Signs you’re in a
There have been numerous offshoots of Christianity that have turned out to be heretical cults. Because of the lack of biblical discernment,
many people fall prey to them.
One of the most popular cults with many of the following characteristics is the “Watchtower,” better known as the “Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Many would also include aberrant religious groups such as Scientology (founded by L. Ron Hubbard) as well as many other religious entities
too numerous to mention here.
However, some so-called Christian churches and movements also function like cults. If your church or movement does the following listed below, run from it!
My objective for this post is to help parents, families, and
friends identify the signs and characteristics of religious cults.
Any group that is truly Christian and biblical would not have to revert to these extreme tactics to recruit and maintain followers.
True Gospel-centered biblical churches do not engage in the following coercive manipulative practices.
Signs you’re in a cult-like movement.
They prey on vulnerable youth.
Often, cults have mobile outreach strategies on college and university campuses so they can target scared, insecure youth who are searching for an identity and a community of friends for emotional stability.
The outreach strategy is mobile or transient because college officials are often alerted to their cultish tactics that do not comport with the traditional campus (religious) clubs. (They have to be on the move, so they don’t get caught and shut down!).
Love bombing is a term used to describe the effort cults initially make with potential converts by creating a strong emotional connection with them. The initial contact includes constantly showing them a lot of attention and affection, bestowing upon them affirming words, and throwing around the words “community” and “love.”
Once a convert is controlled, they no longer need to affirm them. Thus, the love bombing ends and is replaced with mind manipulation, scare tactics, and various forms of abuse. The goal, of course, is to get potential converts to adopt this new group as their primary family identity — hence replacing their biological and spiritual family or church with which they are affiliated.
After the new initiate converts into their religious community, they are loaded with numerous activities and religious meetings to ensure they will not have time for other activities or affiliations.
They are also assigned a mentor or spiritual leader who will discourage them from any outside involvement with a goal of total isolation from all other relationships outside their new community. This ensures long-term loyalty because they will only have other cult members in their social circle for a few years. (Hence, leaving it will mean getting cut off from all their relationships.)
Mind control and programming.
Between all the long meetings, incessant activities, micro-managing of their social life, social exclusionary tactics, and constant indoctrination, the result is a form of mind control and social programming.
They claim their religious community (or church) is the only true church.
This is the greatest initial red flag. When any church or new movement, especially those without a historic footprint from the first few centuries of Christianity, claims to be the only true church, it demonstrates delusion and deception with the founders of said religious group since Jesus has been building His true church for more than 2,000 years since His resurrection.
No regard for church history.
Along with the previous point, religious cults often have a twisted view regarding church history that cannot be backed up by respectable, mainstream, historic Christian scholarship. This distorted view generally attacks mainstream historic classic Christianity and points to this new movement as the only true movement since the first-century church of the original apostles.
Invariably, most cults not only have aberrant mind control practices but also espouse some form of heretical doctrines regarding salvation, the deity of Christ, the person of the Holy Spirit, the existence of hell, and other primary biblical doctrines.
Many cults, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, believe
Jesus is a created being and not God the Son.
Believe the Holy Spirit is a force and not the third person of the triune God,
That lost souls are annihilated in hell,
That salvation is by good works (i.e., the Watchtower organization encourages its members to witness and go door to door to be one of the chosen few that go to Heaven.)
The leader is idolized.
Often, the leader of a religious cult, whether deceased or living, is almost worshiped and idolized as a great prophet or saint.
Numerous ex-members have shared traumatic stories of abuse.
Common with most religious cults, there are numerous testimonies available on social media, YouTube, and printed pages from ex-members regarding mind control, social isolation, mental and spiritual abuse, and other manipulative practices resulting in traumatic experiences. When people escape such cults, they usually need several years of therapy, prayer, and, at times, even deliverance from demonic spirits.
Lack of financial transparency.
Religious cults are wrapped in secrecy regarding their governance, membership records, leadership protocols, and financial expenditures.
Many cults rarely divulge how their donations are spent. Conversely, most legitimate churches have annual business meetings that show committed members their functional budget with an annual “profit and loss” statement.
Beware of Targeting Strategies:
Cults often prey on vulnerable individuals, such as youth in transitional stages of life, who are searching for identity and community.
Be aware of Love Bombing:
Be wary of groups that use excessive flattery, affection, or promises of an instant community.
Guard Against Isolation:
Watch for groups that insist on excessive involvement to exclude other activities and relationships.
Be Informed About Church History and Doctrine:
A group that claims to be the only true church should be approached with skepticism.
Seek Transparency and Accountability:
Legitimate organizations are transparent about their leadership, governance, and financial practices.
I pray that this post helps you avoid or escape the traps set by cults so you can come into the spiritual freedom of the true body of Christ.