Church or Cult?

Before you click away from here, please consider…

THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST, according to the Bible, is to be transparent, loving, joyful, peaceable, known by its patient kindness and its goodness.  The Leaders and Membership of Jesus’ Church are welcoming people, gentle people, faithful people, forgiving people and they marked by self control. 

According to the Bible the Leadership and Members of Jesus’ Church are not the the jealous type;  they do not brag, they are not arrogant, and they do not act unbecomingly;  they do not seek their own, they are not provoked, do not take into account a wrong suffered, do not rejoice in unrighteousness, but instead, they rejoice with the truth; 

According to the Bible, the people of Jesus’ Church bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things.  This is THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST.

There are to be no secrets kept and no secret dealings.  And if trouble within the membership arises, church discipline is administered with great caution and care and love for the Body of Christ.  It is to be completed in public, not in secret meetings, remembering that Jesus warns us to forgive seventy times seven.

Some so called churches, however, rely heavily on the unquestioned “visionary leadership” of one person or a select group.  Some so called churches require obedience to this leadership ‘without question’.  And, some so called churches follow an un-biblical and worldly corporate management model and use disciplinary practices to control growth and to discourage dissent. 

They use opacity or secrecy in planning, budgeting and finances.  Are these really “churches”, according to the Biblical model?

Compare the patterns shown below, to the situation you, a family member, or friend is currently involved. This list may help you determine if there is cause for concern. Bear in mind that this list is not meant to be a “cult scale,” or a definitive checklist to determine if a specific group is a cult;  this is not so much a diagnostic instrument as it is an analytical tool.

  • The group displays a pronounced commitment to its leader, regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.
  • Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished by public discrediting, shaming, ridicule.
  • Thought-altering practices such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, or work routines are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).
  • The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel e.g., members get detailed directions on how to date, change jobs, or marry.  Leaders prescribe what to wear, where to live, how to discipline children, and so forth.
  • The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s), and its members and proudly, publicly, announces its accomplishments and congratulates itself.
  • The group has a polarized, us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.
  • The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered questionable or unethical before joining the group, e.g., concealing practices, facts or withholding important information from family or friends, or collecting money for questionable charities.
  • The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and control members. Often this is done through peer pressure, marginalization and subtle forms of persuasion.
  • The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
  • The group is preoccupied with making money.
  • Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.
  • Members are encouraged to live and/or socialize primarily with other group members.
  • The most loyal members feel there can be few meaningful relationships outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear alienation for themselves or others if they leave—or even consider leaving—the group.

Concerted efforts at influence and control lie at the core these groups, programs, and relationships. Many members, former members, and supporters of cults are not fully aware of the extent to which members may be manipulated, exploited, or even abused. The following list of social-structural, social-psychological, and interpersonal behavioral patterns commonly found in cultic environments may help you assess a particular group or relationship.

  • Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
  • The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel.
  • The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s), and its members.
  • The group has a polarized, us-versus-them mentality.
  • The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence members. Often this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.
  • The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
  • Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.

Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.

  • The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave— or even consider leaving—the group.
  • How are people who left the group treated? What is said about them? Will the group give you names of people who left? Both those who were satisfied and those who were not?
  • Are former members willing to speak about their experiences? How do they evaluate their time with the group or person?
  • What is the process for filing complaints? Is there a feedback mechanism that is real and honored? Are complaints made public? Is there a money-back guarantee?
  • Are your questions answered directly? Are you told time and again to listen to your heart and not your head? Are you told that you are too new, too uninformed, too nosy, and so on, and shouldn’t be asking such questions?
  • Is there a leader who appears to be the ultimate authority, spokesperson? Are his or her views challenged by others?
  • What is the attitude of the followers toward the leader? Are there checks and balances to hold the leader accountable?
  • Is more than one point of view presented? Are other points of view recognized? Are other points of view seen as valid but different?
  • What kind of commitment is expected? In time, money, lifestyle changes?
  • Does it appear that there are secrets? Is information restricted in any way? Is there some information that you are told must not be shared with outsiders? Is there information that you’re told you can’t get until you’re a member of the group or reached a certain level?  Is there information which is incomplete in detail and details are clouded or concealed without reasonable explanation?

THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST is transparent, loving, joyful, peaceable, known by its patience, its kindness and its goodness.  It is gentle, faithful, forgiving and marked by self control.

There are no secrets kept, no secret dealings.   And any form of church disciple is administered with great caution and care and it is completed in public, not in secret meetings, remembering that Jesus warned to forgive seventy times seven.

So, which is it for you?  Honestly.  Is your Church “Church-like” or is it being run like a “Religious Cult”?

We are living in dangerous times.  We are to find our peace and safety in Jesus Christ and in His Body, The Church.  He is the Ark of our Salvation.

Do not be deceived.  Do not confuse the “baby with the bath water” as some are inclined to think, and do not fall for such nonsense.  Flee from the counterfeit,

If you want to talk, please contact me.

Your Brother and Friend,


Mike Young

Published by

Michael Young, Sr.

I am a practicing Christian, a disciple of Jesus, a husband of over 50 years, a father and a grandfather, a business man, a veteran and a friend to all who will have me. I have served or am serving, at various times, as an Evangelist, a Pulpit fill pastor, an Associate Pastor of Evangelism and as Senior Pastor of a church plant. My passion is for practicing and teaching the Bible, building small groups, reaching the lost with the message of the Gospel of Jesus, recovering the straying Sheep of God and the gathering together the Called of God, in neighborhoods, business settings and in churches by equipping other Christians. I have authored a few small books and I have a background in professional business management, finance and investments. I am glad to meet you, even if it is virtually. Write me at any time and let's become friends.

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