Dangerous Spirituality 


What happens when we lose self-control?

Have you ever fallen into the hands of a high pressure salesman? You finish up buying something you didn't want or will never need.

I once went to a sales presentation and saw first-hand how easily the presenter could manipulate intelligent people into buying his expensive product that was little more than a website address. Of course his subtle psychological tricks were well hidden, but it has to be said that his pitch was enjoyable, powerful and almost irresistible. However, those who decided to buy his product, did so while they were being psychologically manipulated.

The 2 big questions are: should this sort of manipulation be used in our churches? And does God and the Gospel really need this sort of deceitful assistance?

In many churches the usual pattern of the services has changed radically over the last fifty years. Obviously we all have different tastes, but the changes have happened slowly and this sort of gradual change can be deceiving.

There is no doubt that today emotional and psychological manipulation is often the order of the day. For many people this is what they want, but is it what God wants from his worshippers?

God seeks genuine worshippers, and his searching eyes see right into our hearts, He wants us to live lives of worship, not just to experience an emotional high induced by psyched-up meetings.

In this brief article I want to expose some of the subtle ways that we can be manipulated and deceived.

A Basic Thing

We need to understand the basic fact that, although ‘spirituality' is now very trendy, it’s not all good or even safe. On the one hand there is a spirituality that comes from the Kingdom of Darkness and on the other hand, that which comes from the Kingdom of Light. These two spiritual worlds are not compatible at all, they have completely different aims and purposes. One will lead you to destruction and the other to eternal life. No matter how appealing it may seem, there is nothing in the Kingdom of Darkness that is useful in the Kingdom of light.

The Bible is the word of God and it enables us to distinguish between the good and the bad spiritual worlds. Its teaching helps us discern spiritual things. We need to understand, trust and use the Bible correctly, in order to be safe.


As long ago as the Old Testament, the mind altering effects of music were recognised. David played his harp to calm King Saul, and in the psalms he also encourages loud and rhythmic music as an act of worship and expression of joy.

There has to be a point where we draw the line and clearly state, 'this is acceptable,' but 'this is not.’ 

We need to see dangers like:

The over-repetition of rhythmic songs, which can be hypnotic.

Some modern dance rhythms and repetitive movements create trance-like states.

Yoga-style meditative or centering prayer and breathing exercises that are aimed intentionally at emptying the mind, all of which effectively switches off our discernment and opens our souls to ungodly spirits

We need to recognise 'what is of God and what is actually hype?' it’s a matter for spiritual discernment AND it can be verified by Scripture.

Can we really be discerning and spiritually careful if we are in a hypnotic state? Clearly not, because Scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit is a Spirit of self-control.

1 Thessalonians 5;21.:Test all things, and hold fast to that which is good.

If you are spaced-out or in a highly emotional state, I would suggest that you cannot make good decisions and sound judgments. This leaves you open to be deceived.

If, in the process of meditative prayer, you have emptied your mind, you have also emptied yourself of God's still small voice that should be warning you that something is wrong. You cannot trust anything that happens as a result of this sort of prayer. You have opened yourself up to the world of familiar spirits, the realm of spiritual deception from the Kingdom of Darkness. 

Clearly what goes on in our churches is also a matter of ethics, as Christians we should not allow manipulation of any sort, we should be above that sort of deceitful behaviour, and yet it's commonplace today.

All practices that encourage people to lose control of themselves, are clearly not godly! God has given us a Spirit of Self Control. I’m often challenged by people who say to me that after Pentecost the people thought the disciples were drunk. I tell them to go back and read the scripture again, because it’s very clear that they thought the disciples were drunk because they were speaking in tongues. There is no suggestion that they were staggering around and falling over like zombies as often happens in churches today.

I’ve seen churches that encourage and practice forms of worship aimed specifically at producing an emotional atmosphere where people simply cannot be discerning. This is far removed from the Biblical pattern of love, order, reverence and discipline.


The varied examples in Scripture of David's harp playing and songwriting demonstrate that we do have plenty of scope to accommodate people's tastes; services don’t have to be dull or boring.

We do have an enemy though and we live in a time where the wheat and the tares stand side-by-side in our churches and are, in truth, worshipping different gods. We must be especially careful that we don't follow pagan rituals and ways of praying in a misguided attempt to make people feel ’spiritual'. 

I challenge you to look carefully at the lyrics of some songs we sing in worship today. Even some 'reputed’ Christian groups and song writers are incorporating new-age doctrines in the lyrics! 

Isaiah’s prayer to God in Chapter 2 v 6 could well apply to many churches today.

You have abandoned your people - because they are full of superstitions from the east, they practice divination and clasp hands with pagans.


God really does want us to be careful and discerning, to be awake to our enemy who is now within our churches.

In all of our care and discerning though we need to remember that God is Sovereign. The Scriptures are there to keep us safe and in order, they are not there to limit the Holy Spirit!

Test all things, (1 Thess. 5 v 21-22), 2 Timothy 1;7

Beware of emotional and psychological hype. If you find yourself getting carried away, and without the ability to be discerning, or you're being manipulated to cause you to lose control of yourself, you can be sure that you are not in God's will.

Martyn Cunnington

© Martyn Cunnington revised 2021