In a recent chat with someone I had only just met, the topic turned to yet another fringe cult that had somehow emerged from orthodox Christianity.  As is typical in conversations like this, my new acquaintance raised questions like:

“How can they believe “X”, since the Bible clearly states that “X” is not true?”

“They are practising “Y” and Jesus definitely did not teach/approve of “Y”?

“They came out from under the covering of denomination “Z”, no wonder they are in error.”

Simply insert your favourite teaching for “X” or behaviour for “Y” or denomination for “Z” and everyone reading this post has likely had a similar conversation.  But what if the problem isn’t the teaching, behaviour or group association at all?  What if the problem is the cult of Christianity itself?  Perhaps there is something deeper going on when the latest aberrant group goes off into the ditch.

All of the questions or points raised above have something in common in that they are addressing this issue from a completely wrong perspective.  The foundational problem with them is the assumption is that the problem of cults can be solved in the intellect.  If these poor deceived folks just fixed their thinking or hung around more people with right thinking then they wouldn’t drive off the road into the nearest theological ditch.  Good Bible based teaching is what they need.  That’ll fix them! Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

DandelionA better question is to ask yourself is, what conditions need to be present to create the fertile conditions for the cultic weed to take root?  If we can understand that, perhaps steps can be taken to avoid creating the conditions, either intentionally or unwittingly, so that the cultic weed can never take root in the first place.

One of the earliest lessons I learned in my landscaping life was a simple statement from a very wise gardener – “The best way to avoid weeds in your lawn is to ensure you have healthy grass.”  Seems so simple, but profound.  If you focus on watering, feeding, cutting, trimming, top dressing and nurturing your lawn, seeds from nasty weeds can never get to the precious soil and take root.  I’ve found this to be true in practice for every lawn I’ve ever been responsible for.  What I’ve also found is that once your lawn begins to get unhealthy and weeds begin to invade, the fight is on big time.  The evidence of a lost battle is painfully obvious for everyone to see.  The same goes for cults.  Once they are apparently flourishing, they stick out like a lawn full of massive dandelions.  Getting rid of them is a massive effort.

So to continue the unhealthy lawn metaphor, what is the soil condition that invites the growth of noxious, cultic weeds and could modern Christianity have such a condition?  At the risk of oversimplifying the situation, the emphatic answer is yes!  However, before revealing this condition, it is important to define what I mean by the term “Christianity”.  For the purposes of this post, I use the term to represent organized, institutional religion carrying the name Christianity rather than in the wider sense of all followers of Jesus the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  In this sense, modern day “Christianity” truly is a cult.  So then, on to the condition that this “cult” creates the enables the germination, establishment and rapid growth of aberrant cults.

Simply put, the soil condition that creates the inviting environment for cultic beliefs and behaviour is the need or desire for a strong and inspiring leader, preferably full of charisma, influential and a strong public speaker.  Modern Christianity is full of them.  Osteen, Johnson, Joyner, Vallotton, Meyer, Jakes, Bickle, Crowder, Prince…. The list goes on.  I’m sure you can mentioned dozens more.  Unfortunately, this desire has only been amplified by the idol worshipping wider culture around Christianity and one could argue may have been imported by it.  In fact it is no different than the desire of the nation Israel back in history when they insisted on having a king “just like the nations around them”.  Unfortunately, as history has shown, it is a recipe for disaster as the very nature of this idol worship prevents its removal from the environment and is the reason why resistance through the intellect is futile.

To continue the weeds in the lawn metaphor, trying to convince a cult member that their belief system is wrong, unbiblical or harmful is almost always doomed to fail because their internal thinking has already been programmed to take in what you are saying and assess the impact it will have on their relationship with the leader rather than against whatever their crazy belief may be.  The soil condition of the need for an “apostolic covering”, “prophetic oversight” or “care of their pastor” vastly outweighs anything else in their universe,  Trying to remove the weed of a twisted belief system while this condition is in place is pointless.  Even if you somehow pull it out, unless the soil condition is changed to allow healthy grass to grow, the weed will return.  Intellectual arguments with people infested with these weeds is like trying to pull dandelions from a lawn infested with them one at a time.  It is possible but almost pointless.  Better to deal with the underlying soil condition so that the weeds cannot grow.

So then, what is the soil condition the enables healthy grass to grow, preventing cultic weeds from taking root in our lives?  Consider these words of John, one of Jesus closest friends who was addressing the issue of aberrant cults shortly after Jesus time on earth:

“I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit–just as it has taught you, remain in him.” 1 John 2:26-27 NIV

Does this mean that we should not receive teaching or instruction from others?  Of course not.  However, if you are dependent on it and must have another human being impart understanding to you or ensure what you believe is truth, you are already fertile ground for a cultic leader.  The growth of healthy grass has and always will be dependent on one thing “remain in him” not on any other human teacher or leader.

In conclusion, it is the soil of the modern day cult of Christianity of insisting on having a leader to follow which enables cults to take root in the first place.  Rather than pointing the finger at groups who have gone off into error, perhaps we need to look at our own lawn and consider what we have done to create the weed inviting soil in the first place.

John Matthews

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Showing 5 comments
  • James Thomas Canali
    Reply

    The problem with the “cult of christianity” is that they want to be put through an industrial revolution type factory line of the mirror image anointing of their queen bee/head pastor. With this in mind, they very much like the insect praying mantis, lose their heads or their true authority, which as you mentioned is HIM, remaining in him, in his relational presence comes relational authority because as we know Him we will be known.

    • B2E Group
      Reply

      You don’t have to think much in a factory line, just stay in your role or the whole factory system breaks down.

  • k.noel
    Reply

    I know this isn’t in direct meaning if the post but This puts more light on the true beginning of the word ‘christian’.

    The pagans at Antioch called the apostles “Christians” first (Acts 11:26; 26:28) and used it derogatorily because the apostles didn’t follow the commercial world of the pagans. “Christian” is an adjective, not a noun. The substance is not in the word “Christian”, the substance is in the HEART of the man it is attempting to describe, and which the pagan user cannot see!

    Christ never called himself a Christian, Christ never called his followers Christians. This was a pegan term. We are the brethren, the believers, the bride if Christ, the bondservants, the servants. Perhaps the term christian/christianity is long over due to be retired. Why then would a believer adopt a negative term from pegans and call themselves so? Just a little food for thought

    • B2E Group
      Reply

      Interesting perspective. Certainly the form that “Christianity” has taken is more pagan than Christlike.

  • Katherine Matthews
    Reply

    This whole reality is one that people find so uncomfortable talking about and most likely because it would cause them to have to take a stand. The N.T. community valued the ‘Berean’ lifestyle of studying the scriptures, pondering deeply and discussing. How then has the local gathering so many call ‘church’ become a place of incredible passivity? Does anyone even read or think at all? Sadly not many. In fact those who do question the cultic behaviours and patterns end up being given the old standby labels such as Jezebel or heretic.
    There have been many wonderful believers with large ministries whom have started out so well. We have gleaned from their lives only to watch as they too set themselves up as the one sole figure head to follow without question. That one person and their lives becomes the epicentre of focus and teaching of which no one dare question. It is the one man/woman show mentality that sets up the Christian ministries to function no different than other cults, yet is goes unchecked. Personality idolatry runs rampant in the church today.
    In the year 2006 our sons all went with our joyous consent to a ministry in New Hamphire USA in which they became interns. They also were involved in the same ministry in Vancouver Canada for a few years. We as a family had helped this mans prophetic ministry come into Canada by supporting and hosting many meetings and doing seminars etc. We believed in his vision of equipping and training the body of Christ in the dreams realm and in what he had been entrusted with. We had followed and invested for many years prior to entrusting our sons. But really we had no idea of what the ministry schools would model to them or whom would be doing the program. Over the following 8 years this man was not very personally involved but others who were not of the same level of character or maturity. Nevertheless the one man top down Constantinian pattern that the ministry was based on was very active and alive. The clinging to this false system was and remains the problem. It was under this non N.T. model that our sons were exposed to cultic patterns such as the legalistic striving to die to one’s self. (not much different than falgulation of old) and the pressure to conform to the leaders high standards of performance. Many of the charismatic youth including one of our sons was given the place of leadership within weeks of only having just met Jesus. And sadly these novice’s root of pride that was encouraged had permeated much of the young leaders which set them up to future heretical groups and cults.
    9 years ago this ministry had schools in Canada and USA but today they are no longer running.
    During this window of time In 2009 a male female duo prophetic ministry team was growing rapidly in its home meetings in Alberta, Canada. We had met with them a few times and went to some of their meetings to check them out but they too were heavy handed top down on the submission to leadership mantra. Just as the larger ministry that our sons and our family were involved with, it was those who proved to be unbending in fierce loyalty at any cost which was the foundational indoctrination. In fact it was like all the ministries what move along the false model grid line. Large or small,it was the same, the pastor, apostle or prophet is the head. Bow to them for they are like God to you. Never question and you will be elevated to prominence. And by the way….. God says ‘you must have a leader to cover you’.
    Most of our family does not bow to anyone but Jesus and his teachings. And Christ is the only head and covering we submit our lives to now. As for the young leaders who became addicted to ministry power and fame during their short stint at the top of that large ministry? Sadly over 9 of them (and some of their whole families in tow) were perfectly groomed to fall straight into a cult and thats exactly what happened to them. In fact one of our sons best friends cut ties with him overnight and disappeared, he and his whole family all but one (yes they were all in that original large ministry with our sons) were welcomed open arms into the small town cult that remains today in Turner Valley, Alberta. And you can guess, yes, the young man was given high stature within the cult as they could see his loyalty to rulership and power, thus he sold out for importance and favour amongst the people.
    I have spoken all this in hopes that you readers will see and realize that good people, famous Christian well honoured and respected international leaders are just like me and you. We are no less valuable because God has not called us to lead a large group of people. Satan will devour anyone who exalts themselves up to be worshipped and revered and he has legal permission to do so.
    It is only through humbling ourselves that we will be secure from error. Humbling ourselves to walk in the light of truth in biblical community, no hierarchy but walking honouring one to another. And…….. by being Berean, every one of us. There is no excuse for ignorance or disobedience. God will NOT share any of his glory and praise with anyone.
    Thank you John for speaking up about the cult of Christianity. It is so easy for self righteous ones to point to the little cult in Turner Valley Alberta. But a wise one should look to the foundation of the those peoples walk with God and ask who mentored them? How did they get there? Why did they fall for this power? Who told them they were naked?
    Modern day Christianity is a cult because it is reproducing followers and gatherings that are not based on New Testament scriptural models or values.

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