Signs Your Church May Be a Christian Cult
Cult leaders are wolves in sheep clothing
When church becomes all about the leader it's time to run
The first sign that you may be in a Christian cult is when everything is about your leader. When you are hearing more about how special your pastor is and less about Jesus, this is wrong. The Bible says in I Timothy 2:5 New International Version
"For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus". If your spiritual leader and others that he or she chooses are constantly telling you how wonderful your pastor is and that you need him in order to know God's plan for your life, this places the pastor in the place of mediator instead of Christ.
You may be noticing that almost every week someone is in the pulpit telling you to put money in the preacher's hand, above and beyond his salary. Members may be asked to cook food for his family, and travel with him to preach even when out of town. At the same time, you are being told that you should not speak to him after service, don't call his home or try to talk to the first lady or their children when you see them on Sunday.
You might be in a church where you are told that your shepherd is busy and you should not call him or expect a visit when you are sick or there is a death in your family. All of this keeps the focus on pleasing the man instead of God who the Bible says is jealous and does not share his glory. Your church may have stopped having Sunday school lessons that tell about Jesus and instead you now have Christian education which teaches how to please your pastor and flow with the rules he has set in place.
Be wary when you cannot ask questions
A second sign your pastor may be a dictator is when you are not allowed to ask questions. A church member should never challenge their shepherd or try to usurp authority or embarrass him in meetings. If, however, you are told that if you question your leaders you are out of order and they require blind loyalty, this becomes a problem. Perhaps you have been taught to stand whenever your spiritual leader enters a room or he has an entourage of bodyguards that distract and keep everyone away from him. Your church may emphasize that to doubt your spiritual leader is to doubt God and that if you don't believe the pastor always hears God, you should leave the church. This is a clear sign that you should indeed leave. In 1978 900 people died in Jonestown Guyana because they followed Jim Jones without asking questions.
Shunning former members and other believers in Christ
The Bible tells us in Galatians 6:10 that all who accepted Jesus Christ are one body and a part of the Household of faith. If you are being told that you are part of a special group and should not socialize with those who have left your ministry and or believers in other churches or denominations, this is not Christ-like behavior. You may also be hearing that you should disassociate with family and friends who don't agree with the message your pastor preaches. This is a method that separates and secludes you from those who may be able to warn you that something may not be right in your house of worship.
Shaming parishioners and causing feelings of guilt
An important red flag that your pastor may be a cult leader is when he or she and designated leaders constantly and consistently cause church members to feel guilty. You may be chastised from the pulpit regarding attendance and giving. Your leader may decide that only parishioners who tithe or give certain amounts of money can be in key leadership positions. You may be told that if you really love Jesus you will be in the church building every time the door is open and volunteer to clean the sanctuary, paint or do other work that most churches pay professionals to do. Some churches even teach that the amount of financial wealth you have s directly related to how much money you are giving. In some denominations, it is normal for members to be called out publicly during a service and embarrassed in front of the entire church.
Constant threats and lack of financial transparency reveals much
If you are told to trust your pastor and those he has chosen to be over the money, this is a sign of trouble. Church members have a right to know where their money is going. If everything is on the up and up then what is there to hide? Should you be made to feel guilty for asking to seer records then something tricky is probably going on with the money. A lack of financial transparency indicates you should probably take your money and run.
The bottom line to all cults is a leader who has a God complex and uses intimidation and manipulation to demand absolute loyalty. Anyone truly obeying the Bible would not threaten followers to get them to attend services and give money or even sexual favors. Should you find yourself saying yes to any of these signs you are probably part of a cult that is masquerading as a church.