There are ways to know if your Church is a cult. Steven Hassan’s BITE Model of Authoritarian Control is a great indicator and starting point. The Bible as a whole promotes values of love, freedom, critical thinking, and personal responsibility, which can serve as counterbalances to the elements of the BITE model.
Cults today are not a group of men dressed in matching robes holding candles while they chant. A cult is a lot more deceptive and sinister than that. They are the welcoming smiles hiding an unsaid agenda to control. If you are in a church and there is a tugging in your heart that something is not quite right- question, seek, find. You should be able to speak to your church leaders without judgement, without being palmed off, ignored or unseen. Find out if your Church is a cult… let’s dive in
- Church Members are expected to attend multiple church services or events every week which interfere with everyday life.
- Women are required to dress modestly in order to not make their ‘brothers stumble’.Firstly ew, secondly why are men not taught to exercise self-control?
- Members are discouraged from activities deemed as sinful such as drinking alcohol or engaging in premarital sex.
Galatians 5:1 “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” This scripture opposes any form of control, emphasising the freedom believers have. The church will have you believe the ‘yoke of slavery is only from the outside but it can be excessive rules and regulations from within the church as well.
- The church can control and twist scripture to manipulate its own agenda and cause. They encourage strict interpretation and discourage believers from reading outside material
- Turn or Burn doctrine and other such fear-based ideologies are used by leadership to discourage members from questioning authority. Members are seen as rebels lacking faith in questioning the church leaders.
- The church discourages and limits any secular materials such as music or movies that might reveal a different point of view.
Acts 17:11 “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” This scripture opposes indoctrination and thought control by encouraging critical thinking and encouraging members to seek the truth for themselves.
- Members are told what to think on topics or any life issues without discussion, questioning or debate. If the church labels something as sinful the whole church will have the same view.
- The use of rituals and repetition is used to reinforce the doctrine and belief system such as reciting the same prayer. Although this may be comforting to some it can be the catalyst for the manipulation.
- Independent thought is discouraged and questioning is out of the question.
Romans 12:2 (NIV): “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” This verse supports the idea that believers need to renew their minds and think independently. To not be conformed by society both inside and outside the church.
- The church often creates an environment of extreme emotional support where looking for outside help is looked down on.
- Members are praised for conforming to the belief system of its leadership and are shamed for not conforming.
- The use of fear-based messaging is used and members are discouraged from leaving and shunned by the entire congregation if they do leave.
2 Timothy 1:7 (NIV): “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.” This scripture reveals that each believer has the ability to not be manipulated but have the power within to walk with God themselves instead of through second-hand regurgitated information.
So, you can decide for yourself, Is your Church a cult? I may have paraphrased the exact words of the BITE model, but you get the idea. Where have we gone wrong as a church? You can read more of my personal journey here. Why I Left the Church
Throughout history, atrocities have been committed in the name of ‘The Church’. Now the raping and pillaging are more figurative and spiritual abuse is rife! People are leaving the church and finding God for themselves in a new Church, one without walls, ceilings, limitations and restrictions. If you do happen to find yourself a decent church, just make sure the pastors and priests are approachable. That they are not focused on behaviour modification but leave the work to God.