Signs of a Cult, Not a Church

In the past ten years or so, we have seen so many Churches popping up from every corners of our communities. This is not results in good news as Jesus taught us. 

Through the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights) we heard shocking revelations from former cult leaders and members on how many of these so called "Churches" use Witcraft to get their dupe as well as to control unsuspecting congregants.

In Kenya, a televangelist led his followers deep into the  forest near the coastal town of Malindi, allegedly convincing them to starve to death to meet God. Authorities found mass graves topped with crucifixes of children who apparently starved to death by their deceived parents.

Many of the cults members are women who are recruited when they are going through distressing emotional conflicts; during those vulnerable times and they are promised companionship, peace of mind, and security.  

So how do you spot a cult or a false leader? what are some of those characteristics that  you can look at that can show you that a certain religious group, or church, or organisation is in error theologically or sociologically? There are a few characteristics in which you can identify a cult. 

First, cults can take many forms. Some of these cults are institutionalised. They are well organised. There is a statement of faith, with a good predictable leadership. But there are those others that are autonomous, that are individualistic. 

1. An Overly Strong Charismatic Leader

The leaders of cult organisations always claims that they have special powers, divine revelations and prophetic insights. Then they use these teachings to demand unquestioning obedience from their followers. The cult leader also has ‘favourites’ who he grants small privileges, giving them a sense of importance, while the less favoured are encouraged to try harder to please him, and thus come even more under his domination. Some don't require that much domination but they create a kind of enviroment where people are competiting for the leader's attention.

The Lord's Way

Remember Jesus submitted himself to the faith community. He was baptised by John the Baptist. He went to the local synagogues and worshipped with other open Jewish communities. We even learn from the conversations between Jesus and his disciples that their relationship, between teacher and students, was of a dynamic nature, where is disciples were free to ask Him questions, searched for answers, and challenged the process. Healthy leadership exhibits a two-way relationship.  

2. Distortion of Central Christian Teachings

Those in cults are often be led to believe that they are in the right. Everyone who believes something else is wrong. False teachers from “among the people [en tō laō] . . . secretly bring in destructive heresies” (2 Pet. 2:1). As Paul puts it "some pervert the meaning of Scriptures that are “hard to understand,” doing so “to their own destruction” (2 Pet. 3:16). He also cautioned Timothy about false teachers who “wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions” (1 Tim. 1:6–7). These teachers had ambition but lacked proper understanding of the things they taught. Elsewhere in the same letter, Paul warned, “If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words” (1 Tim. 6:3–4). 

3. The leader uses different means to weaken the minds.

They will use constant lecturing and false teachings to maintain the people’s minds in a constant debilitated state. The leader keeps the devotees constantly fatigued, and deprived of sensory input. The group uses “thought reform” methods to correct each other. “Brainwashing” is used to break down a person’s sense of individual identity. Short cliches such as “just follow your leaders” or “doubt your doubts” are used constantly so that the followers don’t critically analyze complex issues.

4. New Doctrines are Invented

They also invent new doctrines. A case in point the ‘serpent seed‘ doctrine, where it's claimed that the serpent had sexual intercourse with Eve. And that’s how the sinful human race comes about. Another teaching is teaching is the doctrine of pre-existence, which teaches that before we came here on earth, we used to be spirit children of our heavenly father in heaven. All these teachings are not found anywhere in the Bible but have been invented and added as part of Christian doctrine.

So, if you look at how a group deals with the primary teachings of the Christian faith, see how they over-emphasise the secondary doctrines or the new doctrines they have added into the teachings of the Christian faith, you can easily tell whether a group is cultic or not.

Remember, only Jesus can give a real, new, and abundant life! Jesus is the only answer to life because He is indeed the Way, the Truth, and the Life!

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