The sociological perspective of a cult
When God begins to move on a person’s heart, they begin to search for answers, this is when they are most vulnerable if they do not have anyone to spiritually guide them correctly. They can easily be persuaded by a knock on their door from the visiting cult or start attending a church that seems right.
But what appears to be good to the eye or ears may not always be what it first seems. In fact, in our religious climate of church we find that not everything is what appears to be. Most think of a cult in a theological perspective, those who challenge historic Christian beliefs found in the Bible. This would be people who already know the truth, and are able to distinguish the differences. There are always religious groups that can hold to a few of the essentials and disregard others and still look orthodox.
There are two ways a church can be a cult; first is theologically. Most have narrowed this down to the simplest factors - not believing Jesus is God or that God is triune in His nature. Or having a different view of what it takes to bring salvation. In this manner Cults convert Christians.
Cults attract people because of their discipline. People can be impressed by their dedication of knocking on doors each week, or being studious. The one MAIN ingredient the cults lack is the truth - on Jesus and the way of salvation.
But a church or group that has right doctrine can be what we consider a cult sociologically. This has much to do with their interaction with people. This is the area where many people do not notice what is wrong. Theological difference can be spotted on paper, from sermons. But sociological discrepancies must often be experienced to be identified. Sociologically is how the leadership or the pastor treats the sheep. In these groups you will find control, manipulation for self interest and pride operating in various degrees.
Churches can be right on the gospel and be very wrong in other areas. A false gospel of works easily stands out when it is seen as opposed to grace (Rom. 11:6) by those who are trained by the word. But the worst behavior can be allowed to be practiced and rationalized if it will promote their group. We see this with the Children of God that did their flirty fishing (sleeping with people to have them become members. Many abusive groups will target men and women to marry to bring membership into their church.
If any leader, pastor or so called prophet tells you that you cannot be deceived then you need to separate from their teaching. Paul warned of being deceived and Jesus certainly did in Mt.24, three times. It is especially important in these last days when it has become the “new norm”. If you believe you are immune to deception then you will not be able to meet the challenges or the challengers that will present themselves and you will be deceived.
The reason a lie gets so much mileage is because it takes more effort to discover a lie and most people do not have the skills or the stomach to confront it. So it takes off and does the rounds because no one has scrutinized it. One of the hardest things we can find out and face in life is that we have been deceived. And there are various types and levels of deception. It can be instigated by friends, co – workers, investors, investors, school teachers, deception can be founding nearly anything today, and yes, even those in the church, those we may trust.
There are numerous predators in the world, we would expect not to find any in the church, but we do. How will you know? Something will not seem right, you will not have peace or have a check in your spirit; it may be as intuition, as a spiritual red light. You should follow up any feeling or question you have with looking to the word to see if what you are seeing or hearing is correct.
You can tell what a pastor is like if he keeps talking about himself (apart from that occasional experience for illustration) especially about all the miracles he’s done or the people he’s witnessed to and saved.
If they want you to listen to them instead of the Scripture, this is a warning. For example if a pastor lets false teaching in because their friend is involved and he has nothing to say on it. Or they side with a person that is clearly doing something wrong, unbiblical, because of friendship it is evident that something is not right.
A combination of theological and sociological error is seen when a church tells the people they need more faith to be healed, to not trust doctors but only the Lord (even though Luke was a doctor and Paul suggested to Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach). When they will mock people that will go to doctors, and say they did not have enough faith to be healed these practices become abusive.
You will find that these leaders abuse people on their tithes and offerings. They make giving mandatory and some will watch who gives and does not give, they will take the time to befriend the larger givers. These pastors manipulate people by tithing, they will control them by having you ask permission for nearly everything (even for jobs, dating and marriage).
1 Tim. 6:10 “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
It’s been said “He that serves God for money will serve the Devil for better wages” (Roger L’eStrange). We can see this influence inside the church over the many years. When pragmatism rules, whatever it takes to bring in the money, such as by Christian telethons.
Luke 16:13 "No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon."
If we serve God, our focus will be to please him first and care for people. Money does get in the way of serving people and often becomes a factor in decisions for pastors that are worried about their job.
People can have pride, Pastors can have pride; it can take control over their lives. Just because one is a pastor does not relinquish them from doing wrong, or excuse them because of their position. If they use it in this way they are taken by pride. It is up to those who are spiritual to correct them.
John 10:11-13 "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. "But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them." The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep.”
Here Jesus explained what happens when challenged, the so called shepherd abandons the flock to a wolf because he is only in it as a job, for the money, not for truth not for people and certainly not to serve the Lord.
When a leadership refuses to hear any challenges on what a pastor is doing wrong or what they are doing (even when they are blatantly going against the word). An attendee will have to choose to obey them or the Lord (the word), this is how you know it is time to leave. I often get emails of people in this situation where they want to approach the pastor about new teachings introduced, or what they see as a large emphasis on tithing or the change from teaching the Bible to personal stories. They are concerned and want to approach them. When they do they get shut down. Often times I can only suggest for them to move on because they are not prepared for a confrontation.
It’s unfortunate that something cannot be said because when leaders are not confronted when they are wrong it will only continue and escalate. The flaw in ministry will not get better but worse and others will be hurt even more than what they originally did. You are actually doing the will of God to bring this concern to them so they can be corrected. But there is a way 2 Tim, 2:24-26; one must approach in humility and allow the lord to use the word and you care for the person to be seen. Of course this is no method for success, it depends on the recipients attitude and ability to be mature and work through the points made. Some cannot admit when they are wrong and they instead surround themselves with those who are loyal for their protection. This marks the distinction of a true shepherd or a hireling.
Wrong doctrine is not the only dangerous things than can take place. When people leave over a disagreement or are offended by the way the pastor treated them (for an unjust reason) these types of pastors/ leaders will gather people around them and feed their view to the flock and expect to believed without question. They will try to silence people who want to speak out about their wrong. Cult leaders manipulate, they coerce people and often put pressure on those who leave to be silent.
Real Deprogramming comes only from hearing the other side by the correct interpretation of an event or the word.
Cult expert Steve Hassan makes a point of coercive persuasion
Unfreezing: breaking a person down
Refreezing: reinforcing the new identity
This can also be known as a three step plan for the dialectic to work (Hegel’s), in modern terms diaprax. Have people identify with a person or a group is a strong deterrent for leaving or questioning what changes may be taking place.
They cannot maintain their control if people start breaking ranks and begin to think on their own and question what is being done. So they prevent people from speaking to others and may even appeal to scripture when they actually ignored its instructions to begin with. They will make you feel guilty to tell anyone else your story, so that you can’t stand up for yourself.
If there is a choice, cult type leaders are more interested in keeping the people they have. They would rather have them do the work they want done than to get new members. When a church does not grow for a number of years one has to look and see if it is really doing God’s work or the pastors. True shepherds have healthy sheep, and sheep will beget other sheep. If you are in a church and there is not an increase of people in it for some time then there is something wrong. On the other hand a church with very quick growth can also be problematic as they may be attracting people with programs and promises and not teaching the word to disciple them.
They are those who drink from the same cup of blessing, but betray us in the last days. Prideful men who are caught up in their own selves. They stare at themselves in the mirror reciting: mirror, mirror on the wall whose the greatest of them all. They preach the Jesus that they think will give them what they want; often it is about control and abundance. They have no regard for the wounded sheep that have come into the flock to healed, in fact they be inflicting more pain on them.
Don’t think that good Bible churches cannot become a cult. They can if there leader[s] are not accountable to anyone for what he teaches and what he does to the sheep. The hirelings who take advantage of sheep, neglect them are no different than cult leaders that teach blatant false teaching on Jesus and the way of salvation.
Are they seeking to obey the Scripture in both letter and spirit or do they have an agenda, who is in charge, man or the Lord. Because “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17), as Paul stated to those who tried to bring believers under the law Gal. 5:1: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.”