Sunday, March 29, 2009

Answering Some More Questions From Lee University's EVA 363 For 2009 3 of 3

Mind Control (part 2 of 3 is here)

What are some methods used for mind control?

I have indicated in my paper on cult evangelism that many in the countercult community, including myself, have adopted Dr. Robert J. Lifton's model of thought reform that is identical to cultic mind control. I have found these observations to be the foundation in understanding the human equation of cultism no matter what shape it assumes. No matter what the theology or practice, it seems that any questionable group (religious or non religious) that seemed "cultic" always seems to follow these directions. In his seminal work drawn from the study of Korean War POW's, Lifton developed 8 criterion that describe what kinds of manipulative influences are marshalled by coercive social dynamics to compel changes of thought and therefore, behavior.

I've briefly described these 8 components of cultic mind control in this article on our website and how they are more readily recognized in cultic settings in another article here. If you really want to dig more into how this is understood - and debated - across a wide variety of academic, pastoral, research and psychological circles, check out this excellent Wiki article here. For the record, I contend that the Liftonian paradigm on thought reform is a compelling and inclusive perspective that provides a clarity of perspective and context other. The methodology is explained in them a little more generically and we'll get into a little of that here in our next questions:

Within the cult realm, does love reign? In other words, do the cult members feel like they are loved unconditionally by their leader and their community or is it more of a fear reigned environment?

Love is a powerful influence that is universally responded to no matter where you go. When it is seemingly found in cultic movements, it can be almost overwhelming in its manifestation and is used to great effect by cults to verify their legitimacy and truth. Sadly and tragically, however, the quality of "love" found in cultic movements is not unconditional but actually quite conditional in nature. This makes all the difference in the worst possible way.

There is a serious and profound difference between the type of conditional love that cults exhibit and the unconditional love which ideally should be manifest by healthy spirituality. It has been well said that the difference between conditional and unconditional love comes down to how it is expressed and experienced - conditional love says "I love you because ..." while unconditional love says "I love you. Period." Note well the contrast! Conditional love is bestowed when a requirement is met, when a task is completed, when a favor is earned, while unconditional love just simply bestows itself upon its object with no strings attached.

Remember that the spirituality/philosophy behind a cultic movement is based upon the fulfillment of legalistic religious busywork or disciplines - upon works and not faith in the grace bestowed by God. As expected, you will find an enormous emphasis on performance and perfectionism within cults that is then rigorously observed and publicly evaluated by cult leadership, with salvation and blessing on the line. Such a posture always engenders fear, apprehension and even paranoia in the lives of cult members. Fear of being found falling short, fear of not being fully in compliance with the moral codes of their group, fear of the world, fear of demons, fear of hell, and fear of the wrath of an angry God underlie the seemingly cheery environments of such groups.

In such a Cultworld, then, unconditional love never has a chance primarily because the human mimickry of conditional love completely dominates the heart and soul of the cult. It instead substitutes this horrible, twisted approximation of love which can be readily and promptly withheld without any conscience whatsoever by cults to induce their members to change their behavior. What a terrible, tragic state of affairs that cult members are told to settle for as the highest and newest of "revelations" around!

How exactly does mind control take place? Cults seem so conditioned to a works based gospel and are not often receptive to a traditional Gospel because of the spiritual and mental bondage they are in .. what is the best way to begin to try and attack and break that spiritual bondage?

Great questions and observations! Let's tackle what mind control is and how it works first of all.

Cult mind control is a manipulative and transforming process that occurs during the recruitment of some one into a cult. It is the control of behavior by the control of thought, a subtle strategy of social control used by cults to impose conformity of belief, thought and practice within their group in an incremental, gradually induced manner. It is an immersive experience which can and often does extend to the complete reordering of the person's view of himself, his past, even his identity, personal memories and priorities in life. When this takes place, profound personality and lifestyle changes can and do occur, all at the behest of the cult's leadership as necesssary for their personal growth and development. It is ethically an involuntary coercion that is imposed upon the cult member and is indeed a hideous mental and spiritual bondage that is disturbing and troubling to behold.

Cult mind control follows, as we have said, a gradual yet undeniably similar pattern, no matter the group's belief system or philosophy. Appeals to felt needs such as the desire for meaning, purpose and community are combined with what has come to be called "love bombing," the smothering of prospects with insincere attention to foster strong social ties to the group's direction and vision. What I've called "isolation through indoctrination" is the gradually intensified social activity, service and study aimed at isolating new members from their past belief system and identity and to create dependence upon the group. This includes the group's free usage of misinformation, implanted cult phobias that compel blind obedience to cult authority, their Scripture twisting and outright falsehoods.

With critical and independent thinking seen as sinful manifestations of demonic and carnal natures that must be shunned, the individual's faculties of free thought are effectively suspended and cultic mind control is inevitable. The cult's authoritarian leadership then makes their enchanted members completely subservient to the cult's demands and readily recast them to there respective places in cult hierarchy they are expected to assume.

So, you are absolutely correct when you state that cultists are "conditioned to a works based gospel," which is an objective statement of truth about their distorted understanding of the Christian Gospel of Jesus Christ. Whatever a cultic movement exalts as the ultimate truth concerning salvation or enlightenment, they will cite the performance of religious works as something the cultist must be constantly engaged in to prove their faith. The cultist must be involved in some kind of spiritual exercise or discipline in which she proves herself deserving of the graces of God that only her cult can bestow upon them. It's a never ending system of self-sanctifying, self-purifying doing that the cult member must commit to which. Faith in Christ alone for salvation is scorned as an easy-believism by cultists who are absorbed in their cult's treadmill of spiritual and social busywork through which they hope to make themselves worthy of God's love, grace and blessing. The freely given grace of God that saves by faith in Christ alone that is not of works, as Ephesians 2:8-9 definitively speaks of, is completely alien to the cultist.

Cult mind control, I believe, is a large part of the "blinding of the mind" referred to in 2 Corinthians 4:4 that is inspired by the "god of this world" that hides the truth of the Gospel of Christ from the cultist. It is one of the main reasons that Christian attempts to evangelize cults often don't have the impact we think they should. I would contend that Paul's usage of the term "god of this world" is a reference not to simply to demonic but warped human influence itself that exists only to control and dominate - note that in 2 Corinthians 4:2 he notes that true ministers are those who have "renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully." Paul was again emphasizing that demonic deception and human manipulation are social dynamics of long standing influence in our fallen world's religious circles and that Biblical truth is largely lost upon those who are prey to it.

As a Christian minister with years of observation of cultic wiles, I am willing to say that while the apostles may never have used the words "mind control" in their epistles to the churches of the New Testament, they certainly very clearly saw how spiritual manipulation that led to spiritual and mental bondage manifested itself (Romans 16:18, 1 Timothy 4:1-2, 2 Peter 2:1-3, Jude 14-16) within the context of spiritual fellowship sought by false teachers and false prophets of the unwary and undiscerning Christian. They sought to combat these false influences and restore those swayed by them, while describing in no uncertain terms how they viewed their aberrant behavior and practice.

Unlike too many Christian churches, cults strongly advance direct connection between their pseudo-orthodoxy (their false teaching claiming to be "the truth") to their approved pseudo-orthopraxy (their false practices, which directly impact their lifestyle). In other words, they demand that their new recruit's actions should line up with what they've been taught and don't hesitate to make them rigorous tests of fellowship and even salvation. With such a complete authority of the group established over them, cult members are then relentlessly conditioned by their leadership to unquestioningly believe by faith the spiritual precepts and worldview their group advances as the ultimate truth: this is readily accomplished after the cult recruit makes their own personal commitment to resigning their spiritual direction, personal autonomy and critical thinking faculties to the group.

This is what the spiritual and mental bondage of cultic mind control looks like.

If you'd like to see some more visual examples, take a break and check out our short YouTube video here (aimed at cult members) and a longer one here (aimed at the general public) for some memorable illustration.

Cult mind control diametrically opposes Christian evangelistic witness to cult members. Scriptural mandates call upon Christians to "know how ye ought to answer every man," and beckon us to urge people to "come now, and let us reason together" (1 Peter 3:15 and Isaiah 1:18). Those whose ability to reason with you has been rechannelled toward contention for their own faith will easily pose perhaps one of the most difficult challenges for the Christian witness in the last days - especially if they turn out to be your grandmother, a friend from school, a business associate who wants to love you into his cult's kingdom, etc.

But fear thou not! We assure you that Bible not only tells to share the Gospel with all men - including cultists - but assures us of the victory! We've seen it happen. We see it happening. We know it will continue to happen!

Apostolic Christianity, empowered by the Holy Spirit and brimming with the Word of God and an understanding of the times has never failed to take on the onslaught of worldly wisdom against the Gospel and the Christ and defeat it by a walk of faith shown by works. None other than our Lord Jesus Himself ordains it: hear his charge to the Apostle Paul, in Acts 26:16-18, the same one that a redeemed believer called to be a witness to the cults assuredly walks in:

But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.

Delivered from the world, the sanctified believer is to stand and walk out a life of service to God in Christ to declare His Gospel in such a way that it opens eyes and turns the blind to the light, even from very jaws of Satanic darkness itself.

We are, as DeGarmo and Key so well belted out years ago "destined to win"!

So what is the best way to begin to try and attack and break that spiritual bondage?

To counter cult mind control does indeed require a plan. Here are the basic steps:

First of all, remember that the degree of cult mind control bondage varies from person to person. This is a critical point to bear in mind, vitally important to understand. Cults, while having darkly powerful spirituality and manipulative socializing energizing them (2 Corinthians 11:4) are not all powerful spheres of influence whose demands are irresistible. The thought-stopping persuasions that hold captive an individual cult member's mind can take as many different forms as there are individual minds controlled by them - and no two are alike. What forms of cultic propaganda that can lock down cult member Smith's mind may merely trigger for fellow cult member Jones an outright questioning or even doubting of the cult's authority.

The false authority of the cult has to be challenged and shown to be fallible, contradictory and questionable in the heart and mind of the cultist and this can indeed be done, no matter how intense the mind control. For the human mind never fully completely shuts down: like an anti-virus program running in the background of a computer, the cultist's controlled faculty of reason is processing information quietly, often unconsciously. Part of that includes the challenges that they've encountered which their cultic conditioning cannot shake. In the same way dreaming often is a manifestation of personal trouble and need, the cultist's mind often entertains questions and doubts about their movement that they dare not ever allow their consciousness to become preoccupied with. They often can successfully cover this cognitive dissonance with a straight face and a deceptively placid exterior. It is this judging of a cult's book by it's cover that can seem so discouraging and even frightening - but it is a stone face with all the durability of paper in a windy rain, a personal facade that the Spirit of God will blow completely through.

For example, all Jehovah's Witnesses are kept in a more or less constant fear of an impending Armageddon (this phobia indoctrination is part of all cults' retention efforts to maintain control over their membership) but there really is no way that the Watchtower can force a completely uniform depth of conviction on their members.Therefore, many Witnesses don't fully believe or accept their organization's teachings on the end times for the simple reason that they're aware of past Watchtower false prophecies and doctrinal flip flops that explode their cult's myth of infallibly inspired authority. They grin and bear the apparent contradiction, even at their own personal cost, without any sign of the true inner challenge on the cult's authoritarian control over their mind that it actually makes.

There are many other points of differences that Witnesses can have with the Society that they don't consciously entertain due to the mind control indoctrination they've placed them under - they quickly rationalize it away. But there are many inopportune and troubling thoughts that are indeed present in their hearts and minds which, after intercessory prayer, are the greatest way one can level the playing field in any evangelistic encounter with them.

All of this is true for any and every cult that we are aware of. Natural human doubt can be used by a supernatural God's power to break the bondage of cult mind control - through the visitation of the Spirit of God into the situation.

It is this stubborn tendency for the cultist's mind to mull over unspeakable "random thoughts" is a faculty of human reason that I am convinced the Spirit of God powerfully uses to open the heart. No cultist's pre-cult past, identity, memories and ability to critically think is ever burnt out of existence completely. It will be, sadly, greater in depth with some (1 Timothy 4:2) but not all. This is truly where the grace of God is most powerfully at work in the lives of cultists, in the places we don't easily see .. but He is truly there, doing only what He can do (Romans 12:2)! The faculty of a cult member's human reason can be lulled into a fitful sleep but it is the erosion of the grip of cultic authority over it by it's own never ending introspection that His Spirit will and does use, and you can help facilitate this in a manner that apostolic example establishes (2 Timothy 2:23-26).

To this end, secondly, be familiar with how cultic systems of indoctrination and social control function. You will want a working knowledge of how cults keep people in their thrall based upon sound observation and established fact. Knowing the way in which cults orchestrate their interaction and influence is extremely important in learning about a cult's worldview as well as in anticipating counteractive dialogue with them aimed at evangelism. If you wish to effectively build the bridges to the heart and mind of a cultist, you must familiarize yourself with the culture he's come from - especially with those aspects of it that dominate their thought, choices and behavior.

Ex-member testimonials, books and personal observation are going to be the best first hand sources of information on this slippery reality. Websites, monographs, tracts and books that have this information abound and there simply is no shortage of information in these last days. You can find a good list of these here off our website. A casual Google search will also bring these up with one mouse click. These resources can also provide additional perspective that shows how and where cults will focus their efforts of recruitment, what populaces and audiences they target and how they go about doing so. Studying a cult's own glowing reports of its own progress (from the LDS Church's official newspapers to the Watchtower's own publications) also will help you glean further insight into how they function also.

As you study and research both cult and ex-cult materials, you will note that there are certain themes, terminology and expressions that they all share. which will help you become sensitized to the group-specific vocabulary they use to describe how they interact. This vocabulary is part of the language of mind control: it is a specific collection of unique lingo, buzz words and terms that convey dual meanings and is one of the 8 criterion Lifton described as "loaded language". Such words are used by a specific cult's membership among non-members and means one thing and yet is understood in an entirely different way within the group. These terminology differences can be theological and doctrinal or descriptive shorthand meant to define a situation, or alter and even stop critical thought altogether. Knowing what these terms are can also help you avoid any stumbling over the trigger words for their mind control dynamic which the cult's loaded language uses to short circuit dialogue, thus becoming very big obstacles to communication and understanding.

Knowledge of this has enormous implication for the Christian determined to bring a contextualized and intentional Christian witness for the Gospel. Familiarity with the language of a people group in world missions is a given: therefore, familiarity with the group-specific language of a cult group you want to see the Gospel proclaimed to is no less important.

Note: It can be and is routinely argued (by cults and their apologists) that ex-members are in the position to misrepresent and distort any objectivity one can have about understanding a cult. This can be true and there are many angry and hurt people with axes to grind and personal agendas afoot who can certainly mislead and misinform. Such people, however, can be identified by the tone and focus of their testimony and the fact that they exist doesn't invalidate the inestimable worth of the sharing that ex-members who function from a far more stable position can bring.

Ultimately, it's time spent with cult members - as well as with ex-members - which will help you become sensitized to the uniquely personal idiosyncracies of each group. There's nothing quite like hearing a Jehovah's Witness speak of "not running ahead of Mother" (not thinking or acting independently of the Watchtower's authority) and the Mormon advise you that you should first digest "milk before meat" (listen to their version of LDS "truth" that doesn't involve anything controversial, like asking them if they expect to be gods throughout eternity) to bring this point home. Be observers, listen and keep an objective and open mind on anything a cult member may tell you as you take mental/literal notes. You will not only get a grip on their doctrinal distinctives but how they respond when you raise the issue and what to expect if you bring up a Gospel presentation. This is undeniably a vital insight that is worth the pursuit.

For we must never forget to look on the fields. Certainly, we believe and must act upon the conviction that the Gospel of Christ must be preached and shared with cult members, too. But when witnessing to them, we simply have to bear in mind that in order for our sharing to be effective and for our witness to Christ's grace bear fruit that impacts and transforms, we have to understand who we labor among, to do as Christ commanded in John 4:35 and truly "look on the fields." In other words, we must come to truly understand the people we are trying to reach, not just personally but coming to know what they value, how they think, what they fear, how they hurt, what they hate, and what they love. We should stand ready to share how the Gospel speaks to those needs and not allow our evangelical shortsightedness (as well as pride) lull us into the belief that a memorized witnessing technique mastering a set of Bible verses and polished presentation alone will do the job. Life just isn't that cut and dried.

Believe you me, you'd better have this settled in your heart and mind long before a Mormon uncle or neighbor begins to grill you over how central their "burning of the bosom" is to their belief Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and how this settled the issue for them of the truth of the "restored Gospel" that the LDS Church now eagerly wants everyone to turn to.

Thirdly, plan lines of discussion that directly address the authority issue.

Cultists target spiritual seekers lost in the post-Christian wilderness and move on them wherever the opportunity arises in a predictible pattern. It is significant to note that first comes a seduction by false cult authority that occurs when the cult offers love, significance, meaning, purpose, mission, and the "answers" to life's questions as mediated only through their teaching, their leaders, their exclusive revelation (Book Of Mormon, Divine Principle, Weigh Down Workshop, the Urantia book, etc.). Once a recruit's attention is achieved, cults use an application of well qualified subjectivism (feelings) and objectivism (reason). The cultic authority compels prospects to entertain their truth claims (reason) and then to go to extraordinary lengths to validate them with positive experiences they stage (called "love bombing" by some, involving yet another Liftonian thought reform principle called "mystical manipulation") which then short-circuit more sober judgment and create emotional and social dependence upon the group for more of what is an intoxicating and pleasurable experience.

When this happens, the cult authority exalts their worldview, moving from the known to the unknown and urging recruits onward in their "search for truth." They relentlessly advance a total reformation, redefinition or wholesale abandonment of whatever pre-existing belief system they had to conform it to the cult's worldview. To accomplish this, pseudointellectualism is then applied by the cult's authority figures to reinforce their claims with hyper-rationale and slick argumentation: their false authority system anticipates and "answers" all questions to conclusively prove it's superiority over any other claim to authority. Such "new light" then is enjoined as the only truly righteous way to live and act. The seeming benign, yet ultimately bitter fruit of this high stakes ploy by cultic authority always results in the shutdown of independent thinking by the controlling dynamics just discussed, which results in full blown cultic mind control as well as unethical manipulation and coercion.

There is no one "Gordian Knot" to tackle that will deliver a cult member instantly from this kind of culturally impinged cult mind control. If there was, believe you me, we'd be using it. But certainly, the cult authority issue is a big one to grapple with when witnessing to cultists, and their mind control dynamics are the thorniest challenge to deal with.

Actual dialogue direction that addresses the mind control issue in a cultist should have two underlying goals:

1) it will encourage a cult member to engage in independent thought and re-assessment of a truth claim that foundational to the cult's authority, thus evoking legitimate doubt and a desire for further investigation. The discusson should be phrased in a way that lets the cult member "connect the dots" and draw their own inferences that will stimulate additional personal examination.

Example: When sharing with a cult member, ask questions and discuss how a completely different cult operates and engages in mind control. Make a time of sharing and questions like "did you hear about this? What do you think about it?" When talking with a Family member, tell them how the Sun Myung Moon started the Unification Church, how he depends on revelation from the spirit world for his inspiration, and how his organization uses front groups, retreats and days of indoctrination to break down the freedom of thought recruits with his dogma, leaving them no time to think and demanding instant and complete belief with their system. Go on and on as briefly as you can (hint: you can see why study of cult specifics is so important). What you've done is effectively and subversively penetrated the cult member's mind control defenses by side stepping them. You never mentioned their cult, you shared a fascinating story about something they've likely not quite heard of, and they will eventually start recognizing that their group's claims and operation aren't unique, because they've gone through the same general kind of process when they were recruited by their cult.

2) it will evoke within the member memories of what their pre-cult life and identity was like outside the cult that are positive, thus reconnecting them with the concept that truth and reality can and do exist outside the group. This serves to further undermine the radical redefinition of personality, identity and even memory that the cult authority forced upon them at the time of their recruitment, giving them an opportunity to unshackle their frozen faculty of independent thinking.

Example: During sharing with a cult member, it turns out that the person was at one time a very active church member who had been deeply involved in congregational life and community service and who at one seemed quite fulfilled in what they did. While this past life is usually going to be characterized by the cultist as an empty time of ignorance and darkness, gentle questioning can help encourage some momentary reflection on those positive aspects of their life that they lived. Try to help them remember when their pre-cult spirituality and self-determination made an uplifting difference in their lives and that of others. By seeking their personal expansion upon this past, the details and memories of how it affected them can profoundly stir them on several personal levels simultaneously, stimulating a keen awareness that their group's claims of being the only meaningful source for fulfillment are hardly unique, despite what they've been led to believe.

Remember 2 Timothy 2:23-26? It bears repeating here:
But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth
When witnessing to cultists who are caught up under cult mind control, Christians are to avoid being caught up in grappling with the questions that can come from anywhere but clearly go nowhere, that stir up trouble and not thought. In a humble spirit that offers light without being seen as preachy, Christians will view themselves as servants offering up strong medicine with all of the winsome appeal we can muster as God gives us the ability.

Fourth, be convinced this is a doable task and a winnable war. To remove these kinds of cultic coercive blinders which the "god of this world" has placed over the hearts and minds of those under cultic mind control, you have to incorporate this inner hope into a personal commitment to reach out and share the Gospel with cult members. Witnessing to cult members requires deliberate research, serious prayer and earnest effort. It's hard. It's spiritual warfare. It's taking on Satan's territory in the name of the One Who has defeated Him.

But you've seen testimonies of ex-cultists whose very presence plainly declares that they are trophies of God's grace - and that some witnessing, praying Christians were part of His plan to call them into the light. You are certainly going to be a part of that all .. walk worthily and above all in faith!

Perhaps you're beginning to see that evangelizing cultists is going to take more than running the Four Spiritual Laws by them and expecting them to fall down before you to repent. There are times that this CAN happen, but it's largely going to be the exceedingly rare exception rather than the rule, so hope for the best and plan for the worst as you make ready to witness to a cultist.

Does the person have to be in a weak state of mind in order to be part of mind control? What are some of the best pieces of literature you have come across specifically for counteracting cultic conversation and mind control techniques?

It is an understandable but erroneous assumption to believe that one's "weak-mindedness" makes them more susceptible to mind control. I will quote from my article on myths about cults that address this:

Myth #1 – People in cults are mindless fanatics.

Untrue. Virtually every member of every cultic group existing on in our world today began their entry into the group as generally balanced, thinking people who have great potential, skills and giftings they want to offer to a cause "larger than themselves." Cult members are both CEO's and dishwashers, white-collar and blue-collar, scientists as well as grade-school dropouts. While it is undeniably true that some of them have plunged into extremist forms of behavior, and that all labor under some form of cultic mind control that compels them onward into an apparently zealous activism or passion, all of them retain the capacity for critical thought (their ability to responsibly function in society proves this), but have been taught to suspend their faculties of independent and objective thought when focusing on their involvement with the group.

Myth #7 – Members of cults stay in them because they're weak and unable to cope with life.

The membership of cultic groups maintain their attachments to their groups for a variety of reason, but certainly NOT because they are too fragile and incapable of dealing with life outside it. Remember, these are people who are integrated into society who deal with life on the same level non-members do, albeit with their cultic worldview guiding and shaping their responses to it. It actually takes enormous amounts of personal courage and self-determination to remain committed to a group that often puts them at odds and even opposition to their own non-cult family members and friends. They stay because they are persuaded and conditioned to believe that there are no other meaningful alternative places to go outside the cultic fold. Most cult members have family, friends, business associates and other personal attachments with the group that they won't break from easily. But they also remain due to the systematically implanted misinformation, controlled behavior and blind trust in their group they've been taught to express – but not because they are weak and spineless.

One of the most helpful articles we've ever read on dialoguing with a cult member can be read by going here. Written by an ex-Jehovah's Witness, the article provides a list of outstanding questions you can use to share with cultists of all stripes, when properly rephrased for their situation, that will help them become aware of the kind of mental and spiritual bondages that their cults have put them in.

We've recommended those books authored by Robert J. Lifton, Steve Martin and Steven Hassan as great sources for understanding and dealing with cultic mind control and encourage you to obtain and study them.

After a conversion what is the most common thing that makes them return to the cult and how should we better disciple them?

There are many factors involved when a new convert to a cult feels compelled to return - please ensure you study this link's section entitled difficulties of former sect members.

If there is one thing that I have personally heard and witnessed over the years that seems to especially stands out most starkly, it would be the abject failure of the church to stand with and walk alongside the new convert in actual follow up. People rededicating their lives to Christ after having been in a cult usually return because the Church that He ordained should be His living extension fails to reach out, bear up their unique burden with them and teach them how to walk out the Christian life.

A cult member who has come to Christ also has engaged in an extraordinary act of personal self-evaluation with profound consequences for how they now are trying to live. The ex-cult member's time of transition from the Cultworld to the Kingdom of God is fraught with new perils, confusions, and fears that the Church has to simply address. For those leaving such immersive, totalist environments like cults, these kinds of struggles always come for Christian conversion doesn't wipe away consequences of cult involvement. After months or even years of being conformed to a cult's personality mold, getting clear of the cult's indoctrination and social mores won't happen overnight.

Sadly, churches love the "Kodak moment" and the thrill of seeing cultists embrace Christ and be baptized in their nice clean baptismals, but utterly fail to realize just how much critically acute the level of pastoral care and admonition they will need to stabilize spiritually. In short, they love the birth of the baby, but dont' seem to understand that such infants in the faith need to be clothed, fed, protected from rolling off their beds, and to have their diapers changed. It's when things get dirty and real effort is needed that Christian servants that sweat the nurturing load suddenly are found to be in short supply.

Equally tragic is the fact that this is a common failure of the church for all converts.

Implicit in the task of Christian discipleship is the plain fact that ongoing, interactive and personal fellowship and sharing underlies all truly transformative Christian formation. Christians simply have to rise up and be what the Bible says they should be - those who are called to not just preach but teach the Gospel to all nations, meaning that one stops and takes time to ensure that those who are taught understand and are enabled to practice it. That is what Christian discipleship requires and it gets walked out in real life when Christians start taking the time to listen to the needs, to pray with the struggling, to hear out the questions, to
speak into the fears, to walk the fearful hours right along side the lives of new converts.

Ex-cultists who come to Christ will have many unique challenges themselves that should be directly tackled by those who care for them in the church. The outstanding book "Out Of The Cults Into The Church" is one of the few books available written from an explicit Christian perspective that addresses these issues. Another one entitled "Recovery From Churches That Abuse" can be viewed online.

I hope that these three blog entries have been of help to you and may God use you mightily to pierce the darkness of the Cultworld where ever you go. Rest assured that He is desiring to use you in a great way to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.

Godspeed to you when the cultists whom God will now send your way come asking the questions that you now can answer so as to give to them the best hearing of the Gospel "in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth." as 2 Timothy 2 has said so poignantly.

Remember Four Final Things As You Witness As You Are Going ...

Thing 1 - Remember who you're going to represent - the Almighty Lord of All, Jesus Christ. Dress, act, speak and minister accordingly. You have authority and power - and you are to walk with the humility of a servant.

Thing 2 - Use your testimony - testify what Jesus means to YOU; how He has blessed you, how He speaks to you and walks with you and helps you day by day. No argument stands unshaken before a man with an experience.

Thing 3 - Keep the faith - Smile, love, stay calm, rejoice when everything goes wrong (and sometimes it does). HE is in charge. This is His work. Look to Him and don't look at the situation. He makes the rough way smooth.

Thing 4 - Never allow discouragement to crush you or success to puff you up - God is in His heaven, and He knows our hearts and keeps the books.