Sunday, October 19, 2008

Cult Evangelism: A Question From Evangelism 363

When I was asked by Dr. Bill Effler to help teach a couple sessions on evangelizing those in cult groups in his evangelism class at Lee University, my alma mama, back in 2005, I was sent a few questions to respond to from his students. This was a great one that was direct and to the point in regards to reaching those in cults with the Gospel of Christ:

How do we actually effectively evangelize people who are in cults?

I wrote in response:

Evangelism always is and always will be the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the lost. The critical point in any evangelistic sharing is whether or not the person you witness to fully understands what you have said – they grasp the truth claims of the Gospel and their personal implications and you’ve used language they understand coming out of a heart and soul passionately concerned for them.

You would share the Gospel of Christ to a cultist with a strong emphasis on the love of God for them, the authority of God’s Word and that faith in Jesus alone is what brings them to God – not any cultic program of busywork and admonish them to reconsider their claims in light of Ephesians 2:8-9, John 3:16-20 and 1 John 1:9.

In any cult evangelism, there are two important points in effective witness of the Gospel of Christ to cults that must be very intentionally focused upon – dealing with the cultist’s personal understanding of their cult’s path to personal salvation as they understand it and dealing with the terminology differences they hold as well that confuse the dialogue.

Knowing what Cultist X believes about their Leader’s orthodoxy about ultimate salvation is crucial to reaching them where they are and being ready to define terms (like “righteousness,” “grace,” “faith,” etc.) to clearly represent the truth of the Gospel when it is confused with cultic redefinitions of that truth is equally important. If evangelism is, at its ultimate core, the sharing of the Gospel, these two crucial issues must be engaged in any sharing with a cult member.

We have contended that cultic mind control is the great cognitive choke hold that hinders a cult members ability to understand and even personally relate to what you say, and that dealing with those aspects of cultic mind control that effectively suspend (in various degrees) their ability to critically think is just as vital to helping them grasp the truth you share. Reliance on the Spirit of God’s piercing of the veil of cultic blindness that this mind control brings is also just as essential.

I wrote two papers describing the problem and our own approaches to it for the class and adapted them for distribution. I greatly expanded upon these brief responses - and included further discussion on what the differences are between evangelizing and restoring. As Dr. Paul Martin so well said years ago, the great need for many of those affiliated with cults today is not so much outright evangelism at first but a need for an intentional shepherding - to supply guidance of deceived, broken people back to the folds of truth, security and objective thought where they can decompress, mourn, grieve, rage and recover from the cult experience they've been hypnotized with.

Too many Christians fail to realize that the need for a person bound by deceptive wiles in the context of authoritarian spirituality to regain freedom of thought is vital for them to make intelligent, personal and authentic choices about what they will believe. This extends to whether the Gospel of Christ, when shared respectfully with them, is something they'll accept. All too often, quite out of the best of intentions, Christian evangelism for the cult member trying to break away from their abusive group can sometimes seem like just another hard sell tool of spiritual oppression they're trying to be freed from - hence the need to be aware of where the person is at in their spiritual journey.

We respect God's work in the lives of those we try to help, their need to heal and integrate back into real life and await their questions about what we believe while also praying fervently that they will turn to the healing and transforming encounter with the real Jesus that they thought they'd been walking in. Our evangelistic ministry objectives are based upon that and we're not changing any time soon

You can find these papers on the Evangelical Ministries To New Religions website here and here as .PDF files you can save and download. I've just been too lazy to upload them to the Spiritwatch site and may adapt them for online articles with hyperlinks and more of our award winning cool pictures. Any questions, feel free to email.