Have you ever met somebody who was "overchurched"? Instead of a relationship with God, they have a relationship with the idea of attending church, doing church, doing instead of being. In the scriptures, it's the elder brother in the parable of the prodigal son.
Heavy stuff I know. Some call it a "religious spirit".
How can you tell if somebody has a religious spirit?
They value doing before being. They are constantly busy "doing" the work of God with no thought to continuing an ongoing real, vital relationship with the Lord. Prayer meetings are not a priority. Worship is something to be endured.
They value fear and intimidation. When you are around them you sense that something is not quite right. For no reason at all you feel a sense of dread and anxiety.
They value comparison. They are constantly comparing others with others and themselves with others who aren't quite "as spiritual" as they are. They are watching to see who is at what meeting, who is participating and who is not, and when someone is not there, there is an attitude of superiority.
They value God as an end and not a means. God is not first a friend but a way to continue to lifestyle that they have, many times, since they were children.
They value suspicion. They are suspicious of people's motivates and intentions, always wondering what "someone has up their sleeve." They reject the idea of taking anything at face value.
they value stopping what's wrong more than doing what's right. They are self-proclaimed watchdogs of the kingdom. Making sure that nothing is "new age" or is contrary to what their own value system.
They value the opinions of people over the opinions of man. They dialogue and talk and brainstorm and then pray and seek God's opinion rather than the other way around.
They value record keeping. In meetings, they take copious notes, not for the sake of information, but for the sake of "catching" someone later on with an inconsistency.
They value age above competence ore desires in leadership choices.
How do you break a religious spirit?
Learn to share your positive testimony. Talk about what is going right rather than what is going wrong. Focus on the positive rather than the negative. A religious spirit feeds on what is going wrong.
Learn to give thanks. Rehearsing what is going right and giving thanks regularly breaks a religious spirit.
Learn to neutralize fear by love. Reaching out and continuing to show love. Resist the temptation to avoid someone with a religious spirit but prayerfully let the spirit of love overcome a spirit of intimidation.
Learn to practice positive meetings more than corrective ones. Those with a religious spirit will bristle if they think they are being corrected.
Learn to practice generosity. A religious spirit is stingy and fearful about money. Generosity builds true spirituality.
Learn to feel empathy for people around you. Sharing stories of people who have faced the depths of life can restore or build true love and will break the hard heart of the religious spirit.
Learn to develop new eyes yourself and see what's right. Pray to see all the miraculous things God is already executing in our church.