A disease that reeks havoc on organic churches is what I call “spiritual dwarfism.” We have an organ in our brain called the pituitary gland. It’s also known as the master gland, and it’s responsible for physical growth. If that organ is deformed or it’s not working properly, it will stunt a person’s growth. Experts call it “pituitary dwarfism.”
Spiritual dwarfism is the arrested spiritual development of a church. When a church is inflicted with this crippling disease, its spiritual growth is retarded and it experiences spiritual inertia. The symptoms for diagnosis are as follows:
* Only a few people function when the church gathers. The rest are passive spectators. Note: One of the marks of a spiritual babe is that they always need to have food dished out to them. They are always receiving and never giving.
* There is virtually no spiritual depth to what is shared in the church’s meetings. People talk about “things”—religious things, Biblical things, even spiritual things. But there is hardly anything said that reflects a living and experiential knowledge of the Lord. What is shared is shallow, superficial, and surface. It may be intellectually and theologically stimulating. But it’s spiritually empty and colorless. Put another way, the group thrives on milk. There is an absence of solid spiritual food.
* The believers never talk about the Lord outside of scheduled meetings. There is no handling of Christ during the week. The only time He gets any air-time at all is when the church gathers together. And even then it’s quite minimal.
The root cause of this malady is malnutrition. To paraphrase the prophet Amos, “There is a famine in the church; not of one of food or water, but of hearing the Lord’s word.” Amos 8:11.
The prevention and treatment for this sickness is a steady diet of strong spiritual meat. Exposure to ministries that can feed the church with spiritual meat and teach it to feed itself is vital.
Another healthy prescription is to invite another church, one that is more spiritually mature than your church, to have a weekend spiritual retreat with the members of your church.
Pneuma is the Greek word for “spirit.” Hyper means “too much.” Hyperpneumia is an unhealthy focus on the miraculous activity of the Holy Spirit. Churches that are pathologically obsessed with supernatural phenomena and demonstrations of the miraculous suffer from this disease. Here are the symptoms:
* The members seek signs and wonders right up to the Adam’s apple.
* In every meeting, each member seeks to get his or her own individual needs met by the supernatural workings of the Holy Spirit. They show up to meetings like empty vessels expecting to be filled. They come expecting a feeling, a sign, a wonder, a miracle, a personal word of prophecy, etc.
* The church becomes completely dependent on meetings where each person is praying and prophesying over one another. If this doesn’t happen, the meeting is regarded as a failure, and members conclude that the Holy Spirit wasn’t present.
* When the hype fades and the phenomenological experiences begin to wane, members begin to feel that something is amiss. Their faith takes a dive. They grow bored with the gatherings. They either try to pump up the gifts of the Spirit in the energy of human emotion or they conclude that God has given up on the group. In the latter case, some will pack their bags and go elsewhere to find where “the Holy Spirit is moving.” (This becomes a never ending cycle in the life of some Christians.)
The prevention and treatment for hyperpneumia is to discover and explore the interior Christian life. The remedy is found in understanding the difference between an indwelling Lord and the outward power of the Spirit. It’s in learning the difference between the felt-presence of God and the awareness of God’s presence.
In cases where the disease has become terminal, the remedy is to drop everything, clear the decks, and start all over again. Only this time, everyone in the group should take time to learn how to become non-religious. Each person’s concepts of spiritual gifts should be laid down at the cross of Christ. The whole church should take a vacation from exercising spiritual gifts and learn Jesus Christ like new-born babes. This is one sure way to kill the virus.