5 Enemies Of The Soul That Hurt Your Church

It’s easy to get so consumed with solving the problems in the church that we miss slaying the enemies of the church.

Problems come in a wide variety from things such as developing effective strategy in a time when the future is so uncertain to financial pressure and complexity of hiring staff. They involve factors like understanding culture, how to lead the online church, and both ideological and theological differences. You get the picture.

Here’s how it works.

As leaders, it’s part of our job to see and solve problems, so we understandably invest a great deal of time in that process.

The pressure to solve problems in the church requires so much focus that we have little energy left to conquer the enemies of the soul.

That leaves room for these quiet destroyers to do significant damage.

These enemies of the soul tend to run underneath many of the practical problems we face and, in fact, are often the cause, or at least the aggravation of our problems.

Learning to see them quickly and take the time to address them is vital to the health and progress of your church.

The good news is that we can:

Get honest about their existence.
The human mind is powerful and can create amazingly intricate rationalizations for attitudes and behaviors that do not please God or build up the body of Christ. So the first step is to get honest about them. 

Allow growth to overcome guilt.
When we do get honest about the enemies of the soul, guilt can prevent us from taking the action steps to growth. It’s important to allow growth to win over guilt.

Learn and practice the spiritual remedy.
There is a spiritual remedy to each of these enemies of the soul.

5 Enemies of the Soul That Hurt You and the Church:

1) Divisiveness

Division is a mortal enemy of the church and is birthed in the souls of individuals, not the organization.

There are numerous causes of division, from not getting our way and the desire for control to various levels of immaturity.

Division can appear in your church at two levels.

  1. The result of an honest disagreement but lacking resolution.
  2. A spirit of divisiveness that seeks to divide and get its own way.

The second of the two is rare, though it does exist.

Spiritual passion can often result in honest disagreement, but it doesn’t need to result in sacrificing the overall mission.

The spiritual remedy to divisiveness is a spirit of commitment to unity. (Ephesians 4:3-4)

As you build and lead the culture of your church, pre-agree that unity of the body around the biblical mission takes precedent over personal passion and agenda.

2) Envy

The hidden envy that resides in one’s soul leads to discontent and unhealthy competition.

The past twenty-four months have increased secretly harbored envy to a significant degree.

This envy can come from things such as personal losses, smaller physical church attendance, and even seeing others succeed. Envy can get a foothold in your heart when you realize that you are working hard and have less than others.

Envy is linked to comparison with others who have something you don’t, and it robs your joy.

The spiritual remedy to envy is contentment. (Philippians 4:11-13)

Contentment isn’t an excuse for lack of growth or a suggestion to “settle,” it’s a disposition of gratitude.

God wants you to live out your passion for personal growth and Kingdom advancement. The aim is to do so with genuine inner contentment and God as your source for peace and joy.

3) Complacency

Complacency is the most contagious of the enemies of the soul. You will catch it from the people closest to you, and others will catch it if it’s in you.

Complacency comes from a variety of causes and in many different forms:

  • The gifted leader who is bored.
  • The hurt leader who is wounded.
  • The exhausted leader who needs soul level refreshing.
  • The cynical leader who is burned out.
  • The lazy leader who doesn’t want to grow.
  • The discouraged leader who needs a fresh perspective.

Regardless of the reason, complacency allows leaders to coast and give less than their best.

The spiritual remedy for complacency is a passion for your purpose. (Acts 20:24)

Passion for your purpose (mission/vision) that will last begins with a burden.

What has God allowed to lay heavy on your heart so that you are compelled to take action?

4) Gossip

Gossip is the great destroyer of relationships. Why is it that it’s so prevalent?

To talk about another person in their absence, in a way that questions their character, motives, or value, is one of the great poisons of any family, group, or organization.

Gossip breeds distrust and breaks down loyalty.

The spiritual remedy to gossip is encouragement. (Ephesians 4:29)

Believing the best in others and speaking uplifting words of encouragement strengthens the church. If there is an issue, go in person and speak the truth in love.

Like so many of these inner enemies, gossip comes from insecurities that hide in our souls. When we bring them into the light, the battle is half won.

5) Fear

The past couple of years has instilled a low-grade fear that many leaders acknowledge lurks in the back of their mind.

The picture is not one of a “fearful leader” but one with doubts, some worry, and second-guesses.

This subtle fear causes leaders to pull back, hesitate, and back away from risks they otherwise would have pressed forward with bold faith and confidence.

Courage is the spiritual remedy to fear. (Psalm 18:2)

That might sound like an unhelpful platitude. Like, “Hey, just be courageous.”

Easy to write, hard to do, right?

The deeper remedy to fear is knowing the source of your courage and connecting with the heart of your vision that makes the courage worthwhile.

The source of your courage is God, but it also requires your vision to start with a burden that compels you to care and a vision big enough to compel you to take action.

8 thoughts on “5 Enemies Of The Soul That Hurt Your Church”

  1. Dan,

    These are tremendous thoughts. I see it all the time in leaders and of course have to combat these tendencies in myself at times.

  2. Hey Brent!! Hope you are doing well!!!

    Thanks for your thoughts and comments, and I pray your ministry is going strong. You have been serving faithfully now for over 40 years!!! Amazing!!

  3. Dan, this was outstanding. I am sharing it with many leaders. What a gift you are! I think self-awareness is just key to being an effective leader. This article pushes you to investigate one’s soul.
    We all suffer from “curvature of the soul” and we need articles like this to push us to get straight. God bless you in the days ahead. Bill

    1. Hey Bill,

      Thanks my friend and I love your thought about “curvature of the soul.”

      I appreciate you!

  4. Philip Whitehead


    Once again I am amazed at God’s wisdom in you and your insight into church leadership and people in general. I have wrestled with each one of these enemies of the soul at some point in my life and ministry. Even though battles have been won over them in previous days doesn’t guarantee that they won’t rear their ugly heads again. I was reminded by the Holy Spirit within the past 2 weeks that I was being tempted to envy a pastor friend’s success. Thank Father for His loving corrections!

    Definitely share-worthy with our leadership team.

    1. Hey Philip!

      Very kind and encouraging words, and most of us have wrestled this enemies of the soul. Let’s keep helping each other conquer the temptations!

  5. Thank you Pastor Dan! As usual you brought a great word in due season! The one that spoke the loudest to me was Complacency, with emphasis on the one about being bored. Ouch!

    1. Ken,

      Yup, boredom can get to lots of leaders!

      Keep pressing on and stay in touch with your passion and calling!

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