I think my preacher is becoming a cult leader. What do I do?
In order for me to help you assess this serious situation, I’d like you to pray-through the consistent proofs of cultic leadership before you make up your mind for certain. Clergy are sometimes accused of being over-bearing, forceful or a threat when they are more often simply misunderstood. I was nearly run out of a church and accused of such evils myself once when I attempted to follow the Holy Spirit in making important updates and changes to a congregation too-long isolated and out of touch with the realities of viable ministry. The Lord prevailed and we all worked out our differences…but it was a tough time and I took a severe beating I’ll never forget. It is important to use caution when we accuse or judge our Christian leaders. The Devil does plenty of that already.
That said, congregations must quickly take action if the convictions of the Bible and the proven science of psychos line up together. Below are the results of cult-leadership case-studies for you to use as a lens with which to view your situation and your pastor. These are the marked characteristics of diabolical men and women who attain posts of spiritual administration and form a cult:
One: they control people, places and things through the misuse of their authority and title. Manipulation is their middle name. If you feel coerced, pressured or “slimed” as some call it, when in dealings with your minister, this may be a red flag.
Two: they twist the verses of Scripture for their personal gain; especially when money is involved. They often use forms of seduction and even bribery as their devices for persuasion (2 Peter 1:3.) Scripture-abuse is the most serious crime of all since the pastor is a mouthpiece for God. Satan is the master of Scripture-twisting.
Three: they have an unbalanced sense of self. Cult leaders; their ideas and beliefs are often packaged and sold as the most important and vital. In worst-cases, they have what is considered a God-complex. Jesus warned us in the Book of Matthew: “For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24.)
Four: they are pathological liars who easily embellish the truth or out-right change it in order to draw people to them and control situations. Hypocrisy abounds since, while they condemn others (and other churches, people-groups and doctrines), they position themselves and their followers as the exception to all the rules.
Five: cult leaders lack appropriate boundaries and often ignore or disrespect the healthy parameters of others. Their bull-in-a-china-shop methods exploit the weaknesses of others and use them to their advantage. While sometimes appearing as gentle lambs, cult-leaders are highly insensitive to the feelings, needs and limitations of anyone, especially those in opposition to them.
Six: they are highly flammable with hot tempers and intolerance. Paranoia is usually present also, as they encourage the us-and-them view of the world and anyone considered to be an outsider to their territory.
Thankfully, most Christian churches today are run by committee. There are Boards of leaders, committees and regulations to secure shared powers among a stable group of long-time servants. Sometimes as a pastor, these groups can be daunting since they are often staffed by old-guard members who refuse change and see the pastor as a hired-hand to be managed and corralled. A mature pulpit minister will become an expert at maneuvering the dynamics of these well-intended overseers, realizing that health and safety is found when there are many levels of authority. Clergy must remember that these men and women are guarding their family’s heritage, their church’s legacy and the ministry of God. I bless you as you discern your next steps.