How do cults recruit and how can we go about to prevent it?
Cults successfully recruit new members by appealing to their felt needs with a compelling presentation of truth claims that go unchallenged by objective examination. In short, the recruited, in seeking an "itch for their scratch", are people struggling with various issues and questions which the cult seems to provide all the answers for. Their astonishingly effective means of personal recruitment is based upon meeting those needs, thereby gaining significant means of leverage and control over them.
And their recruitment is usually as successful as their group's ability to foster that instant sense of rapport and community with those they seek to convert.
This kind of cultic recruitment has been a major source for their success and even resurgence. The picture illustrates the fruit of their labor: you see here a Spiritwatch Ministry worker in 2001 seeking to provide a hapless Christian an informational flyer about the cultic Unification Church rally she was going to, thinking she was going to a Christian meeting. The UC is a cultic movement run by the antichrist called "Reverend" Sun Myung Moon and the Korean woman was a Unificationist (Moonie) who actually physically tried to snatch the flyers out of the hands of the largely minority believers being bused in for the meetings. They were being brought there by their unscrupulous and/or undiscerning Christian pastors who represented the Unification front group that organized these rallies as an interfaith agency's moral crusade. Draping itself with concern for the spiritual and moral decline of America, the Moon organization has long sought to establish a "common cause" with evangelical Christian minorities (which you can read about more here) and hundreds of minority pastors and church leaders across America have been duped, seduced or financially persuaded into becoming allies with their antichristian agenda. This was just one example in a string of spiritual duplicity that shows how cults will use any means they can to deceive their recruits.
Using discerned common spiritual and social values that the prospect and they seem to have in common, the cult member is then able to establish deeper connection with a recruit. From that point on, cult recruiters will also interact with them on purely interpersonal issues that most powerfully influence the seeker. Their payoff to the prospect - facilitated by the recruiter's personal contact - is a carefully controlled outpouring of positive regard bestowed by the collective group on them as they first attend their meetings and discussion groups that are aimed to impress upon them how valued and cared for they are: this is done in three ways (these were taken from our article on how cults recruit)
Immediate Importance - the prospect is affirmed to the extent that they are made to feel essential and important to the success of cause they are confronted with - since it is how those needs and their fulfillment will be met .
Instant Intimacy - the prospect is provided with a high degree of almost instantaneous caring and sharing with other group members who unhesitatingly make themselves available for the development of deep, close relationships ..
Interactive Introduction - the prospect is brought into (and caught up with) a community of people who have a vibrant social life totally centered around their collective involvement with the revelation or philosophy that the group holds is the "truth" that will save the world ..
Such recruitment, expressed in love, sweetened with acceptance and starry eyed recruiters avowing the divine/ultimate nature of their message and group, is probably one of the most powerful and compelling forces of charisma that cultic human nature can muster. It wins converts when those within the recruit's circle of friends and family, for any of a number of reasons, fail to respond with alternative perspectives that counter the cult's claim and love-bombing culture.
In some extremely rare cases, demonic compulsion may actually be involved, but most of the time, it's a purely human transaction between a person motivated by longing for positive change in their lives and a cult recruiter ready to lure them into transformative relationships they believe this change will come with.
So how do you counter such a thing?
Remember the words of Messala, from the old classic movie Ben Hur ..
"you ask how to fight an idea. Well, I'll tell you how... with another idea!"
Preventing cults from successfully recruiting unwary people can take two forms, one being proactive, one being reactive. The first involves a comprehensive strategy engaging cult awareness and educational initiatives advocated, funded and publicized by concerned Christian believers or non-religious individuals as part of ongoing service to their local communities. Using the media, advertising, public meetings and church educational systems, generic discussions of cultism can be held that can alert people to the dangers of cult recruitment, their vulnerability to it and provide resources for self-education and assistance, as well as channels for assistance to those who've been already affected by it. Such initiatives, unfortunately, have little to no priority whatsoever in most communities, a sad and tragic thing when you consider that other public service activities concerning the awareness of child abduction, domestic violence, debt reduction and identity theft issues seem far more attractive to the average member of the species of Joe. Q. Public.
The second arises when the friends and family of a prospective convert to some cultic ideology seek some kind of intervention to head off their involvement. It is the latter course, unfortunately, that becomes the encounter of choice for most people when cults shatter their world after the fact and is always the far more difficult direction to take. Entering into positive and fruitful discussion with people already being persuaded by a cult to make life-changing decisions and lifestyle choices that they've come to believe are necessary for personal transformation is perhaps one of the most difficult things you will ever seek to do. Cult awareness initiatives could have prevented it, but - as I've observed - they are virtually non-existent in society today.
Countering cult recruitment involves fighting the ideas of the cult being spun before a inquisitive seeker with another ones without actually fighting the idealist of the cult - even though, inevitably, one must realize that this is indeed a struggle for hearts and minds and conversation will get intense. The ideas and concepts being used to entice and seduce the recruit have to be respectfully identified, understood and directly challenged in the same way the cult introduced them. You will be engaging the heart and mind of the recruited with a line of equally cheery, confident and yet Holy Spirit-timed seasons of questioning and inquiry that accomplish this.
When doing personal work in this area with a recruit of a cult, there are several issues that have be simultaneously tackled by the countercult worker that have to be kept in mind. First, the whole attempt to counter cult recruitment must be viewed as process and not just an event. They must be willing and able to devote at least the same amount of personal time and effort in dialogue and relationship with the recruit that the cult has put in to entice them. Secondly, the positive regard, interest and concern shown in their prospect must be drawn from genuine concern - not out of some rush to crusade or "cult bust."
Learning how to ask open ended questions that objectively explore the truth claims made by the recruiter is the next vital step. The recruit's suspension of critical thought may have already started, which is only a few steps away from cult mind control and can easily result in their ability to divert concerns and appear "o.k." to those wanting to understand the draw of the cult upon them. These truth claims can range from common ones focusing on moral, philosophical and spiritual absolutes to more personally meaningful ones that engage an individual's unique questioning of his life and the world around him. Collection of documented information about the cult's deceptive representations about itself and the world around it, their bogus scientific claims, and "insider doctrines" the group hides from the public that reveal its true agenda are vital to providing objective truth about the cult's claims.
Another important dynamic to counter is the very appeal itself that cult recruiters use to draw prospects into investigation of their group. The recruit's attempt to find answers to their questions and to seek truth should and must be affirmed but it is the conclusions they are making that should be gently called into question with the documented research about their claims by concerned family, friends and countercult workers. They should be encouraged to remain open to self-study and examination of your evidences before committing to the kinds of radical lifestyle reordering the cult will ultimately demand of them.
This is at the core of countering a cult's "loving on" a new recruit, delivered in equally caring concern. The cult's appeal should be respectfully re-explored with alternate perspectives when they begin to entertain unbiblical, illogical and/or aberrant directions that will lead to religious abuse, coercion and unethical psychological manipulation. Since the cult recruiter uses gentle encouragement or even bold challenge to persuade them, countercult workers must not be any less forthright in bringing this to the attention of the prospect they seek to ensnare.
This is because timing is of the highest importance and often the one critical factor that too many family and friends of those being drawn into a cult fail to recognize. Generally, the longer a recruit has been interacting with the cult, especially when going to cult social gatherings are involved, the more and more deeper the social, spiritual and emotional ties are going to be rooted - and the more powerful the deceptive reasoning of "good words and fair speeches" that cult recruiters engage in to "deceive the hearts of the simple." (Romans 16:18). Assuming a loved one's interactions with a cult recruiter over time is a "phase they're going through" is a dangerous mistake. They should be calmly and carefully asked about their new friends and what they've been learning and their literature should be read and studied - and discerned.
It is best, of course, that all of this be done away from the influences of the cult recruiter who will do all they can to , but sometimes this isn't possible, and the new recruit with starry eyed enthusiasm, will bring you into a place where you're going to have to engage in dialogue the cult recruiter themselves. That then becomes an actual witnessing session that involves many of the same practices we've just discussed but takes a different direction, which we'll discuss shortly. Needless to say, the recruit will be listening very intently as you share with their new found friend and that this level of conversation will indeed be life changing.
How does one come across finding a cult? I don't know any cultists, where can I find them? What do you consider the best place or types of places to meet people in cults and what are the best places to try to build relationships and evangelize them?
It's not hard to find cults or cultists: they can be quite easily found. They are friends of friends, neighbors of your uncle, members of the company softball team, or your own grandchild. At times you may need to go to where they are, but don't be surprised if God's economy leads them into divine intersection with your own lives. Be ready for this - if you're serious about witnessing to cult members, be prepared for "coincidences" orchestrated by the Spirit. It will happen!
But don't be afraid to go to where cultists live their lives and try to practice their faith, either. Jesus said we are to go into "all the world," and that world is where the cultists go also. They deserve Spirit-led and discerning admonition that will reach their minds as well as their souls - and the best way to share this to best impact is through the building of intentionally sought and nutured relationships. They deserve our reaching out to them as we encounter them.
The settings where these relationships can be started with cult members are many and are where Christians should be nurturing them. That means meeting them on street corners when they distribute their magazines and tracts. That means going to their open houses and weekly study groups they advertise for those interested in hearing their perspectives. That means devoting time to spend it in their company. It means calling that toll free number and asking for a visit from a representative to visit your home. And it especially means taking the time out to have a lunch visit with a friend or co-worker who has something "special" to share with you in a far more informal and personal way, or lingering in an aisle in a bookstore or on a doorstep in engaging discussion.
These latter examples are usually the best opportunities in which building a personal relationship with a cultist can be best done. Relationships you build with a cultist will become the load bearing bridge over which the dialogue that explores their faith is best supported. In this vein, I'd say the "best" place you can hope to find yourself in relationship building with a cultist is if you can successfully get yourself alone them, especially if it can be done on a regular basis. Apart from their cult peers, it gives him/her the opportunity to be more authentic, less guarded, and more open to hearing you out. It also affords you time to directly address the cultic mind control they're likely laboring under with lines of inquiry that you can make more personal.
It is important to listen to them in order to gain and establish a relationship.
At what point to we gain or regain conversation in order that there is a control of conversation while still maintaining a healthy respect for their belief but yet still trying to win them for Christ?
Anyone, including cult members, deserves to be shown respect in any conversation held with them. Truly meaningful communication of truth depends upon it. Conversation should be a two way street in which two people freely exchange ideas through questioning, answering, listening and challenging in a spirit of inquiry.
However, while cultists are people always ready for a good discussion, they don't let on that their chat is driven by the cult's missionary desire to make converts.
Never forget this!
As friendly, transparent and sincere as they may seem, the goal is always the same - they will see you as a sheep in need of their shepherd. This is a chilling effect on their ability to actually dialogue with you - it's also been seriously compromised as a result of the mind controlling indoctrination that they have been conditioned with which all but shuts down their ability to critically think through an issue you may raise. Questions raised and subjects tackled are quickly determined to be "safe" or "off-limits" to the cult member on the basis of what they've been taught. This is because the group usually has trained them to speak with outsiders as if they were all potential converts, as those in need of enlightenment, and therefore, who are wallowing in spiritual deficiency and ignorance. Their arguments and passion are going to be reserved for self-expression that serves the cult's agenda of winning them to their belief system.
This is the kind of personal connection, challenge and rapport that they want to establish with you so as to lead you into an amenable frame of mind that will more easily entertain their movement's propaganda. The scripted presentations, invitations and testimonial that laud the cult are meant to evoke in you a desire to explore the ways of such an upright group. They are seamlessly woven into the conversation and become an undeniably alluring song which cultism sings so sweetly and seductively as it calls to you to join their ranks and come to the light. If you allow the conversation's time to be dominated by their singing of the cult's praises, the kind of communication you are trying to foster simply will not occur - indeed, you'll end up find the going get frustrating and even confusing. You will walk away wondering what happened and the cultist more convinced then ever that they've found the truth.
Bearing in mind, then, that you will be approached with a sales pitch hidden in "sharing," you must purpose in both heart and mind that you have to keep some measure of control over the conversation within the common bonds of civility. To encourage openness to the cult member, as well as signal respect for his belief system, hearing them out is certainly necessary as well as polite but when seeking to continue fruitful discussion with a cult member, establishing boundaries for the flow of the discussion is of critical importance. If not carefully watched for, the cult member will go on to seek control over your time of interaction with an indoctrinating presence. Inevitably, then, after a season of listening to the cultist, you must seek to guide the conversations you have with cult members and keep the focus on the topics that you determine are going to be most helpful in addressing the truth claims and testimonial they will offer to you.
Remember that if you're going to be of any real help to the cult member, you are going to have studied up on what they believe and be familiar with why they believe it is true. Before you can share the Gospel of Christ with a cultist, you must be familiar with the false gospel of the cult he's trying to represent to you and then learn why the individual embraces its' truth claims. You should have some working knowledge about crucial terminology differences they have when using religious and non-religious language that can foster misunderstanding and even deception.
It is only during and after a careful hearing out of what a cultist shares that you'll start seeing where your discussion should proceed if you're determined to bring Christian witness in your personal response, witness to the Gospel of Christ as well as witness that helps lead them back from the blinding of the mind that the cult has inflicted them with so they might be free once more to make their own choices for truth and not merely become mechanized robots reciting a cultic creed (2 Corinthians 4:4).
So the usage of focusing questions that help turn the conversation back to the direction you feel it should go should be used. Just one good question added to your conversational flow can have this effect and get the cultist out of his pre-programmed response track and out of his comfort zone toward critical thought without his actually knowing it. Focusing questions asked in sincere intent should zero in on an issue the cult member is aware of but which encourages their interaction on a line of inquiry that draws them toward a real grappling with truth. The question can take any form attempting to address the cult mind control they labor under, their own misunderstanding of a historical event the cult makes much over, a reexamination of sound doctrine they've been taught is Satanically inspired, etc.
Discussing these and other issues can make an already long answer into a book. We'll suggest some resources shortly to read, and invite you to discuss these with us locally here in Cleveland. We're always available!
How do you get someone in a cult to be receptive to you, because most are secretive and closed off to their group or cult?
Show honest concern, curiosity, and openness to hearing them out. It's that simple.
Everyone wants to feel that they are being heard, being heeded, being paid attention to. Inviting a hearing of the cult's beliefs and personal story is a dinner bell for them for which their reserve will fall. The important thing to keep in mind is that as you show this genuine concern that you don't become a sponge that uncritically accepts whatever you're told at face value. Be a very active listener who employs listening skills informed by information about cultism and the cult in general to hear them out as way of giving them their civil due and hearing them out - while simultaneously analyzing their dogma and protecting yourself with an objective inner viewpoint which should intentionally informs your understanding.
While the social isolation through indoctrination that we've mentioned which cults impose on their recruits as they consolidate their manipulative control over their members is a real problem, your willingness to seek to hear them out does wonders to bring those barriers down. The propaganda of the cult that had led them into insulating themselves from external perspectives and influences at the expense of their critical thought can be short circuited by the most simple of human responses - your honest body language that conveys to them that you are indeed listening and seeking to understand them where they are.
If you can successfully cultivate this kind of mindset and manner each time you want to share with a cultists, you are in an excellent position to bring to bear sensitive, relevant and yet uncompromising sharing of the Gospel with them.
In building a relationship with a cult member, how many times should you meet with them and how much time is safe in order that we maintain the relationship without risking our own faith?
In discussing our faith to them and trying to breakdown the errors in their doctrine and theology, what is an appropriate way of correcting their doctrine in such a way that shows a spirit of humility and yet still one of Christ's authority?
How do you keep yourself from getting into long debates? When do you know it's time to end the conversation?
Building any kind of relationship always takes time and effort. Connecting a member of the Cultworld with that of your own will require this kind of work. Whatever comes up, however, rest assured that every encounter can be a divine appointment in which you can deliver truth in the fashion we've just outlined. Each meeting can be a golden opportunity to plant not only the seeds of the Word of God but thistles of irrefutable doubt in their cult's worldview, belief system and relationships that will challenge the mind control and indoctrination they labor under. Such doors are those that I am convinced God desires the church to walk through, if they will but be willing to go. He can and will open them before us.
So therefore, if God grants you the opportunity to maintain ongoing contact with a cultist, try to meet with the cult member as often as you possibly can. If you can do so, we'd recommend keeping the dialogue limited to an hour or so on a regular weekly or biweekly basis and focused upon a specific topic or subject. These are efforts worthy of pursuit and should be understood as if they were long distance runs rather than sprints. Pacing the flow of discussion by limiting it's scope to specific and agreed upon issues at hand is going to be of crucial importance for yourself and your cult member friend.
You should be aware that how and what you will address in your dialogues will be determined by the kind of relationship you have. Is the cult member a friend, co-worker or even family member with whom there's a high probability that you'll be able to see them more or less on a regular basis? Is the cult member a Jehovah's Witness at a bus stop or an LDS missionary knocking on your door that you may not see again?
Most of the time it's more likely that you will find that the kind of encounters with cultists you'll have will indeed be transitory, one-time visitations in which you're going to have only one opportunity to share with a cultist. But that's not always the case. Sometimes the cult member is a loved one who wandered away from the church into the open arms of a cult. You're going to usually be a lot more direct with a one time meeting then one in which your aunt is being recruited by a cult. If you're going to outright engage in evangelistic discussion, then a direct focus on the doctrines of salvation that the cult has indoctrinated them is going to be the best approach, aware that the cult mind control issue should be directly tackled. If you're going to be seeing them regularly, you can and should be more careful in choosing the direction of the sharing.
This is a vital point because those meetings should involve interaction that proceeds only at a pace you are comfortable with in which you are keenly aware of your own interpersonal limits as well as how you intend to tackle the discussion. Never forget the old Greek dictum "Know thyself" - that is to say, be fully aware of your personal boundaries in handling the levels of challenge that your dialogue will present to you. The question above very wisely and intuitively recognizes that witnessing to a cultist - as in any evangelistic encounter - can be a spiritually dangerous enterprise. Keep in mind that the cult member is quietly taking your measure also and is going to be doing what they can to convince and convert you over to their cause. Every moment of presence in a cultist's life is a moment in which deception and confusion is a real hazard that shouldn't be easily dismissed. The hazard can and should be countered by the working knowledge about the cult and its teachings as well as an understanding of the social dynamics behind the cult's appeal that gives you the objective point of view necessary to keep their claims in a balanced perspective.
There can be moments, however, in which the cultist's objections and questions linger when you cannot answer them. Don't worry. It's not at all wrong to admit that you don't have an answer to a question and to advise them you're going to be thinking about it and would like to get back with them on it. Walk away if you need to but don't fail to get some help in tackling the question with other mature believers and countercult ministries and workers. There always is an answer to a cultist's objections - and no matter how personal it may strike you or affecting, it is a challenge that can and must be directly addressed.
In this regard, then, proceed no faster in your sharing on concepts under discussion that you can safely follow. It is infinitely better to tackle one issue only in an encounter then jump from subject to subject willy-nilly with no sense of focus. This is why conversational control is so important. stay on the subject and only detour from it when it is absolutely necessary to do so (such as defining terms or explaining concepts vital to the subject at hand). Keep the initiative and direction of the discussion or you may find yourself being bombarded with a torrent of tangents that will waste your time addressing.
Long debates over truth claims are indeed the very things you want to avoid at all costs. Debates break out when both the countercult worker and the cultist are unwilling or unable to yield a point of contention that will rapidly escalate into a defensive battle where claims, Bible verses, counterclaims, tempers fly hot and fast - so fast that communication breaks down and things get unnecessarily personal and polarizing. Listen to the dry observation of the church father Tertullian about such a debate he encountered in his second century African community:
It happened very recently a dispute was held between a Christian and a Jewish proselyte. Alternately with contentious cable they each spun out the day until evening. By the opposing din, moreover, of some partisans of the individuals, truth began to be overcast by a sort of cloud.
Although this incident took place almost two millenia ago, as you can see, some things never change. Tertullian shrewdly observed that long drawn out argumentation in a group of Christians and false teachers of two opinions can easily lead to the obscuring of the most important point of all – the truth itself! When this happens, the situation has gotten out of hand and has to be reigned in.
Disagreement is inevitable in the dialogue you'll have with a cultist, but avoidance of full blown debate is a top priority. Avoid debates by refusing to argue a point that the cult member seems to want to keep dealing with, even after you've offered your opinions on it. They're trying to pull you off topic to a subject they want to keep pressing home with. Agree to disagree and politely move the conversation along. Offer to study the issue at a later date and keep the conversation guided in the direction you want it in.
At this point, you simply must let the fruit of the Spirit be seen in you (Gal. 5:22-23)! Cultists will indeed argue as forcefully for their religion with their manifold arguments and be quite trying as they disagree with you in an effort to refute your speech. Be calm and cheerful, and don't blow your top at stubbornness! They may reject your message, but they cannot escape the witness of a peaceful, longsuffering Christian. It should be remembered that D.L. Moody, the 19th century American evangelist, once said that of 100 people, one would read the Bible, and the other 99 would "read the Christian." What an indictment of the power of the moderate, Spirit-led temperament of the Christian countercult worker when dealing with what is certainly one of the most potentially toxic and defiling challenges to one's faith that you can face.
You should end the conversation with a cultist if:
1) the cult member shows that they've come to the point where they cannot entertain your conversation with anything else except baiting accusation aimed at inflammatory exchanges (Acts 6:9-13) ; in otherwords, they've just decided to dump on you to watch your reaction ..
2) by God's grace you've made a couple of good, sound observations that have led a cult member to recognize a truth claim they've never considered before so as to give them time to think about it(Acts 17:32) ; and
3) if you begin to feel overwhelmed by the questions the cult presents and feel that you can't keep track of the conversation.
How can you talk to a cultist about the Gospel when they are not a bit receptive to it and even against it? If they are not receptive at all and want nothing to do with you, do you give up?
Keep the counsel of our Lord comes to mind when encountering a cult member - or anyone else - who is intent on simply acting out their spiritually proud mockery of Christian truth. He commanded in Matthew 7:6 to his disciples that they were to "give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you." The offering of spiritual truth to those who would mock it is a pointless and fruitless exercise that only heaps further divine condemnation upon the mocker as they insult and blaspheme it (Romans 1:18-22).
The apostle Paul's mandate in Titus 3:10 is that "a man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself." This suggests that the Christian countercult worker, in what may be a final exercise of God's grace being extended to them, should endeavor to supply to even the mocking cult member at least two exhortations to hear out the truth you've come to discuss with them. Beyond this, Paul says, we are to "reject" the person firmly. The Greek verb paraiteomai is an imperative one that can be translated as decline, shun, avoid, refuse, reject. It can't be any plainer then this ..
At this point, the Bible seems clear: we're called to be witnesses of the Gospel of Christ and not providers of holy doormats for false teachers like cultists to tread upon. We should take our apostolic authority as Christians and politely withdraw from further discussion with them, consigning them to God's judgment and rebuking them for their rejection of the truth. I've had LDS missionaries go so far as to take their Buster Browns off and shake the dust off of them in response when a conversation ended in this way, in their own arrogant mimickry of the apostolic anathemas seen in Mark 6:11 and Acts 13:51. Sadly, they bring the witness of judgment only upon their own heads since they have utterly failed to realize that you were the servant of God sent into their own lives by divine visitation (Job 10:12, Luke 19;22 and 1 Peter 2:12).
You have fulfilled your ministry by making the prayerful attempt to admonish them - if they reject you, they effectively reject the One who indeed sent you (Matthew 10:40). It is a sad and sobering thing to behold, but that's part of what it is to be a witness for Jesus Christ. We are simply obeying His commands by the power and leading of the Spirit of God and act accordingly to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8). The rest is between the cult member and God. Pray that God have mercy upon them and yet work to enlighten them and commend them to His convicting ministry (John 16:7-11).
How do you follow up on an encounter with a cult when they don't have a number, address, etc. and when would you ever see them again?
As I've shared, there will be occasions in which you're going to encounter an itinerant and traveling cult missionary who only wants to "hit and run," but with whom you've established contact.
Be in the habit of carrying a personal calling card with your name, address, phone number and e-mail address before you leave. Calling cards still are a great way to provide a tangible source of contact with someone even in this day and age of digitized, cellular and Web based social networking. Encourage them to stay in touch with you.
We have created and used small card printing runs using our computer and word processing programs, but we'd recommend using for more professional results the inexpensive and yet amazingly well done work you can find at Vistaprint.com.
How do you go about studying the different cults and witchcraft without being drawn to it yourself?
Since we need to have sufficient homework done before we try to evangelize to a cult what are some reading materials that you would consider essential to our success in evangelizing to cults?
Are there books out there that give a Christian perspective on Jehovah's Witness and Mormon perspectives? I found that when placed in the middle of Salt Lake City surrounded by Mormon material I ended up feeling drowned in it and had an overwhelming confusion .. are there any books that highlight the Christian truths while walking through their beliefs?
Studying cults and the occult is an enterprise that involves dedicated search and acquisition of the individual culture behind the cult.
To get an objective and balanced understanding of the unique claims and worldview they advocate, you have to become a student of the cult's publications and media that presents their doctrine and practice in a more or less systematic fashion. It's not just comparative theological research you're looking for alone: you are also learning the vocabulary, social concerns, passions and interests that the cult intends its' members to fellowship with. This is of enormous importance in developing a working knowledge of a cult's inner private life and how it relates it to their outer public image. These cult produced books, CD's, videos, websites, magazines, tracts, etc. will be the kinds of resources that the cult itself uses to indoctrinate members and are usually not readily available, although with effort, time and money, they can be obtained readily enough.
The building of a personal library of these publications should be a top priority for the study process of each cult. Much information on various groups can be downloaded off the internet that they have prepared themselves, including DVD's and CD's full of scans of such publications. However, finding this literature often requires specialized searches as diverse as online collectors to garage sales, from used book bins to library book sales. My wife Joy actually found the entire 26 volume set of the Mormon Church's Journal Of Discourses (an absolutely mind boggling find) in a couple of dusty boxes at a backwoods flea market. I found the first two volumes of the Children of God's Mo Letters (another equally amazing discovery that the books were never to be circulated outside the cult) at a used book store in an airport the last time I flew almost 8 years ago. It's amazing what you can find.
Another vital angle of study is to become a student of the literature and testimonials offered by ex-members of cult groups. Ex-members can be your guides, translators, and mentors when coming to grips with an understanding of how the cult they were involved with actually functions and what to expect when you deal with them. Every cult has a host of people who disassociated themselves or were disfellowshipped from the group for a variety of reasons and who have much objective insight in the group's teaching and practice that simply cannot be ignored. In our work with cults over the years, we've come to realize that - contrary to the warped views of some self-styled academics and Christian figures who castigate countercult work as biased and judgmental - the views of ex-members are quite compassionate, balanced and factually-based.
While there are also ex-cult members whose writings, persona and approach to their cult are seriously imbalanced and indicate anger and integrity issues they struggle with in their post-cult life, there are far more who have been instrumental in helping provide for countercult workers balanced presentations of information and insight that would not have been achievable any other way.
You can find on our website the testimonies of many former members of Remnant Fellowship, for example, and a good friend of ours named Eric Kettunen left the LDS Church in the mid 1990's with his family and was among the first ex-Mormons to publish their testimonies through his website Recovery From Mormonism, which was devoted exclusively to providing the testimonies of other ex-LDS members. It routinely gets hundreds of thousands of visits each day. The testimonials of other people in other groups can be found in our Great Links page.
Become a student of the process of cult mind control itself. Cult mind control effectively shuts down how a cult member thinks and responds to your questioning to the point of altering personal identity so knowing how to tackle and deal with it simply demands that you also have a working knowledge of the thought reforming social dynamic that it actually is. The best books that detail how it works, how it can be recognized in cultic communal settings and how to tackle it are Steve Hassan's seminal "Combatting Cult Mind Control" and "Releasing The Bonds", Ronald Enroth's "Churches That Abuse" and Paul Martin's "Cult Proofing Your Kids". All of these books are available in either new or used forms on Amazon.com - the links above will help you get access to other sources for them. A Google video featuring a discussion by Hassan about how to deal with cultic mind control can be seen here amd how cult mind control is applied in cultic situations.
And become a student of the new generation of countercult books and resources that are now widely available. Such books, outside of a few books like the late and great Dr. Walter Martin's "Kingdom Of The Cults" simply didn't exist when I started to get involved in countercult work in the mid 1980's. Still, to quote the old newspaper editor, yes, Virginia, there ARE such books that compare cult doctrine and practice with Christian ones! They will need to share shelf space with your cult publications in your study and are absolutely essential ones to also help you navigate through the tangled reasoning and cunning misinformation that cult publications are laden with. We particularly recommend Ron Rhodes' excellent "Reasoning From The Scriptures" series written to refute LDS and Jehovah's Witness doctrine, as well as Bill McKeever's "Mormonism 101" and ex-Witness David Reed's outstanding series of books on the Watchtower and his seminal book on the mind controlling language of the cult. In our article on evangelizing cults, which you can download here as a PDF file, you will find a complete list of these and the other kinds of books you are asking about here.
And in the Great Links page on our website, you'll also find a mighty host of websites that provide countercult resources for research and study that simply cannot be ignored either. We particularily recommend the FactNet site and that of the International Cultic Studies Association. The Internet has revolutionized the way human beings communicate with one another and for that, we can truly thank God that we can now use this Net based blog to share all of this with you. You can even download to your MP3 players whole MP3 recordings of countercult teachings with just a few mouse clicks .. what a day we live in!
Finally, let's look at the excellent questions raised here on the seductiveness of cult dogma which should be squarely dealt with.
There is no denying that studying cult doctrine is not only difficult but can spiritually perilous. False, imbalanced and deceptive doctrine and practice has a lure all of its own because it is always mingled with elements of truth that fit into our own worldview and commend it to us. The presence of that which we can accept as true in false teaching makes it seem not only plausible and even Biblical. From a Christian perspective, people who are spiritually hungry but Biblically illiterate are prone to accepting a slickly polished and confidently delivered exposition of false doctrinal and practical teaching if 1) Scripture is cited heavily, 2) it seems to "hit us where we are" and 3) if it is presented in a way that leaves little to no room to test or question it. Reading false teaching and false doctrine will definitely become a challenge for those who study it if these any or all of these three trap doors unlatch beneath us as we examine it.
So the question can ultimately come down to how firm your grip is upon your own unresolved personal issues, for they can become the spiritual chink in your inner armor. Thinking that your grasp on sound and balanced doctrine is a sufficient hedge against cultic deception is a serious mistake. Underestimate this issue at your spiritual peril!
If you are grappling with unsettled problems and dissatisfactions with the church, deficiencies in your personal relationships, unfulfilled desires and frustrated idealism (and really, who doesn't?), then you must come to grips with the plain truth: you may unwittingly find yourself starting to second guess long established boundaries of discernment when you see how happy, centered and fulfilled a cultist seems to be in his cultic community. This is a subtlety of human nature we often don't like to admit ourselves, but it is perfectly natural to wonder how much greener the grass might be on the other side of the proverbial fence. Given the fact that cults can appear to be more "together" then the church itself, any personal knowledge of their manipulative and heretical nature of cultism can slowly cease to matter to you.
If this happens, you are entering exceedingly dangerous territory because you're cutting free the faculties of critical thought - only the convicting powerand grace of the Spirit of God can keep you at this point. When a deeply felt personal need becomes the self-motivation that entices you to re-examine the perspective again, your objectivity can easily become a casualty. This is the main reason why intelligent, sharp Christian people who "knew better" and should have been "smarter than that" now fill cult groups around the world - and why some countercult workers themselves can sometimes be recruited into the very Cultworld they had explored. There's a reason why seasoned Christian countercult workers see their labor as the front lines of the real kinds of spiritual warfare that are waged today and you are perhaps now seeing that.
That is where, however, you have the edge on the seductiveness of false teaching. The Bible makes clear that spiritual warfare is not something to be done by the religious Lone Ranger but in the context of a shared struggle alongside fellowsoldiers in Christ - remember that Paul wrote to the Ephesian church as a group in his classic exhortation of Ephesians 6:10 and verse 18 to fight spiritual battles with the full armor of God. Keeping in mind our discussion on knowing your limits, you've already been tipped that there's an underlying imbalance to the approach of studying cults that has to be carefully watched for. The Body of Christ is still "the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" for a reason, as Paul wrote to Timothy in 1 Timothy 3:15 - we must hold fast to this apostolic truth.
Stay in touch with mature believers as you study, consider your limits and remember one simple principle: never stop asking questions of what ever cultic claim confronts you and seek the safety that counsel with fellow believers will bring (Proverbs 11:14). The media resources we've discussed will provide that for you as well, but there is nothing quite as stabilizing as frank discussion with countercult workers and mature believers. Seek their input as needed. Don't let the "canker" of false teaching become a toxin that poisons your walk with God - put it in its' place with sound study and discernment (2 Timothy 2:15-17).
As always, we stand ready to help in this regard. Stay in touch with us!
How is evangelism different between satanic cults and Christian cults?
I think you are asking for a discussion on the difference in evangelizing adherents to occultic movements and cults that assume a Christian and Bible-based identity (what some countercult researchers and organizations can call "Bible cults"). But this is a question I didn't understand. If you're out there reading this and would like to clarify it, please feel free to email us at rafael at spiritwatch.org and do so!
What is the greatest testimony you have personally heard of when a cultist came to know Christ?
It's hard to know how you would call one redeemed ex-cultist's testimony greater than another, even though there are those that are sodden with ghastly and horrific subtexts that simply have to be heard to be believed. The amount of de-humanizing degradation and objectification that cults inflict their followers with is truly, profoundly stunning .. that any cultist somehow cherishes and nurtures a heart flame of faith to commit it once again to the unknown God they've been searching for in a cultic wilderness is perhaps the most touching, troubling and soul-shattering gesture of the human spirit you can ever see.
So much is made today about "deliverance" today in certain Christian circles that I wonder if the plain sense of the word as used in Scripture is being lost by the church. Personally, I believe that true Biblical deliverance is a glorious rescue that anyone - including any cultist - can cry out to God's mercy and receive. The cultist who turns to Christ truly is one Paul alludes to who is among the great multitude of believers who eternally should be "giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins." (Colossians 1:12) Thanks be to God for His mercy that calls out from all the darkest places of human wickedness a people unto Himself ... may God make of you apostles to the Cultworld where such victories yet await the battles to win them as He would have them waged!
Here's a few testimonies you can read that certainly fill the bill: that of Dennis and Rauni Higley, Paul Blizard, Carolyn Poole, and Karen Pressley.
Have you personally had a relationship with a cult member and actually led them out of their cult to Christianity? if so, could please share that experience?
It was at the Blue Mountain Christian Retreat, October of 1993 and this would turn out to be one of the most life-changing moments I've ever had. This was one of those times you remember where you were.
After 2 days of worshipping with and talking to and hearing the testimonies of ex-Jehovah's Witnesses who turned to Christ, I knew God had led me into a world of desperate human need that the church doesn't even know really exists but which needs the Gospel as badly as any other mission field .. that being the sea of humanity deceived, traumatized and in bondage to false religion.
I remember leaving the service that night, preached by an ex-Witness elder who'd come to Christ and became a Pentecostal minister, my head filled with the memories of the tears, the sorrows, the laughter, the hope and the despair of that group of two hundred people from all over the United States who gather there yearly. My heart and mind were completely blown away from what really, truly was that uncommonly amazing grace they'd found in the arms of the Savior and what to a man and woman they testified to.
It was a completely black, still autumn night with a cold starfield burning down above that hilltop resort. I listened to the wind sighing through the trees, felt the cold bite through my light jacket and realized I could not look at the world the same any longer. I know now that I was changing the direction of my ministry completely. I might never church plant nor pastor. But I barely knew then somehow that I'd turned a corner .. and today, I am now beginning to really get a grasp on that ..
I can't walk away from this.
I remember the Macedonian Call .. I can't stop taking the phone calls and talking to anxious people who've lost their loved ones to some cultic mind trap.
I can't stop from rising up to oppose the blasphemy and lies that cults generate to confuse and destroy.
I can't walk away from those who have called to us to help, fine choice brothers and sisters around the world who labor where no one else cares to go, especially when most of the church ignores the mission field that not only knocks at their door but slips in and then out of their church's revolving door
With preachers and ministries and well worn paths in church work extending everywhere else and with the memories of this and other instances in helping those ripped off by false religion and left for dead, I cannot walk away from this countercult work which few, if anyone else, really labors in to pursue pastoral work.
Our work continued fervently since that cold night on that Pennsylvanian mountain. Since then, we have had many relationships with cult members as well as ex-members. We've actually had connections with Remnant Fellowship members who were still in the group but who requested dialogue with us. We also actually helped a family narrowly escape the mind controlling snare of Remnant Fellowship several years ago. They were related to some friends of ours here in Cleveland and we spent almost four to five hours working with them to reconsider their decision to affiliate with Remnant after leaving one of Remnant's summer camps in Franklin, Tennessee only 2 hours drive of here. That truly was a memorable evening.
Perhaps the video below will show one of the most personally fulfilling and satisfying kinds of ministry we've ever had in this regard in terms of helping some one out of a cult .. enjoy it! Perhaps the video below will show one of the most personally fulfilling and satisfying kinds of ministry we've ever had in this regard in terms of helping some one out of a cult .. enjoy it!
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