- 1 Introduction
- 2 BIBLE CULT LEADERS SEE THEMSELVES AS SPECIAL
- 3 SPECIAL REVELATION
- 4 SPECIAL CHURCH
- 5 SPECIAL CHURCH GOVERNMENT
- 6 SPECIAL OBEDIENCE TO THE LEADER
- 7 SPECIAL TEACHING
- 8 SPECIAL TRUTHS
- 9 SPECIAL LIFETIME COMMITTMENT
- 10 SPECIAL PRIVILEGES
- 11 SPECIAL PROPHECY
- 12 HOW CAN I HELP A PERSON WHO HAS LEFT A CULTIC GROUP?
- 13 KEEP PRAYING.
- 14 BE SENSITIVE.
- 15 BE AVAILABLE.
- 16 BE PATIENT.
- 17 LOVE THEM.
I trust that you are rejoicing in Jesus daily. He is so good to His children. All of the riches of Christ are ours to enjoy right now. No work. No wait. Just enjoy. Thank you, Lord.
If you haven't read the book "Churches That Abuse", by Ronald M. Enroth yet, please go to a Bible book store and get it. You can get it in paperback for about $6.00. It will be well worth it, as you get an idea how people are hurt by legalism, authoritarian leadership, and spiritual intimidation. This book helped us greatly when we left the cult group, and I have recommended it to many. Satan is alive and well today, and he certainly doesn't want churches to honour and obey Jesus. Many churches have started, that are honouring and obeying the leader of the church, instead of the Lord. The leadership has taken the place of the Holy Spirit.
Many churches have crossed the line of following the Lord. The leader or leaders have let the power and control that they wield, go to their head. They have given the Lord a back seat. The Bible warns of such false prophets and wolves in sheep's clothing. Note Matthew 7:15 - Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. Also see II Peter 2:1-3. These may indeed be the last days, and we need to be on guard and ever alert for Satan's tactics. We have had several opportunities to speak since our last CULT-TALK, and will be travelling to Iowa for meetings in October. Please pray with us for the Lord to use what we say for His glory. We are available for whatever He has for us. The more we speak, the more people we find who have left a cult, or who have friends or family in a cult group.
There are as many as 10,000 cult groups in America, and between 78% - 80% of the people in them, previously were involved in a Christian church. Pray hard for your Christian brothers and sisters who are deceived, and trapped in these vicious ungodly groups. The leaders of these groups will one day stand before God Almighty to give an account of their actions. God delights in His children praying. Don't give up. The prayer of righteous people are powerful and effective. James 5:16. This issue of CULT-TALK will be a continuation of last issue - How cult leaders see themselves as 'special'. Last issue we pointed out these characteristics of the cult leader:
He will probably have unfulfilled dreams or roots in his childhood.
He tends to devalue others in order to maintain his own exaggerated sense of self-importance.
He will eventually break free of all accountability.
BIBLE CULT LEADERS SEE THEMSELVES AS SPECIAL
It is characteristic for the cult leader to believe and convince followers that he has something that no one else in the group has. Or for that matter, that no leader or person in any other group has. We have compiled a list of ways in which Bible cult leaders and churches may consider themselves 'special'. These are but a few examples, and may be used as a check list of things to watch for if you, or some one you know, will be looking for a new church in the future.
The leader will claim to have had a vision or a revelation direct from God to accomplish some great and wonderful feat. It may have to do with having a huge church, or getting the Word to all the world, or starting numerous churches, or some other great work- something which no one else has been able to accomplish to this day. All members of the group will be expected to help the leader in the fulfilment of his vision. That will take total commitment, and as much work as each is able to give. Historically, the Protestant Church has held the Bible as the ultimate authority, and no man that claims special revelation should be considered as honest or trustworthy.
These cultic groups will maintain that all main line churches have failed at leading people to Christ correctly, and have not caused true spiritual growth to take place in believer's lives. The leader declares his as the only church where one can learn to grow to full spiritual growth (i.e. the abundant life). The people believe that there may be a church somewhere teaching the same truths as this one, but it is unlikely, and therefore this church is set apart, and special. We know from Scripture that Jesus Christ is the Rock upon which the Church is built. There is no 'special' church today set apart from all others because it has something no one else has. (See Matthew 16:18)
SPECIAL CHURCH GOVERNMENT
The cultic church will believe that theirs is the only biblical form of government. The leader (God's voice to the people), trains the elders. The elders answer to the leader, and the leader supposedly answers to the elders which he, the leader, trained. Any elder that dares to question anything stated by the leader, is open to questioning, and scrutiny by the rest of the elders, and the leader. The elders, consequently, are only 'yes' men, and have no say over the leader whatsoever. If any other leaders dare to question or disagree with anything the leader declares, that errant leader will be reprimanded and if not repentant, he will be replaced or removed.
SPECIAL OBEDIENCE TO THE LEADER
The congregation is obedient to the elders in everything - where to work, who to visit, where to go on vacation, what to buy, etc. The more obedient one is to his discipler or elder, seeking out his/her advice, the more likely one would be to obtain acceptance, or abundant life. When the people all reach the place of being obedient in everything, even so far as obeying off-the-wall things, then God may brand that church body the 'Bride of Christ'. It may be the only church ever with that title. This special status may come after the people support the leader in some bizarre or inappropriate behaviour. In one case, the pastor asked the entire congregation to stand in support of what the Lord had told him recently. It seems that the leader was to put aside his wife of twenty years, and take the wife of another man who had left the church about six months earlier in humiliation. Anyone who balked at this revelation, was considered an immature Christian and very faithless.
Two teenage girls questioned this and were labelled before the entire church, as wicked and blasphemous. They had to "get right" before the whole church, which took time and involved punishment. I would like to share a couple Scriptures here. There are many that could be used, but for now consider Timothy 2:5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. We answer to the Lord, and when all is said and done, we will give an account of ourselves, individually before God. It is vital that we do not give ourselves in complete obedience to a mere man. The second verse is I Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. We are individually, personally chosen priests who are to praise God for His wonderful goodness to us in calling us out of darkness, and giving us the joy of life, and the hope of eternity with Him!
Cult churches will usually claim to have some special teaching that no one else has. One such church claims to have the seven steps of spiritual growth. Each step involves certain points to concentrate on and work on before they could pass, and progress to the next step, and so forth, until step seven, which was fulfilment, or the abundant life. Very few people reached this step, and even then they could easily degrees backwards, sometimes even being told that they never were really saved, and must return all the way back to step one - salvation. Of course the Scriptures are quite clear in the teaching of Salvation, faith, growth, joy, and peace in the Christian life, but the cults will twist Scripture, take it out of context, and mis-apply it to fit their selfish goals.
Other truths, worked up by the leader, would be preached or taught as 'inspired'. One such church made a big deal of temperaments, evaluating each person that came to the church, holding seminars, and meeting with them, to let them know what temperament they were, and how they should act since they were now branded as a coleric, sanguine, phlegmatic, or melancholy, or a combination of them. If one disagreed, and felt they were a different temperament, they were told they were immature, and would come to see the truth when they grew more in their spiritual life.
SPECIAL LIFETIME COMMITTMENT
The cultic church sees itself as so special, that members are to commit their lives to the leader for life. If one thought God was leading them elsewhere, they would be completely out of God's will, and would be opening themselves to evil spirits. To leave was to turn ones back on God. Here was a corner on the truth. To turn away from the leader and leave, would mean that one probably wasn't ever truly saved.
Leaders in a cult setting feel that people are answerable to them. The leader is so special and holy, that he can do and say anything and say it is of the Lord. One lady states that having left, and then taken the group to court, the cult leader, under oath in court, purposely lied to cover the fact that a church member was beaten, and a weapon was used as a threat. He brushed off the questions, saying 'I think I would have remembered that'. Cult leaders see themselves as God in the flesh, and they can do no wrong. The people in the group are so brainwashed, and obedient, that they will lie and cover the leader, no matter what. They truly believe that the leader is God's man - a prophet of God, and whatever he says is so. Period.
Prophecies are put forth often. Whenever one thinks of leaving, the leadership declares a prophecy against them. The people are convinced that the prophecies are true, and dare not leave the church, lest the prophecy against them come true. For example, one man was told if he left, he would be blind in six months, and would end up living in a gutter, eating at a mission. A teenager was told she would drop out of school and live on the streets as a prostitute. Another was told that she would be a lesbian. People that have been thinking of leaving for one reason or another, would be reminded often of these prophecies, and live in constant fear that they may be true.
One man was told that if he left, he would soon be back into drugs, and his wife and family would leave him. His wife would be so distraught, that she would end up in a mental institute. The sad thing is that sometimes these prophecies haunt the individual and they are so overwhelmed by the prophecy, that they end up in the very place they were told they would be. The person that leaves the cultic church, is treated as a rebellious, evil-spirit-filled person who is to be avoided at all costs; and all relationships, not only friends, but spouse and children, are broken.
These were the feelings and beliefs of the leadership and the leader, and because the leader was God's voice to the rest of the group, these attitudes and beliefs became everyone's. If one wished to stay in the good graces of the leader, and avoid the prophecies that are spoken concerning them, he would have to totally fall in line with the leader's system. "There are spiritual systems in which-what people think, how they feel and what they need or want does not matter. People's needs go unmet. In these systems, the members are there to meet the needs of the leaders: needs for power, importance, intimacy, value - really, self-related needs. These leaders attempt to find fulfilment through the religious performance of the very people whom they are there to serve and build. This is an inversion in the body of Christ. It is spiritual abuse" (The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, by Johnson & Van Vonderen, page 23). Let me remind you again that these leaders are narcissistic - that is, they are self-loving, self-admiring, egocentric and self-centred. Therefore they truly believe they are special and God has something special for them. They believe that other people are in the world just to help them attain their goals and dreams, regardless of how that may hurt others.
The situation one may find himself in many times leads to frustration, distress, and fear. It is frustrating to work so hard trying to please a man, never being able to meet his expectations. You feel that he is only using you to accomplish his own goals and desires. Matthew 9:36 describes the multitudes as 'distressed' and 'downcast.' 'But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.' This weariness probably "was a result of the performance weight placed on them by the religious leaders who did not shepherd them, but devoured them instead. They did this by endless spiritual rules and regulations, and by constantly pointing out the least flaw in others. If you've been through this, you wind up very tired, emotionally, physically and spiritually. This may show up in the form of lack of energy or motivation, impatience with the needs of others, depression, a sense of being trapped, or finding ways to escape." (Johnson & VanVonderen, page 48.)
HOW CAN I HELP A PERSON WHO HAS LEFT A CULTIC GROUP?
Leaving or trying to leave a cult group is very difficult. Once one is in such a group, the hold that is placed on them is overwhelming. They usually have to get to the place where they are so distraught and drained, that they come to the end - they must decide between the group and the Lord. Choosing the Lord means turning away from the group, and that may mean leaving those you have come to love. There may be no one to turn to, but the Lord, and therefore, it is not a decision that comes lightly. Once one decides to leave, it must be total - complete. One cannot return now and then to visit. The one who leaves is ridiculed, and spoken against viciously, so that others in the group will want nothing to do with the erring departed person. Having Christian friends and family outside the group is a tremendous help.
Many people in cult groups have friends and family members praying and pleading with the Lord daily for the cult member to see the truth of what these false prophets are doing, and to escape. Christians who are praying for cult members, must remember that getting out of such a group is only the beginning. They will have perhaps several years of struggle with emotional stability, spiritual recovery, and physical renewal. When you hear of someone escaping, please rejoice, but also remember:
Prayer works. Jesus spent much time in prayer, and He taught us the importance of praying for our brethren. It may take years to get over the trauma and struggles that were placed upon them. Be patient and pray earnestly and faithfully for your Christian brother or sister. They are facing a very difficult, perhaps embarrassing, and upsetting time, and prayer is vital. Paul started the book of Ephesians saying I cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers. Then he concludes the letter by saying Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints. (Eph 1:16, 6:18)
These people have lost track of how to live without a leash. They need time to learn how to make decisions on their own. They need time to learn how to live by faith again. They need time to learn how to read and apply the Bible again. They are embarrassed that they were involved in such a group. And they are still going to have a pull towards the group at times.
People who have left a cultic group need people to accept them as they are. They may need to talk. They may need to cry. What they don't need is to be put down, and criticised. They did not join the group because they were stupid or immature. "The three main reasons why people join are (1) healing for emotional hurts, (2) establishing friendships and relationships, and (3) spiritual growth. Many honestly want to know and serve God, and the vitality of evangelically minded groups attracts them." (Cult Proofing Your Kids, by Dr Paul R. Martin, page 41,45).
Most people take from three to eight years to fully recover. Some never do. Don't try to push them into anything. The Lord is in control, and He will do His work in His time. Much of the knowledge that was learned and the faith that was manifested before the cultic experience was destroyed while in the group. Your patience is important while they learn it fresh and new.
God loves us unconditionally. We must learn to love others the same way He loves us. Let us love one another as God has loved and still loves us. Put down your expectations, and your superiority. These are not second-rate people. They love the Lord and want to please Him. Accept them. Love them. It's the best thing you can do for them.
Please keep praying for the many who are affected by false prophets in these last days.
The Lord's our Rock, in Him we hide.
A shelter in the time of storm;
Secure whatever ill betide -
A shelter in the time of storm.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5,6