by Rayola Kelley
The one element that attracted me to the Gospel was the love of God. After being in a cult that put various burdens on me to perform a certain way, I was so thankful to discover God loved me in spite of my wretched self. His proof was Jesus dying on the cross as my substitute.
I later learned the spirit behind the cult I belonged to was the antichrist spirit and the disposition behind it was fanaticism. This spirit and disposition can be found in every cult. It is not only destructive in nature but it is abusive in practice.
Every cult employs the same types of practices and tactics to make converts. They zero in on people’s vulnerable spots. There are three major vulnerable spots that all cults play on.
The first vulnerable area is that of loneliness. Loneliness is nothing more than the empty soul crying out to find purpose for life. This vacuum can only be filled with the reality of Jesus Christ but sadly, many people look to every imaginable source to fill this emptiness except to the Jesus of the Bible. Cults play on this loneliness with fake love to entice the person into their web of lies and destruction. The problem with lonely people is that they are very open to any type of enticement, deception, and indoctrination.
The second accessible door is that of chaos. So many people’s lives are in chaos and any hope of changing the terrain of their lives, families, and present situation can be used to draw them into the clutches of these counterfeits. The cult I came out of exalted family values. From the outside it presented the perfect family but from personal experience I can tell you it is nothing but a facade that hides an all- consuming loneliness and incredible perversion.
The third attraction that cults offer is a type of spirituality. They normally claim to possess greater spiritual truths or revelations. This attraction can prove to be the most dangerous to Christians, even those with greater maturity. It seems that many Christians want more of God but they chase after the supernatural rather than seek to know the one true God. They pursue experiences rather than learn to sit at Jesus’ feet to obtain a deeper understanding of His character, will, and plan.
Once the person is in the trap, the indoctrination begins. If a person is open and trusting the indoctrination can be swift. God is cleverly redefined according to the image the leader presents. As God is redefined and reduced down to the image of the dominating leader or the indifferent organization, a perverted loyalty takes root.
It is at the point of this loyalty that cults can play havoc with a person’s emotions, time, and personality. They can enslave emotions, dominate time, and close down personality by making the person into their compliant protégé. People in this trap eventually lose the ability to think critically and will consider everything in light of their leader or organization. They react or respond according to the likes and dislikes of those who are influencing them.
People who sell their souls to a cult to this extent become fanatic and militant in their attitudes towards those who would dare to disagree with them. Many of these people come in the name of their leader to warn traitors of impending judgment. In fact, if properly discerned these people are nothing more than mockers of the real things of God, scoffers of genuine faith, and malicious towards the true servants of God. They have a hard glint in their eyes, an arrogant attitude, and are abusive towards those who do not go along with them and their wicked form of leadership.
This abuse comes out in various ways such as demeaning, threatening, or cursing a person. These methods are nothing more than fear tactics but they have been known to be successful as people give way to the leader’s threats and line up in order to appease this angry god. Needless to say, this abuse is from the pit of hell and not from the throne room of God.
I say all of this because this type of abuse is going on in many Christian churches and organizations. Such abuse finds it roots in idolatry but many Christians do not know how to test spirits or discern evil from good because they have not been brought to maturity (1 John 4:4; Hebrews 5:11-14). They do not realize they are being exposed to a cult mentality that is leading them away from the real Jesus and indoctrinating them into blatant heresy.
People who maintain some personality in the midst of dominating cults will began to sense frustration and hopelessness as they realize they do not have the freedom to question their leader or think outside of the organization. If a person shows any independence outside of the cult, especially smaller cults, it is a sure way to bring consequences upon him or her as he or she is accused of such things as “touching the anointed.” In some cases, these people know that the leader will make an example of them. Therefore, they must be quick to prove their loyalty by defending the honor of their leader and sacrificially supporting the cause of this church or organization in the name of Jesus regardless of how many doubts and questions they may have.
Sadly, this cult mentality is gaining momentum throughout the church. It seems that many pastors are adopting the cultic tactics to build their worldly empires. Unfortunately Jeannette and I have encountered this mentality many times in our 12 years of ministry. We have had to pick up the pieces of lives that have been victimized by these counterfeits. We have lost dear friends to the claws of these spiritual vultures and our encounters with them have been anything but pleasant.
In the early 1990s, Jeannette and I attended a meeting where I had my first encounter with what I referred to as the “new breed of apostles and prophets.” The man that was preaching was very militant and unloving. As I discerned his spirit and listened to his teaching, I thought I was back in my old cult. I watched the man work the crowd up into an emotional pitch that drowned out all discernment. And then, in horror, I watched this man lead Jesus’ sheep to the slaughter as he brought the crowd under another spirit to embrace a different Jesus and another Gospel (2 Corinthians 11).
This man could tell we were not buying his heresy so he convinced the congregation that there were demons coming against him and he stirred the crowd up into a frenzy of shouting and clapping to get rid of the “demons”. We watched the people become out of control as they shouted at the top of their lungs and clapped their hands in emotional hype.
We eventually escaped by way of the back door and later it got back to us that he had successfully driven out the “demons.” I am sure we were identified as the culprits but a short time later we were vindicated when this same man showed up in another community a few miles away from us, split up two churches, and started his own cult.
Recently, we had two other encounters with this mentality. We ministered to a couple of people who were caught up with this new breed of fanaticism. We gently contended with them but they chose to hold on to their error. In fact, they left in a huff because they could not agree with us. Later, we were made aware that one of them was praying to bring our ministry down. In fact, this person was cursing the ministry. The Word clearly states that vengeance belongs to God and that He will separate the wheat from the tares in due season (Matthew 13:24-30; Hebrews 10:30). Meanwhile the tares will grow up among the wheat to not only test the hearts of God’s followers but to establish character. Since God is in charge of separating the tares from the wheat on judgement day, it is not my responsibility to call vengeance on anyone no matter how much I may disagree with them. I admit I do mourn what these false brethren are doing to God’s sheep and at times I pray for their souls but God will deal with them in His just way.
In our second encounter, a so-called prophet came to our house and pronounced judgment on our ministry. If you understand how God works, you will know God never pronounces judgment until He first reveals sin and calls the guilty party to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). This false prophet proved his real colors by not following this procedure. The truth is he could not follow this procedure because he had absolutely no accusation to bring against us that was not speculation or assumption on his part. Due to a difference in our spirit, gospel, and Jesus, he searched to find something to pronounce against us and the religious, fanatical, lying spirit that operates through him did not disappoint him. Sadly, this man believes he is of God but I doubt his salvation. He can talk about God but even demons know there is a God and tremble (James 2:19). He can quote scripture but so does Satan (Matthew 4:3-11). He takes pride in being spiritual in his knowledge of religious matters, yet he has brought a reproach on the Gospel because he is unrealistic and disobedient to the basic instructions of the Bible regarding practical matters of life (James 1:22-25). He is very religious but he is also very condescending, hard, and self-righteous in his mannerisms. He appears committed but then you realize it is not devotion to God but fanaticism because of what he believes. He mentions the Lord but there is no evidence that he has a relationship with the Living God through Jesus Christ. In fact, in the years that I have known him in his so-called “spiritual pursuits”, I have never heard his testimony of how Jesus saved him from his wretched, prideful self. In the end this man who thought so highly of himself appeared as another deluded, foolish heretic.
Over the years Jeannette and I have encountered this type of abuse from this new breed of “spiritual Christians.” In fact, they have infiltrated countless churches and have wrought havoc in them, leaving victims along the way. We have learned to run into God and seek His perspective but we are also aware that this abuse has devastated a great number of Christians who are not experienced in this area. For those who have been greatly wounded by this new breed of religious fanaticism, take heart. It is easy to discern these counterfeits once you understand what identifies them.
The one consistent fruit of any cult is pride. Pride is the opposite of God’s love and is very judgmental. It believes that it has a right to judge and carry out any vengeance as the judgment warrants. This is why people who are brainwashed by cults are dangerous. Religious pride and delusion always turns into fanaticism and will abuse, attack, and slander God’s servants and sheep in His name. Like Paul before his conversion, they think that they are doing God a service by persecuting those who dare to disagree with them (Acts 9).
If you encounter such a disposition in your spiritual leaders, church, or organization, you need to flee because you are within the reach of a wolf. You need to hide in Christ and trust that if there are sins in your life the Holy Spirit will gently convict you and bring you to a place of restoration. If you have already been wounded by the cult mentality, ask Jesus to step on the scene and heal your broken heart and wounded spirit.
In conclusion Jesus gave a very simple test by which we can test others as well as ourselves and I think it would do us well to remember it at all times. It is found in John 13:35: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”