You might be in a cult if..

This article, titled "Hillsong pastor defends ministry against cult claim", got me to thinking about a comment that I heard recently where a guy labeled a local Christian ministry as a "cult". The term used pejoratively is in essence saying that a church/group is not truly "Christian" and gives the impression that some sort of heresy is involved.

While many use the term to describe other groups in this pejorative way, I think that it is helpful to acknowledge that Webster also defines "cult" this way:
great devotion to a person, idea, object,
movement, or work
Given this definition I think that many churches fall into one or more of those "cult" categories.. here are a few:
  • Celebrity Cult: Many churches are dependent on the ministry (and celebrity) of their senior pastor. While famous folks like Joel Osteen might first come to mind, I think that any church that exalts the pulpit ministry might fit into this category. Also gotta wonder about churches that treat pastors in those extra special ways.

  • Doctrinal Cult: Churches/groups having an aberrant/unorthodox theology are the ones that most usually equate with the word cult. Of course the definition of orthodox can sometimes be a bit narrow.. not that being a Calvinist is all wrong :)

  • Behavior Cult: This category is focused on what people do and not do. It is marked by folks that believe that their church or group acts and believes the right things to go to heaven. They often adhere to only one translation of the bible.. they only worship in one way.. they often have many extra-scriptural rules about what one can and cannot do.
I think that most of us can relate to one or more aspects of this cultic type of behavior at some point in our lives.. in my fundamentalist days I followed a very strong leader that had a narrow theology and encouraged specific kinds of behaviors.

In my opinion, the danger of these kinds of cultic traits is that proper accountability is not in place and leadership sometimes exploits celebrity, doctrine and behaviors to manipulate and control their followers.

Of course.. if you can relate to all three cultic aspects then you might really be in a cult :)


  1. Hi Bob, I would like to add that I associate cults with the use of heavy handed manipulative techniques to keep the members in line...and...a distorted unfair demonization of those outside of their subculture. Also, I wouldn't limit cults to religious groups. I think political groups can "function" as cults in many ways.

  2. Hey Bob,
    When I got home from 2 years in Vietnam: 68-70, I was suffering from some PTSD, and got sucked into the Jehovah Witness CULT, and those people messed up my life for the next 22 years. Now I have Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior, and I know I am going to heaven. I measure everything in the light of the Bible. Some cults are VERY dangerous to your life and soul! Don't drink any grape Kool

    Tom Schuckman
    Disabled Vietnam Vet: 68-70
    Jesus is Lord.

  3. There are so many cults out there. If people would just read a Bible and commit their lives to Jesus, they would know the truth. It is just sad that there are cults that are reaching out to those who need Jesus and are being sucked in because the cults are so forward about their faith.

    Where are those who are followers of Christ? We need to be reaching out and as forward at times when there is a need. I just feel for those who are in cults. It is like they are blind.

  4. Great comments!

    Ditto that about political cults Bill.. in a sense a cult can be any group comprised of folks overly-devoted to a person, idea, object,
    movement, or work.

    My many years in Fundamentalism was a lot like your time in the Jehovah Witnesses.. I drank a lot of Kool Aid :)

    Amen Heather: "read a Bible and commit their lives to Jesus".. a simple message that gets so convoluted when people get focused on celebrity pastors, self-righteous doctrines and all of the dos and don'ts.

  5. I like to have a nice CULT 45 each night before I go to bed.


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