What’s the Difference?
Cults and movements have one fundamental difference and it’s this: THEIR FOCUS
Cults are fueled by individuals who carry a misplaced or excessive admiration for a particular person or thing. In other words, their FOCUS is an obsession with a particular leader, idea, or practice.
Movements on the other hand are comprised of a group of people WORKING TOGETHER to advance their SHARED political, social, religious, and artistic ideas. In other words, their FOCUS is a willingness to work together toward common goals and vision.
As I scan the body of Christ these days, I find myself continually internally conflicted. Do we have Christian cults springing up everywhere or do we have Christian movements? By the stated definitions above from the Websters Dictionary, I would have to dare say that we are witnessing an outbreak of Christian cults blossoming from the West Coast to the East Coast. They are being disguised as “Christian movements”, but their focus is exposing them as Christian cults.
In order to bring exposure, clarity, and healing to this epidemic in the body of Christ, listed below are 5 signs of a Christian cult and 5 signs of a Christian movement. Hopefully the differences will be clear and steps toward freedom can be taken.
5 Signs of Christian Cults:
- A Welcomed Obsession with Church Leaders
- An Undeniable Need for Titles and Recognition
- A Culture Where Everyone Dresses and Talks the Same
- Questions and Different Perspective are Viewed as Insubordinate Behavior
- Loyalty and Secrecy are Required
Individuals who are involved in Christian cults are obsessed with specific church leader(s). When these individuals talk, preach, or communicate, all they typically do is regurgitate what they hear or heard their leader say. In some cases, they even develop the same accent and annunciation as the leader that they have a fetish for! Spiritual sons of Christian cult leaders typically dress and behave in the same exact manner as their spiritual father. Christian cult leaders thrive off of demanding and expecting that followers address them with a title before their name and pay homage whenever necessary. Christian cult leaders make themselves typically inaccessible to the general public and usually only give themselves to a few select individuals who will eventually be brainwashed and turned into parrots and echoes. Christian cult leaders require that those who follow them speak “their language” and carry all their same beliefs. Any different perspective or variation from said beliefs or practices is considered betrayal.
5 Signs of Christian Movements:
- A Welcomed Obsession with Jesus Christ
- An Undeniable Desire for God to Receive Glory
- A Culture Where Diversity Is Encouraged
- Varied Counsel and Advice is Considered a Blessing
- Uniqueness, Authenticity, and Originality are Required
Individuals who are involved in Christian movements are instructed by church leaders to keep their focus and attention on the Lord Jesus Christ. When these individuals talk, preach, or communicate, all they typically do is release a new sound that no one has ever heard before because they keep their eyes on Jesus and not a man or woman. In some cases, they even develop varied beliefs and practices from those that they consider spiritual leaders. Spiritual sons of Christian movements carry a unique divine design that the Father alone has given them. Leaders of Christian movements thrive off of being servants and building relationship with those who look up to them for guidance and leadership. Leaders of Christian movements make themselves available to as many individuals as possible and wear humility around them like a garment. They constantly encourage spiritual sons and daughters to go get their own word from God and walk in the fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit that can only be given through intimacy with Jesus. Christian movements regularly welcome feedback and input from followers. Leaders of Christian movements continually adapt to the concerns and questions of followers and openly repent when mistakes are made.
The Road to Recovery
The truth is that many once very healthy Christian movements have over time turned into Christian cults. This is no doubt the devil’s work, but there is hope in the midst of this growing epidemic in the American Church. The hope that I speak of is a renewed focus on the Lord Jesus Christ and a passion to keep Him at the center of all that we do and say. John the Beloved in 3 John 1:9 warned of Diotrephes who “loved to be first place” or in other words, he loved to take pre-eminence in all things! He desired to make disciples after himself and not the Lord Jesus Christ. I want to encourage us that many powerful Christian movements are rising, but this diotrephes spirit is hiding beneath the clamor and applause. As Christian leaders, we must constantly be on guard that our focus is not centered on breeding parrots, echoes, and robots. You are called to raise up leaders, not gather followers. It really is okay if your spiritual sons and daughters act and talk differently than you do! You must go out of your way to make sure that the people that you are leading understand that they have your permission to think, act, and believe according to what the Spirit of God is ministering to them. To individuals who are looking for Christian leadership, keep your eyes on Jesus Christ and look for leaders who exemplify the signs listed above.
May the Holy Spirit continue to lead us into all truth and let repentance, healing, hope, and restoration be released today in Jesus Name.
Grace and Peace,