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Unmasking The Spirits That Keep Our Churches Captive

By Guy De Swardt - Immerse Family Church in Gqebergha

I think we have all been in churches, or have at least heard of churches, that were once vibrant, but years down the line were falling to pieces. We have all been in churches where certain families held their churches to ransom with the power they had in the church. We have all been in churches where things just did not seem to be right. Something was wrong, but we just could not put our finger on it. We have all been in churches where a corporate mind-set or an absolute controlling spirit was at the helm of the church, and busy running the church like a business.


Question is though, “Where does that come from?”

“Is there another spirit in that church that makes it a broken church?”

“How did that spirit get into that church to makes it a dysfunctional church?”

“What kind of spirits do we let into our churches?”


Leading the church has never been an easy calling for me. It’s very trying, most of the times.

There are mixtures of people coming together from different backgrounds and cultures and spiritual influences in a church, that when you put them together in one room, could cause a lot of heartbreak and disillusionment, and it often makes wanting to lead in that church a less-than-desirable life pursuit. There are many things that challenges me as a pastor.


I have been in two churches where these cultural and economic and political and spiritual influences almost destroyed the churches, and I’ve often wondered why. That kind of leads us into the question, “What happens when people come together as a church and form a community of believers?” “What happens when people who are both physical and spiritual, come together to form a church community?”


…because here’s where the rubber meets the road. It is my belief, that when people come together to form a church community, -or any kind of community for that matter, - something spiritual happens, something spiritual emerges. A communal essence emerges that either works to give life to the spiritual fabric of that community, or works to destroy the spiritual fabric of that community. In other words, when a group of people come together to form a community of believers in a church, there forms a communal spirit that either aides or hinders the work of the Holy Spirit in that church!


And changing that destructive communal spirit requires more than just adopting a new program into the church. It takes more than just asking a few people to leave the church.

It takes more than just tinkering with the structure of the church. It takes more than just working a bit harder. It takes more than changing the worship style. What removes that destructive spirit in the church requires that the church to name that spirit, - unmasking it, - and then calling to repentance the spirit that holds that church captive. What we are talking about here is spiritual warfare. This is why every church must do battle with the communal attitudes and collective spirits that holds that church back from fully bringing glory to God, despite our best efforts and our best programmes and our best shots at implementing those programmes.


And we find examples of these spirits that have invaded churches and brought them to the brink of destruction, in the Book of Revelation. John writes letters to seven churches who are in trouble, and some more than others, and these letters tell us what the secular cultural influences we need to be aware of that will attack and seek to destroy the church of Christ here on earth. God wants us to spiritually discern what cultural influences of the world would surround us and threaten our church communities. In other words, God wants us to see the world we live in through spiritual glasses supplied by the Holy Spirit, to clearly see the nature of the principalities and powers we are fighting as God’s people here on earth. The story of God here on earth has always come up against the powers of darkness. God’s people have always been in a fight for their lives against the powers and principalities and demonic spirits. John was telling the people in these seven churches to patiently endure the persecution and struggles coming from both within and without the church, and to be prepared to the high cost of following Jesus, while living amongst people who hold to secular cultural ideas. We then need to be aware what the secular cultures we daily move in, are inspiring us to give up on God. We must be able to recognise the trap they are setting for us, both inside and outside the church.


Which means, for us as believers, if we’re operating in the world, it can’t be business as usual for us. We must realise that the economics of the world is not just business as usual for us who are in Christ. It’s setting a trap for us. That’s why God gives us this message in Romans 12v2, “Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world.” (NLT).


Each of the seven churches was caught in a tug-of-war between the spirit of the world and the Spirit of God. Each one of these churches had subconsciously or even unknowingly, adopted a secular spirit of the surrounding culture into their church over a period of time, and that spirit was in direct opposition to what the Holy Spirit was wanting to achieve in that congregation. Over a period of time, these churches had adopted a controlling spirit into their church that was fighting against how the Holy Spirit wanted them to run the church. In other words, the running of the church was seceded to a corporate spirit adopted from their surrounding secular culture, over that of the controlling spirit of the Holy Spirit.


Again, we must understand, that when a group of people come together as a church, they form a collective spirit, and that spirit takes on a life of its own and then shapes the attitude and spiritual identity and climate and the further trajectory of that church. And although this spirit is dependent on the members of that church, - for they birthed it into existence, - this spirit emerges in the church in such a way that it influences and shapes that church for either good or evil. Which means, the onslaught on the church is not so much what we can see, but what we cannot see with the naked eye. It is spiritually discerned!


And so each of these seven churches hosted a spirit adopted from their surrounding secular culture, - and I believe Christ was addressing that spirit that was in opposition to the working of the Holy Spirit in those seven churches. In the same way, if we look at the modern contemporary churches today, I see the very same spirits have ingrained themselves into many of these churches and have come in opposition to the working of the Holy Spirit in those churches.


We as IMMERSE Family Church then did this exercise to see if any of these spirits had perhaps lodged themselves in our church as well. We identified that spirit, - named it, - called to repentance it’s destructive power, and we then cast it out in Jesus name!


These are the seven spirits we had to deal with as a church:

The spirit of religiosity or a spirit of boundary keeping, was accommodated in the church of Ephesus.

The spirit of consumerism which was accommodated in the church of Smyrna.

The spirit of compromise in the church of Pergamum.

The spirit of privatized faith or a spirit of Jezebel, a controlling spirit in the church of Thyatira.

The spirit of apathetic faith or traditionalism in the church of Sardis.

The spirit of fear or the spirit of inferiority in the church of Philadelphia.

The spirit of self-sufficiency or the spirit of pride in the church of Laodicea.


Unmasking the spirits that keeps our churches captive will become critical for us all.

So let’s hear what the Spirit has to say to your church, then you need to name those evil spirits that’s holding your church captive, repent of that, and then cast that spirit out in Jesus’ name.

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