Is Your Church a Cult? Here’s How to Know

I started going to church nine months before I was born. The church I grew up in, was not really a church, it was a cult. I didn’t realize it until I stopped going there. As I get older, I have come see just how cult-like and anti-Christ it really was.

There are a few characteristics of churches that are cult-like. They were true of my church growing up, they are true of many churches I have encountered, and they may be true of the church you attend.

These churches may not have malicious intent (most don’t) but they are damaging to the body of Christ and the Kingdom of God.

Here’s the list I put together. Do any of these describe your church?

Establishing rules of right and wrong

 

The church I grew up in was not only a guide into the beliefs of Christianity, it also told us what movies to watch, what TV shows were appropriate (no Smurfs!), even which toys we were allowed to have (some toys were evil….who knew)!

The church was the source of all morality. All right and wrong was taught to us by the church. Or more specifically, the pastor of the church.

It was right to use the King James version of the Bible, but wrong to use any others.

It was right for men to wear dress pants, but wrong for anyone to wear shorts.

It was right to listen to Southern Gospel music and hymns, but wrong to listen to anything else.

No smoking

No drinking

No dancing

Here’s what I know now……Jesus didn’t die to make us moral. The Cross was not about setting up a list of rules. In fact, the list of rules (the Law of the First Covenant) was superseded by Jesus (see Matthew 5-7).

Christianity is not a list of rules, it’s a life of love.

The leader can not be questioned

There was no disagreeing with the pastor. In fact, the pastor was part of a “clergy class.” This is a special class of Christians God has chosen to be pastors. They are an elite group who have received “the highest calling” on earth. There is no need to question their authority because the authority has been given to them by God.

Evangelicals have created this environment in many churches. Authority is ordained by God, so authority cannot be questioned. As a result, the unchecked egos of many pastors have wreaked havoc on many congregations. In addition, many churchgoers have accepted everything their pastor told them wreaking havoc on their families and their communities.

Pastors, bishops, priests….clergy members….are humans who have dedicated their lives to serving the church (the people of God). Members of the clergy do not have special contact with God. They are servants of God…no more, no less.

Doubt is unacceptable

Doubt was strictly forbidden in the church of my youth. If the leader was ordained by God as the authority of right and wrong, then how could you ever doubt what they were saying? It was true. If you doubted, you did not have faith.

From this mindset came one of the most damaging phrases in evangelicalism….”do you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are saved?” My pastor used to say, “99% sure is 100% lost.” The truth was, I was never sure. I always had doubts, so I consistently thought I was not a Christian.

Doubt should be one of the hallmarks of our faith. Your faith can be only trusted to the extent it has been doubted.

Q. What do I do if I am in a “cultish” church? 

A. Get out….fast. The difficult part of cult-like churches is that it is hard to leave. They make it so you feel that you are betraying Christ Himself by leaving. I assure you, you are not. Christ has set us free, so be free. If you realize that your church is harmful (and these types of churches ARE harmful), then you are halfway there. Reach out to those who have “gotten out”, or reach out to me.

About Matthew Thisse

Matthew Thisse is a Jesus follower, single father, associate pastor, and corporate trainer. He is a former Evangelical and a failed fundamentalist.

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