Cult movements are like an iceberg, what you see is not what you get. They often hide the real facts from their potential converts only to share with them later when they see they are ready to accept it. This will be prepared by training within a certain time period. In Real Christianity there is an invitation for openness, welcoming ones questions and going to the Bible to prove something must be done in the most careful of ways. In most cults one rarely gets there questions answered immediately. Questioning should be directed to doctrine, but the practices are often harder to discern. In Cults much time is spent through rigorous studies to introduce the person to the way they think. Along the way if they start being too inquisitive they are made to feel guilty for asking questions, or told they are showing no faith for asking them. They dismiss any criticism and train the people not to think critically so they will not find anything wrong and leave. Gestapo tactics are used on the person to make them comply if problems arise. They will tell their members this is the way it is, this is how God runs His kingdom, this is what you must do to be one of the chosen. Most cult groups require their potential members to sever their ties with former family and friends until they are trained in their ways. After a person is convinced from the training of the group they will comply and do it on their own. Then they are allowed to make contact with family and friends and share “the truth.” By this time they are so inoculated against any logic from the outside that they live in an impenetrable bubble. Any questions they had are long forgotten, replaced by doing the work for the church. Keeping you busy among their people, and have you work to get your mind off thinking about anything wrong you may see in the Church.
The recruiter takes advantage over the potential member by cutting them off from investigating or critically thinking about the group. This way they are working within their belief system and there is nothing that can be brought to the table to use for challenging their teaching. Having the Bible only does not always help when words and teachings can be easily distorted without an alternate view presented alongside theirs. The “truth.” is then arrived at through their own closed belief system
The recruitment is done either by family, friends, co-workers, and other highly trained recruiters sent out to stores and places where people congregate. In the same way real Christians will witness except for different reasons. The cults motivation is to have more members, which will often reassure them personally that they are doing God’s work and collectively they are of God. There is an essential difference with the two. Forcefulness and immediate decision making t is often required by those in cults, whereas a Christian will never put pressure on someone to join a church or become united with their group. Another point of difference s that one is not receiving salvation by Christ, because there is no Gospel! They are not coming to Christ by His work and His merits, but by another way.
There is a real church and a real work for God. The difference is in the motivation- the why they do it. The cults do things for rewards and good standing in the church, the real Christian does it because they love God and are motivated by love to people having real compassion. The cults become offended when you speak ill of them or their teacher or teachings and become emotional. The real Christian does not take offense and they know it is the Lords battle not theirs. They do not need to make excuses only go to the bible and prove their position, if it is rejected there is no need to be upset, for they are not rejecting you but Jesus and His message.
The other difference is in teachings, about the person of Christ, the gospel, even the Bible itself. Although cults may use the Bible they have a false understanding of God and salvation and the way we are to relate to Him. This is based on their training of the Bible from the books they read or the teacher over them. They or their teacher have received a vision or were intellectually convinced by many hours of rigorous studying from there groups books that they exclusively have the truth. Many do not know what historic Christianity has taught nor have they ever been exposed to it. They need to be encouraged to read the primary resources and not what there books quote from the resources which is often pulled out of context. They will focus on the minor things and make them major ones and make the major things minor. When this happens doctrines that are not core teachings become amplified and use to make the group exclusive and unique.
Cults entice people to join by giving them a mission for life and making them feel special. They let them know they can be part of history in the making. They alone are going down in the annals of history being the restored church, they are the ones God has picked to evangelize or change the world. The potential new member is told that no one else has the ability to do what they’re doing. This is how they began and this is the glue that binds them together. So if you join you are told that you will share in the rewards that are promised to all. You will often hear we are the only ones God is pleased with. Or we are moving ahead with God and everyone is left behind in dry religion or the world is so much under Satan’s dominion that you cannot have friends or be part of the world in any way. Some may go to the extremes of asking you to give up your job or vocation and take up a new one with God by their group. Once they convince you stop thinking and making decisions for your self you are ready to accept everything they say.
Real Christianity never is forced on someone nor does it make one obligated to serve. On the surface it may look like all is the same but the motivation and the end result is far different. Real Christianity gives the person freedom to choose which services to attend, or how they will serve, or how much money they will give. Cults like control over someone, it becomes their mission whether it is conscious or unconscious, there becomes no choice in these matters. Spiritually abusive religious systems can range from being legalistic, and authoritarian as in the shepherding movements to definitive mind controlling like we see in the Moonies. They all are addictive, by convincing you that if you question or leave, God will be angry with you. So you keep coming and the more you go the tighter the noose is wound around your neck until you no longer have any control over your life.
Real Christianity does give people a mission but it is not exclusive to the group they are with. You can still serve the Lord in another church and another place. Real Christianity does not boast in itself, nor does it compare itself to others belittling them and lifting themselves up. Jesus gave us a warning to know “He that Speaks of himself seeks his own glory” (John 7:18). When a speaker is often telling you about himself and what he does and what God is doing through him and his church, watch out. We are to point to Christ and lift him up among the people and teach his ways. The Holy Spirit lifts up and teaches about Jesus not a leader or a church.
When asked what must I do to be saved? One will receive numerous answers that all revolve around their church. You must be discipled by us, baptized by us, trained by us, join our church “only.” The Bible never requires you to join a certain church. Of course we are to look for a church that teaches and practices the Bible truthfully. We get saved by being convicted by the truth (the Word of God) and it draws us to Jesus Christ the word made flesh who is the way to the Father. The savior is a person, not a church nor anything we or they do.
The cults will often broad-brush what other Churches believe to prove they are all wrong and that they alone have the truth. They mock other churches put them down and boast in themselves about their dedication. They use their works of discipleship to justify their call. But if ones work is not motivated by love but instead competition it is not valid, nor accepted by God. We are not to puff ourselves up or boast of our works to others, but have humility. Prov. 25:27: “It is not good to eat much honey; so to seek one's own glory is not glory.” Neither we should not thrive on the opinions of others to have the approval of themselves. They do this by parading people as examples in front of the church boasting how many they invited or discipled during the week. It is not whoever dies with the most disciples or members wins. What is ones motivation behind their servitude. This counts as much if not more than what one does. Success is not measured by the numbers but by faithfulness and true disciples. Not by how many people one talks to, or knocks on doors or invites to meetings. Numbers never validated a ministry, all one has to do is look at Jesus to see this is true.
Diotrephes is the first cultist mentioned in the New Testament. He would not allow the brethren to fellowship with the church he was in charge of. Isn't that what is happening today that when one becomes involved in a cult they are not allowed to fellowship with other people and they are separated even from family. John said he wanted to rebuke him to his face and called this evil. He told them to choose another among them: Dimetrius.
When one searches for the truth especially in the sphere of Christianity they need to be aware of a number of things. One can hold the ultimate message in their hands, which is the Bible and still be led away from its message. You may wonder how that is possible. There are many groups under the Christian umbrella that distort the message of the simple gospel. They do this by using only certain aspects of the Bible. This is why it is important to read through the Scriptures and familiarize yourself with the teachings if one wants to follow Christ. You can end up majoring on the minors and have your Christian practice become null and void, shipwrecking your spiritual condition. And this does not have to be limited to the cults. This can all be prevented by only asking a few questions before you dedicate your time, and money to a new church. There is the real and there are counterfeits and sometimes it may be hard to tell. But in our time with all the information available there should be no excuse. So think before you join so that years later you won't have to ask yourself; How did I get Here? And have wasted years on a counterfeit.
So what happens when you have a friend or loved one involved in an abusive church or cult group?
People often say we have tried everything, we have given them all the information to them, answered their questions but nothing has worked. Well it really depends on a number of factors. First- the persons heart, are they really seeking after the truth or accepting what they are being told from their Church or group without ever considering it. You may be wasting time on someone that really doesn’t care for the truth. Second- is God is working to bring them to the truth along with you presenting it, also remember it is their choice to respond and you cannot put this in some time limit. Things take time, sometimes years or many years. Let me encourage you with this one story of many that can be told. I know of a Jehovah’s Witness who we witnessed to and took the time to answer all his questions sufficiently but he would not budge. One day ( few years later) he showed up to share the good news- that he finally got to the place to be open and God was able to work in his heart and get him out of religious bondage and into Christ. But he never forgot along the way what we told him.
Remember don’t be offended if they reject what you say, because its not you they reject but Jesus. So don’t take it personally. When all your information is given, you’ve shown love and patience to no avail: It’s Time to pray, pray as if someone’s life depends on it, because it does. You can never pray enough.
God can do beyond everything we ask for. Pray for their heart to be brought into a place that would make it open only then will a person be willing to hear the truth from the Word.