Note from Author:
Since this topic is quite broad, and that I swore an oath to myself that I will stick to writing entries no more than 900 words, I will be dividing it into parts. Consider this an intro.
Last night, when I was typing in Google search the keyword “Christian Church culture” for my next blog entry, I noticed the auto-search suggested sites/blogs talking about how a certain Church is potentially a cult.
Intrigued, I totally forgot my original purpose and started browsing about the topic instead. After checking a handful of sites that talk about the topic, I noticed that these blogs fall into any of 3 categories:
- The blog authors are ex-members (or are related to ex-members) of the Church in question, are writing to “expose the wolf in sheep clothing”, and are warning existing members of the Church strongly advising them to leave.
- The blog authors are members of Church A involved in a fierce rivalry with Church B, warning members of the opposite Church that they are in the wrong group and should leave quickly in order to save their soul — often implying that the exodus should be toward their side of the fence because they are the One True Church.
- The authors are neither of the above, and may have simply be posting a research work, or have stumbled upon a Bible verse warning about false prophets and false teachings. Often, these authors may have had first-hand information about cult-like Churches, so as to whisk away element of hearsay or rumors from their work.
I decided to focus on articles from the third category and not waste my time on the first 2 categories, no matter how good their arguments may be. The reasoning is simple:
- There is a thin line that separates an honest expose’ from black propaganda. We have seen this being used in political mudslinging — in all sizes, shapes and colors. In fact, I often am very cautious about articles “exposing the wolf in sheep clothing”.
- While there is nothing wrong with airing sentiments over the web (which I do quite often), I also understand that it is quite easy to confuse “just airing sentiments” from “making bitter accusations with a revengeful intent” — and that so called “expose'” is probably the superlative form. And if you will look at it more closely, an expose’ motivated by vendetta and wrapped in the pretense of “exposing the wolf in sheep clothing” is far more damaging and deceiving to the readers. How could we trust someone exposing lies if his very intentions are questionable?
Nonetheless, the “threat of dabbling with false teachings” is real. And every Christian is
encouraged instructed by the Scriptures to “test every spirit”.
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. — (1 Jn 4:1)
So as mentioned, I read well-meaning sites so I can effectively test if my Church is a cult.
From Barnabas ministry, I learned there is a continuum of Church environments.
Here is an excerpt:
Church environments fall along a continuum. On the one extreme would be the absolutely perfect environment. Since people make mistakes and people would be part of any church envronment, such a perfect environment could only exist in theory. On the other extreme would be an abusive, exploitative, dishonest, utterly destructive group with no redeeming values whatsoever. Hopefully, the only place a group like this would exist is also in theory. Between these two extremes, there is every other church environment.
- By identifying a church as “unhealthy” I do not mean that it merely has problems. All churches have problems, no churches are perfect. Further, churches go through phases that are difficult, analogous to any normally healthy person being sick for a few days. An unhealthy church has certain problems that are not only debilitating, but are also persistent or chronic like a person who has a chronic illness or condition.
- By abusive, I mean a church mistreats and/or exploits its people.
- By cultic, I mean a church uses deception, manipulation and other unethical means to gain and maintain members.
So stay with me, as we try to discover if my Church (or your Church) is healthy, abusive or cultic.