Thursday, June 16, 2011

Determining a Cult (Guest Post)

I got an email last night from a good friend of mine. Basically it is a first-hand experience of my friend discovering that one of his own friends is caught up in/ starting a cult. Take a look below:

"I used to have a friend who was pretty laid-back and cynical.  I knew he'd gone to seminary somewhere, but he seemed really cynical and he never talked about God all that much.  I figured he must have fallen away from faith or something.  Anyway, he just added me on Facebook.  I haven't seen him for about a year, so I clicked on his profile to see how he's doing.

     His page gave me the heeby-jeebies.  All of his posts were pretty apocryphal.  There were a lot of links to places where you could buy freeze-dried food, bulk storage containers, flour, water purifier kits, and other end-of-the-world stuff.  A youtube link on his wall talked about how to prepare yourself financially for the end times.  A link he identified as his 'mission' led to a page that read,

"Make Ready Ministries
New Wine in new wine skins
A ministry calling the church to:
Renewing of the mind,
Reliance on God's Spirit,
Return of New Testament design,
Restoration of unity to the body,
Remnant of God's committed,
Recovery of expectant living."

    Since this guy used to be pretty cynical, his new all-engulfing approach to the 'end times' and his vague definitions of the 'ministry' he's following made me suspect the worse:  I figured the dude's in a cult.

    So I did a little more digging around on his page.  I turned up more links to things like the "Patriotic Action Network" (some kind of Youtube thing, I guess), a note he had written entitled "To The Angel Of The Church Of America," and a lot of posts or links that mentioned "The Jeremiah Challenge."  Finally I found a link he described as 'his church.'  It was labelled, "The Church @ _______."  The link led me to a pretty bland page that was basically a text document with more rhetoric. 

    So I'm sitting there staring at the web page, worried about what my friend was getting suckered into.  I wanted to figure out who was heading up this whole 'Church @ _________'/ 'Jeremiah-Challenge' shindig.  Figured it wouldn't hurt to get a better read on him, maybe see how big this cult thing really is or if it's tied into any other big movements I've heard of, like.... well, I haven't heard of many big new-age cult movements, I guess, besides Oprah and Rick Warren.  I dunno--I guess I was just wondering if his pastor/minister/pope/priest/shaman/whatever wore a hat made out of aluminum to keep the devil out of his ears or something.  So I notice a link near the side of the page that says, "Staff."  So I click on it, and there's only one name listed.  It described the leader of the movement as "An educator, Pastor, Christian School Administrator, Gospel Singer and professional recording artist, has served 4 churches, a Christian school, produced two gospel albums and performed hundreds of concerts over the years."  And right beside the title "Teaching elder," is... friend's name.

 I think the only thing worse than finding out your friend is in a cult is finding out your friend is starting a cult.
 So I'm not actually 100% sure if my friend is completely off the reservation spiritually speaking, or what.  But here's the conclusion I've come to after pondering this for a while at 10:30 at night as I'm waiting for my Pepto-Bismal to kick in:  the way you can tell your church is a cult is when you see the spiritual leader saying, "Follow me."  The way you can tell when you're in a solid, God-ordained church is when the pastor says, "Follow Him." 

 (Also, aluminum foil hats.  Those would also indicate a cult.)   

 Anyway, I thought the whole thing was kind of funny so I figured you might get a kick out of it too.  Personally, I'm going to start praying for my friend.  ...Mostly that he doesn't attract a following, I think.  Or if he does, it's the kind of following that hits him up for money for hotel rooms or a ride to the unemployment offices."

I trust that this will serve as a reminder to keep fully focused on Jesus in order to determine between true and false teaching.
Update: 6/212/2011

I received this email from my friend this morning:

This is something my good friend the cultist posted on his account.  As a former student of Dr. Bob Leland, my first instinct was to look for the scriptural references he uses to justify his position.
Only, there aren't any.
Here's what he posted:
"Now, this pretribulation rapture theory is more than simple error; it is a deception that can do great damage to one’s faith. Generations of American Christians have been watching the early birth pangs, convinced by their teachers that the next coming event would be the rapture of the church. Yet, in reality, what is coming is intense persecution for those who hold fast to their faith in Christ. A consequence of this mythical teaching will be widespread disillusionment when tribulation descends on this nation and people will realize that they have been deceived by their teachers. There will be a great falling away, and many former churchgoers will align with the world in blaming God for allowing such catastrophe to take place and will then betray many who remain in the fellowship of the church."

This short entry is devoid of biblical support, as my good friend noted, and clearly contradicts verses such as John 14:1-3;  I Thessalonians 5:9; 2 Thessalonians 1:3-10; and others. Thanks to my friend for the update, and the discernment to point out the error of this way.

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