4 Symptoms of the Orphan Spirit in Church Life

Spiritual Orphans

‘The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”’ (Rom 8:15)

As Christian believers, our Heavenly Father is constantly present with us by His Spirit. (John 14:18)

Not only is He always with us, but He also loves us passionately and unconditionally. The value God the Father places upon us is such that He paid the price of the life of His Son Jesus to restore us to His family. (John 3:16)
We are not spiritual orphans, but loved daughters and sons.

What is an Orphan Spirit?

The ‘orphan spirit’ refers to a spiritual condition in which some Christians profess outwardly to know God as Father, but experience an internal contradiction to that belief.

Deep down they struggle to comprehend that God loves them. They may harbor feelings of abandonment, fear, unworthiness, or rejection. This may be due to unhealed hurts from painful past experiences.

How do I know? I have been there.

I am grateful for the revelation of God as my loving Heavenly Father that has changed my life.

4 Signs of the Orphan Spirit in Church Life

God called and designed us to be a part of His church family—brothers and sisters in one body together. (Gal 6:10, 1 Cor 12) However, having an orphan perspective can affect our relationships in the church. [1] This includes ministry teams and our response to Christian leadership.

Here are 4 symptoms of the orphan spirit in church life, along with the Father’s corresponding invitation to healing:

1. Competing and Needing to Stand Out

Spiritual orphans do not feel accepted and feel the need to prove their worth.

This may result in:

  • Seeking to hide their own limitations
  • Perceiving the strengths of others as competition
  • Secretly taking satisfaction in the weaknesses of others
  • Needing and seeking attention.

Our Father’s invitation is to a place of unconditional acceptance and to rest in our unique, God-given identity. (1 Cor 12:18)

Sons and daughters embrace both their strengths and weaknesses—comfortable both with who they are and Whose they are. They cover each other’s weaknesses and joyfully add their combined strengths to the family.

2. Isolation or Independence

Deep down the orphan does not feel as though he or she belongs in the family. Suffering a sense of abandonment, the instinct of an orphan is to go it alone.

This may result in:

  • Withdrawal, physically or emotionally from others.
  • An attitude of independence.

Our Father’s invitation is one of welcome embrace, to a place of belonging in His family. (Eph 1:5)

Sons and daughters embrace interdependence—the need of each other. Brothers and sisters celebrate being joined together as a family and working as a team.

3. Fear and Insecurity

The spiritual orphan is unsure of his or her place in the family. Orphans also feel uncovered and unprotected—therefore their instinct is to protect themselves and their position.

This may result in:

  • A constant need for reassurance by leaders [2]
  • Lack of confidence in their spiritual gifts, and any ministry position they have been given.
  • They need to prove themselves.
  • Being protective and territorial about their ministry areas

Our Father’s invitation is to a place of security in His love, care, and constant oversight. (Matt 10:29-31)

Sons and daughters have nothing to fear, already secure in their Father’s love and place in the family. They can trust in Father’s faithfulness even when changes or trials occur in church life.

4. Performance-Orientation

The spiritual orphan feels rejected—therefore believing that he or she must compensate by working hard or performing well in order to be recognized.

This may result in:

  • A constant drive to perform well
  • Judging the weaknesses or performance of other team members or leaders
  • Having feelings of mistrust towards others—feeling they are going to be ‘punished’ at any time

Our Father’s invitation is to experience the fullness of His undeserved grace and favor. (Eph 1:6)

Sons and daughters generously extend grace to others’ failure to measure up to actual or perceived standards. This is because they know the fullness of the Father’s grace towards them.

Sons and daughters respond well to measurements or reviews in work or ministry, knowing that they exist to call forth the best from the team.

The Father’s Invitation

‘Yet to all who did receive [Jesus], to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.’ (John 1:12)

Here is the good news of the Gospel: the Father freely receives us as His beloved children! If you can relate to having the perspective of a spiritual orphan, I encourage you to make use of the suggested articles and resources below.

Even those of us who know the Father’s personal love for us may occasionally slip back into an orphan mentalityThis can be a temptation when we are weary, under stress, or have been through a difficult time.

When this happens, the Holy Spirit, our ‘Spirit of Adoption’ will quickly alert us to it. And at that very moment, we can respond to His invitation to step back and rest in our Father’s love.


[1] The same dynamics may also be seen in families, friendships, and non-church teams.

[2] The challenge of leaders is to continue to move in the opposite spirit—acting as true spiritual parents, and representing the Father’s love, even when they themselves are not being perceived as such.

Other Articles and Resources:

  • 1 Father, 2 Sons, 3 Positions. This post on the Prodigal Son describes my own ‘internal contradiction’ and how I was set free by coming home to the Father.

Join the Enliven Prophetic School

  • Would you like clear and easy to understand, Biblical teaching on the prophetic gift and ministry?
  • Do you need some straightforward keys to get you on track as you learn and develop in prophecy?

I warmly invite you to join me at the Enliven Prophetic School.

Can you think of other signs of the orphan spirit in church life? Leave a comment in the comments box.

© Helen Calder Enliven Blog – Prophetic Teaching

Enliven Ministries: in the David McCracken Ministries family

15 thoughts on “4 Symptoms of the Orphan Spirit in Church Life”

  1. Hi Helen, Thank you so much for this very Powerful, inspirational and Life Changing Teaching. I too have been growing and I still continue to grow in this ever-increasing knowledge and deeper revelation of GOD as “Abba, Father”.
    I love the reference to 1 Corinthians chapter 12, the whole chapter is so Beautiful, speaks to me about UNITY in the Body of CHRIST, and the mystery of how we are all knitted together in the Body of CHRIST through Our Lord JESUS.

    One Heart, One Mind, in One Accord
    Through the Precious BLOOD of The LORD
    Brothers and Sisters
    Sons and Daughters of The Living GOD
    We are Bound to each other in LOVE
    Through the Precious BLOOD of the SON
    The Body of CHRIST is ONE

    Like the Honey and the Bee
    Like the Sand and the Sea
    Like a Tapestry
    We are to be in UNITY
    Our Heart must be ONE

    We are to be in UNITY
    We are to be in Harmony
    Just like a Perfect Symphony

    ONE HEART, Totally Surrendered to Heavens Authority
    ONE VOICE, Heard with such a Clarity
    ONE BODY, Moving with Powerful Destiny

    Brothers and Sisters in Harmony
    We are of ONE BODY
    We are of ONE BLOOD
    We are of ONE SAVIOUR

    Poem by Irene Kyriacou

    1. Hi Irene, thanks so much for your wonderful thoughts and poem! Your thoughts have made me ponder on the amazing truth that unity really is the fruit of being established in our place of security as the Father’s sons and daughters. Love it!
      Hope you can come along to Breakthrough Night tonight, would love to see you!

  2. Helen,
    It is a great teaching about the orphan spirit and it reminds me of a promotion video which I have seen in a church few years ago. It talks about how bad the condition of an orphanage in the mainland China. Everybody cried after seeing that video and thank God for some Christian organization which was willing to commit in building up some better standard orphanage in there and able to share the gosple , really love and care for the children until they grow up and finish their Education. It was so touched and seeing the love of our heavenly Father who wants to care for His children especially to the orphans at all times.Although many of us are not orphans but we do sometimes have an orphan spirit to torture our life and only the love of God can really heal us and set us free. Thank you for your article and God bless you.

  3. Orphans rebel against authority. They don’t know how to be a son but they have a strong desire to be a father. Unfortunately, they don’t know how to be a healthy father and ultimately produce more orphans.

  4. Hi,

    Cannot read any where in the Bible that has anything to do with a Orphan Spirit… actual the Bible says the opposite, that God wont leave you Orphans…. if people are themselves feeling that way then simply they are simply may not then be maintaining prayer and Bible reading, and need encouragement and not some new doctrine called a Orphan Spirit, its like people use to prayer about people who have a poverty Spirit? this to contradicts what the Bible says, that God says Blessed are the Poor in Spirt for these is the Kingdom of God, Blessed are the Peacemakers etc….

    What is lacking most and more so is Love in the Churches 4 walls…. if you have not Love the Bible says you are nothing. wow, so I would rather focus on the renewing of the Love of God in the church that the Bible says will grow cold in the end days that running around and preaching about Orphan spirits, by Love we conquer everything, it by our deeds, as Bibek says Faith with out works is Dead…. so enough Words and so many adde don new topics as God says noting is new under the sun.

    By the way Moses was the only recorded first real Orphan even then he was cared for by another…. Adam choose to turn away form God, this nerd meant And was ever a Orphan or at all had such a spirt this is not correct, as HIS Father never left him in the first place. God says He never leaves or forsakes any one and still he cannot deny his own creation.

    There has to be a lot more practice outworking as well of the fruit of the Spirit this then product the Love and Compassion of Christ, then there won’t be all this added on things.

    1. Hi Nelly, you are totally right – God says He has not left us orphans, we are His beloved children. That is the truth – and that is why any other experience or motivation that does not line up with that spiritual reality needs to be exposed and dealt with.

  5. Hi Helen,
    This is an awesome awakening for many. When my mom married,my stepfather didnt know much about fathering.To add insult to injury,he was a minister,preacher and later a pastor.It was made clear to me and two brothers that we were only there because he couldnt have my mom without taking us,also.He was “stuck” with us. That left me with a feeling of not being wanted. One day,My heavenly Father said to me,”Janice, I’m not stuck with you,I chose you, I love you.” My heart was healed,that day, from feeling unwanted.I knew my mother loved and wanted me,but it was something about being wanted by the one representing the position of “father” in my life, that seemed to be missing.

    1. Hi Janice, what a significant testimony! You have had a lot to overcome. How good, and amazing, is our Heavenly Father and His love! <3

  6. I never thought to describe it as an “orphan mindset”, but this describes what I saw in my own local church that I grew up in. There was an atmosphere of competition and envy that drove me away from close relationships with church leaders. On a personal level, this mindset drove me into depression. I feel worthless without a career/degree.

    Thank you for the reminder to reconnect with God who loves us, and that His love should motivate both the church on me as a individual — not our/my own selfish ambition.

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