How to Become A Cult (Part 1)

cult_imageTo insure that a “group think” mentality takes hold around your deeper-life revelation, and to avoid accountability, attract and validate wounded people by telling them that they (along with you) literally are the Body of Christ. Destroy all metaphor. As their beloved “apostle”, “worker” or whatever you want to call yourself, you and your revelation then become untouchable – and no one can question you – because that would be like challenging Christ Himself.


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22 responses

    • We are an expression of Christ, in the sense that we represent Him and do His will as we fit together in Him, but we are NOT Him. I’m quite sure He has His own actual resurrected body by which he ascended to heaven – nail pierced hands and all. Taking any metaphor too far only leads to crazy stuff.


      • Hmm…interesting.

        I’ve never quite really thought about the relationship between us as His Body and His resurrected body. I’ll have to think about it some as I have always seen us as His Body as more than just a metaphor though not entirely literal either.



  1. Well said Jim.
    I disagree with a lot you say, but I also agree with a lot… and i keep returning to post because you engage your readers and aren’t afraid of conflict or debate.
    My experience of many groups is that questioning and critical evaluation is not allowed. I’ve seen that on several blogs as well where comments are mostly just fans and followers puffing up the writers ego.
    Anyways these toxic dynamics are widespread and we need to check in the mirror regularly.


    • “My experience of many groups is that questioning and critical evaluation is not allowed.”

      You can say that again. It makes me sick to my stomach all the baloney going on in the name of Jesus Christ and how readily people clamp down on critique to maintain control. Sick.

      There are times a plenty when I have wanted to do nothing more with Christian anything ever again. Sometimes I wonder if things would be easier to just go live in Timbuktoo somewhere, preach the Gospel, see some people become Christians and teach them from the ground up without all the traditional church garbage. Teach them what church is without having to unteach them the junk.



    • Unfortunately, the devastation wrought in our own area – and throughout the U.S. – by these ideologies and weird practices in the “organic” church community has been extensive. By the grace of God, our fellowships have avoided all this stuff, but many, many others have not been so fortunate and either ended badly or are now anemic, insular and largely irrelevant to the amazing, dynamic things that God otherwise is doing today.

      The firsthand accounts I’ve received as I’ve researched the history and present status of that movement (of which I am part) are numerous – from people whose lives and fellowships have been totally derailed by such practices. Those accounts involve very consistent patterns of control and manipulation. This post deals with one of those patterns.

      Many have used the very simple and straightforward ideas of “organic” church as vehicles to promote their own crazy stuff. However, people increasingly are openly addressing these issues and trying to assure folks that they can seek “organic”, participatory church and community without the weird stuff.

      If we don’t openly and directly challenge the problems of the past, they will continue to plague the Body of Christ and God’s people into the future.

      I am making many mad by doing so, because this stuff has been going on a long time without challenge and their practitioners have developed an attitude of entitlement and untouchability. But in the Body of Christ, those who seek to be teachers and leaders are to be held to a higher standard of accountability – and it is appropriate to do so in public to the extent they continue to seek and have public influence.


  2. Can you give me an idea of what you mean by “organic church community”? I was part of an independent house church at one time; that group split off from the church I had been attending. I lasted five and a half years and finally told my husband just before we were married that it was time to get out. We now attend a church in the Atlanta area.


  3. Pingback: How to Become a Cult (Part 4) « Crossroad Junction

  4. Pingback: How to Become a Cult (Part 3) « Crossroad Junction

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  6. I am familiar with Group-Think and invalidating personal opinions by erecting infallibility upon the “Leader”, but I never heard of this “Body of Christ” concept…where does that happen? What groups?…does the LDS do this?


    • It is a prevailing belief in some segments of the organic church community. Within that more cultish sub-set, it is a common argument raised whenever anyone dares question the beliefs, practices or morality of one of their beloved leaders.


  7. Jim, nice article. I assume you mean that it’s wrong to tell one person that he is the body of Christ. I concur with you on that, because of course, one person is not the body of Christ. The body of Christ is only manifested on earth by a local assembly of TWO or more believers, not one. That’s what a church is. A church is always local and can only be local. The Greek word for church is ‘ekklesia’, and it means ‘assembly’, thus, logically, there is no such thing as an object which is an assembly of one (1). An assembly is something comprised of two or more (2<) components.

    Additionally, there is no such thing as a universal church comprised of all believers worldwide, because, logically, that would be impossible to assemble simultaneously or in decent order, because oceans separate us while we are on earth. There can and will be no assembly of all believers until Christ gathers us together to assemble with Him in Heaven. At that time we shall all finally be all together assembled in one place. But not before, and not on earth. Neither is there any such thing as one lone person being a church. One believer is not the body of Christ. The body of Christ does not exist in one person. The SPIRIT of Christ exists in one believer, but NOT the BODY of Christ. The body of Christ (ie, a church) only exists on earth where two or three (or more) born again persons are gathered together (ie, assembled), locally.
    I explain it here:


    • Actually, I’m saying it is wrong for any group – local or otherwise – to say they are Jesus incarnate and to assume the prerogatives of Christ’s deity. We are the Body of Christ – but only as metaphor and not as Jesus literally made flesh.

      Regardless, your comment is very timely on your other point. I recently had a conversation with a regional leader in some other unrelated churches who protested that our fellowships, operating together as the local assembly, could not issue a warning or take action against a popular christian author who is not a part of any local church but has done great harm in our area and has a history of sexual predation and exploitation against young women in the churches he nonetheless has related to. That other regional leader said that such action only could be done by the entire “Body of Christ” – meaning the “universal” Church. I asked him how that even practically could be done. He had no clear answer for me.

      Until local churches start acting within the proper scope of authority given to them by the Lord – no more, but no less – we will continue to have problems like these.


      • Yes, that’s a thought-provoking definition, and I think it hinges on the use and definition of the word ‘incarnate’, which is something only Roman Catholics believe happens every time their priest breaks bread. In my sermon I describe the local assembly as a ‘territorially manifested fully operational presence of Christ’. “Fully operational” has to be quantified, I admit. If Christ had wanted us to be more operational he would have remained with us incarnate and not ascended. Instead, He has decreed only limited power and ability to us to proselytise, stopping short of giving us power to overrule the sovereignty of a man’s heart, in order that salvation may be by faith, not by fear. We are more than conquerors, but less than despots.


  8. Pingback: How to Become a Cult (Part 5) « Crossroad Junction

  9. Wish I would have found your blog three years ago… it may have saved me a lot of heartache and confusion. I agree with a previous poster that I have disagreed with some of what you post, but there is a lot of your writing that has been very helpful and true. I believe that the Lord works all things together for His good, but my experience in a group that literally chose to ignore real life in favor of the ideology that we were the only ones who were set apart and we were the living embodiment of Christ… was a nightmare. Which I never questioned… we had given up too much to be there. To question what we were doing would require us to admit that we made a mistake. Fortunately things got so bad that I was forced to ask questions… and I finally had to face the facts that what I thought was a church was really a cult. My well thought out and innocent question was meant to shed light on an unhealthy practice and in return I was bombed with angry emotion that I would question a beloved leader, who was not Christ by the way. It was one of the worst days of my life. Of course we were treated like garbage by those who “build their group on the rock that is Christ” because we left due to differences. I was humble, willing to listen, and wanted to stay friends with the people I “built my life with”, but unless I chose to live within a few miles of them I was not allowed.
    Others may think you need to stay quiet about this particular topic, but the problem is that too many are quiet. If a group was literally the embodiment of Christ, they wouldn’t be such, such, mean people. They wouldn’t be so angry with people who choose to move on. I, for one, have kept secrets, have kept my mouth closed about a LOT of cult activities and teachings because I don’t want anyone to start attacking me. I see how those who speak are attacked. There needs to be accountability. If a group is truly “built on the Love and Rock of Christ” they will be kind to people, have love for others- even those who leave the group, and will defend Christ above their own ideas and decisions. If your posts save one person from joining a cult, you have done well. Thank you ~Jackie


  10. HI Jim,
    Its funny I came to this page from a page “exposing” you and find you much more balanced than those folks have ever been.

    I have lived much of what your talking about and I see it being repeated time and time again. Irregardless of denomination or even religion. Its sad to watch, especially when people you love are caught up in it.

    Thanks for being bold enough to say what needs to be said.


    • Yup. That’s been happening a lot lately. Interestingly, rather than address the facts about their history of abuse and cover up, Frank Viola and his gang have launched a morally bankrupt campaign of attack, smear and innuendo against their victims and those who dare bear witness against them. I actually think it’s good, however, because it only draws more attention to their cultish ways.


  11. Pingback: How to Become a Cult (Part 6) « Crossroad Junction

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