real.

But when it comes to Christians and demons, there are often theological and denominational differences on the subject, especially when it comes to ministry.

Mike Signorelli, the pastor of V1 Church in New York City, says the first thing to remember is that deliverance from demons is very different from the Catholic practice of exorcism.

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In an appearance on the “Playing With Fire” podcast with Billy Hallowell, Signorelli said exorcisms are primarily done by Catholic priests in rituals that are widely considered by most Protestants to be extra-biblical.

Oftentimes, these rituals will include the use of crucifixes, “holy water" and mostly chanting done in Latin, he said.

Signorelli reminded believers of the biblical warning that Satan often comes as an angel of light.

“I would really warn anyone listening against seeking out an exorcism from a priest because that intermingling that happens between those rituals and the usage of all these objects end up actually creating a worse condition than you come in," he said. 

“I’ve had to do many deliverances after somebody has received an ‘exorcism’ from a Catholic priest,” he added.

So what does that deliverance look like?

Signorelli — who considers himself a student of deliverance ministries such as those of Derek Prince and John Eckhart — said while it’s not quite like the movies, there are a few common signs.

He referred to the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark, when Jesus went into the synagogue in Capernaum and began to teach. There, He commanded an impure spirit to come out of a man.

As it was in the first century, Signorelli said there will often be an outward manifestation or physical evidence of a demon being agitated before leaving a person’s body.

He said there’s often, though not always, physical healing that accompanies a deliverance. He pointed to the 13th chapter of the Gospel of Luke, where Jesus healed a woman who had been crippled for 18 years “by a spirit.”

The ESV translates the phrase as “a disabling spirit,” while the NIV describes the woman as “crippled by a spirit” — meaning, according to Signorelli, there are people with physical and biological conditions that are rooted in a “spirit of infirmity.”

Pointing to scientific findings that show stress sends cortisol levels up and trauma results in cardiovascular problems, Signorelli said those are consistent with what Ephesians 6 describes as other realms affecting our physical realm.

“Although I don’t have a complete and total understanding of all this, you are seeing the effect of these realms interacting,” he said.

Signorelli added that while he has a lot of empathy and compassion for those who think it might be theologically inaccurate or disrespectful to say a Christian can have a demon, he explained that not everybody who claims to be Christian actually is one.

“Let’s apply wisdom first and foremost,” he said. “Wisdom says it is possible to go to church every Sunday and think you’re going to Heaven because you go to church.”

He said the assumption that attending church makes someone a Christian is like thinking that if one stands in a garage, they become a car.

Signorelli said he's done outreaches in Central Park attended by over 200 people, and there, he'd share the Gospel “accompanied with deliverance." Just as it was during the Billy Graham era of stadium crusades, he said, society is still living in an era of signs and wonders that often accompany “the greatest miracle.”

“I can’t tell you how many times somebody has been delivered first, then received the Gospel second,” he said. “Sometimes the miracle happens first and then the greatest miracle, which is salvation, happens second.”

Earlier this year, Signorelli made a YouTube video that went viral for warning parents of the “demonic” content in Disney Pixar’s “Turning Red.”

The pastor’s video condemned the spiritual practices of ancestral worship and what he said looked like satanic rituals in “Turning Red.” Beyond the spiritual aspect of the animations, Signorelli pegged the themes in the film as “a secular humanistic worldview that says there is no wrong or right anymore.”

“I believe that every parent — not just a pastor, but a parent — has a mandate to actually screen material because every single device you have in your home is a portal, either a window into the things of God or, unfortunately, things that I believe are demonic,” Signorelli said in an interview with CBN News.

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