- 1 Identifying Cults Leadership
- 1.1 Leadership Loyalty versus Loyalty to Jesus Christ
- 1.2 Open Discussion of Internal Issues Discouraged or Prohibited
- 1.3 Leadership Double Standards and Leadership only Privileges
- 1.4 Forming a Cultic worldview (elitist mentality)
- 1.5 Orders and Authority instead of Example
- 1.6 Control, Sacrifice, and Money
Identifying Cults Leadership
Identifying Cults Leadership
By David Cox
In this article Identifying Cults Leadership I talk about how a cult’s leadership is identified. They work very differently from true works of God.
Leadership Loyalty versus Loyalty to Jesus Christ
Within true Christianity, every Christian owes an allegiance to Jesus Christ. He is their Savior, but he is also their Lord. This allegiance to Jesus provokes a certain relationship and attitude in Jesus’ true followers.
First of all, nobody has a greater dominion over Christians than Jesus does. Nobody can do God’s work without this loyalty to Christ, and this is most strongly seen by an examination of Jesus’ moral character. EVERY Christian and EVERY Christian leader has to be like Christ, or they have betrayed Christ. Practically this means that you can very easily and quickly discern cultic false leaders when they are not like Christ. When a leader lies, hides the truth, deceives, takes what is not duly his through valid work, what is just, and what is honest in the eyes of all men, then he is no Christlike. Leaders often take things out of the organization “under the table” with nobody or few knowing about it. That is not the way Christ would do it.
Secondly, real Christian leaders always seek to emulate Jesus in their own lives, but they also want to cut short any “worship” of their own personality. Here I say “worship” in the sense of exalting the greatness of the man.
Col 2:18 Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,
The word “angel” is actually “messenger” in Scripture, and it is totally a translation choice if it is translated “angel” or (earthly) “messenger”. But Paul warned us voluntary humility before these messengers, and also worshipping of them. I think worship is to set somebody up on a pedastal. This is exactly what cultic religious groups do with their organization and leaders.
I think this worshipping is most clearly seen when the followers copy everything, good and bad, that the leaders do, even mannerisms.
Another issue that separates the true from the cultic is that of soul liberty. The Bible’s teaching of soul liberty (a basic tenet of Baptist doctrine) is that we do not have spiritual “gurus” that have to enter into our discernment and decision making activities. So many religious groups and churches today exalt their leaders and the group so that whatever the leadership says is like gospel truth. Nobody can question it or differ from what the official line is. Nobody can think for themselves, and they don’t respect anybody’s conscience or discernment except their own.
Open Discussion of Internal Issues Discouraged or Prohibited
One of the key elements of a biblical church is the pursuit of God’s will. This process happens through the interaction of the spiritual people in a church. While the leaders’ opinions and points of view are important, there is a reason why they are important. It is not because of who they are, but because of the biblical evidence that good leaders use to decide God’s will.
But even so, any good leader will always take heart to a few other people’s points of view. First of all, those who may have more experience with an issue or problem, they will listen and inquire much of those who are experienced with something. An ex-Jehovah Witness that has left the group and is in their church is a good source for insights that the leadership may not be taking consideration of. Also people with general spiritual wisdom are seldom ignored by good Christian leaders. Some people seem to go through life without using their heads, and these people are of little use for providing insight into complicated issues. But for those that do exercise wisdom in their own lives, good leaders will always respect their opinions.
I would add here people who are generous givers to God’s work. These people typically fund or are the core foundation of the people that pay for everything, and a good leader will always give a hearing of what their views on things are.
Another group wise leaders always listen to is spiritual people among them. Many times there are quiet spiritual people who do not get so involved in issues and things, and they just obey God, are humble and pious. These people’s opinions count.
A foolish leader is one who gathers yes-men around him constantly.
In a good church with good leadership, there is a seeking process to find God’s will for the church, the work of God. In this process, there is wisdom and spiritual principles with biblical evidence that defines the general work of God that they are to do, but beyond that, a good Christian leader wants consensus among his people. Maturity is to be stable enough that you do not have to decide the important things alone. You allow other wise men to influence you, and you listen to their views, and the biblical evidence (reasoning process with Scripture) that leads them to have their point of view.
A healthy church is one where the people can discuss any issue, and challenge the leadership on why the church is doing something in a particular way or a particular thing. Wise leadership foresees this and prepares for it by open and honest discussion beforehand, allowing all views to be expressed and all questions to be asked and answered by the leadership. This is not “I have decided and we are doing this” but “we are purposing this, so what do you think?” The difference is that discussion can influence the outcome if the top leader is open about advice from others. If his scriptural principles behind what he is doing is sound, and his logic is sound, and his understanding of their situation and facts are truthful, most everybody will agree and go along. Simply saying, “We must have faith” is not very wise when bringing the church under heavy financial debt. God can work just as well beforehand to bring in the money as he can after the debt has been taken on.
Leadership Double Standards and Leadership only Privileges
A clear mark of a false prophet is their use of double standards, one for the church people or laity, and another different one for the leaders. When the offering plate is passed around on Sunday morning, it is a gross sin to reach in and grab a handful of big bills and put it in your pocket. But when the leaders can do just that from the church coffers, then you are in a cult.
One of the issues in good leadership is that the pastor lives among the sheep. Pastors of animals lived out in the fields with their flocks, and basically had a rustic lifestyle like the sheep. Pastors of churches should not be living in more luxury than what the average of their people enjoy. This is both good and bad. To make your pastor starve to death when the church people live well is just a sin. But equally it is a sin for the pastor to live in high luxury when many in his church are having a hard time making it.
Forming a Cultic worldview (elitist mentality)
A cultic worldview is what Elijah had when he said “I alone am left as a prophet of the Lord”. This attitude that we are desperate because we are the only true Christians left is cultic. Jesus promised that he will build his church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. This cultic attitude is that “we are the only ones right and everybody else is wrong”.
This is a key part of their scheme to gain control, total control over their followers. If they allow sound counsel from other people outside their own group and control, then their deceptions will be revealed. When a cult leader starts sleeping with the women in his group, any one that would ask counsel of a normal pastor would get blasted as being an abomination and wrong. So they must convince all that they are the only authority in their followers’ life.
If Jesus’ statement stands true, then God will always have more believers than just you. We need to both realize that other good Christians are out there in other churches not associated with us, and that being persecuted in the world is not an excuse for abandoning the morality of Scriptures, nor setting aside the work of God as a course of least resistance.
Satan is in control of this world, and it is true that the majority of “authorities” out there are not submissive to God, but we must still mark the authorities that God permits and submit to them all that we can, and not submit only when we see that by obeying them we would violate a direct command of God.
The cultic worldview is that the end justifies the means. You can do anything no matter how immoral as long as the end is good, or your intentions were good. Thus fringe fantic groups bomb abortion clinics. This is not sanctioned by God. Because their cause is so righteous, and the need is so much, they feel total liberty to abuse the normal rights and honor others are deserved.
Orders and Authority instead of Example
In the Bible, God has endowed certain individuals in the church with authority. But even so, their leadership style should be living the example of Christ and encouraging others to do likewise rather than pressing their authority and their followers obedience.
Another real principle that we must see in the true church, and cults twist and distort this, is that good doctrine causes holiness. When people turn out bad (conduct), and they say they believe the Bible, either they are hypocrites, or they just don’t understand and live the good doctrine they profess.
Control, Sacrifice, and Money
The cultic mentality as seen in false prophets is remarkably small in motives. The goal is to control the thinking of their followers. In so doing this, they also control their pocket books, and their sexual arrangements.
Typically these false prophets are of extremely charismatic personality, and through their powers of flattering speech, they can cause a spell to fall on their hearers and anything they reason out will become authority to their followers.
A couple of things here. These false prophets rarely live in poverty. They may want to cast that image, but upon examination they are people overpowered by lusts and desires for pleasure and luxury (riches). Many things in the church are channeled into this end goal, money in the leaders’ pockets.
These groups demand time and energy on a large sacrificial scale. They want their people to do the work. At the same time, these same leaders are not doing much in the way of sacrificing. Loyalty will be seen as submission to the leader, and usually total submission. Many times the followers’ family and personal economies go down the drain for the group.