Thursday, September 27, 2007

How to Respond to a Cult-Like Church

I have developed a friendship with a guy at work who has left a church that I would describe as cultish. He and I have been discussing how to respond to it. He is asking if he should go public with his criticisms of the church. He's curious if he has any legal recourse since the pastor, from the pulpit, has urged people to disassociate with him.

Here are some characteristics of this church:

- There is no financial accountability.

- There are funny-money things happening, like people making a donation to the church (and thus getting a tax deduction) and then receiving a loan from the church (usually in the same amount as the donation) and then (almost immediately) the loan is forgiven. All of this happens in the pastor's office without oversight.

- The pastor has declared himself an apostle and an oracle of God, who, even when he is wrong, is right.

- People who leave the church are shunned by both family and friends, told that they are no longer under apostolic covering, and running the risk of being under a curse.

- The people have been taught to place the word of revelation they have personally received or have received from the apostle as a higher authority than the Bible itself or the tradition of the universal church throughout the years.

- The apostle seeks to raise people "as sons in his house," where he is their spiritual father giving them the direction and discipline they need.

- The church uses manipulative techniques to coerce people into attending, staying, and serving.

My friend is about as humble and gracious as can be. I have been so impressed by him. He deeply regrets being a part of this church for the time that he was. He now recognizes it for what it is and wants to warn others.

So, I am curious what you all think. Put yourself in the shoes of someone leaving a church that they now consider spiritually abusive and cult-like. Would you think that you have any responsibility to warn others about it? And if so, how would you do it?


klasieprof said...

Mouth OPEN in Silent screaming.....

klasieprof said...

Well, wouldn't the biblical injunction and "rules" be the same FIRST.
He's already TRIED to approach the guy's come to you, so..even tho we KNOW how these guys work, before he goes public, he needs to take an outsider but believer in, and try and confront/get the guy to do right, and we KNOW he won't because he's ALWAYS RIGHT, THEN the guy seems to be able to be free to go public.
first things first, Follow the biblical injunctions for getting a person to go right, then...this guy is like a bad homeschooler--he gives Christians EVERYWHERE, and churches EVERYWHERE a bad name.
Call the IRS--have specific examples (this can be done through their hotline without identifying yourself)
CALL the newspapers with other families that have been shunned

and get ready for the fallout.

and give him that book you gave me to read about Spiritual abuse.

A said...

I've got access to a taser . . .

Matthew said...

My gut reaction to something like this borders on insanity and cannot be stated in a public forum. Suffice to say that I believe that there is only one proper recourse in dealing with a false teacher and a false prophet (sometimes the old ways are the best), particularly one who is demonstrably false.

Still, "vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord." On to saner considerations...

I don't know that the victim in question is necessarily obligated to go out of his way to warn others. It is probably the right thing to do, but it is an extremely heavy burden to put upon himself. There is probably no wickedness these people wouldn't stoop to in order to smear his name and try to utterly destroy his reputation. He is probably going to require a huge amount of consistent support from concerned parties if he elects this route. It is a hard, grueling road and not everyone can face it.

If it were me, I would probably attempt to warn people, but then I would probably be ineffective since I don't have a good track record for standing up to people on minor matters much less true evil. Also, people only listen to about a quarter of what I say because I'm so darn long winded.

Basically, I agree with the actions suggested by Klasieprof, especially the part about finding others who are being shunned by this "organization" as well (at the very least they can form a support group for each other and hopefully help one another heal).

Of course, another the problem is that there are a number of relatively "mainstream" Christian and Christian-like organizations (I hesistate to use the word "church" to describe them) that exhibit the described tendencies. Some of them are huge and have vast resources at their disposal for quashing nay-sayers.

Oh please don't let it turn out to be the biggest church in the town I live in--the town already has such a bad rep (I've actually seen a bumper sticker with the city's name and the phrase: "it's not so bad").

kevin said...

definitely I would warn people about it. so many will use the same tactics though of that church, mudslinging and backstabbing. I would simply tell people the facts, and what happened to me, and graciously discourage them from attending, and also point out its contradictions scripturally, as you have done. i thought it was very tactful, and informational without bashing it. just because we need to separate ourselves from someone doesnt mean we need to be unloving in our attitude about it.

kevin said...

one other thought, if there is criminal activity being committed and it was against you, you should go to them and share with them your concern and if it is rectifiable (did i spell that right) and if not go to the proper authorities, definitely. or do it the american way and call your local media! lol

Robb said...

here is my idea -

i suggested that he set up a blog, sharing his experiences and concerns with this church.

this kind of thing would allow those who agree or disagree with him to comment.

plus, whenever anyone googled this church, the blog could show up too so people could make an informed decision about where they are going.

what do you think?

Matthew said...

Sounds fair.

The fellow in question may still be, depending on just how cult-like they are, subjected to all but the most egregious slander, but at least he will have a chance to get his views and experiences across.

I'm too old and set in my ways--I never think to use the new media.

Also, as suggested by Kevin, he might try talking to a newspaper or television reporter, particularly if he has any evidence and/or can find people with similar experiences with the organization in question.

Looking For The Straight and Narrow said...

Don't get the "good for nothin" media involved. We all know what they really do.

But seriously, my editor told me to at least look into it. I'll make it up there for one of their services and see how it goes. If that sort of money laundering or tax evasion is going on, and the church is a 501C3 non-profit, then that's pretty serious business and the public needs to know.

We'll see how it goes.

kevin said...

I was joking about the media, sarcasism as it were.

Barb said...

This is one of the hardest questions that we faced as we left a "cult like" church. Maybe some things that I wrote on my blog will be of some help. There are a lot of us out there. This website was of great help to me as I was leaving

Matthew said...

Hi Barb!

I really liked the Detox site. :-)

Thank you.