Monday, January 9, 2012

Note to the reader

This site is about the New Testament Christian Churches of America


The contents of this site were originally published at, and are reproduced here by permission.  


This site is in blog format, which means the original ntccxposed menu is inverted: the top of their menu is the bottom of the menu on the right.


This site is published in the hope that it will help save any souls who may be tempted to become part of the New Testament Christian Churches of America.


This site is also published in the hope that it will help former members of the New Testament Christian Churches of America to understand and heal.


And finally, this site is meant as a beacon of hope to all members of the New Testament Christian Churches of America.


I recommend Brian Pelfrey's Confession as your starting point.

How I Healed

 How I healed the psychological injuries from my abuse in a cult

By Lawrence Wollersheim

  I am the Co-founder of, the oldest and largest internet source of free information on cults and mind control. I am also the winner of an 8.7 million dollar lawsuit against Scientology — that Scientology was forced to pay!

I have waited far to long to write and share this short statement of how I was healed of the greatest part of the damage the cult of Scientology did to me through their use of mind control.

To put things in perspective the psychological damage caused by Scientology is generally considered the worst and longest lasting of all cults. And, I did not just heal back up to where I was before I was abused by Scientology, the simple process below actually transformed my pain and loss into amazing strengths and character qualities that I could have never attained had I not done all 5 steps below.

If you are a cult abuse victim, the simple list below can be used as a checklist to see what might be missing from your healing program. Most of the information below is also equally applicable to all other forms of abuse and victimization.

Step 1: Learn what happened to you by reading the accounts of other similar victims.

Step 1a: If you are a victim of cult abuse, thoroughly learn about the psychological dynamics of how mind control works. This way you will be able to see more certainly and clearly how you were systematically deceived and victimized by a technology in the hands of the unscrupulous cult leaders or their middle management manipulated manipulators.

Step 2: Get therapy from a specialist in the area of abuse that you have suffered. Keep getting enough therapy until you are far more functional and the cult created irrational thought loops and induced phobias are no longer controlling the way you think about or see the world. (Therapy will go far faster and easier if you really don’t skimp on step 1 above.)

Step 3: Get real angry and sue your abuser. Anger over injustice is appropriate and useful if used as a temporary motivational scaffolding. More importantly when you sue the abuser you reverse the psychological victim/oppressor dynamics radically.

You are now the society sanctioned legal oppressor and they are the appropriate and legitimate victim of the social justice process. I cannot over-emphasize how much it will help your healing when you sue the oppressor even if you do not win!

When you see your oppressor on the stand in the court as a mere and often pathetic mortal with no magical or special spiritual powers, it does wonders to break more of the cult induce mindset out of you and restore to you once again your own power. Suing your oppressor also does much to teach others about their abuses through the public exposure you bring to them in the disinfecting light of the courts. Finally, suing them for legitimate abuse increases their costs for wrongdoing and begins to make them consider avoiding such wrongdoing which would cause more similar suits in the future.

Because it is not my practice to answer individual questions, shortly I will be publishing at and emailing out to the various cult support organizations exactly what I believe were the most important things that I learned on exactly how to win a civil lawsuit against a cult (particularly Scientology) so you will also have the benefit of this hard won successful lawsuit experience when you sue your abuser and continue deepening your healing.

Step 4: If you were in a religious cult and the religious abuse and spiritual betrayal has taken you away form your spiritual journey and spiritual quest it is absolutely critical to re-begin your spiritual journey and your inner more meaningful life again. Deep spiritual betrayal is among the hardest of the betrayals to overcome, but when you do you will heal faster and deeper than on any other step of the process.

Step 5: Educate others on the cult and their abuses. I co-founded FACTNet to do just that. Now there are many ways to help you do this on and off the internet.

  That is it! Do these five steps with a passion and your will become stronger and better and healthier than you have ever been. Your experience will become so transformative it will border on transcendental.

I wish you the absolute best on your healing journey to wholeness and to your new abilities and strengths.


Lawrence Wollersheim

P.S. Please pass this simple “how to heal” email or web page to everyone you know who you think could be benefited by this simple power formula for the healing of cult abuse.
This article was originally published, at Published with permission.

The Untouchables

Are “God’s Anointed” Beyond Criticism? 
by Hendrik H. Hanegraaff 

During His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Christ exhorted His followers not to judge self-righteously or hypocritically. Is this necessarily what Christians do when they question the teachings of God’s “anointed” preachers and evangelists? Many teachers who claim such anointing would say so, and many more of their followers commonly reply to all manner of criticism: “Touch not God’s anointed.”

Some of these teachers add that such actions carry literally grave consequences. Prominent “faith” teacher Kenneth Copeland affirmed in his taped message, “Why All Are Not Healed”: “There are people attempting to sit in judgment right today over the ministry that I’m responsible for, and the ministry that Kenneth E. Hagin is responsible for….Several people that I know had criticized and called that faith bunch out of Tulsa a cult. And some of ‘em are dead right today in an early grave because of it, and there’s more than one of them got cancer.”

In addition to certain “word-faith” teachers, such sentiments may be found among various groups involved with shepherding and other forms of authoritarian rule (from diverse “five-fold” ministries to a host of large and small “fringe churches”). The leaders of these groups are commonly regarded as having a unique gift and calling that entitles them to unconditional authority. To dispute any of their words or deeds is not distinguished from questioning God Himself.

Advocates of such authority assume that Scripture supports their view. Their key biblical proof text is Psalm 105:15: “Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm” (KJV). But a close examination of this passage reveals that it has nothing to do with challenging the teachings of church leaders.

It first needs to be noted that the Old Testament phrase “the Lord’s anointed” is typically used to refer to the kings of Israel (1 Sam. 12:3, 5; 24:6, 10; 26:9, 11, 16, 23; 2 Sam. 1:14, 16; 19:21; Ps. 20:6; Lam. 4:20), at times specifically to the royal line de-scended from David (Pss. 2:2; 18:50; 89:38, 51), and not to prophets and teachers. While the text does also mention prophets, in the context of Psalm 105 the reference is undoubtedly to the patriarchs in general (vv. 8-15; cf. 1 Chron. 16:15-22), and to Abraham (whom God called a prophet) in particular (Gen. 20:7). It is therefore debatable whether this passage can be applied to select leaders within the body of Christ.
Even if the text can be applied to certain church leaders today, in the context of this passage the words “touch” and “do harm” have to do with inflicting physical harm upon someone. Psalm 105:15 is therefore wholly irrelevant to the issue of questioning the teachings of any of God’s “anointed.”
Moreover, even if we accepted this misinterpretation of Psalm 105:15, how are we to know who not to “touch”; that is, who God’s anointed and prophets are? Because they and their followers say they are? On such a basis we would have to accept the claims of Sun Myung Moon, Elizabeth Clare Prophet, and virtually all cult leaders to be prophets. Because they reputedly perform miracles? The Antichrist and False Prophet themselves will possess that credential (Rev. 13:13-15; 2 Thess. 2:9)! No, God’s representatives are known above all by their purity of character and doctrine (Tit. 1:7-9; 2:7-8; 2 Cor. 4:2; cf. 1 Tim. 6:3-4). If a would-be spokesperson for God cannot pass the biblical tests of character and doctrine, we have no basis for accepting his or her claim, and no reason to fear that in criticizing his or her teaching we might also be rejecting God.

Finally, if any individual Christian is to be considered anointed, then so every Christian must be as well. For this is the only sense in which the term is used (apart from Christ) in the New Testament: “You [referring to all believers] have an anointing from the Holy One” (1 John 2:20, NIV). Thus, no believer can justifiably claim any special status as God’s “untouchable anointed” over other believers.

Nobody’s teachings or practices are beyond biblical judgment — especially influential leaders. Biblically, authority and accountability go hand in hand (e.g., Luke 12:48). The greater the responsibility one holds, the greater the accountability one has before God and His people.

Teachers should be extremely careful not to mislead any believer, for their calling carries with it a strict judgment (James 3:1). They should therefore be grateful when sincere Christians take the time to correct whatever erroneous doctrine they may be preaching to the masses. And should the criticisms be unfounded they should respond in the manner prescribed by Scripture: to correct misguided doctrinal opposition with gentle instruction (2 Tim. 2:25).

There is of course another side to this issue: criticism often can be sinful, leading to rebellion and unnecessary division. Christians should respect the leaders that God has given them (Heb. 13:17). Theirs is the task of assisting the church in its spiritual growth and doctrinal understanding (Eph. 4:11-16). At the same time believers should be aware that false teachers will arise among the Christian fold (Acts 20:28; 2 Pet. 2:1). This makes it imperative for us to test all things by Scripture, as the Bereans were commended for doing when they examined the words of the apostle Paul (Acts 17:11).

The Bible is useful not only for preaching, teaching, and encouragement, but for correcting and rebuking (2 Tim. 4:2). In fact, Christians are held accountable for proclaiming the whole will of God and warning others of false teachings and teachers (Acts 20:26-28; cf. Ezek. 33:7-9; 34:1-10).
We would do well to heed Scripture’s repeated warnings to be on guard for false teachings (e.g., Rom. 16:17-18; cf. 1 Tim. 1:3-4; 4:16; 2 Tim. 1:13-14; Tit. 1:9; 2:1), and to point them out to believers (2 Tim. 4:6). With so much scriptural support, such actions can hardly be considered unbiblical.

Touch Not Mine Anointed

by John R. Anderson

One of the most common errors found in Christianity today is that particular persons, usually pastors or evangelists, are somehow more “anointed” than the average Christian. This teaching often coincides with a veiled threat in the form of “touch not mine [the Lord’s] anointed,” (I Ch. 16:22, Ps. 105:15). The term “anointing” means to “authorize, or set apart, a person for a particular work or service,” (Is.61:1). The New Testament is absolutely clear on whom the anointing rests - ALL of Christ’s disciples, who are God’s very own, set apart and commissioned for service (2 Cor. 1:21). The New Testament does not support the notion of a “greater” anointing based on “position” and such teaching has its origin in a fundamental misunderstanding of the relationship between the Old and New Testaments. 
Proponents of this error fail to use careful exegesis to discern the difference between the Old Testament call of a “prophet,” where the anointing rested on one man (Is. 61:1, I Sam. 26:9,11, 2 Sam. 22:51, 2 Chr. 6:42), and the New Testament call of a “priesthood of believers” (I Pet. 2:5,9). Certainly there are diversities of gifts, but the Spirit [or anointing] remains the same (I Cor. 12). Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin, and many others have long terrorized God’s people with “touch not mine anointed” nonsense if anyone dared question them or their teaching. Anyone who has a gift (all have gifts, 1 Cor. 12:7-11), has a ministry, and anyone who has a ministry, has authority and is anointed. 

It is a sad situation in many churches today that “laity” are content to sit on a pew week after week and assume the opinions of professional clergymen are to be the final authority. They find comfort in this approach because it is safe. Preachers are content to keep it this way because it secures their position in the church.

How many times have believers been subjected to mishandled scripture with an implicit or explicit “touch not God’s anointed” if any dared to question? This is in contrast to the Biblical admonition to “try the spirits”, (1 John 4:1). Fear is not of God and teaching which incorporates psychological intimidation is corrupt and deceptive. One of the easiest ways to determine what “spirit” motivates a person “in authority” is to question them. A godly man or woman will never be offended or become indignant if someone dares to question them and compare what is said with the Word of God. However, if one is motivated by an “authoritarian” spirit of conceit or arrogance, the questioner will soon know it. Peter warned the elders (pastors and spiritual guides of the church) not to be domineering [arrogant, dictatorial, overbearing] over the flock of God, but to be patterns and models of Christian living (I Pet. 5:3, AMPL.)
Many prominent pastors and evangelists today make the claim that because “souls” are being saved and “healings” take place in their meetings, that this somehow validates their ministry. While these things may be well and good, they are no indication of “divine” sanction. A.A. Allen was a drunkard, Jimmy Swaggart a whoremonger, Jim Bakker a thief, Larry Lea a prevaricator, and Robert Tilton a charlatan - yet ALL of these saw thousands saved and miracles take place in their meetings. Because one is blessed with “prosperity” and has a “following” of thousands, doesn’t mean a darn thing when it comes to integrity and godly sanction, for “he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust,” (Matt. 5:45).
Twenty-six years ago I experienced the greatest miracle of my life - salvation and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This experience came in a Pentecostal “holiness” church where, unbeknown to me at the time, the pastor was committing adultery, one of the deacons (or “pillars” of the church as they were called) visited a prostitute on a regular basis, another deacon kept a large supply of porno magazines in his home, and still another was a philanderer. This taught me that just because God moves in a particular setting, it is no indication that those who bear the message are “godly.” 

Spiritual Abuse Defined

by David Henke

Founding Date: Spiritual abuse is as old as false religion itself. While the practice is old, the term “spiritual abuse” may have been coined first by Jeff VanVonderen.

Organizational Structure: Can occur under virtually any organizational structure, but “top down” hierarchical structures are especially well suited to systemic spiritual abuse.



Spiritual abuse is the misuse of a position of power, leadership, or influence to further the selfish interests of someone other than the individual who needs help. Sometimes abuse arises out of a doctrinal position. At other times it occurs because of legitimate personal needs of a leader that are being met by illegitimate means. Spiritually abusive religious systems are sometimes described as legalistic, mind controlling, religiously addictive, and authoritarian.



#1) Authoritarian
The most distinctive characteristic of a spiritually abusive religious system, or leader, is the over-emphasis on authority. Because a group claims to have been established by God Himself the leaders in this system claim the right to command their followers.

This authority supposedly comes from the position they occupy. In Matthew 23:1-2 Jesus said the Scribes and Pharisees “sit in Moses’ seat,” a position of spiritual authority. Many names are used but in the abusive system this is a position of power, not moral authority. The assumption is that God operates among His people through a hierarchy, or “chain of command.” In this abusive system unconditional submission is often called a “covering,” or “umbrella of protection” which will provide some spiritual blessing to those who fully submit. Followers may be told that God will bless their submission even if the leadship is wrong. It is not their place to judge or correct the leadership - God will see to that.
#2) Image Conscious
The abusive religious system is scrupulous to maintain an image of righteousness. The organization’s history is often misrepresented in the effort to demonstrate the organization’s special relationship to God. The mistaken judgements and character flaws of its leaders are denied or covered up in order to validate their authority. Impossibly high legalistic standards of thought and behavior may be imposed on the members. Their failure to live up to these standards is a constant reminder of the follower’s inferiority to his leaders, and the necessity of submission to them. Abusive religion is, at heart, legalism.

Abusive religion is also paranoid. Because the truth about the abusive religious system would be quickly rejected if recognized, outsiders are shown only a positive image of the group. This is rationalized by assuming that the religion would not be understood by “worldly” people; therefore they have no right to know. This attitude leads to members being secretive about some doctrines and the inner policies and proceedures of the group. Leaders, especially, will keep secrets from their members. This secrecy is rooted in a basic distrust of others because the belief system is false and can not stand scrutiny.
#3) Suppresses Criticism
Because the religious system is not based on the truth it cannot allow questions, dissent, or open discussions about issues. The person who dissents becomes the problem rather than the issue he raised. The truth about any issue is settled and handed down from the top of the hierarchy. Questioning anything is considered a challenge to authority. Thinking for oneself is suppressed by pointing out that it leads to doubts. This is portrayed as unbelief in God and His anointed leaders. Thus the follower controls his own thoughts by fear of doubting God.
#4) Perfectionistic
A most natural assumption is that a person does not get something for nothing. Apart from the express declarations of salvation by grace through faith God has given in the scriptures, it would be natural to think that one must earn salvation, or at least work to keep it. Thus, in abusive religions all blessings come through performance of spiritual requirements. Failure is strongly condemned so there is only one alternative, perfection. So long as he thinks he is succeeding in his observation of the rules, the follower typically exhibits pride, elitism, and arrogance. However, when reality and failure eventually set in, the result is the person experiences spiritual burnout, or even shipwreck of his faith. Those who fail in their efforts are labeled as apostates, weak, or some other such term so that they can be discarded by the system.
#5) Unbalanced
Abusive religions must distinguish themselves from all other religions so they can claim to be distinctive and therefore special to God. This is usually done by majoring on minor issues such as prophecy, carrying biblical law to extremes, or using strange methods of biblical interpretation. The imbalanced spiritual hobby-horse thus produced represents unique knowledge or practices which seem to validate the group’s claim to special status with God.


Examples of spiritual abuse are found throughout the Bible. God describes (and condemns) the “shepherds of Israel” who feed themselves rather than the flock, who do not heal those who are hurting, or seek to bring back those who were driven away but rather discard them, ruling with force and cruelty (Ezekiel 34:1-10). Jesus reacted with anger against the thievery of the money changers in the Temple as they misused God’s people for selfish reasons (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-18; Luke 19:45-47; John 2:13-16). He was angry at those more concerned with rules and regulations than with human suffering (Mark 3:1-5). In Matthew 23, Jesus describes the abusive spiritual leader in great detail. In John 9 the Pharisees “cast out” the man born blind simply because the truth he told about his healing exposed their own corruption. In Acts 7:51-56, Stephen called the Jewish leaders to account over their spiritual abuse. His testimony of Christ vindicated Jesus, whom they had abused, and condemned them. The legalistic Jews were so angry they stoned Stephen to death. In Galatians Paul addressed a performance based Christianity which leads to the abuse of legalism. There are many more such examples.

As God in human flesh, Jesus had legitimate spiritual authority. But He did not exercise it to gain power for Himself, or to abuse and control others with rules and regulations. He said, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). The Greek word for “heavy laden” is phortizo which means here “to overburden with ceremony (or spiritual anxiety)” (Strong’s Concordance #5412). Jesus gave a balanced perspective on positional authority when he said, “But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren” (Matthew 23:8). He gave another key to discernment when He taught, “He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory…” (John 7:18a).

Jesus was not “image conscious.” He was willing to associate with wine drinkers, cheating tax collectors and even prostitutes. He accused the legalistic Pharisees of “teaching for doctrine the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9) and likened their showy, hypocritical outward rightousness to “whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27).

Neither was He paranoid. His ministry was conspicuously open to the public. When He was on trial (John 18) He was asked about His teachings and His reply was, “Why askest thou me?” Jesus pointed out that He always taught in public, and never in secret, so why not ask His disciples. He had nothing to hide.

Jesus did not fear to criticize the religious leaders or their faulty doctrines (e.g. Matthew 15:1-9; 23:1-39, etc.). And when confronted with criticism or with treacherous questions designed to discredit Him, His response was never to simply demand silence or only positive recognition from His accusers. Rather, He gave answers - scriptural and reasonable answers - to their objections (e.g. Luke 7:36-47; Matthew 19:3-9).

Jesus upheld the high standard of the Law, yet He clearly placed the legitimate needs of people before any rules or regulations (Matthew 12:1-13; Mark 2:23-3:5). The scriptures make it clear that no one will cease to sin in this life (Ecclesiastes 7:20; 1 John 1:8). Jesus made it plain, however, that one can know in this life that one has eternal life (John 5:24; 6:37-40), a theme developed by Paul throughout his epistles, and by John (1 John 5:10-13).

The Pharisees, quintessential spiritually abusive leaders, were quite unbalanced in their perception of what mattered most to God. Jesus said they, “…pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, - judgment, mercy, and faith….” (Matthew 23:23).


Spiritual abuse has a devastating effect on people. A very high level of trust is often placed in spiritual leaders. It is, and ought to be, expected that the trust will be honored and guarded. When such trust is violated the wound is very deep. Sometimes the wound is so deep that the wounded person cannot trust even a legitimate spiritual authority again.

An analogous situation exists with the victims of incest. The emotional and psychological symptoms exhibited by victims of incest parallel those of spiritual abuse to a remarkable degree. The main symptom is the inability to relate normally to people who represent the source of their emotional injury.

Besides an unhealthy fear of, and disillusionment with, spiritual authorities, the spiritually abused person may find it difficult to trust even God. “How could (or why did) He let this happen to me?” Anger is also deeply felt. Anger itself is not always wrong - God Himself expresses anger at such spiritual abuse (see Biblical Response, above). However, even legitimate anger, if not properly channeled and dealt with, can degenerate into bitterness and cynicism toward everything spiritual.


Healthy recovery from spiritual abuse must begin with understanding what has happened and how. A victim usually thinks he is the only one experiencing these problems. Just being able to give a name to the problem is important. There are many books on the subject (see Resources, below) that will be helpful in learning about spiritual abuse and recovery.

Afterward the abused person must learn the true nature of God’s grace, love and forgiveness. This is the foundation for being able to eventually forgive the abuser. Being able to share the experience and what has been learned so as to minister to someone else’s need is also very important. This could be done in a support group made up of people with a similar experience who can share the healing love of Christ.

Finally, a lot of time must be allowed for full recovery.

Coercive Influence


The following Influence Continuum shows you the method and modes of various influence techniques as a vertical continuum. Underneath each method, you will find the various descending techniques for that section.
At the top of the Influence Continuum you will find choice respecting tactics that are educative and therapeutic and have their emphasis on the message. In the middle you will find compliance gaining techniques that are persuasive and manipulative and have their emphasis on gaining a response.
At the bottom of the continuum you will find destructive controlling techniques designed to isolate you from normal social supports and reality testing. As your review the continuum try to remember people  or organizations (friends, bosses, teachers, family, corporate tactics, etc.) you liked and disliked that have been applied to you from the various sections of the influence continuum. This is a powerful quick tool to help you choose how you are influenced and to identify unethical or illegal types of personal, corporate or governmental influence to which you have been subjected.

Method Of Influence
Mode of Influence: Choice-respecting (emphasis on message)

Information Giving
Directed Questioning
Creative Expression
Commenting on Problem or alternatives
Suggesting Ideas
Recommending solutions
Rational argument (message oriented)
Hypnosis (some forms)

Mode of Influence: Compliance-Gaining (emphasis on response)
Persuasive/Manipulative Rational Argument:

Compliance oriented
Emotional appeals
Compliance tactics: consistency, reciprocation, social proof, authority, liking, scarcity (see Cialdini. 1985)
Hypnosis (some forms)

Controlling/Destructive Isolation from social supports: 

Selective reward/punishment
Denigration of self and of critical thinking
Dissociative states to suppress doubt and critical thinking
Alternation of harshness/threats and leniency/love
Control-oriented guilt induction
Active promotion of dependency
Physical restraint/punishment
Pressured public confessions
Originally published at Used with permission.

Cults: Are You A Part Of One?

Cults: Are You A Part Of One?

by Michael Tummillo

What’s the difference? I’ve heard many people attempt to use these two words interchangeably and, often, inappropriately.

Quite simply, the word “occult” is derived from a Latin word (occultus) that means, basically, “that which is hidden.” The word “cult,” on the other hand, comes from a word which means “to cultivate.” In other words, to break down and train up in accordance with the prescribed method. That’s what this article is all about.


Many years ago, as I was devouring every spiritual thing I could get my hands on (good and bad), I wound up involved with a group that 20/20’s Barbara Walters later referred to as “the fastest growing cult in America.” The group referred to themselves as the Boston Church of Christ and/or the Cornerstone Church of Christ. They now refer to themselves as the International Churches of Christ, not to be confused with the traditional Church of Christ. I’ll spare you the many gory details but, essentially, this group was known for their unique “discipleship” technique - nothing short of blackmail - which has resulted in quite a few lawsuits. In fact, I was one of those who ultimately wound up getting a lawyer who wrote them a letter to get them to leave us alone.

Afterward, one man, referred by the group as my “discipler,” called my home one evening, trying to make sense of my legal action. I naively informed him that he was involved in a cult (something cultist actually expect to hear, seeing it as persecution which only underscores their purposes) that had received numerous law suits and that he should leave the group at once. He laughed at the absurdity of the notion as my warning only confirmed his convictions that he was on the right team. At the end of the conversation, I said, “Well, I guess I’ll see ya in Heaven, huh?” He snapped back, “That’s the point, Michael…one of us isn’t going!” Since then, I have been invited to several of that group’s Bible “Studies” and wound up being more than a little disruptive by way of the questions I was asking that threw off the speaker’s sales pitch. No converts were made on those nights, that’s for sure.

Please bear in mind that these were well-meaning, kind, VERY sincere individuals. But they were deceived. Remember, they are NOT the enemy…we already know who that is!

A man who was considered by many to be the greatest authority on the cults, the late Dr. Walter Martin, described a cult simply as “A group of people gathered around a specific person’s misinterpretation of the Bible.” Cults are groups that claim to be in harmony with Christianity but deny foundational Christian doctrines such as the Trinity or the unique deity of Jesus Christ. The group I had joined agreed with most everything the traditional Church of Christ teaches except that it took James 5:16 too far (”Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed”). They actually had used people’s confidential confessions as a means of blackmailing and were sued for slander and defamation of character. One of the signs of a cult, according to James Walker of Watchman Expositor, is that they will multiply, divide, add or subtract from basic Christian doctrine.

Jesus warned us about the cults. In Matthew 7:15-17, he warned, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.” Here, what Jesus was warning us was that cultists will look, act, and sound very much like genuine Christians. However, they are wolves in sheep’s clothing. One can masquerade as a true believer for a time, but eventually one’s words, actions, and especially one’s beliefs will betray them. That’s why relationship is SO critical to us as we enter into spiritual involvement with others. Galatians 5:22 tells us what the fruits of the Spirit - the evidence that the Holy Spirit resides within us - are. Just because one calls themselves Christian doesn’t mean they ARE, no more than standing in a coffee bar makes one a Cappuccino.

Why is the cult I was involved with - or any other cult - growing so fast? Their growth can be attributed to several key factors:

1) We were warned by Jesus and the apostles that there would be days like this. In Matthew 24:23-26, Jesus warned that, as His return draws near, there will be an increase in false prophets who will ensnare many with false teachings. It’s true. It’s happening. I see it all the time. In 2 Peter 2:1-3, Peter warns us that false teachers will arise from WITHIN the church. Yes, that’s happening, too. Bad, unbiblical teaching abounds!

2) The growth of the cults contributes to the breakdown of the family, including Christian families AND the universal family of God, all those who consider themselves born-again children of God. Also, the breakdown of the family unit has served to fill the ranks of cults as people go looking for acceptance. As families go, so goes the Church. As the Church goes, so goes the nation. Like urban gangs, cults provide the acceptance and family atmosphere longed for by many who stem from broken homes. The cult leader often winds up taking the place of a father figure.

3) Finally, we can attribute the alarming rise of cults to the failure of the Church to fulfill the Great Commission of Christ. It has been said, “The cults are the unpaid bills of the church.” Cults thrive because Christians are lacking in biblical and theological understanding, therefore, we have very little impact on the spiritual climate of our nation. Dr. Martin stated, “The rise of the cults is directly proportional to the fluctuating emphasis which the church has placed on the teachings of biblical doctrine to Christian laymen. To be sure, few pastors, teachers, and evangelists defend adequately their beliefs, but most of them — and most of the average Christian laymen — are hard put to confront and refute a well-trained cultist of almost any variety.” If the church engaged in solid and in-depth Bible teaching, the Body would become better equipped and, when we came in contact with those in bondage to a cult, we might actually help them. If this were the case, the cults
would not flourish as they do. Bible illiteracy is key.

In 2 Corinthians 11:4, Paul warned about false teachers teaching of another Jesus. A modern-day example of false teaching is Christian Science which teaches that Jesus was not God incarnate but merely a man who displayed the “Christ” idea; He neither died for sins, nor was He resurrected. I heard of a group that called itself the Church of the Sacred Mushroom that claimed, based on Roman 10:9-10, that because they named this particular mushroom “Jesus” and believed in “him,” they were saved. It’s important to learn exactly WHO the Jesus is that any particular group is referring to. He is NOT Lucifer’s brother as Mormonism teaches nor is he the archangel Michael as Jehovah’s Witnesses claim. He is God in the flesh, 2nd person in the Trinity, born of the Virgin Mary, etc.
Oddly enough (and I’ve had this experience often), when we interact with people caught up in cultic teaching, we’ll often hear them say their group’s message is consistent with Scripture. But when we point out where their teachings deviate from the Bible, they eventually claim the Bible is filled with discrepancies and has been corrupted by the church. When asked to show a discrepancy or two, they generally are stumped as they were merely “parroting” and regurgitating what they were taught to say.


There are 3 types of doctrine mentioned in Scripture: Those of man, of demons and of Christ/God. Whatever any of us is being taught by our leaders, we MUST ask the question, was it derived from manmade traditions, was it a doctrine sown into the group by Hell itself…or was it something taught by Jesus? DARE to ask these questions, my friends! Not only do cults deviate doctrinally from biblical Christianity, but they have several distinct sociological characteristics:


Is the leader or organization trying to exercise complete control over the follower’s lives? Are the teachings of leadership considered the last word or even divinely inspired? Is going against the leadership equivalent to going against the commands of God Himself? Are you ostracized or shunned if you buck the system?


Most cults believe they are the true “church” and the only ones who are actually saved. This is because the group believes they have new revelation or understanding that gives them superior standing. I’ve been associated with no less than THREE mainline denominations and one cult in the past quarter century and they ALL claimed to be “the one true church.” Remember, the Church is NOT a building or a denomination…it’s the people of God; the Body of Christ. Not every part of the Body functions the same way, said the nose to the index finger.


With their elitist mentality, cults are convinced that those who disagree with them are deceived or even under the influence of the devil. Therefore, many attempt to shelter their followers from the outside world. Physical and even psychological barriers are often established. The faithful are advised or prohibited from communicating with outsiders who do not agree with their methods.
I was involved with a popular church of more than 2,000 members where, in an emergency meeting, the elders gathered the staff (including me, a janitor at the time) to “warn” them about a certain minister’s perceived attempt to start his own church (he held a house party; I was there). In that meeting, one elder warned that “our people should be careful about who they fellowship with.” Another elder jumped in, “I think we should take it a step further and COMMAND them not to fellowship with other groups!” I couldn’t sit still and chimed in, “You guys are starting to sound like a cult. If we were all being honest, this is all motivated by fear of losing tithers….” Needless to say, nobody said another word to me after that. Ever.


Closed-mindedness and discouragement from individual thinking are other cultic characteristics. Because of their authoritarian nature, it is believed that only those at the helm are qualified to properly interpret God’s Word. All members are taught to consult the organization for biblical interpretation and advice on life decisions. Should I marry so-n-so? Should I quit my job? We must ask ourselves if individual thinking and questioning are discouraged. Is there an unwillingness to dialogue and consider other viewpoints? Perhaps you’ve heard (herd?) of the shepherding movement, most popular in the 1980’s. It’s still around. Frankly, in this movement, the flock gives the leaders all their power by asking them about every move they make.

I once approached a minister asking for his input on financial matters, he did so with a disclaimer, saying that he was here for spiritual direction, not financial advice. Though he offered his opinion, he advised me to seek an expert. That was a healthy response.


Are they teaching salvation based upon God’s grace, or based upon your own good deeds? Is the group making disciples along the lines of Jesus and His teaching, or are they producing church-workers? A cult will teach a works-oriented “gospel,” giving its members many hoops to jump through. This leads to a lifestyle of legalism and ushers in the Spirit of the Pharisees. Followers must live up to the group’s standards in order to attain or maintain their membership and hope for eternal life. There is an obligation to faithfully serve, attend meetings, studies, and services. As a result, there is tremendous, though often subtle, pressure to live up to the requirements of the organization. An ungodly caste system is the created between those who are “spiritual” and the others. The Spirit of Pride is the next demonic presence that waltzes in, as does the Spirits of Guilt, Shame and Unworthiness as Christians compare themselves with one another.


When salvation is found by way of the organization, to LEAVE the organization can only be considered the equivalent of turning one’s back on God. All former members who leave cults are shunned by members which often includes members of their own family. Many are warned that, if they leave, they’re going straight to Hell. Many ex-members are harassed by the organization even after they leave. As I said, in my own case, we had to employ the services of an attorney to get our friendly neighborhood cult to back off. Those who are shunned, or hurt, by this negative spiritual experience, often end up distrusting any religious organization and end up feeling isolated, alone…shipwrecked.

Life in the cults is marked by fear of judgment, pressure, and legalism. This is a far cry from what Jesus taught us. Jesus and the apostles said that the new life in Christ is one of grace, love, and freedom from the Law. In Matthew 11:28, Jesus said, “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” The peace and rest promised by Christ is seldom experienced by those enslaved by the cults.

First Peter 3:15 states that we must always be “prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” How can we prepare? By knowing the Word of God through diligent study. We must not forget that, once we’ve overcome our fears, we must reach out to cult members, exercising the fruits of patience and gentleness as we share the truth in love.


The rise of the cults pose a serious challenge to the Church because they present several dangers to the Church and families involved. Here are some of the types of danger associated with cultic religions…


First Timothy 4:1 states “…that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” Ultimately the spirit behind all lies and deception is the devil, so the ultimate force behind the cults is Satan.

Galatians 1:8 states, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other that than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned.” The false gospel of the cults cannot lead anyone to salvation. There are eternal consequences for false beliefs. For this reason Jesus and the apostles are very harsh on false teachers.


The mind-controlling techniques used by the cults can cause immense damage mentally and emotionally. Living under the pressure, guilt, and dependence on the organization has proven to have tremendous negative effects on people.


Individuals are taught that loyalty to the organization is equivalent to allegiance with God. Therefore, loyalty to the organization

supercedes loyalty to family. Thus, if a family member begins conducting himself in a way the organization does not approve of, the cult will often separate the family from the individual member. Isolation can be emotional or physical. Numerous families have been separated as a result.


The teachings of David Koresh cost the Branch Davidians their lives. Vernon Howell, his real name, was an aspiring rock guitarist who became the charismatic leader of the Branch Davidian sect, an offshoot of the Seventh Day Adventists. The Branch Davidians were an apocalyptic sect founded by Ben and Lois Roden in the 1930s. Howell joined the Branch Davidians in 1981 and was quickly in good graces with Lois, the head of the church. She died in 1986 and Howell was left in control. By 1990 he had changed his name to David Koresh and had settled with more than a hundred followers in a compound called Mount Carmel, ten miles outside of Waco, Texas. Federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) tried to execute a warrant for Koresh on February 28, 1993, part of an investigation into allegations of illegal weapons and child abuse. A shoot-out ensued that left ten dead: four BATF agents and six Branch Davidians. Koresh

and his followers holed up in their compound and a confused state of negotiations went on for 51 days, ending on April 19, 1993 when the compound burned to the ground, killing Koresh and 74 followers, including 21 children. Although a special investigation by the U.S. Justice Department exonerated the government, the debate over who started the fire goes on.

Hobart Freeman taught that believers did not need medicine for illnesses, and told his followers to throw all theirs away. As a result, he and fifty-two of his members died from curable conditions. He taught that after healing is claimed, symptoms of illness or injury that remain are viewed as deception from the devil. When death occurs despite a positive confession, it is interpreted as discipline from God or a lack of faith. The saddest part is that it did not stop with Freeman. There have been over 100 people (members) of Freeman’s Church who have died as a result of his teachings. Numerous lawsuits have been filed and parents convicted of child abuse.

This type of thinking is the same as other cult leaders like Victor Paul Wierwille of The Way International who died of an illness. Apparently something was wrong with his faith, and also for Hobart Freeman, who too, died of an illness that may have been medically treatable.

Jim Jones, founder and leader of Jonestown, Guyana, a community of over 900 members of The People’s Temple Full Gospel Church, an offshoot of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), moved his congregation to Guyana to avoid government scrutiny. In November of 1978, U.S. Congressman Leo Ryan visited Jonestown to investigate allegations of human rights abuses. Ryan and his group were murdered at Jonestown, and on November 18, 1978 Jim Jones and 911 of his followers committed suicide or were murdered. Initial reports said the members drank Kool-Aid laced with cyanide, but a report from the Guyanese coroner said that hundreds of the bodies showed needle marks, indicating foul play. The U.S. government has not released all the documents pertinent to their investigation of the incident, further complicating the long-held conspiracy theory that Jonestown was a mind-control experiment conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency. Who knows?


In light of the cultic threat, what are Christians called to do?

1. We are called to study and know the Word of God. Paul writes to Timothy and all saints saying, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the world of truth.” Christians should master the Bible so that they will not be deceived by any false teaching.

2. Titus commands us to be able to confront and refute false teachers.

3. In Acts 20, Paul exhorts the leaders of the church to protect their flock from the false teachers that will prey upon the sheep. Every Christian is called to know the truth so well they can confront false teaching, and protect others from it.

If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds. 2 Jn 10-11
The cult member has been told the same lies so many times that he believes they are true. He’s been told that his group is the only one that has the truth. He has been told that the world considers his group a cult. He has been told that disciples of Jesus had to undergo the same persecution he does. You are talking to a person that thinks they are right.

Are you considering joining a particular religious group? In light of today’s spiritual smorgasbord, if you’re not sure if an organization is a cult, do these three things:

1. Take a look at their founder. Is that founder Jesus? Is Jesus STILL considered to be that founder - the Head - moreso than any man or organization? If He’s NOT, run, don’t walk in the other direction. Does current leadership claim to be the founders of all things Christian and snub or condemn all others? Good doesn’t come out of evil. Jesus said an evil tree cannot bear good fruit and this is true for cults.

2. Who does the group claim Jesus is? An ascended Master? Lucifer’s bother? A mushroom? Something else?

3. What do they say one must do to “be saved”? If it’s anything more than Romans 10:9-10, beware.
About the author:

Pastor Michael is founder of t.e.a.m. ministries ( His eMail broadcasts, known as “Your Town for Jesus” (Google it!) are reaching around the globe WEEKLY. Some estimate that millions are receiving these messages. Write him at if you’d like to SUBSCRIBE to receive his messages directly. Michael’s mission is to bring Discipleship and Encouragement to the Body of Christ. He is the author of numerous booklets on a variey of subjects that will interest the thinking Christian. Since 1999, he has written and broadcast over 200 hundred inspirational articles and a dozen booklets, all designed to accelerate the process of spiritual development in God’s people. He is a licensed/ordained minister, a Certified Workplace Chaplain, a Professional Member of NIBIC and a Speaker on the Christian Speaker Network and may be available to speak with your group.