How to Watch for the Signs of Falling Away, so that You Don’t!
Updated: May 11
By Deborah Bell
(Lead Apostle DGAN Global Network and DGFC churches)
(Originally posted 18 December, 2014)
DON’T LET ANYTHING KEEP YOU FROM YOUR SPIRITUAL HOME!
Remember those confessions you made about your spiritual home, your church?
Remember the covenant you made with Christ and therefore also with the House of the LORD?
Don’t let anything stand in your way of belonging to a healthy body of Christ…not even your “stuff”!
STAGES OF FALLING AWAY IN THE BODY OF CHRIST
People have heard me talk generally about the stages of falling away and so I’ve decided to share some general points and patterns of signs to watch for.
I’ve been wanting to write this article for the last year but God knows the right timing. I
know it is a long one, but it will be one of those that you can put in your memory bank!
Hopefully you can help others through it!
Let me start by saying that although every pastor knows that every church has what is
called a “revolving door”, no pastor EVER wants to see ANYONE walk out of that door!
There is not one pastor I know that doesn’t “mourn” when people leave the church.
Why? Because pastors love their flock with the love of GOD and they will do everything in
their power to offer a person that has fallen into hopelessness, or grown cold, or for
whatever reason has shifted; wise godly counsel to stay, if they will have ears to hear.
The Church is not just an organisation, it’s the family of GOD. Pastors invest their time in
people’s lives because they see people as GOD does, recognizing their full potential and
wanting to see that realized in every person.
We are living in an age, where the word teaches that people will fall from the body of
Christ, that the road is narrow and few will enter on it.
Make sure you are entering through the narrow gate, and not the broad one because the
broad one seems or appears more attractive in the now. Don’t let your fear of overcoming
obstacles keep you from your God given inheritance.
When a person leaves the church, they most often are throwing away their God ordained
destiny. Unless it is because they are following the heart of God for a new ministry in the
church or God has called them elsewhere. But this will always be confirmed by Holy Spirit and your Fivefold Leader or Pastor, who will help you and support you if this is the case.
But when these so called God 'directives' are never confirmed by Holy Spirit and mature solid people or leaders in your church; or you receive 'confirmation' by those that are not actively in the Church or are not seasoned, it may be that these are the directives of the desires of your flesh and not from the Lord. Check your spirit.
Christians that know your spiritual walk, should always be honest with you and they are usually people that can see when you're moving in a direction that causes you to break covenants ordained by the Lord.
God always brings confirmation in line with the Word and usually when its from
the LORD your leaders will always support you. When it's not they will still be there to support you but they will give you 'signposts' along the way to guide you, the rest is up to you! They have no motivation except love for you and to see you flourish.
If you see a brother or sister in these below stages; Pray for them, and then talk to them in love. Tell them what’s on your heart. Share with them what the Word of God has to say. If we love one another we will speak the truth in love. Not in a cliche of love.
What are some of the causes of falling away?
It really varies, and one cannot list everything here, as everyone is an individual. Ultimately it is stuff like;
not following the word that God is speaking into our lives through Holy Spirit, our leaders, our friends. (By the way, those words, will always work in agreement if they are from the LORD.)
It’s outright disobeying God, and continuing to follow our own desires; whether it be the need for acceptance, or because we've not been dealing with issues that cause us to make wrong decisions which come from a place of fear. Then that old cycle of “gilgal” leads us to further blindness as we follow the wrong voices. Often, people know the right thing to do, but continue to follow the flesh. With the result they feel guilty, therefore draw further away.
They also tend to blame others instead of taking responsibility for their part in where they’ve ended up; and so it goes on. It’s allowing our weaknesses to be taken captive by the enemy as well as our minds, instead of the other way around!
Sometimes, it is misunderstanding, confusion, lack of communication, isolating (not sharing) or plain immaturity both spiritually and emotionally.
General disobedience is in essence, missing the mark, which is what sinning is. Example: people allow the fruit of the evil one to dominate in their lives instead of the fruit of the Spirit. Fruit like: Stubborn-heartedness for example, which is a root of pride. Hearts that have grown cold, which lead to us distorting the truth because we are led by the flesh and our intellect (limited knowledge), not Holy Spirit. The list can be endless.
Sadly, most people falling away are already at the blind stage and have closed their ears, to hear the truth, and their hearts have grown cold, so they are not willing to receive or hear. The Word spoken over their lives, is quickly forgotten, precious relationships are forgotten and the spiral begins.
Some desire to move and shift from falling away, and do take heed of what the LORD is
But I have found the greatest stumbling block of people resisting the truth and moving
closer to the the “Abyss” is when they do not trust both the voice of Holy Spirit and the godly counsel given to them. (Make sure it's God's voice you're listening to not just your own desires.)
Either way, because they have not overcome the “strongholds” in their lives caused from woundedness that is unhealed, they stumble in the area of trust and can end up listening to the voice of the snake...."Did God really say..." The evil one just needs to sow enough doubt...
They have not had sufficient healing in areas like that of being betrayed, low self esteem (lack of self worth), etc. and so the enemy will play on those areas creating a blind spot to entice people.
Remember he came to Jesus in the desert at “an opportune time”. It was when Jesus had
been fasting and was hungry that he offered him food! (Luke 4:1-12).
The devil is unoriginal, he said to Jesus, “If you are the son of God, turn these stones into
bread.” – He enticed by trying to challenge Jesus’ identity. If Jesus had low self esteem and didn’t know who he was, he might have fallen for it!
Then coupled with that, he attempted to plant seeds of doubt at a time when Jesus was
Don’t fall for it! Stay the course, stay on the road and the House to which you belong!
Strongholds cause blindness. If we are healed from them we may fall but we will get up
quickly and let others help us up, back on the road to life again. When we don’t release
strongholds, this is a very difficult process and most that are falling away continue on their journey in the wrong direction.
The sad thing about this is that they very seldom ever return to their spiritual home even
though they know they should, because of the stronghold of pride. It is a vicious circle for
them, and very difficult to see their way clear, to move out out of the place of the flesh
Pray for those in need, and pray that you will be ever discerning and never to proud to correct your mistakes.
Hebrews 6:4-6 For it is impossible [to restore and bring again to repentance] those who have been once for all enlightened, who have consciously tasted the heavenly gift and have become sharers of the Holy Spirit, And have felt how good the Word of God is and the mighty powers of the age and world to come, If they then deviate from the faith and turn away from their allegiance–[it is impossible] to bring them back to repentance, for (because, while, as long as) they nail upon the cross the Son of God afresh [as far as they are concerned] and are holding [Him] up to contempt and shame and public disgrace.
Let’s take a brief look at just a few of the stages and signs of falling away.
Stage 1 – FORSAKING OUR FIRST LOVE
The first stage is losing our first love, Jesus Christ. Most that are in the initial stages of
falling away usually don’t see this happening or think it is. But it can easily be determined
by a simple assessment of one’s priorities. Is God first or not? If other things are taking the
place of where the LORD should be, this can easily result in the first stage of falling away.
The problem with this, is that most often people don’t even realize how far they have
drifted off from their first love, until they in the presence of God again. This is the very
thing the enemy tries to keep people from. We must guard our hearts, friends.
Mark 12:30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’
Stage 2 – OUR LEVEL OF INTIMACY & PRAYER BECOMES SHALLOW
This is seen in the change of the nature of our relationship with Christ. We will talk about
him, say how we love him, still sing the songs, talk the talk, but stop walking the walk.
Our level of intimacy in our personal prayer lives begins to shift and most likely and very
shortly after, our desire to be part of any ministry fades and we become “out of character”,
as we move closer to the “old creation” and further away from the new creation in Christ.
It’s NB to note, that these stages are gradual and subtle. Most pastors will be able to see it happening to people, but often cannot do anything but pray until and unless something
obvious happens where a conversation can be had about it.
Sadly, at this point most people that are falling away will see it as chastising or condemning instead of caring. This happens because even at the early stages of falling away, people have already chosen the flesh; in other words, earthly desires over the LORD and their Christian walk and relationship with GOD.
Their desire is no longer a passion for HIS name but a passion for “earthly wealth” and
At this point most that are falling away will become defensive, and unteachable and,
because they have shifted, they will also begin to see people they once loved or leaders
they held in high regard, as the “enemy”. They will imply that you’ve changed, not them.
1 Jn 3:18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.
Stage 3 – A RELIGIOUS MINDSET SETS IN
Hearts are hardened and become calloused, causing people to no longer “hear with their
ears” what the Spirit is saying through God’s people or directly to the heart and spirit.
There is a drawing away from the family of God, and a lack of desire to be at the house of
the LORD even on a Sunday becomes the norm.
At this point, those falling away will often begin to “rally” around others that have fallen
away. This helps them to sub consciously justify their position. But by doing so they give
ear to the voice of the enemy and they allow the spirit of accusation to enter.
They then become a conduit for the enemy instead of for God. All the while, distortions are setting in, of how they now see their once spiritual home.
Instead of realizing the truth, they become like Eve in the garden, because they’ve lent
their ears, and they think they’ve now become enlightened to the truth! They begin to
spend time with religious people whose lives are not in line with the word of God, even
taking advice from them.
As the level of moving away from the plan of God continues, people that are falling away
will often “find reasons” as to why they can’t attend services etc. Some will even “see”
things about their leaders that were never there, by drawing assumptions from toxic
Some will even imply that “the Pastor has changed” or something they’ve done or said is
“wrong”. While this may be true in few instances, in this context, inevitably, when it comes
to falling away, it is not so in my experience.
Mar 7:6 He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied… : “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”
Stage 4 – THE JUSTIFICATION PROCESS
This is often shrouded in the following cliche, “I have a good relationship with God and I
don’t need to go to church to commune with God.”
Yes, that is very true… initially at least, but what about after that? What is the measure one
will use to grow? Who will you be accountable to? How will you learn?
The Church was established by God to guide us into truth and help us heal from our
brokenness, so that we could be all that God has intended us to be and to do.
I cannot recall one person in the almost a quarter of a century I’ve been in ministry, that
has isolated themselves from belonging to a body of believers, who has remained full of the Spirit, and has truly grown. Let alone having the staying power to live in Him in isolation.
Excuses are made to continually avoid those deeply involved in the Body of Christ and
then justification begins. The justification is based on needing to find a reason as to why
the person/s no longer wants to attend the family/church they once called their spiritual
Even if they cannot pinpoint a direct example of something that has been said or done that would cause them to leave, they will have already distorted the picture in their minds
through the blindness that comes from moving away from the plan of God. This will cause them to “find a reason”.
It is truly sad, as at this point in a healthy church, there has usually been some form of
dialogue or godly counsel or positive interaction to help the person to see past whatever
has caused them to stumble. Yet all too often, this can fall on “deaf” ears when a person has already been blinded by their pursuit of “their own truth”.
It’s a simple equation really; it’s the desire to pursue the flesh rather than obey God in
most instances. Whether it be challenges that need to be overcome in our lives, or physical transitions, or anything else, it boils down to the wanting what “we” want rather than following our God given destiny and purpose.
When a pastor sees this, usually in a healthy church environment, they will always be
asking themselves, “could I have done anything more/ or differently?”
Most pastors I know, have nothing to gain, by giving their time to those they love,
especially in prayer, and counsel when they see these things happening.
It is always a humbling experience for pastors, but more than this, it is a very very sad
experience to see people falling away not just from their spiritual family and home, but
from the plan of God for their lives to prosper them in all their ways. DON’T let the devil get a foothold in your life, friends!
The word says this in 1 Cor 10:12-13: