I recently talked to one of our members out in the parking lot who told me they had a funny interaction with someone when they invited them to church. The person responded, “I heard your church was a cult!”
The person chuckled and said, “I thought you’d get a kick out of that.” We laughed together, but later I thought about it and tried to figure out why someone would say that. Was it the Kool-Aid we give out to our initiates? LOL
When I reflected on that statement a little more I thought about the characteristics of a cult and finally decided they were right!
Understanding that the word ‘cult’ is related to the word ‘culture;’ I concede that there are some cult-like characteristics we strive to maintain at our church.
Here’s a few:
1 We have a fanatical loyalty to our leader.
Of course, the leader of the church is not the pastor.
The leader of the church is Jesus.
“Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything.” (Colossians 1:18, NLT)
Jesus was pretty clear about His expectations for His followers.
“Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23, NLT)
The real problem with many churches today is that they are filled with fans, not followers. They think, “Jesus is just alright with me,” but the Master’s call was all in.
2 We have made a conscious choice to leave our old life and connect into “the family.”
The second sure-fire characteristic of any cult is how they assimilate people into the “family.” There is a clear distinction between who’s in and who’s out. They use initiation rituals to induct new members of the family. They create an atmosphere of belonging where the members build strong bonds. They share “duties” and work together towards common goals. They become known for their radical love for the family. In other words, they act like the early church.
“All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer…all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had…they worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity.” (Acts 2:42–46, NLT)
I’m not really sure most modern-day Christians would have felt comfortable in the first church. The Jerusalem cult was a little too touchy-feely if you know what I mean.
Our desire is to create a cult-like community that is radically committed to authentic fellowship: where the artificial boundaries of race, gender, and class dissolve into genuine relationships based on love, forgiveness, and compassion.
3 We have a zealous passion to spread the cult.
There’s one more thing we often associate with cults and it’s those pesky propagators seemingly discontent to leave the uninitiated to their own devices.
“Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”” (Matthew 28:18–20, NLT)
My prayer is that our “cult” fully embraces the command of our leader to take the message to everyone everywhere.
How could we possibly believe that the gospel is true, hell is real, and eternity is certain and NOT do all we can to reach as many as we can for as long as we can.
The truly sad commentary today is how many churches are content to merely be faith-based clubs rather than fanatical cults committed to changing the world!
Cult of Christ signing out. 🙂
What are your thoughts?