Friday, April 21, 2006

Healthy Church Life and a Description of Cultic Assemblies

Two Posts for Your Weekend Enjoyment:

Christianity is unique. It's Lord is living and it's law is love. Every other religion has dead founders and the law is usually human effort.

This weekend's post puts a comparison between Spirit filled churches and destructive cultic religions.

Post ONE -------------------------------

Excerpt from "Healthy Assembly Life" by
Jon Zens

After being a Christian for fifteen years, around 1980 I began to struggle with a problem that occurs with tragic frequency in Bible-believing circles. I saw church split after church split. I saw brethren biting and devouring one another. I thought in my heart, “How can the New Testament, which puts so much emphasis on love and unity, become the source for so much division and strife?” Somewhere in the midst of my personal turmoil, the Lord brought me to the two-fold perspective of Paul in Romans 15. It does not, of course, bring an immediate resolution to every possible scenario we will face. However, I strongly believe that to the degree that we can practice this two-fold dimension of assembly life, we will go a long way toward avoiding the ugliness that, unfortunately, has come to mark much that bears the name Christian.

In the context Paul has dealt with the sticky reality that the early church had to face early on – Jews and Gentiles were brought together as a new man, and they were meeting together in the same homes. Paul, of course, did not opt for the easy thing to do, namely, have Jewish believers meet in one place, and the Gentile believers meet somewhere else. The only consistent outworking of the Gospel was for the two radically different ethnic groups to meet together because Jesus on the cross brought the two together, thereby making peace (Ep 2:12-18). This was a volatile situation, and Paul faces it head-on in Romans 14-15.

So after dealing with how Jewish and Gentile saints should show love to one another in areas like foods, drinks and days, Paul comes to the conclusion of the matter in Romans 15:7 – “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Then in verse 14 we discover the flip side of this exhortation to accept each other – “I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another.” In these two verses a tension is revealed that we must all wrestle with: how can we pursue truth together without destroying our fellowship, and how can we pursue fellowship together without avoiding Christ’s truth?

Churches tend to illustrate the pendulum swing – they either pursue truth in an atmosphere without love and caring (which results in witch-hunts), or they emphasize acceptance and love with little interest in Christ’s revealed will (which results in gushy sentimentality). Why do we sever what God has joined together? Why can’t we cultivate and encourage an atmosphere of acceptance in which we will learn to speak the truth to one another in love? Our tendency is to reject other Christians who disagree with our understanding of Scripture in what we regard as crucial issues. Or, there is the tendency to so underscore acceptance that there is no concern for revealed truth. To fully accept one another in the bonds of the Gospel and to instruct one another in an atmosphere of acceptance is a tension we must face and work out.

Growth, according to Paul, can occur only when we speak the truth to one another in love (Ep 4:15 ; Jn 17:17 ). Elliot Johnson rightly observes, “In a sense, Evangelicals have lived with an interpretational truce. While we agree on doctrinal ‘essentials’ we have also agreed to not talk very seriously about issues of disagreement. Yet Paul charted God’s strategy for Christian growth [in Ep 4:12 -13]. In order to reach unity we need some way to talk about our different interpretations and to evaluate these differences” (“Author’s Intention & Biblical Interpretation,” Position Paper given in Chicago at the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, 1982, pp. 1-2).

The problem in most configurations of believers is that the very rationale for the group’s existence rules out the possibility of certain truths being discussed. The truth is already defined in terms of some predetermined boundaries. I suggest that this kind of behavior is childish and makes a mockery of the Holy Spirit and the Gospel. When we face new issues from the Word are we willing to work together, study together, pray together and even fast together in order to seek the Lord’s mind and come to greater agreement? Most of us are ready to separate from other brethren at the drop of a hat. But it takes a commitment to the truth and to our Christian brothers and sisters to be willing to work matters out.

End POST ONE ---------------------------

POST TWO--------------------------------

Extract from Characteristics of a Cult.

Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.

The leadership induces guilt feelings in members in order to control them.

Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.

All The Answers - Provide simple answers to the confusion they, themselves, create.
Support these answers with material produced or “approved” by the group.

Attack Independent Thought - Critical thinking is discouraged as prideful and sinful, blind acceptance encouraged.

Motive Questioning- When sound evidence against the group is presented, members are taught to question the motivation of the presenter. The verifiable (sound documentation) is ignored because of doubts over the unverifiable (presenter’s motives).

Information Control - Group controls what convert may read or hear. They discourage (forbid) contact with ex-members or anything critical of the group. May say it is the same as pornography making it not only sinful and dangerous but shameful as well. Ex-members become feared and avoidance of them becomes a “survival issue.”

Coercion - Disobedience, including even minor disagreement with group doctrine, may result in expulsion and shunning.

Phobias - The idea is planted that anyone who leaves goes into a life of depravity and sin, loses their sanity, dies, or will have children die, etc. Constant rumors of bad things happening to people who leave. No one ever leaves for “legitimate reasons.”

No tolerance for questions or critical inquiry.

Whenever the group/leader is criticized or questioned it is characterized as “persecution”.

Anything the group/leader does can be justified no matter how harsh or harmful.

End POST TWO-------------------------

The difference is clear, right? May God keep us from characteristics of a cult and develop in us strong desire to speak the truth in love.


Anonymous said...

The second post sounds like a cross between Tom Cruise (and his wacked out buddies), Gov. Mit Romney, with a bit of the Bill Gothard minstries sprinkled on top.

yes2truth aka Charles Crosby said...

Hello Mr Burleson,

Your initial comments about Christianity, if it is True Christianity that you are refering to, are not correct.

I am unique as a human being, but I am one amongst billions. If you say Christianity is unique then by default you elevating pagan futile religions to an equal status with Christianity i.e. Chritianity is one amongst many - a blasphemy.

True Christianity is not a religion and the word 'religion' never passed Our Lord's lips. He was not religious, the Pharisees were religious. Our Lord came to rid the world of religion which He will do upon His return. Praise God and hurry that day.


Anonymous said...

With due respect to what knnuki said, I believe the two posts indicate the absolute necessity for open verbal exchange and comparison of concepts with Scripture being the final authority. That authority being acknowledged not just in the theological, but the social and emotional areas as well! I would cite a post recently on Marty Duran's Blog .... where, in the process of what I sensed was jovial distortion of issues and personalities, the contributors were called to a reminder of perceptions and the importance of edifying others! I Praise the Lord, those Brethren/Sisters(?) changed the tone of their rhetoric so that it was obvious to the uninvolved reader! I was personally BLESSED! It's wonderful to share different perspectives without having to feel that dissent is vulgar or unhealthy! Yes, I do believe we can trust the Lord to correct, but I'm also convinced HE desires that we admonish, encourage, take positions based on understanding of Scripture and the willingness to have those thoughts analyzed through a dialogue process! Bill Fay has a question that I believe each of us needs to ask; "If what you believe were not true, would you want to know it?" Fay suggests that if the answer is "No" then the mind is made up and you might just as well move on..... Even though this question is in a process of his suggestions on how to "share Jesus without fear".... I've found it works well in other venues!

Anonymous said...

I think that MANY of our churches who would never be characterized as cults share many of the same characteristics as your second post. We all want to "support" the pastor and his "leadership," so problems are glossed over and everyone is intimidated. If anyone does see a problem or points it out, they are labeled troublemakers. In time, they feel as though they have to leave.

How much of this is happening with strong CEO type leaders who write vision/mission statements that everyone must adhere to? How many messages are being preached that exalt a particular local church and it's ministry philosophy rather than Christ? The message is clear: If you don't do things the way the "leadership" says, you need to find somewhere else to go. Whether we are purpose driven, a cell church, a Sunday school based church, traditional/contemporary, pastor/deacon/or elder led, there is a fine line between true biblical leadership and control through fear and manipulation. Structure and ministry philosophy is not the issue - what matters is the heart.

I say this not as a disgruntled church member who didn't get his way, but as a senior pastor who recognizes that I have to be careful at all times to lead in the Spirit with grace and truth, rather than relying on my position and wielding fleshly, worldly power. The difference is life or death for our congregations and the world.

Bob Cleveland said...


1 a : the state of a religious (a nun in her 20th year of religion) b (1) : the service and worship of God or the supernatural (2) : commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance
2 : a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices
3 archaic : scrupulous conformity : CONSCIENTIOUSNESS
4 : a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.

Service and worship of God sort of says it for me. Mark me down as guilty of being religious. I like the part about ardor and faith, too.

Jesus never said "Peggy" (my wife) either, and I don't think He ever said "Bible". I shall continue to use both.

I like the observations about churches vs cult meetings. In my Sunday School class, I tell them often that I like it when one of them disagrees with my interpretation of some passage. I get tired of no one disagreeing .. I feel as though I profit immensely when I encounter disagreement, and either affirm my reasons for believing what I do, or learn something new I hadn't seen before. said...

Former M,

Would it be possible to have your translation of your seminary lecture notes sent to me via email?



Anonymous said...

You are so right.. I left an independent Baptist church that was "family" owned. They said " they went out from us because, etc"
As I said in an earlier reply, the IMB is heading in the direction of Mormonism. So controlling and no "free thinking" allowed. June is coming up fast. Our prayers are intensified.


Jeff Whitfield said...

Just for the record, Jesus may have never used the word "religion", but his brother James did. Thus from God's lips to James'pen:

"If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:26-27

yes2truth aka Charles Crosby said...

Hello Mr Cleveland,

Would you mind letting me know when, as True Belivers, we came to rely on secular dictionary definitions to teach us about The Truth i.e. Jesus Christ.

I will repeat, as you did not pick up on what I said in my first post.
Jesus Christ was not religious, nor did He come with a religious message and the word 'religion' never passed His lips.

Following Jesus Christ is not religion.

Religion is for people who worship in vain.


Bob Cleveland said...

Hi Y2T:

Today's English is what I speak, but to use the Bible words:

James 1:27: Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (NIV)

(Seems to me Jesus did this.)

Strong's says this word "religion" is:

threskeia: from a derivative of 2357; ceremonial observance:


1 Timothy 5:4: But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. (NIV)

Strong's says that word "religious" is:

eusebeo: from 2152; to be pious, i.e. (towards God) to worship, or (towards parents) to respect (support):

I'm still religious, I guess.

yes2truth aka Charles Crosby said...

Hello Theophilus,

There are no 'mays' about it, the Lord Jesus never uttered the word 'religion'. Nests of vipers, whited sepulchres and hypocrites when speaking to men of religion, yes, most definitely.

Ah yes, good old James, his book does have some odd turns of phrase in it, doesn't it? I can't remember but I think it was Luther who suggested it be removed from the Bible altogether! This was because he didn't understand it and more importantly didn't understand to whom it was addressed. If he had then it would not have given him any trouble at all, but that's another story.

For our little discussion though we need to refer to Strong's 2356 and 2357. Where it describes religion as "demonstrative outward show of ceremonial observance or worship." The word 'religion' only appears five times in the NT and three of those uses it is referring to the Jews and their religion. Now from what Our Lord said, we know He had a scathing opinion of the Jews and their religion.

We are now left with only two further uses of this word and both are in James. "If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. 27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world."

What is James saying and doing here? Is he promoting religion or warning the recipients of his letter to be on their guard regarding phoneys? People who SEEM to be religious; people who appear to be Holy, but all the while cannot hold their tongues and they certainly aren't looking after the orphans and/or widows.

This same word 2356 is used in Acts 26:5 "Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee." Here Paul refers to the fact that HE HAD BEEN a man of religion - a Pharisee. If Saul (as he was then known) was a man of religion then Paul as a follower of Jesus Christ is not a man of religion.

Following Jesus Christ is not religion.


Jeff Whitfield said...

yes2truth, you seem to enjoy arguing about words and as I read through your own blog you seem to have a tendency to be mean-spirited (an unbridled tongue?). That is not in keeping with the spirit of this blog and is neither edifying nor helpful.

As James is in the Bible, we do have to take it as God's authoratative word. Here is Matthew Henry's commentary on the James 1 passage:
"When men take more pains to seem religious than really to be so, it is a sign their religion is in vain. The not bridling the tongue, readiness to speak of the faults of others, or to lessen their wisdom and piety, are signs of a vain religion. The man who has a slandering tongue, cannot have a truly humble, gracious heart. False religious may be known by their impurity and uncharitableness. True religion teaches us to do every thing as in the presence of God. An unspotted life must go with unfeigned love and charity. Our true religion is equal to the measure in which these things have place in our hearts and conduct. And let us remember, that nothing avails in Christ Jesus, but faith that worketh by love, purifies the heart, subdues carnal lusts, and obeys God's commands."

Anonymous said...


Hey! Greetings, brother! I have to say that I, too, use your definition of 'religion'. Christianity, as I have said before, is a relationship with a risen living Lord, Jesus Christ, not a religion like others in our world.

However, I see Bob's point, and his usage of the word. He is saying, as I understand him, (not to put words in his mouth,) that he worships and adores Jesus Christ. I do too.

Bandying semantics is pointless. Why get worked up over word usage, when I think we are actually saying the same thing? I have read a lot of what Bob has posted in the past...he's on the same page as us.

I admire your zeal. Just remember, zeal without wisdom and grace can cause more harm than good.

May God bless your ministry...


yes2truth aka Charles Crosby said...

Hello again to you all,

Just to get one thing straight, I don't argue with anyone, I tell you The Truth. What I don't understand, is why you disagree.

Furthermore the issue here is not just the word religion it is the fact that mainstream Christianity puts belief in Jesus Christ as just another religion. What I teach lifts Jesus Christ out of that cesspit.

I will therefore repeat what I said to Mr Burleson: To say that belief in Jesus Christ is unique is saying that He is one amongst others and Our Lord is NOT ONE AMONGST OTHERS - HE IS ABOVE ALL THINGS, ESPECIALLY RELIGION.

All religion is man made meaningless vanity.

Theophilus said:

"yes2truth, you seem to enjoy arguing about words and as I read through your own blog you seem to have a tendency to be mean-spirited (an unbridled tongue?). That is not in keeping with the spirit of this blog and is neither edifying nor helpful."

A question for you: When Jesus told the men of religion in His day their father was The Devil John 8 was He being mean spirited and did he have an unbridled tongue? I will let The Word of God answer you:

"They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham. 40 But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. 41 Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God. 42 Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. 43 Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. 44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. 45 And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not."


Anonymous said...


Okay, I'll bite...:)

I don't think anyone here is actually disagreeing with what you are saying...but with how you are saying it.

As I told you, I couldn't agree more that Jesus Christ is Lord and there is no other, and that religion (using your definition) is vain. Christianity, when it is turned into a 'religion', that is, a list of do's and don'ts and man-made requirements, is even vain in that form. All that avails is a relationship with the living Jesus Christ.

What makes me a little wary, and I think it is also what others have picked up on, is the repetition of the first person in your posts as the pronouncer of truth. 'I', 'My teaching lifts Jesus Christ out of that cesspit'. Jesus is Sovereign. He is in no cesspit. He doesn't need your help or mine.

Now, I'm not trying to be contentious. These men in this conversation love Jesus Christ and are committed to Him. We are in various stages of spiritual growth, to be sure, and I don't agree with all of what each person has blogged in the past, but I must choose to show mercy and not point out what I think are their faults. I have more than my share of my own. Mercy...There is no sin or error more powerful than the blood of Christ...I must look at all of these brothers and sisters through that veil that covers their sin...and mine.

To be sure, I have failed in this regard many times. I owe Jerry Corbaley an apology for my tone with him in the past...never do anything when you're upset, you'll make a fool of yourself. I know. Been there, done that.

When the Pharisees were pointing out faults in His disciples, Jesus told them..go back and learn what this means...I desire mercy, not sacrifice.

Temper truth with mercy and grace, and people will get it.


yes2truth aka Charles Crosby said...

Hello Greg,

You said:

"I don't think anyone here is actually disagreeing with what you are saying...but with how you are saying it."

Oh, but they are disagreeing and my style or approach is by the by. For whatever reason, I am causing them an offence. Our Lord came to be an offence - a stumbling block to the Jews (The Religious) and foolishness to The Greeks (The Intellectuals). Now these two groups are still with us today; they have never gone away. The only difference is they have now hijacked the church and are within, instead of without.

This process was well under way in the first century and Paul was continually warning the brethren to be on their guard against these people. Simon Magus (the sorcerer) in Acts being a good example.

You also said:

"What makes me a little wary, and I think it is also what others have picked up on, is the repetition of the first person in your posts as the pronouncer of truth. 'I', 'My teaching lifts Jesus Christ out of that cesspit'. Jesus is Sovereign. He is in no cesspit. He doesn't need your help or mine."

Do not be surprised by the manner in which I speak, for all True Believers should speak in this way. Either we speak with Jesus Christ's authority or we should not speak at all. Here again you have not grasped what I have been saying, for Jesus Christ has been put into a cesspit of religion by men and I am a man who is raising Him up out that cesspit. I am not helping The Lord Jesus I am speaking for Him as we all should.

Your contentiousness, such as it is, causes me no problems but your error does. Anyone who teaches error must be challenged and all strongholds brought down. Religion, although an insignificant thing in Scripture, is not insignificant in Christianity and is therefore a stronghold.

There are a substantial number of people in mainstream Christianity who are True Believers, but there are many more who are not. Revelation 18:4 "Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues." It is obvious to whom Our Lord is speaking, but where are His people that they should come out of this feminine thing, that thing that is going to receive The Lord's plagues? The answer is religion Greg and what and where are these so called churches that are full of religion? I will leave you to answer that question.

I am not questioning your friends belief and committment to The Lord, but I am warning them that religion has only one effect on that belief - it undermines it and dilutes it, eventually destroying it altogether for in the end it supplants it. This is why the Pharisees were unteachable.

Furthermore, we cannot make a stand against Judaisers, Islamics, Hindus et al unless we separate Jesus Christ from religion completely. He is above it all.

Following Jesus Christ is not religion.


Shoshana L said...

Semantically Speaking...

Semantics, semantics,
Force us to pull such antics,
I'd tell you all just what to do,
If I could only think it through,
Then phrase it as I ought to, too--
Which makes me simply frantic!

yes2truth aka Charles Crosby said...

Hello Shoshana,

Semantic, a word you will not find in Holy Scripture, but frequently used in intellectual circles. As it is a secular intellectual word we must use a secular book to find out what it means. Again it's a shame we have to resort to these words, as the poor to mediocre educated like myself struggle with these things.

Semantic: Relating to meaning in language. Concise Oxford Dictionary.

Now I know what it means, what is wrong with semantics, for it is a necessary evil in order to unravel what religious men have done to the Word of God i.e. the corrupting filthy contaminations of papist illegitimates with their use of the Latin language via the Vulgate translation, which in turn causes all the errors in the KJV.

If semantics is necessary in order to come to a knowledge of The Truth then so be it. I prefer to call it Bible Study so those without a dictionary or an education understand what I am saying.