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When I first got saved and joined a small Bible church that was not part of a denomination my friends were concerned that I had joined a cult. The church was small (50 or so attendees), we met in a school hall, the pastor was a foreigner (any American teaching just smelled suspicious), and we had a lengthy membership process, part of which required baptism because my “mainstream” Catholic christening didn’t count. It also included signing a document that said I understood the practice of church discipline, resulting in excommunication for violating Scripture.

In retrospect, I can sympathize with their concerns. My beliefs and behavior altered, and albeit for the better, it still seemed radical. I attended three Bible studies a week, two services on a Sunday, and listened to countless hours of John MacArthur tapes. I started dating a girl in the church who had refused to date me while I was Catholic. I can see what this looked like. At one point the pressing concerns of a close friend of mine caused me to pause and consider: had I joined a cult?

I asked a friend in another church how I could know if I was in a cult. I have been asked the same question by others, and I’ve had Christian parents enquire how they can know if the church their college-aged child has got involved in is a cult or not.

First, let me say that the mere fact that you are asking the question is a good sign. Even if someone in my own (Baptist) church asked me if we were a cult I would not be offended but encouraged. It signals that the person is thinking critically about their faith, rather than accepting it based on an authority figure spoon feeding (or worse: force feeding) it to them. I would also recommend to the enquirer that they not accept my answer as final either, but that they read widely and research other sources to check what I say.

Also, bear in mind that cultic patterns occur on a spectrum. The more characteristics your church exhibits, the more concerned you should be. And just because a group is missing one or two of these traits does not mean it is a safe spiritual place.

Your church might not be a cult, while still exhibiting cultic behavior, that you should address with the leadership.

So here is the short answer, in 500 words…

5 Characteristics of Cultish Groups:

Read the Characteristics HERE 

 

 

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