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Three Ways To Know If A Church Is Cult

Deciding if the Church is a Cult

It’s a scary thing when your church starts to show signs of being a cult. Sadly, many denominations masquerade as churches. This should not surprise us because Paul tells us that Satan and his demons disguise themselves as angels of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). Therefore, it is very common that denominations can act as churches. As Christians, it is important to know the signs that our church may be a cult.

Religious cults are groups of people who follow a strict belief system and organize around a charismatic leader. Unlike the church, cults are destructive and use fear and deception to command their members. If you evaluate their teachings, examine their actions, and take your time to look at the church in its entirety, you can determine whether the organization is a legitimate church or a cult.

Read the rules of the church. Cults thrive on the unquestioning obedience of their members.[1] Often times, the rules of worship will be arbitrary and most of them will benefit the leader or leadership of the worship. Also, there are often severe punishments for breaking the law including excommunication or forced physical labor like in Scientology.

Often the rules of worship are meaningless and exist to ensure the obedience of members.

Common rules of worship include being under leadership, not being allowed to talk to anyone outside of worship, and requirements to drastically change your lifestyle.

Be especially aware of “prosperity theology”, [3] which basically says that financial blessings and material prosperity are part of God’s plan for church followers, and often encourages tithing to the church. It has been criticized for exploiting the poor, and several churches that teach prosperity gospels have been mired in financial fraud.

Decide what will happen if you leave the church. Sects will often have severe punishments for those who decide to leave the church. Common consequences can include direct punishment from God or being prevented from speaking with family and friends within the church.

Beware of defamation forums. Slander sessions are public displays of humiliation, where the church leader will humiliate you in front of other members. If the church orders such group activities, it is a sign that it may be worship.[5][6]

This type of activity is often designed to train you not to fight, to ignore your intuition, and to turn you into a passive and calm person.

Examining Behavior

Avoid churches that focus on prophecy or mass suicide talk. Many denominations will focus on fabricated prophecies that do not align with churches in the same religion or talk about mass suicide. If a church preaches about an inevitable dire prophecy or suicide, it is probably a cult.[8]

Usually, this prophecy will come from a human leader of the church and not from a religious text

Assess if the church needs you to separate. Cults use isolation so they can manipulate you and prevent you from figuring out that the organization is a cult. Avoid churches that require forced isolation or cutting ties with family and friends.

Usually the denomination will attract you at first and you will know about the forced exclusion later.

Determine if they have an elite doctrine. Many cults will have a doctrine of elites who consider themselves superior to those outside the cult. Cults often convince members that they are an elite group of people born to save the world or change the course of human history. If you see an elite or arrogant person from the members, it could be a cult. [9]

This can also manifest itself in intolerance of others outside of worship.

Avoid churches that offer special benefits to senior members. Many cults have a group of leaders who receive special benefits or that do not stay with the same rules as other members of the cult. If you see a strict leadership that receives special benefits and is not related to the law, it can be a cult.[10]

Sects consist of a group of leaders whose main goal is to gain wealth, power, and influence.

Identify the common characteristics of a worship leader. Look at the church leader and examine their behavior. Determine if they are really trying to spread their religion or are out for personal gain. Avoid churches that have arrogant, arrogant, or angry leaders.[11]

If a church leader is overly sensitive, needs constant praise, humiliates people in public, has a sense of selfishness, or demands sexual acts from church members, it is very likely that this person is a cult leader.

Different religious leaders often have very similar behaviors.

Beware of leaders who have absolute power and are extremely rich.

Avoid churches that use mind control techniques. Things like hypnosis, peer pressure, and forced isolation are common mind control techniques that religious cults use to control their members. Try to recognize the times when the church has made these things necessary and avoid any church that uses these methods.

Common hypnosis techniques include repetitive music and moving speech that can induce hypnosis.

Question principle. If you ask questions about group rules and church leaders get defensive or angry, it may be a sign that you are in a cult. The true church will be clear about their teachings.[13] If they want endless loyalty, it’s a good sign that it can be a cult. [14]

True churches will have an explanation of their laws or they may point to some type of scripture or text that explains the law.

Determine if the church is using threats and manipulation. A cult often uses threats and fear to keep their membership in line. This can come in the form of a God-sent disaster or the threat of being separated from family and friends. If the church uses threats and fear to make their members obey the law, it is a sign that the church is a cult.

Beware of churches that require you to do unnecessary favors. If church members or leadership constantly pressure you to do favors for those outside the scope of the church, it is a sign that the church is a cult. These favors can reduce your time and can include things like shopping, physical labor, or financial donations.

Deciding if the Church is a Cult

Read the usual criticism of the church. Find common criticism of the church by searching for information about the church online. Read reviews and experiences from past and present church members. It can enlighten you to know how other people see the church and it can give you the information you need to know if it is worship. If the church is a legitimate church, it will be able to withstand criticism.[16]

If the church prevents you from reading important scriptures, it is a sign that the church is a cult.

Talk to family and friends outside of church. Ask friends and family who are not members of the church if they think the church is a cult. Their opinions will be less biased than church members, and they can give you a better perspective. If the church prevents you from talking or interacting with other people outside the church, it is a sign that the church is a cult.

You can say something like, “Hey, do you think this new church I’m going to is strange? I’ve been thinking that it might be a cult. What do you think; what do you think?”

Be true to yourself. Think about the goals of the church and how it treats its members. If you find something disturbing, bad, or morally corrupt, it’s a good sign that the church may be a cult. Churches exist to benefit many, and if you don’t feel like the church is doing that, it may be worship.

It may be difficult to identify if your church is a cult if you are currently a member of a church.


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