I have seen a lot of people claim their church to be a cult. Most commonly, the cult was the last church they attended. The new church is perfect but Praise the Lord for freeing us from the last church. And a year later, they find themselves Praising the Lord for they have been delivered yet again from another cult. Often, ex-church members treat their former churches like the wife on her 5th husband. Yes, the church has it’s share of problems. After all it is a membership who’s main claim to fame is they are sinners and when you put a bunch of sinners together it doesn’t take long for problems to surface. In fact it only takes putting 2 sinners together for problems to pop up and reveal our hidden inner selfishness. This proves itself in marriage more often than not. However, most of the time it is us who are the problem, not the church, not the leadership, not strict biblical teaching.
That doesn’t mean the church is never wrong. Some churches can have some cultic habits. Some churches can have some cultic doctrines. But what I find is most often, if you are at a church that preaches more truth than error, most of the “cultic” claims are excuses. We tend to blame others and circumstances for life not going our way. Church is no different.
First, I need to clarify Bible doctrine. First, the Bible teaches you cannot earn salvation. It is a free gift. Many churches teach otherwise, and that puts you on the wrong foundation. If your church cannot get salvation right, you are starting off wrong and you won’t recover. Some churches teach church tradition TRUMPS what the Bible says. God says what is in his word has the final say. Some churches teach that all religions get you to heaven. Jesus said HE is the WAY. Some teach salvation is from something you do — a baptism, confirmation, whatever.
The Bible says it is not by works of righteousness. Heaven will not be full of people bragging how wonderful they are. Heaven will be full of people completely in awe of how wonderful God is, knowing full well that they would be in hell —and rightly so— if it were not for the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
There are many though out there that claim any church that believes in any form of sanctification process or has strong Bible convictions or wants to try and live differently from the world’s way of doing things as a cult. They theorize that a group of people that don’t line up with the opinions of the world must be a cult. Many of these claims come from former members who then leave for greener pastures, but most of the time they are only greener because they use astroturf for the foundation.
Jesus still doesn’t change. Good is becoming evil today, and evil is looking good. The Bible said that would happen. Today the world’s agenda is getting louder and bolder and more confident. The church is backing up and apologizing if it doesn’t cave in to the pressure. The easy straw-man that someone can build is to just use the cult word.
Many ex-fundamentalists claim they were in a cult. After studying this out and prayerfully looking at it, I think the majority of the time, the problem was instead external obedience and no inward heart obedience. Meaning, you don’t have the Holy Spirit controlling you, but you have merely external rules and church practices pressuring you to conform. It is like a stallion that is chained up but once the controls are off the stallion busts out full speed. If the stallion is broken it is different.
What I am saying, is you can externally get someone to “act like a Christian.” They might dress right, act right, and smell right. But if the heart has never been changed, they will re-conform to wherever else they end up, and will fit into the mold of the moment.