“These people are grumblers and fault finders who go wherever their desires lead them, and they give bombastic speeches, enchanting folks for their own gain.” [Jude 1:16, Net Bible]
Its Tuesday and the cult members are heading home to Germany. They tried really hard to hijack the church services this weekend to deliver their BOMBASTIC speeches and bring disunity but it backfired – the churches all pulled together, warned each other, turned up to protect each other, did some serious Kung Fu in the spirit realm, and kicked some CULT-ASS! I dont think we will be seeing the followers of Horst Shaffranek again for a long time. Off they go . . uh uh . .
Yeah . . .. YOU BETTER RUN!!!!!
And as for other cult members and wackos out there who might be thinking of coming to Orkney to prey on the lambs of God, please know that we will EXPOSE YO ASS WIT LOTSA BRITE JESUS LIGHT and we will put your sorry faces on youtube like we did this weekend and we will not be intimidated. What is whispered in secret rooms will be shouted from virtual rooftops and aggregated by Google.
“Always two there are, a master and an apprectice.” Yoda
But what about you? Is your new emerging church a cult? Or a sect?
Is there something suspicious happening in your religious group? Is there a spiritual residue of divisiveness or confusion? Do conversations with these people leave you feeling bewildered? Bewitched? Hynotized? Cloudy? Bullied? Unempowered?
Deception can be a spiritual battle more than an intellectual one. And maybe that whole spiritual realm is unfamiliar to you. Read on.
A “sect’ is a group with some whacky beliefs that are a little off-base and usually in protest to the norm. Some churches become sects when they take on some beliefs that are not shared by the wider Christian community.
Wikipedia has a good post on “sects”
” In the church-sect typology they are described as newly formed religious groups that form to protest elements of their parent religion (generally a denomination). Their motivation tends to be situated in accusations of apostasy or heresy in the parent denomination; they are often decrying liberal trends in denominational development and advocating a return to true religion. The American sociologists Rodney Stark and William Sims Bainbridge assert that “sects claim to be authentic purged, refurbished version of the faith from which they split”. They further assert that sects have, in contrast to churches, a high degree of tension with the surrounding society.” “Sect” on Wikipedia, Dec 12, 2006
Not all “sects” are bad [The Clapham Sect rocked!] but it might be a worry. Pretty much every Christian group will say the Bible is the source of authority in their movement. But interpretations can vary. I encourage all churches to participate OUTSIDE their little theological circles and stay in fellowship with the wider church – national and international. Many countries have an Evangelical Alliance or similar group. The Lausanne Covenant, btw, is a great document to which I recommend new churches and networks subscribe. Your group may not subscribe completely to these documents – and that does not necessarily mean they are a sect. The Westminster Confession is also a common document to which many western churches will refer.
Cult or Sect?
There is some good scholarly work on these two categories [see here] but this is how I differentiate: “Cults” are not only off-base in their beliefs, but they intentionally target weak people to turn them away from their existing church relationships and towards their own organization. Its this violent proselytisation that marks them out as a cult and makes them divisive and dangerous.
“…if you believe in it, it is a religion or perhaps ‘the’ religion;
and if you do not care one way or another about it, it is a sect;
but if you fear and hate it, it is a cult.”
Leo Pfeffer, Religious Tolerance.
Is Your Group a Cult?
But what about the group you are hooking up with? Here are some things to look for. Rick Ross has 10 warning signs of a potentially unsafe group/leader:
1. Absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability.
2. No tolerance for questions or critical inquiry.
3. No meaningful financial disclosure regarding budget, expenses such as an independently audited financial statement.
4. Unreasonable fear about the outside world, such as impending catastrophe, evil conspiracies and persecutions.
5. There is no legitimate reason to leave, former followers are always wrong in leaving, negative or even evil.
6. Former members often relate the same stories of abuse and reflect a similar pattern of grievances.
7. There are records, books, news articles, or television programs that document the abuses of the group/leader.
8. Followers feel they can never be “good enough”.
9. The group/leader is always right.
10. The group/leader is the exclusive means of knowing “truth” or receiving validation, no other process of discovery is really acceptable or credible.
If that sounds like the group you just joined or the leader you are beginning to trust, then its time to think about leaving. Why don’t you TALK TO SOMEONE OUTSIDE THE GROUP AND ASK FOR THEIR OPINION? Or has this group encouraged you to distrust and forsake your friends and family [BAD BAD BAD BAD VERY BAD SIGN!!!!] Come on . . there must be someone outside the group you can talk to. Dangitt . . . go next door and talk to your neighbour if you have to.
For the record, most emerging churches I have come across are less likely to be cult-like than many traditional churches, especially those with a strongly heirachical leadership structure and a tight service where no one can speak back and challenge the message. But you should be the judge of that . .. not me. Here are some resources that might help you in figuring it all out: Cult Information Centre (UK), Ex-Cult, All About Cults, Cult News, Cult News Weblog, Walter Martin on dealing with cults. If you know of some helpful resources, leave a link in the comments below.
The Bible has been the most helpful source for me. The letter of Jude and 2 John inform churches on how to deal with false teachers who have destructive beliefs. And while you are at it, read the letter to the Galatians, a newly emerging church that was getting hassled big time from false teachers.
Sometimes you gotta judge with righteous judgment.(John 7:24) Sometimes you gotta kick ass!
And remember, perfect love drives out all fear. Love rules. God is love. God’s word is truth. Truth loves light, not darkness or secrecy. Jesus said “I am the way and the truth and the life”
and regarding heresy and the emerging church -I think EC is a bigger target for heresy and cults but it is also better equipped to deal with it. I once said on the post “Josh McDowell on Small Groups”:
“- Research has shown that heresy usually comes through higher education [seminaries] and foreign elements. It normally does not come up from the grassroots but down from the top. Good book to read here is “Church Planting Movements” by David Garrison [who came up with those two observations].
– Heresy can flourish when false teaching goes unchallenged, or when people are confined to a learning environment where they feel scared or unempowered to speak up when they detect something wrong. A small group setting where interaction is encouraged, even disagreement, is a safer place to find truth than a monologue from a preacher lifted high and not available for correction.”