If you hear words of similar line spoken and taught in the community you belong, or your teenage daughter or son has become suddenly a social recluse, spending more and more time in fellowship with a particular group, not having any personal time, increasingly becoming intolerant to any criticism or input particularly about the group and its leader watch out! you or your child could be in a cult and it’s time to flee or rescue.
In Matthew 7:15-17 Jesus himself warns us “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.
There are many form of cults prevalent in our time, some examples are religious cults, Dooms day cults, political cults, destructive cults and terrorist’s cults like the ISIS etc.
Our concern today are the Christian counterfeit cults. Those are the ones we are likely to encounter.
What Is A Counterfeit Christian Cult?
These are a group of people gathered around a specific person’s misinterpretation of the Bible. Listed below are the Marks of a counterfeit Christian Cult.
1.Extra Biblical Revelation –
Many Cults claim that God is progressively revealing new truth that may supersede what is already recorded in the Bible.
Sometimes they may even exhibit a segmental Biblical attention, which may result in a focus attention of certain part of the scripture to the exclusion of others.
2. Salvation By Works
One must serve the organization to attain salvation, disciples can never be certain they have done enough for salvation hence they are kept in a perpetual state of bondage and an uncertain hope.
3. Doctrinal Distortion
The sure mark of a cult is the denial of the deity of Christ. Most cults deny that Christ was both God and Man, they
often reduce him to the level of a prophet or teacher. They would often say they believe in Jesus, but we have to ask
them, which Jesus? The foundation of Christianity rests on our beliefs about Christ. The question that Jesus asked Peter Matthew 16:15 is coming back to us? Who do you say I am? – You are Christ the son of the living God.
4. Denunciation Of Others.
Cults are very exclusive, they have an elitist mentality and are convinced that their views alone are correct and that their leader is the only one who possesses the truth. They also exhibit isolationism, in order to protect the members from being corrupt they are prohibited from communicating with those outside the organization who do not agree with the teachings of the group.
5. Dominant Leadership
Many cults elevate a human leader and his teaching to a messianic level. Some cults even believe that their leader is Christ reincarnated. This person represents divine authority that must not be violated. These leaders are generally super-organizers, charismatic with a very strong personality.
6. Financial Exploitation
Cult members have a never ending financial obligation to their group. The follower is urged, almost forced to exhaust his economic resources. The follower is often promised that he can escape the miseries of the world by investing their hard earned money in the cult.
7. Difficult Exit Process
Leaving the organization is considered by many to be leaving god. Many are warned that if they leave they will be condemned to hell. Many ex-members are harassed by the organization even after they leave.
What are the reason for the growth of cults?
It is a fulfillment of warning given by Jesus and the apostles. Mat 24:23-26.
Breakdown of family. Cults provide the family atmosphere many from broken homes long for. The cult leader often takes the place of a father figure.
Failure of the church to teach the Bible and sound doctrine in its totality to the people.
Most people join cults because of psychology and not theology. People who face emotional problems, insecure people especially if their own churches dœs not provide for them a warm and friendly atmosphere. Some people join the cult as an act of rebellion, even revenge and retaliation perhaps even against their own parents or people in the church. Some people are filled with hostility and aggression, they simply must have an imaginary enemy to fight! Cults provide the target and ammunition. “the world is out to get you!”. For some it a running away from reality.
They could also be young people who are very idealistic convinced that the cult leader has a vision and a program for the world.
There are several barriers to be crossed before our message makes sense to a cult member.
Communication barrier: Some terms we use may mean completely different things to yourself and them.
Distrust barrier: They are often plagued by fear of outsiders.
Social barrier: challenging them to accept Christ we are in effect inviting them to renounce the community on which all their social relationship depends.
Mental barrier: they could be subjected to brain washing hence may not be in a state to argue or understand logically.
Spiritual barrier: Their eyes have been blinded by the evil one hence we need to approach them with much prayers.
Rescuing a cult member.
1) Our first step is to find out why the person joined the cult to begin with. Chances are that the person had a hidden psychological or emotional reason for joining that must be dealt with primarily.
2) Our personal relationship with the cultist is just as important as sharing the word with him. This could be a journey, we need to ask if we have love and compassion for the person. Approach the person as a soul who is on a hopeless journey to hell and in need of the love of God. Don’t treat them like a ‘sociological aberration’ or a treacherous limb of Satan.
3) It is important to listen even to unjust accusations against the church and the Bible. We need to handle with maturity and resist getting provoked and falling to his level where we start accusing and using strong words against their leader whom they see as god.
When communicating these understandings may help.
Be cryptic- Do not let your own opinion show quickly. Be open- Ask questions
Be honest- accept his criticisms if it is genuine.
Be accepting- treat him as a friend
Be sensitive- never unnecessary attach ideas to people whom the cult member is emotionally attached to. Be relaxed- they are used to serious approaches- sense of humor helps
Be upsetting- Ask questions which will provoke thoughts, invoke memories.
For the ex-cult member, understanding and experiencing the forgiveness of Christ is only the first step. Helping them to walk in victory takes close discipleship and care. In Acts 20 Paul exhorts the leaders of the church to protect their flock from false teachers. Every child of God is called to know the truth and to confront false teaching, protect the church and family from it.
Titus George is a Dentist by profession and one of the Elders of the Union Church, Coonoor. He is a Bible Teacher and along with his wife Ruby run a dental clinic to serve the community at Aravankadu.