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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Is Your Church Free From Cultic Tendencies?

In October 1991 a checklist of cultic tendencies by Charles Lesser was published in the Spiritual Counterfeits Project newsletter. I believe they are still very relevant 17 years later. The full list of 37 points can be seen at this website :-
http://www.batteredsheep.com/checklist.html
Here is a list of most of them :-

The Pastor
-- Is your pastor fully accountable to a board of elders, presbyters, etc.?
-- Does your pastor encourage questions and suggestions? Is he approachable?
-- Does your pastor give equal attention to all kinds of people in his congregation?
-- Does your pastor readily admit his errors? [Ask the COG-PKG members !!]
-- Does your pastor avoid boasting or hinting at a "special anointing"?
-- Does your pastor include himself in any calls for repentance and forgiveness?
-- Are pleas for money rare and unemotional?
-- Do the pastor and congregation avoid 'attacking' and using as object lessons, former members or those who disagree?

The Church
-- Does your church interact with other churches?
-- Does your church staff avoid secrecy?
-- Is power shared in your church (rather than pre-empted by a hierarchy)?
-- Does your church see itself as just one organ of the Body of Christ, and not the main one?
-- Is your church truly friendly?
-- Are especially needy people cared for lovingly in your church?
-- Are church members encouraged and loved even when they leave?
-- Is there a diversity of classes, races, dress styles, ages, and occupations in your church?
-- Is loyalty to Jesus and to one's own calling placed before loyalty to pastor and church?

You and Your Family
-- Are you encouraged in your own calling?
-- Are you free from fear in your church?
-- Are your children happy to attend church? [-most of the time!]
-- Are families encouraged to stay together and spend time together?
-- Do you think more about God and Jesus than you do about your pastor and church?
-- Are you clear that the pastors and elders never exaggerate or lie to make themselves look good?
-- Is your group encouraging of each other and free from gossip and rumoring?

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I can honestly answer yes to all of those questions. I'm sure others that attend my church would say the same thing. But, as in many of the splinter groups, there are the "old school" brethren that want the pastor to make decisions for them. Our pastor doesn't take that approach though. We are not exclusive and in fact have had socials with other splinter groups. I'm not sure if our congregation is in the minority, but that's the way it works with us!

Byker Bob said...

The sad fact is, that in most cases, churches which are part of the Armstrong movement have traditionally found disingenuous ways to give the "right" answers to all of these questions, and they end up missing the entire point of the survey. Others, by way of justification, have even gone so far as to state that by definition, Christianity would be considered to be a cult.

That is why some of us have started to use the term "toxic" when describing the activities and effects of Armstrongism. The cultic indoctrination process provides probably one of the best examples of the frogs in boiling water phenomenon.

BB

Anonymous said...

I didn't miss the point of the survey....I answered the questions honestly. Nothing disingenuous about it.

Que said...

I think that 'Anonymous' belongs to a most remarkable church! I am beginning to wonder if it could still be described as a WCG splinter? (...Maybe it still retains a few of the Armstrong doctrines - like the end-times perhaps?) Don't tell us the church or city - you might get deluged with new members!
== Que ==

Amy Jo said...

I'm not really sure why it seems so remarkable that a splinter from WCG can be considered a church and not a "cult". I think our local congregation learned alot during the WCG split. We also had another split locally. During that time, I did not attend due to the turmoil and confusion that was going on. My core beliefs have stayed the same, and I chose to attend somewhere that believe the same....I grew up in WCG and stayed until the split. I believe that we should keep the sabbath and holy days. That's all there is to it. I don't believe we are the one "true church" or that we are the only ones being "called". And, I know our pastor feels the same. I think that we have learned from our mistakes over the years. I respect HWA for his beliefs, just like I respect others for their beliefs. But, I in no way "worship" HWA . He made lots of mistakes and I can say that if he were here today and enforced some of the rules he had back then, I wouldn't stay. My salvation is between myself and God, bottom line. I am thankful everyday for the sacrafice that Jesus gave. Bottom line. Every church has issues, I know that. But, my congregation is where I feel comfortable. I don't get mixed up in all the drama from the higher ups. I honestly don't care. My tithes go locally, so I know where the money is going. So, why worry about what is going on at HQ? That's just my feeling. I respect everyone's opinions and where they have been and where they are now. I too, was subject to very abusive behavior in my teens from the church. But, I worked thru it, and have actually gotten a genuine apology from the pastor who made my teen life hell. I'm over it, and just want to move on, and try to be the best person I can be.

Que said...

It is great to hear your history and that you are happy with your local church (truly!). Thanks for your time. - More info in the newer post.
== Peter (aka Que)==

Byker Bob said...

It would be nice if we could believe that posters such as "anonymous", and Amy Jo represented the further evolution of the Armstrong movement, and a legitimate transition from cult to church.

Really, though, only an impartial observer could verify this. I admit that I am not impartial on this matter, and neither could a current splinter group member be impartial.

Just curious, and on a different topic. What's up with the retyping of weird fonted syllables in order to post? Is that a 'drunk posting' test? Heh!

BB

Amy Jo said...

You are right, BB, it would take an impartial person. Like I said, I am speaking for myself, and I know there are some that still think "old school." But I think that we are headed in the right direction. Just my two cents!

Que said...

Sorry about the "drunk posting test"! Blogger.com provide it so that we won't get hit by any automated spammers. Think of it as being a test of a human being -- rather than a drunk human being...

Byker Bob said...

Those automated spammers are terrible. Guess the test is good!

And, Amy Jo, I hope your assessment of some of the splinters is correct. Unfortunately, it sometimes seems as if the extremists usually get all of the attention.

BB