What I found fascinating is that these elements can (and sadly do) exist in some evangelical churches. No, not in full bloom that would label the ministry a cult – there are still beliefs founded on the work and person of Christ. But there are symptoms, I believe, that can create a cult-like ministry. So here are the five points that were raised in our notes and class discussion that I think make a compelling case for cult-like influences, or even worse, may point to the very existence of a “church” being a cult.
1) Time Factor – teaches new ideas: major cults have developed new ideas about what Christianity is that deviates substantially from the historic understanding of the faith of “what has been believed always, everywhere and by all”.
2) Doctrine Factor – denies some essential of the faith: with cults, some element of the faith is majorly distorted or eliminated, such as sin, grace or Christ.
3) Leadership Factor – elevates leadership to the level of authoritative spokesman:Cult movements have risen on the backs of the leaders that have founded them. There is something special about the leadership that addresses the needs and desires of people. Typically, they possess a charismatic personality that facilitates persuasion. People will follow this person unquestioned.
4) Biblical Authority Factor – there is a need for additional authority outside of the Bible: usually this has come in the form of direct “revelation” from God that has elevated the leader. It is what I call the Jesus Plus authority, which requires some performance or obedience to a written or verbal code outside of scripture.
5) Organization Factor – they are the only dispensers of truth. Cults make the claim that they have an exclusive claim on the truth. Cults will insist they everyone else has missed it. This is compatible with the leadership factor whereby the leader has been given some kind of special divine “revelation”.