The Bible, of course, has doctrine-related characteristics to identify a cult. And if we will use it here (although it is perfectly sound) nobody will profess that those identifying characteristics fit them.
By cunningly use of unbiblical interpretations, mind manipulation, prooftexting, out-of-context explanations, and a promise of a materially better life many are still deceived to join cults.
And so we made the list below which are derived from characteristics of previously identified cults–cults that committed mass suicide among its members, or with imprisonment of the leaders due to immoral acts, etc. Can you see similarities with your church?
If your answer is ‘yes’ to most of the questions, then you need to pray for the Holy Spirit to help you, and study more the Bible without pre-conceived thoughts taught by your church.
- Are you (or your friend if that’s the case) afraid or nervous to check if the group you are in now is a cult or not? If so, it probably is. Those who are in the truth are not afraid to be scrutinized.
- Does the church lacks official document of statement of beliefs (where others can read and examine closely), and when asked about their beliefs the immediate answer is to “ask my leader”? Dependence to the leader is a normal practice of cults.
- Do the leaders claim to have the unique and private interpretation of the Bible passages? and whatever others say that are not supported by the leader(s) are always not true and should be shunned?
- Are you told not to question what is being taught, as “the leadership is honest, has divine authority, godly, and should be trusted”?
- Are the members being taught that the leader(s) has some unique gift or elevated status and thus only the leader(s), priests, pastors, or ministers have the capability to discern truth from lies?
- Are questions such as “why did he/she left the group? or why these people are suing us?” being discouraged to ask, and you are expected to accept the reasons the leadership gives you?
- Do members got mad or angry right away when bad habits, character, or teachings of the leader(s) are exposed?
- Are you emotionally attached to the leader in such a way that valid criticisms against him make you furious?
- Do they present their leader(s) more often rather than Jesus?
- Do they have that ‘group pride’–that if you are not one of them, then you are doomed?
- Do they place and put emphasis on evil and the devil, declaring that the world outside is a threat to the group?
- Do they recommend you to hang out and be with the group members only, citing that outsiders are bad influences?
- Do they stop you or threaten you from reading anything negative about themselves or the church?
- Do they usually end up name-calling such as ‘dogs’, ‘pigs’, ‘witch’, ‘satanists’, ‘enemies’, or any harsh words to those who fall away or moved out of the group?
- Do they use threats, fear, or violence to a member who is moving out?
- Is the type of preaching or recruiting mostly to put others down by exposing others’ sins, faults, or wrong teachings to build the leadership or the church up?
- Is the groups’ most converts are the ‘weaker ones’ or do they have hardline-critics-turned-converts? Criticisms in this context refer to doctrinal beliefs, and theological issues rather than emotionally-based personal criticisms.
- Do they keep track of your offerings/tithes like writing your offering/tithes in a ledger and expecting you to give regularly with the same or higher amounts for the next meetings?
- Do they teach you that the more you give money for the church or the leader(s) the more attainment of spiritual maturity you will have?
- Do they teach you that giving money or high-prized gifts for the leader during his/her birthday or special days will make you highly favored by God through His sent one (the leader)?
- Do they ask money for almost every requested or voluntary rite and church activity?
- Do they have the ‘twisted martyrdom complex’–dying through drinking poison or letting poisonous snakes bite them (for example) to prove that the group or the leader is the true one?
- Do they defend themselves in every area? Too defensive.
- Do they operate in arrogance, and make demands on you to obey, using statements such as “real believers obey without questions”?
- Do you notice that you are giving more priority to the group or church’s activities than to your family? Imbalance responsibilities.
- Do you noticed that the leaders are getting richer even without other sources of income?
- Are the church properties and finances all kept under the name of the leader(s) or his/her relatives instead of the church?
- Is the succession of leaders falls in one same family or relatives of the founder/leader?
- Is the group identifiable by one-man leadership? Where office of tenure lasts for 20 years or for a lifetime? Human fanaticism can be avoided if personalities in the leadership changes regularly in an appropriate tenure.
- Do they practice mind-alteration activities such as hypnotism, unbiblical ‘speaking in tongues’, mystic meditation, denunciation sessions, and all forms of mind-alteration techniques?
- Are your personal secrets being encouraged to disclose ‘to build trust’ among the group or the leader? This can be used to blackmail you if you intend to leave the group.
This is not an attack to any religious group or sect. There is no mention of any religious name in this article. This is one way to help true seekers avoid the wolves in sheep’s clothing.
It is really hard to win back a family member from a cult; so prevention is still better than the cure.
How To Win A Cult Member?
Below are some suggestions to win back your friends or relatives from cult groups:
- Engage in a truthful personal friendship with him/her. Your acts and lifestyle tell them that you have something better (peaceful life with Jesus for example).
- Find your common interest and build from it.
- Do not rush and force solutions.
- Do not underestimate the power or control of the cult to its member. You need power from the Holy Spirit.
- Always present Jesus first and Him alone, His goodness, mercy, eternal love, and passion for mankind.
- Do not ridicule their beliefs. Share only the Biblical truths and do not force it. Let the Holy Spirit convict him/her.
- Use literature, audio, or video sermons if personal approach is not possible.
- Never attack their leaders in terms of his/her character or bad habits. The more ad hominem you throw to their leadership the more sympathy they will have for them.
- Never be confrontational or judgmental to them.
- In winning a friend, do not neglect your own family.
- Persistent prayer matters. It is God’s will to win them back, so don’t stop praying. Your prayer will help you realize that you need to reach them more.