Are Evangelicals vulnerable to Cults

The Rev Dr Harold Bussell wrote an article in the Cultic Studies Journal in 1985 called “Why Evangelicals are vulnerable to Cults”. Writing from an Evangelical perspective he saw something in the personality and orientation of his fellow evangelicals which made them more vulnerable to cults than other Christians.

Evangelicals were not usually drawn to cults because of doctrine, but because of other factors. Doctrine was affected after a church turned into a cult, but was not the cause of turning into a cult.

Some of the factors which caused Evangelicals to be attracted to cults were :

  • A foundation in identity by opposition. Ie. we oppose Islamists, the Gay lobby, Liberalism etc. etc.
  • Idealised images of the Pastor, leading to covering up of sin or shortcomings
  • Over-emphasis on testimonies and experiences leading to the Gospel being confused with the effects or the experience of the Gospel
  • Group sharing leading to conformity, manipulation and inappropriate authority over lives
  • Development of a sub-cultural spiritual language

Although written over 20 years ago, I think these points are even more relevant today especially in mega-church and pentecostal circles. Interesting that he echos a point that Lance recently made about the experience of the Gospel replacing the Gospel. Bussell says: “ If you think you or your church is not vulnerable to these dynamics, you are most vulnerable.”

The article is well worth reading at :
Why Evangelicals are vulnerable to Cults.


30 thoughts on “Are Evangelicals vulnerable to Cults

  1. Interesting, wazza2, but I’m not sure I’d agree with you that we should single out mega-churches or Pentecostals as more vulnerable than other evangelicals.

    Surely he is making the point that all evangelicals, including those from small churches, and non-charismatic backgrounds, are vulnerable if they don’t test every spirit whether it be of the Lord, and follow scripture for themselves as they follow the message preached.

    Cults came out of evangelical church groups long before the Pentecostal revivals of the early 20th Century – for instance, serious cults like JW’s, Christadelphians, Mormons, and the less dangerous, but nonetheless cultish SDA’s came out of evangelical backgrounds, and no modern Pentecostals or mega-churches were yet in sight. The dangers were relevant to them, and must still be to all evangelicals, whether Pentecostal or mega-church, or not.

    These ten points from his essay are worth regarding:

    1. Keep in mind that all persons of authority in Scripture were vulnerable to sin. Moses had to stand under the Ten Commandments. David was confronted by Nathan. Peter, following Pentecost, led the Galatians down the wrong path.

    2. Ask to whom your pastor is accountable in your local church. Can your pastor deal with his weaknesses, and does he know his limitations?

    3. Remember John’s words, “If we say we have not sin, we deceive ourselves and God’s word is not in us.”

    4. Remember that the biographies you buy at the local Christian bookstore were also written with marketing in mind. They often tell only one side of the picture. The Bible is very frank about the difficulties in the lives of God’s leaders.

    5. Know that the purpose of the body of Christ is to equip us for a better ministry. This assumes none of us has arrived yet. Your pastor, popular evangelists, and electronic pastors are just as vulnerable to sexual thoughts, manipulative tactics, and exaggerations as you are.

    6. Learn what the Bible says about body life but also about body odor in the church.

    7. Know your own weaknesses and strengths. Then surround yourself with others who are strong where you are weak.

    8. Take seriously the biblical account of the Fan. There is no place for the words “I am shocked” in the Christian’s vocabulary.

    9.Remind yourself that on Judgment Day, the call will be “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” not “Well done, thou good and successful servant.” Remember, Jesus started with twelve but ended with eleven.

    10. Remember that the Bible does not teach the immortality of the soul but rather the resurrection of the body. Jesus came to destroy our sin not our humanness. Spirituality in Scripture affirm our humanness and negates our sin. God the Father said of Jesus, “This is my Son with whom I am well pleased” after he developed as a carpenter and before his ministry.

  2. The author was describing the situation in the US which I think has a different landscape than Australia. In the US there are a large number of independent evangelical churches which have typically been started after splitting from mainline evangelical denominations over doctrine or practice. I was a parishioner at one for about a year – they may be charismatic or non-charismatic.

    In Australia such independent evangelical churches tend to be mostly Pentecostal I think. So while there is nothing specifically in Pentecostalism that makes it more vulnerable that other Evangelical churches, in Australia they represent most of the non-mainline evangelical church.

  3. Wazza, that was an excellent article, and well worth reading the entire thing.

    It may be set in the US, but as someone with both an evangelical and Pentecostal background in Australia, I could identify with seeing most if not all the tendencies he listed. Fascinating.

    The Pente churches attract many from an evangelical background, other than new converts, so these issues are all pertinent.

    There were a few items that I felt resonated quite well with my own experience:

    1. The confusion of ‘charisma’ with spirituality (the student’s assessment of speakers based on their subjective ability to communicate well, rather than their content and the assumption that excellent rapport was the anointing);

    2. The tendency to “define spirituality on the basis of devotions, quiet time, prayer, evangelism, and Bible study, rather than …living our total lives obediently before him in our families, jobs, mind development, prayers, evangelism, and relationships” – to me this includes our work and other ‘secular’ activities which are equally an expression of our walk with God, and just as (if not more) important;

    3. The potential for abuse of the term “The Lord led me…’ and particularly when used by a leader to justify direction for a congregation that has not been consulted in any way to confirm any ‘leading’, and whose individual ‘leadings’ are regarded as of lesser importance where they conflict;

    4. Leanings towards legalism – in the majority of churches I’ve been to. I’d observe that my experience of CCC Brookvale 20 years ago (PP’s church) saw much less legalism in many ways than I saw friends at CLC Waterloo (Frank Houston’s church) experiencing at the time. CCC is more controlling in some areas now than they used to be, at the mother church (there was no control of home group formats back then, but now it is very controlled I understand). I think its hard for Christians to get their heads around grace in any type of legalistic environment. The Anglican’s had their own legalisms while I was there also.

    5. High expectations of the pastor – loved the term ‘bionic pastor’, with no weaknesses in their pastoral ability really acknowledged, though weaknesses in other areas coupled with overcoming stories are pretty normal – and that can be encouraging at times.

    6. Systems/doctrines built on scriptures taken out of context

    7. A longing for uniformity, and the confusion of uniformity with unity. A past pastor actually said in his message to us once, “I wish that you could all be the same…” as eachother. It would have made his job easier! I agree that this results in the exclusion of voices from other parts of the body, outside the particular local church or denomination.

    I agree with the author that it is healthy to develop relationships with Christians from different backgrounds. That can be particularly helpful if one’s church begins to slide off the track after a while.

  4. Hmm… I haven’t had time to read it, but looking forward to it.
    Hey Wazza! *cough*dukebox*cough*

    “The author was describing the situation in the US which I think has a different landscape than Australia.”

    Ah but you see! Pente see. Pente do. Pente like very much. This is one reason why the Oneness Pentecostal movement is starting to flourish over in some Pentecostal churches. I have found many baptist and pentecostal churches rely heavily and look to American Christianity for answers, solutions, and the next best thing.

    And evangelicals are indeed vulnerable to winds of false doctrine.
    When I was down in Newtown, I became friends with an elderly SDA who always tried to convert me. She did however inform me that a large majority of it’s members were of Hillsong origin. That alone, I’ve heard many of my friends and some pastors from the pulpit stress resting on the seventh day and that it doesn’t please God when we are disobedient to the day he’s so openly given us to rest on. Actually. I’ve heard that from CCC too.

    Oneness Pentecostalism was sweeping through a few baptist, anglican and pentecostal churches. I knew the woman who was spreading the heresy and bought division and talked to some key people in my local area telling them of her background and OP doctrine and beliefs. She caused quite serious division and hurt in some churches. I include anglican and baptist as somewhat evangelical because some are very charismatic these days.

  5. Thankfully I can’t remember hearing anyone stress resting on the seventh day in a legalistic fashion at the CCC’s I’ve attended. Only common sense stuff about rest being good for your health. Maybe I just didn’t mix in the right circles to hear it. 🙂

  6. The thing is, are cults vulnerable to evangelicals? Are evangelicals doing enough to win cult members over to Christ?

  7. To be honest, I would not really know what to do to win a cult member over to Christ.

    I have come across cult members when they come knocking on my door, and if you seem scripturally literate, they usually don’t come back. To the door knockers, I’ve asked questions and brought up scriptures relevant to their distinctive beliefs, having done some reading previously (had some door knock after reading the book, ‘Confronting the Cults’ some years back). The response I had to that was, one person said they hadn’t known what I told them, and were interested, but their supervisor at that point politely closed the conversation down, and they did not come back – I think I even offered to discuss it further. Other times (when I have been less prepared), I’ve told them I’m Christian, or, I go to a Pentecostal church – both responses have caused them to leave. In fact I recommend those responses to those who don’t want dialogue.

    At uni (many years ago) I met up with a young woman from a cult a number of times, while we discussed certain scriptural points without coming to agreement, and without either of us shifting in the direction of the other.

    So in this kind of meeting, when approached initially by the cult members, the results of any kind of dialogue appeared fruitless.

    I suspect that unless we are talking about specialist services which know how to help cult members overcome their conditioning, the way someone might come out of a cult in response to an evangelical Christian would be if they experience a real relationship with that person and share their faiths, to a level that really connects with the cult member as a loved friend and human being. However cults are often so controlling of the relationships and circumstances of their members, that for such a relationship to develop would be rare, and those that already exist would be cut off or their contact very much reduced.

    So the cult member maybe would come to a slow realisation of their situation as a result of their own inner questioning (perhaps prompted by the Holy Spirit), or as a result of some kind of betrayal or harm by their cult that causes them to start seeing through things.

  8. Good article and some very good points.

    I got to live in a cult for two months at the start of year 11 myself, so I have firsthand experience of how they work. My parents sent me and my sister up to Sydney to live in the Redeemer Baptist Community a month before they moved up to join us – so we wouldn’t miss the start of the school year while Dad stayed in Melbourne to finish off his medical practice. They then joined us and we all lived a further month in the cult (in separate houses) before my parents realised what it was and we left it (writing this now makes me wonder what my parents were thinking at the time – they’d been enamoured with the cult on a previous short visit to Sydney with some friends – but anyway).

    The Redeemer Baptist community (hereafter referred to as “the community”) is a Baptist church, who split from their original church 😉 and over time bought up a whole lot of properties on a block in Castle Hill so they could all live together; as people on the block would move out, the community would buy up the property and move in, eventually they took over the whole block (i.e. cult members sell their houses elsewhere and hand money over to community and move into a community house – houses are owned collectively).

    The community also run a school “Redeemer Baptist Christian School” http://www.redeemer.nsw.edu.au (which I completed year 11 and 12 in – i.e. we left the cult but not their school). The school is the main source of income for the community (that and defrauding centre link according to a current affairs report . The “Sunday” program had a few things to say about them too http://sunday.ninemsn.com.au/sunday/cover_stories/article_1736.asp?s=1).

    Every community cult member who finishes school is expected to go to teachers college to become a teacher then teach in the Community’s school (without being paid as it turns out). The leader of the Community (and main preacher as well as school principle) is Uncle Knoll (any and every cult member and all school students have to refer to him as “Uncle Knole”). His real name is Knole Canon (not sure if that’s how you spell it) and he’s an ex-science teacher from the Kings school.

    Based on that experience (and minor experience with the “Sydney Church of Christ” cult) and books I’ve read on the topic, my own (non expert) opinion on what defines a cult and how they operate is as follows.

    First let me point out that there are two phenomena going on with cults that people often get confused. On the one hand there is the (typically) unorthodox teaching and on the other hand there is a sociological phenomenon going on. These are actually separate phenomena and while often highly correlated (for good reason) they are distinct from each other. It is actually possible for an organization to have one but not the other. For example I would classify the Community (i.e. Redeemer Baptist) as having very much a classic sociological cult structure, yet they have orthodox (non heretical) Christian doctrine (in theory albeit not practice).

    On the other hand people typically think of Mormons as cult members, and while Mormonism is heretical and a Sect of Christianity, it is conceivable that somewhere there are Mormons living in a non-cultic healthy society, albeit their spiritual beliefs are terribly mistaken. The cultic sociological phenomenon is what I personally refer to when I use the word “cult”. For unorthodox doctrine I would use the term “sect”. For example Buddhism is technically a sect of Hinduism, and some people might (falsely) regard Christianity as a sect of Judaism.

    The point is a group can have aberrant doctrine (compared to its original group its offshoot from) but still have healthy group dynamics and not be a cult (sociologically). For all I know Mormons may well all be cult members after all, I don’t know I don’t have much experience of them – apart from door conversations- I’m just making a point. Although as Mormon membership is so large now and widespread that I suspect that many Mormons are no more cultic sociologically than many evangelical churches on a bad day.

    Anyway my own personal definition of a cult is that it is a (typically tightly bound) group of people in which the adults have abdicated their usual, normal, adult decision making responsibilities over to the group leader (and his underlings). Think of a family with parents and a couple of toddlers, next keep the group dynamics the same but replace the toddlers with adults – you’ve now got a cult.

    A typical example from the “community” cult. A community family want to go and visit their Granma for her birthday, they can’t bring the kids with them though without first asking Uncle Knole’s permission. You’re an adult and you want to see a movie or visit a work friends party – you have to ask Uncle Knole permission first (some people manage to get jobs outside the school – those who had them before joining). Being told exactly you will marry by Uncle knole (no exaggeration) is par for the course.

    Even in churches less extreme that the Community, if the minister is telling you who you can and can’t date (apart from clear cut cases i.e. it would be adultery), or what car you can drive or what job you can do (it happens even in mainline churches) you are heading into cult territory (maybe not as bad as the community) but to some degree.

    And by the way there are degrees of culticness. For example the Community are nowhere near as bad as Jonestown or the Branch Davidians. Similarly while I suspect CCCOF is heading into cultic territory – or has in the past – (for closely involved people – not casuals) it is probably nowhere near as bad as the Community. Sadly most evangelic churches I have attended have at least some level of sociological cult type phenomenon going on (with some exceptions), even the Anglican church I used to attend had a mild version to some degree.

    Basically a sociological cult is an organisation in which you have too much control/power in the hands of one man, with people giving absolute child like obedience to him. A cult is where people abdicate their rational decision making abilities to the cult leader.

    The link to aberrant doctrine is as follows. When the cult leader teaches orthodox doctrine the people follow and you get a group which is sociologically a cult but with orthodox doctrine (like the community).

    When the cult leader goes off the rails and decides to change doctrine to suit himself people who would otherwise reject him as nuts instead follow blindly because they have abdicated their rationality and decision making ability to him. So when the Heaven’s gate cult leader decides they all need to be castrated, men happily submit, likewise when David Koresh asks all the men to give him their wives as a test of their faith. Normal adults would be able to point out the problems with these requests, not so those deeply entwined in a strong cult.

    Again cults come in degrees. I don’t think PP could get the castration/wife stealing thing going on, if he ever developed the inkling to do so (and I’m sure he wouldn’t want to either whatever his faults). However when I see PP and co preaching the need for people to obey church leaders regarding who they can marry or date (surely they don’t do that to anyone in practice?) or hear lots of sermons on the need to submit to authority it worries me. (Regular sermons on the need to submit are biggies in cults. Like George Orwell’s “some are more equal than others” – some have to submit more than others).

    Personally I think that the feature that makes evangelic churches susceptible to turning into some level of cult, is the fact that you are dealing with eternal life and eternal hell issues. The preacher is often seen as the man who knows (and is instructing you) on how to obtain the former and avoid the latter. He can be seen as the man who holds the keys to your eternal life (he isn’t but the nature of the business is that he can be construed as that). That can give the preacher a lot of power, and get people deferring to him to an unusual degree (because to defy the preacher is not seen as just disagreeing with a mere man but to be defying God himself – no shortage of leaders who think that way in pente circles either). That tends to set the scene for cult group dynamics to take hold.

    Also because we Christians are required to submit to each other it makes us ripe for takeover by those who would abuse the concept (by doing it unequally).

    If we all stuck to God’s instruction that we don’t call anyone on earth father/teacher (apart from him) we’d save ourselves a lot of pain.

  9. By the way some of the common features of cults from my own experience with the community (and my reading on the topic) are as follows

    1- Always kept busy doing work for the cult with no time left over for private reflection. For example in the 2 months I was in the “community” cult, every hour of every day of the week there was an activity you were scheduled to be doing, or getting ready to do. You were always either attending a bible study, attending a sermon, attending singing practice, actually singing, mowing lawns and other handy work if a guy or cooking if a girl or eating a meal together (whatever their faults lack of food is not one of them – albeit it is with many cults). You would not think that you could fill up your entire weekend and all day after school/work with just bible studies/sermons/singing but believe me you can. There was no time you could just relax and chill and watch TV or whatever it was like a 24/7 church camp but with no free time scheduled in (OK I lie – they occasionally got to play squash – in a large community group).

    2 – Some form of self humiliation, for the purpose of inducing self doubt of one’s own judgement. For example at the Community on the main Sunday night sermon in the latter half of the sermon people had to get up and confess what rotten guys they were to everyone else – sometimes prompted by Uncle Knole other times self volunteering. (i.e. A twisting of orthodox Christian doctrine to serve the cult leaders hold on power – typical of cults. Most things they did could be justified at some level from the bible – i.e. following the letter of the law – not the spirit).

    3 – Strong emphasises on need to submit to leadership in sermons (also emphasises on how evil outside world is).

    4 – Belief that only the group is really saved, all other churches are suspect or downright evil. For example in the Sydney Church of Christ cult (are they still around?) back in the day only baptism in their church counted, people from other denominations looked upon as unsaved until they joined them (and had to get rebaptised even if baptised as an adult elsewhere). (CCC is probably a low level cult compared to the Community or SCC but I get the feeling that at CCC no matter how long you have been a Christian at other churches, you are still expected to do the Christian essentials course because again only CCC is doing it right, your time elsewhere doesn’t really count for anything for maturity in the faith).

    5 – Not allowed to have contact with family members outside cult (especially if any hostility to cult is shown). Members who leave cult are treated as if dead and absolutely shunned and not allowed to contact members still in cult. For example at the Community the woman who was one of my physics teachers in year 12 left years latter (to her credit), and was not even allowed back to collect a suitcase of clothes or to contact family members still in the community. People often fear leaving the cult because being so shut off from the outside they have nowhere to go or think they don’t.

    6 – Spy network. The cult leader is informed about everything you do and say. At the redeemer Baptist school the ability of the community kids to keep Uncle Knole informed on the activities of the non community kids was legendary (actually living in the Community was ten times worse). In the Sydney Church of Christ they had a real tree command structure with everyone being someones disciple and someone else discipler. People apparently couldn’t take a shit without asking their disciples permission (apparently at SCC all sexual thought etc had to be described in detail with details passed up chain of command, likewise with all actual sexual activity between married couples). It worries me that CCCOF connect groups (while no where near as bad as SCC I assume) still have aspects of the SCC command structure.

    There are several others points to, I had them all worked out at one stage, that’s all that comes to mind off the top of my head for now.

  10. Wow, Cpig, they are fascinating posts. I am sooo glad that you and your family got out of there pretty quick smart. Dividing parents and kids like that in their living arrangements is awful too.

    The young woman I referred to in my comment, that I met with at uni, was Sydney Church of Christ, by the way. All our discussions hinged on the issues of salvation and baptism, with her constantly referring to ‘the baptism that saves you’ as proof of her position.

    I did not hear any teaching on submitting to leadership re whom you date or marry when I was at the CCC mother church – still that was a long time ago. I do think their doctrine has become more restrictive over the last 20 years, and issues of control are stronger now. Home groups were once whatever you liked, and to be honest, often quite wonderful. Now they are programmed church wide, with notes and guidelines, it would seem. No worship even, I was told. Maybe someone here can confirm that or not.

    I have recently left the denomination at long last. However, the one I attended was a fairly healthy church until the new leadership took over, and then it began to change its doctrinal emphasis until my husband Heretic and I decided that we could no longer attend. The preaching became too frequently off, in both emphasis and use of scripture. The new leaders denied any change in doctrine and claimed the support of the former leadership. Under the newer leadership however, it moved recognisably closer to the emphasis of the mother church, despite claims to be separate.

    They are not a cult, but cult-like characteristics are increasing in some ways. So far they are fairly minor. However, it does seem that a score card is now kept, and used to determine if people are fit to contribute to the life of the church in various ways. The closer in you get, the more you are likely to get hurt. I think some people have been quite shocked when they discovered black marks against them that they had been oblivious to made them ‘unfit’ for various roles. (The breaking of unwritten and previously unimportant or nonexistent rules.)

    The emphasis on submission to leadership and on financial commitment as part of holiness have increased markedly. Those who disagree have ‘a problem with authority’ or are ‘rebellious’.

    To me, these don’t yet make it a cult. Fortunately, the leadership does not have enough innate charisma to convince people enough to go completely down that track – I hope. In fact, that’s one reason I suspect that visiting CCC speakers are sometimes brought in to speak on topics which frequently involve encouraging the congregation to commit themselves more energetically to church in some fashion. This can be financially, timewise, or again, via submission to leadership even when they have personal concerns about it – ie: Listen to your leader and ignore any doubts – God will look after things anyway.

    Its interesting though that people often don’t notice until something happens to them personally – then it is a bit of a shock, and sometimes they start questioning the way scripture is used, which can then ultimately lead to greater understanding and freedom, I hope. So hopefully even these things can be used for good, though one would rather not go through them in the first place.

  11. I might just add, that in my most recent ex-CCC, fortunately the home groups were still free and unfettered.

  12. “They are not a cult, but cult-like characteristics are increasing in some ways. So far they are fairly minor”. – Yeah that’s the impression I get.

    I actualy supect that it would be kind of hard to get the CCC congregation to go heavily down the cultic road.

    (For some background info I divide people according to the Myres/Briggs scheme of NT, NF, SJ and SP). The style of worship at CCC attracts the SP type big time, I suspect 90% would be SPs. Problem is SPs natural independance/not taking authority too seriously /lack of discipline and disinclination to follow the rules etc would make them a harder target for cult control.

    Sad to hear that things were better in the past.

  13. “I actualy supect that it would be kind of hard to get the CCC congregation to go heavily down the cultic road.”

    I agree, especially since the movement had its roots in a pretty liberating environment and since the individual churches are quite autonomous. If there was a particularly charismatic leader it would be more likely.

    One thing that concerns me is that the leaders of local congregations seem to be accountable to others outside their own congregation, but not to independently recognised elders within their own local church. It does not leave much recourse for congregation members if things do start to turn for the worse. That means that if a congregation did start to take on heavier cult characteristics, it might take a long time before anyone in a position to assert authority outside the situation realised.

  14. Out of interest cpig, which personality type do you think is more inclined to submit to cult control?

    (Did you mean SP or SF above? Not that I am any expert in Myers Briggs, but my limited knowledge would suggest that the F type might like the style.)

  15. “Sad to hear that things were better in the past”

    Yes there is a notable change over time as RP has indicated. A move towards typical mega-church. My thoughts on the matter are that, kind of like enropy, as churches get bigger they have to move away from a basis of dependence on Jesus towards dependance on systems.

    I have noticed a movement toward Roman Catholic-like doctrines over my 20 years in and around CCC (hierarchical control, infalibility of the pastor, tithing, centrality of the service, clergy v laity etc). I am convinced that as movements grow they eventually have to take on values that approximate RC values because they are not so much RC values as values of a large human institution.

  16. RavingPente:
    “The new leaders denied any change in doctrine and claimed the support of the former leadership. Under the newer leadership however, it moved recognisably closer to the emphasis of the mother church, despite claims to be separate.”

    Surely, you knew this was going to happen though. The mother must always know what her children are doing, making sure what they do is correct.

    RavingPente:
    “They are not a cult, but cult-like characteristics are increasing in some ways. So far they are fairly minor. However, it does seem that a score card is now kept, and used to determine if people are fit to contribute to the life of the church in various ways. The closer in you get, the more you are likely to get hurt. I think some people have been quite shocked when they discovered black marks against them that they had been oblivious to made them ‘unfit’ for various roles. (The breaking of unwritten and previously unimportant or nonexistent rules.)”

    This is so true. These cult-like activities have been on the rise (that I’m aware of) since 2001. Hmm… t came with the climb of materialism and new hope of ‘reinventing’ church in this new millenium, the ‘twenty-first century church’. A few pentecostal churches went through this phase of new leadership, new direction, new vision, etc. which equaled them trying to achieve ‘excellence, greatness, grandness’, the result creating a prison in the shallows. The score card system came in where excellence, leadership, commitment and passion are the standards. If you don’t have these characteristics, oh well. Because this type of sermon and focus is shoved in this environment, the prison is in place. Everyone dresses for excellence, talks as though they care, and imitate passion as best as they can while at the same time feel completely void of real human contact, deep and meaningful relationships and deeper theological teachings.

    The black mark system is definitely there. Leadership never forget and do gossip behind closed doors. They have indecently bought up unnecessary points and accusations in front of others to demonstrate their authority and ‘knowing’ of what supposedly goes on in the church. It is a fear tactic and demeaning, used so that none can discredit those in authority unfortunately.

    RavingPente:
    “The emphasis on submission to leadership and on financial commitment as part of holiness have increased markedly. Those who disagree have ‘a problem with authority’ or are ‘rebellious’.”

    Yep. True in every sense of the word. If you disagree with Phil on anything, don’t agree with the vision, wish to make a positive difference or have a problem with their teachings, you get marked and are also seen as not being fit for the CCC movement, for ministry or for being leadership material. You are the one with the problem, not them. Go somewhere else. CCC aren’t the only ones who suffer this. Those who also don’t fit the mold and don’t conform also don’t have a chance of making it. Speech impediment? Forget it. Looks? Confidence? Style? Charisma? Sexuality? Have all these and you might just make it. Oh, and you love God and His Word.

    RavingPente:
    “To me, these don’t yet make it a cult. Fortunately, the leadership does not have enough innate charisma to convince people enough to go completely down that track – I hope. In fact, that’s one reason I suspect that visiting CCC speakers are sometimes brought in to speak on topics which frequently involve encouraging the congregation to commit themselves more energetically to church in some fashion. This can be financially, timewise, or again, via submission to leadership even when they have personal concerns about it – ie: Listen to your leader and ignore any doubts – God will look after things anyway.”

    Two years ago I met a cheeky woman at a friends birthday who actually talked about how the church body itself has it’s own movement in itself. Back then, she ran a connect group. She originally just wanted to meet with friends and do whatever outrageous things they wanted to do that involved people from the church, other churches and nonbelievers. It was highly popular. A leader approached her. Got upset with her. They wanted her to prove that she was running a connect group because of the other CCC-ites involved. She simply got another leader to sign a connect-group sheet and showed the sheet to the fuming leader. She now, much to annoyance, now had an official connect group. She mentioned about how she needed to discuss the people that were going to the group in connect-group leadership meetings and groups.

    Talking to one of her friends in her group, they made the comment that in CCC, that their is a separation between leadership and the actual body. There was a nice analogy. The body of Christ in CCC was a body of water with two currents going opposite ways. The current on the surface washed the shallow people into deeper water where they struggled under works and excellence put on them by leadership. The “undercurrent” when they sank, took them back to the shallows where they could learn to swim. Her eyes twinkled as she talked about how she was part of the “undercurrent” at CCC. I’ve met a few and they are solid. I don’t know how solid they are, but they are dedicated in seeing people and the vulnerable corrected and looked after. So this is probably why the “surface-current” leadership have failed to convince the church so effectively- the “undercurrent” is doing a solid job.

    (Now Undercurrent is a good name for a ministry!)

    RavingPente:
    “One thing that concerns me is that the leaders of local congregations seem to be accountable to others outside their own congregation, but not to independently recognised elders within their own local church. It does not leave much recourse for congregation members if things do start to turn for the worse. That means that if a congregation did start to take on heavier cult characteristics, it might take a long time before anyone in a position to assert authority outside the situation realised.”

    Talking to some students from CCC; I was informed that Phil Pringle is tutored and mentored by Cho. Yonggi Cho? I don’t consider Cho to be strong doctrinally or theologically, but strong in leadership, vision and direction; perfect in a culture and environment where he is. I’d like to not believe the two students, but I’ve never known anyone that helps Phil personally with close dealings. I hope he relies on the elders. He use to rely on a bunch of yes men half a dozen years ago, but I don’t know what happened to them.

    heretic1:
    “I have noticed a movement toward Roman Catholic-like doctrines over my 20 years in and around CCC (hierarchical control, infalibility of the pastor, tithing, centrality of the service, clergy v laity etc). I am convinced that as movements grow they eventually have to take on values that approximate RC values because they are not so much RC values as values of a large human institution.”

    So true. I’ve been observing this in these congregations in the last eight years. Did you know that the tithe doctrines was a late doctrine that was taught in the RC church to get people to give money into building churches around Europe. Even the RRC thought it was pushing it’s limit with sound doctrine when they introduced the tithing doctrine.

    ==========

    AND FANTASTIC posts cpig. You have given me a lot to ponder and consider.
    My review out of ten of what CCC has in each of these qualities:

    1- Always kept busy doing work for the cult with no time left over for private reflection.
    6/10 Highly encouraged to be part of God’s work, move of God, life changing events, etc., in every area of church life. If none live up to this expectation, you’re not as valued by leadership, ladder-climbers or those desiring leadership roles.

    2 – Some form of self humiliation, for the purpose of inducing self doubt of one’s own judgement.
    5/10 The constant reinforcement of people and church to be excellent have resulted many people in feeling not worthy to be in other people’s lives. Because they see everyone else being ‘excellent’ in ‘spirit, soul and appearance’, condemnation is felt those that they can’t keep it up. This is mainly felt with young women in the congregation.

    3 – Strong emphasises on need to submit to leadership in sermons (also emphasises on how evil outside world is).
    8/10 No one is really allowed to question Phil. Some close friends may. Sometimes they can’t themselves. He has authority over his friends too. Emphasis on how evil the world isn’t really focused on.

    4 – Belief that only the group is really saved, all other churches are suspect or downright evil.
    7/10 Salvation isn’t the belief. Success is. They look down on other ministries because of their ‘failure’ in strong leadership and in winning the lost. All other churches (local I mean), are weak, dying, drying up, falling, etc. Their movement is great, succeeding. So jump on and get in line with God’s will or jump off and joy the dying.

    5 – Not allowed to have contact with family members outside cult (especially if any hostility to cult is shown).
    4/10 They pump into the youth and middle-aged to be more involved with church life then to support their families. This is not healthy family living. Many Christian parents are concerned with their parents going to SG (Stadium Generation).

    6 – Spy network. The cult leader is informed about everything you do and say.
    5/10 Well, because I have seen the “undercurrent”, this is can range from some leaders knowing a lot, to some leaders knowing very little.

    Me doing this actually made me realize how middle ground CCC is. I thought my processing would have had the markings up higher. Hopefully this wont be on the rise anymore. I think the Australian church is still exploring and discovering the arts and the internet. Intellect, thoughts, teachings, understandings and new perceptions are furthering and opening Christian’s minds more and more through these mediums. Young Christians are taking their own learning into their own hands thanks to youtube (non)Christian documentaries; wikipedia’s resources; articles; and online church theological ministries. Christian artists are expanding their arts through internet connection, inspiration, ideas and insights.

    The online church is, I believe, bringing a global understanding of the simplicity of the gospel message again and becoming more liberal in embracing individuals, different livelihoods and experiences. Through this openness, we are seeing how shallow church life is while the web shows us endless possibilities and new horizons; what does the church desire to be united in? Does the church desire to be united under one man’s vision? Or does the church desire to set it’s eyes on the endless horizon of possibilities of exploration and growth? (Where we are free to roam, explore and experience new things that can bless us or others with?)

  17. The mother church sounds more extreme than the one I went to, S&P. Much depends on the leadership, and on how long they’ve been running things.

    I may not have much internet access over the next couple of weeks, so may be a bit quiet for a while. Cheers – RP

  18. “Out of interest cpig, which personality type do you think is more inclined to submit to cult control?

    (Did you mean SP or SF above? Not that I am any expert in Myers Briggs, but my limited knowledge would suggest that the F type might like the style.)” – RP

    The type I believe most likely to be susceptible to joining (or staying in a cult) is the SJ type.

    I can see why you would say SF. I don’t disagree but no-offense the SF type is not one of the 4 primary temperaments. Basically I subscribe to the point of view of Keirsey in his “Please understand me II” book that you only have four fundamental type (or temperaments ) of SJ, SP, NT, NF. You can look at SF types and others and I have a book on my shelf that even does that – and see things SFs have in common with each other – but it is not as fundamental a type as the SJ type. When I said SJ I meant as per Keirsey’s theory (modification to Myres/Briggs theory) – in which SF is not a fundamental temperaments – no offense. (By the way “Please understand me I” and “Please understand me II” are the best Myres/Briggs book in my opinion). I subscribe to Keirsey view purely because it fits in with my own personal observations so well.

    Although you can look at the group of people possessing both Sensate and Feeling functions as dominant, the SF group is not as fundamental a group as that of the four fundamental types of SJ, SP, NT, NF. Keirsey still believes in the 16 personality types of the Myres/Briggs scheme and gives the same 16 personality descriptions and the same test to determine type, but believes that the 16 types are of shoots of 4 more fundamental types. (Also whereas Myres/Briggs would see an NT type as a combination of iNtuitive function plus Thinking function Keirsey sees and NT as a type in its own right – albeit it can be further subdivided to the four NT type of INTP, ENTP, INTJ and ENTJ with the same personality descriptions as per Myers/Briggs).

    Certainly I find it’s easy to speed read someone’s personality type by first picking which one of Keirsey’s 4 main types they are, then filling in the other blanks.

    Basically the idea is that Feeling SPs (Sensate Perceptives ) have more in common with Thinking SPs than they do with iNtuitive Feelers (NF) or even Feeling SJs (Sensate Judgementals). Similarly with Introverted SPs having more in common overall with Extraverted SPs than Introverted SJs or Introverted NTs.

    Note also that if you are iNtuitive instead of Sensate then what really matters is whether or not you are a Thinker or a Feeler in determining your main group and being S or J is less relevant. On the other hand if you are Sensate instead of iNtuitive then whether you are S or J is what matters not T or F in determining your main type. Sorry its unsymmetrical like that but that’s the way it is. And it seems to work.

    The basic descriptions of the 4 basic personality temperaments (which can then be further subdivided into 16 types in total) based on my own reading and experience (confirming my reading), very roughly of the top of my head (search internet for more details) are as follows – this is very incomplete just from memory – sorry this is very badly ordered – it’s just off the top of my head
    (Sorry for lack of paragraphs – I’m lazy).
    SP – Sensate Perceptive – Experiencer/Warrior/Artist-Artisan/Party Girl-Guy/Naughty
    Live only in the present (no concept of past or present – exaggeration maybe). Hates study and scholarly activity because has no need for it, as is fundamentally a Doer not a planner or talk abouter. Into the concrete here and now not abstract. Typically Entertainers/Artists/Artisans/Adventurers. Most generous and sympathetic types but also very pragmatic and make hard headed business men. Freedom seeking and disrespectful of authority. Believe people rise to the positions they do by chance. Will agree to obey boss but then go and do own thing. Will drop previous plans and not turn up when where they said they would if some new thing comes along to change their attention. Very adaptable. Good opportunists, good spot an opportunity and take advantage of it (change plans to suit new circumstances. Good at mastering tools, make the best pilots/warriors/tradesmen. Have a temper but doesn’t last long. Prides themselves on being spontaneous also see themselves as masters of seduction. The most sensual of all the types, most effective seduces but also most easily seduced. Most easily addicted type. Have greatest endurance at physical activities of all the types (thoughts of “how long have I been doing this” or “how long do I have to keep this up for” don’t bother them in the same way as the other types as they live in the present). They are the most “fun” type. Play comes before work. Tend to be non bossy. In love they are play mates. They are optimistic. Typically diagnosed as Attention Deficit Disorder as kids. Can’t save anything (in this day and age likely not to save self for marriage either). Stays married for the sex (not entirely true my brother in law is a feeling SP and is very moral and faithful to wife).
    SJ – Sensate Judgemental – Guardian/King-Queen/Authoritarian/Parent/
    Lives in the past. Also into the concrete here and now not abstract (being S) but will do study. Studies things like commerce. Typically Police/Military/Teacher/Bossy type roles but also commonly sales persons and shop keepers/sellers. High respect for authority (like to please teachers/parents etc). Like to lead but on flip side also love to serve the community so will be MPs but also bus drivers. Give absolute obedience to people they consider higher status/boss and when boss expect absolute obedience from those below (i.e. make very bossy domineering bosses but delightful employees). Think of the military and its chain of command, that’s the SJ way of doing things. Very stoic. If they say they’ll be somewhere or do something they will be true to their word (unlike SPs). Put work before play. Tend to be the umpire in everything. Love to serve and support the community/church/school etc. Like everyone to be at peace and harmonious relations. Of all the types they are most likely to believe they have the right to physical assault subordinates. See how Ramsey on TV bullies his kitchen staff that is classic SJ behaviour. At a party they will be the ones doing all the work cooking/cleaning up (and trying to get other to do likewise). Do everything by the book. Tradionalist, do things the way they’ve always been done. Like ceremony. Are concerned with morality big time. In love they are help mates. They tend to be worry warts and are pessimistic. Social occasions birthday/anniversary etc very important to them. Like to give and receive gifts in mating. When married give sex on demand – possibly until the kids are born after which husband ceases to exist – stays together because marriage is a community and they are big community supporters.
    NF – iNtuitive Feeler – Idealist/Sage/Romantic/Healer
    Lives in the future. Teachers/Ministers other growth group leaders. They are people people. Lives for romance. Idealises mate. Believes in true love and mating for life yet of all the types most likely to get bored with partner and move on (yes them and not the SPs believe it or not), this because they get variety from their main thing – relationships – other types get variety from other sources – plus S types accept imperfect relationships as is. Idealise partner at first then have to come to terms that their relationship with partner is not perfect – major crisis for them apparently – some make it others don’t. They are concerned with moral (and to a lesser degree morality like SJ). They are the type that needs to find themselves e.g. go into mountains to find self. Into personal growth and growth of others. They make love they don’t have sex. SPs will think it’s great you think they’re a sex object (they see you the same way) not NFs they want to be loved for their soul (they would be horrified if they thought you were just after sex – and rightly so). In love they are looking for a soul mate. They are masters of romance. Like SJs they are cooperative. They are looking for meaning big time (see meaning in everything). Can fall in love with love (can be so in love with love they don’t find a real person). Worry that they have stuffed up raising the kids (will think “what if” I did this or that different in raising kids or choosing mate.. SPs have no such worry for them what is is). Did I mention they maker great ministers (Genuine concern for people, not just build church as big as possible for sake of it like performance oriented NT or SP minister).
    NT- iNtuitive Thinker – Other names – Rational/Wizard (of science and tech)/Scholar/Strategist
    Lives outside of time (sees past, present and Future as connect part of whole. Sees events but an events past-present-future seen together). As the scholar name suggests into academic study big time. Typically Engineers/Scientists/Mathematicains/Programers/Technologist/Strategists etc. Displaying emotion in public is absolute anathema, because they like to be seen as cool calm and collected. Spock on Star Treck (the first series) is the archetypal NT. NTs are very autonomous and the most independent of all the types. Are very strong willed and very stubborn. They seek control over nature typically (i.e. wizards). Not tradionalist will change ways of doing things to make them more efficienct. Into efficiency big time, hate redundancy. They don’t respect authority per se (i.e. don’t respect you just because you have a fancy title – unlike an SJ) but once a person proves themselves smart their opinion/position will be respected/valued. Are autonomous and expect children/employees to be autonomous too but can be hard task masters. They are perfectionists. (SJ and NT is a bad parent/child combination. Bossy parent and autonomy seeking child or parent teaching autonomy to child trying to be obediently-autonomous. Still we can’t choose our relatives). In love they are mind mates. They are closet romantics. They are sarcastic. Like SPs they are utilitarian. Like NFs they are abstract not concrete in communication (SPs and SJs are concrete not abstract). Like SPs are into performance big time. Into gadgets. NTs and SPs get on really well because NT usually has some fast machine around that SP likes. NTs are tool builders, while SPs are tool users – both are achievement/performance oriented and both are utilitarian. The difference is NT performs in order to acquire skills where as SP acquires skills in order to perform. For example NT climbs mountain to acquire mountain climbing skills and to prove he has them (but is so concentrating on improving skills he doesn’t “experience” climbing the mountain). NT would not climb mountain at all if he didn’t have to, he is content just knowing he could climb the mountain if he wanted to. SP climbs mountain because its there (SPs don’t practice for the sake of it or to hone skills), SP climbs mountain to experience mountain climbing but in the process acquires skills. Typically diagnosed as Aspergic (Aspergia is probably extreme case and autism maybe really really extreme malfunction i.e so NT as to be dysfunctional. i.. NTs still have a Feeling function, but what happens when you have very low F or no F at all get aspergia – > autism – that’s my theory anyway). Are more machine people than people people (which is not to say they don’t like people or socializing but its not their strong suit). The ENTJ -” fieldmarshall” NT is an expert at managing people though (albeit managed like a well oiled machine).

    There is much more I could right (and most of it is on the internet somewhere) but thats all for now. And for the record I am an INTP. (and I think PP is an ENTJ and I think most of his CCCOF church are SPs probably ESFPs and ISFPs).

  19. Pitty you can’t edit posts I’d put some paragraphs in above post

    There should be breaks between

    SP – Sensate Perceptive – Experiencer/Warrior/Artist-Artisan/Party Girl-Guy/Naughty

    SJ – Sensate Judgemental – Guardian/King-Queen/Authoritarian/Parent/

    NF – iNtuitive Feeler – Idealist/Sage/Romantic/Healer

    NT- iNtuitive Thinker – Other names – Rational/Wizard (of science and tech)/Scholar/Strategist

    The 16 personality types (web will fill in further details) are

    From memory (can’t find myres/briggs book) The 16 basic personality types are

    INTP – architect (of ideas/machines/theories)

    INTJ – scientist

    ENTJ – fieldmarshall

    ENTP – inventor

    INFP – questor/hermit (Joan of arc)

    INFJ – ??

    ENFP – journalist

    ENFJ – teacher

    ESFP – entertainer

    ISFP -artist

    ISTP – artisan

    ESTP – promoter/warrior

    ESFJ – seller (many are also teachers though)

    ISFJ – conservator??

    ESTJ – ??(cult leader – at least SCC aparently)

    ISTJ – ??

  20. (and I think PP is an ENTJ and I think most of his CCCOF church are SPs probably ESFPs and ISFPs).

    I believe we can safely rule out ISFP’s in CCCOF. I’ve met a few Christian artists who actually don’t know what they are doing there. They don’t like the environment and CCC culture in general.

    I’d say in this order:
    ENTJ
    SJ
    ESTP
    ESFP

  21. Thanks for that lengthy explanation, cpig. I read the whole thing. Very interesting. I am as you guessed previously, an NT type. Pretty obvious really. The pastoral team at my most recent church seemed run by an NT of some sort, and supported by predominently SJ types – though second guessing personality types is only second guessing.

    Its amusing actually – they used to find it very annoying that people were late for church, and even preached that part of being holy was getting to church on time. Reading about the personality types, I can see why certain types might emphasise that sort of thing, despite the silliness of it being a sign of ‘holiness’. I can also see why they may have emphasised respect for position rather than recognising giftings wherever they occurred. To them, the title meant the gift existed, rather than seeing the gift in someone regardless of position or lack thereof.

  22. That reminds me, not so much recently but a while back CCCOF went through a phase of doing lots of sermons with the theme of “do it now”! Don’t train, don’t plan just do it now, act now. I thought to myself at the time, what they are promoting as a great spiritual virtue, was actually an SP personality trait (a trait that is optimum in some circumstances and less so in others).

    So yes i’ve seen that sort of thing before where a particular personality types way of doing business is held up and lauded as the ideal “Christian” standard of behaviour.

  23. Kind of makes it even more important that we don’t judge one another just for being different, hmmm? What seems obvious and self evident to one type can seem ridiculous to another, yet its sometimes just a matter of our different personality preferences. Projecting our own views onto others then judging them accordingly. So of course we are judged by our own measure also – we do it to ourselves just as we do to others, then have to handle the resulting guilt at times.

    All the more reason not to add things to scripture that aren’t there, not to go creating new replacement ‘laws’, and to cling to the grace we’ve been given – refusing to replace grace with anything else.

  24. Very very good work above cpig & others;

    Heres something Ive been thinking about for many months now; the common Human tendency to ‘form realities’ or ‘fabricate realities’ for themselves:

    Wherever you go, there are generally accepted ‘ways’ to do things; this is why its such a surprise to visit foreign countries, and discover people with very ‘alien realities’.

    Im not at all surprised any longer to find people holding ‘abnormal’ views or patterns as ‘normal’- yeh, I still attend Ravingentes ex-congregation, and Im fascinated at what I’ve construed as ‘faddish’ religious behaviours , while the the participants are holding these practices as ‘Spirit-Led’; and therefore presently-‘orthodox’, while blissfully unaware how odd and chameleon-like they are!

    I recently picked up a little AR {Angus & Robertsons] book on ‘Cults’, [of many types-even Satanic , Murder-cults, suicide cults etc, etc], and was surprised at the frequency of sexual dysfunction & power abuse at he centre of so many of them.

    I may remind you above at the frequent presence of a ‘Mystery (concealed) Figure’ at the centre of most cults; often the Leader; and even the Christ can fit this function within many cults.

    So, am I at all surprised that many groups of people can fall under the spell of Cultic patterns?

    Evangelicals?

    ;heres a thought Ive mentioned before from Primitive Anthropology; the ‘Big-man/Little-man’ syndrome= basically, many ancient paintings will show a giant man, a ‘Leader’ Towering over & ordering subordinates [who are depicted as tiny figures] , to do his bidding; – yes, even in this day & age, many people can fall under the spell of such ‘power-figures’.

    I frequently think about ‘Father Abraham’; the very fact he did not carry a Bible around, and yet is called ‘the Father of faith’ really speaks to me; I see him [present-tense] as a man who has returned to a profound sensitivity with the Universe; a person in close harmony with God.

    I see this ‘profound sensitivity’ to Life combined with practical observations from Scripture as being our greatest way to secure the liberties that the Scripture guarantees.

    The greatest menace comes from those who seek power over others; they’ll use whatever tools available; use Christs name or whatever and often completely unconsciously, to gain dominance over people.

    All fantastic notes, & useful points above my friends, received with thanks,

    Z

  25. Lol Zepp. I’ve always pictured Abe being old and gummy, sitting on his butt in the middle of his wealth in the desert. Looking up in the sky, sucking on a reed, waiting for his son to come. He was over 100 and he was still waiting for God to deliver.

    I never thought of linking him with the image we get of a ‘man with faith’.

  26. Aaay Specks&planks,

    great to hear from you- theres a great guy I want to hook you up with- god-willing soon enough; Im sure there’ll be much to share.

    Gods peace,

    Z.

Comments are closed.