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Cult to Church
Articles in the LOOKOUT section of this website span a number of decades and are re-published on behalf of Adrian van Leen for research purposes. Original dates are being added to articles so as to place them in their correct historical setting(s). Adrian has endeavoured to be as fair and accurate as possible at the time of the original writing, but please note that the original article information may no longer reflect the subsequent or current actions, values, beliefs, positions, opinions, teachings or policies held by individuals, groups and/or organisations referred to in the original published article at the time of writing. As people change and move on, the same often applies to related Internet links; some links referred to in articles may have been changed or may no longer be available online.
LOOKOUT represents the ministry of Adrian van Leen and Lookout Ministries Inc. and therefore remains the intellectual property/copyright of Adrian van Leen and Lookout Ministries Inc.
CULT TO CHURCH - MAJOR SHIFT
LOOKOUT/CCG Ministries began in late 1979. For the first two decades of this Ministry our focus, media involvement, range of enquiries, and overall activities related mostly to cultic groups ranging from Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christadelphians through to Hare Krishnas, Moonies (Unification Church/Sun Myung Moon), Rajnees-hies/Orange People, Muktananda’s Siddha Yoga, T.M. - Transcendental Mediation to Raelians, ‘brown’ and ‘grey’ aliens, Alien ‘walk-ins’ and more. All these various groups ranged across a number of categories such as Western Pseudo Christian Exclusivists; Eastern Pseudo Christian Exclusivists; Eastern Mystical; New Age Spirituality; Human Potential, and the Occult. All these were demonstrably outside mainstream historically orthodox and Biblical Christianity. Many of the groups within these various categories went through their expansion (growth) stages and moved on to their consolidation (keeping members) stages. Many are still around, but no longer expanding; sometimes struggling to maintain their existence. In some cases there are now very few young members (in contrast to their early expansionist years), and in others many of the young people who were born and grew up in these groups, have left or are leaving (often spreading their stories and concerns via the Internet).
In spite of the dislike of the word ‘cults’ by some academics and ‘politically correct’ activists, the word has been sued appropriately in many cases, and ‘cults’ were amongst our major concerns - concerns shared by church and community leaders, as well as the media, during the first two decades of our existence.
Extreme Christian Fringe Groups were also a major concern during those earlier decades. These were generally groups that promoted most Christian basics (in accepted doctrines) they were often on the fringes of mainstream orthodox Christianity with some of their beliefs; were led by a manipulative and controlling leadership; were generally social isolationist and often attempted to isolate members from their normal support networks of family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances (from workplaces, college or universities, sport and other community clubs and organisations) in order to keep members dependent of the group’s leader(s). The impact of these groups is often as damaging to relationships and personal growth and faith development as the worst or most extreme of the cults.
Today the problem of these Extreme Christian Fringe Groups continues to increase. They are multiplying rapidly around the world. The vast majority of people getting caught up with such groups have little Biblical understanding or background and are unable to see the problems until a great deal of personal damage has occurred. This growth of Christian fringe groups and their extremes has led to the republishing an updated and expanded version of our 1989 book: The Problem of Extreme Christian Fringe Groups, by our Director, Adrian van Leen.
Over the past decade, enquiries about cults have diminished and been replaced by a growing volume of enquiries about problems in various denominational and mainstream Christian Churches. Many have been along similar areas of concern, in spite of denominational differences. The vast majority of calls for help have expressed a deep concern over two main areas: inappropriate leadership styles and lack of sound and Biblical teaching.
Expressions of these two problems have included manipulation and extreme control/domineering by pastors/leader (often younger than many in the congregation); people over 45-50 actually being told they are not really wanted because they’re holding back progress and development (they are of the ‘old paradigm’ and the pastors/leaders, with their training and knowledge, are of the ‘new paradigm’); pastors/leaders claiming that THEY are the church CEO’s and THEY run the church, and when they ultimately don’t get their way in everything, many ‘spit the dummy’ and leave - often threatening (and sometimes succeeding) to take half the congregation with them; and more along those lines. Many pastors have been told through training seminars that they need to assert themselves more; that Jesus, as the Chief Shepherd, was an entrepreneur fattening and building up his flock - as a sheep farmer does - to make a profit. Some pastors/leaders have insisted on organising all church activities for other people (e.g. home study groups, and more) but wouldn’t conduct home groups or Bible studies themselves, especially ‘after hours’ (their hours being 9 to 5 in the church office).
Enormous numbers of faithful Christians, especially long-time members, have been deeply hurt by this style of leadership and have been crying out for a Biblical model of Christ-like Servant leadership, where leaders lead by example of patient love and understanding; study and teach Biblical messages from the Bible; actually get alongside people and exercise pastoral care; set the tone of their congregations by their Christ-like examples rather than dictatorial declarations.
There is also an increasing concern amongst Christians in congregations over lack of sound Biblical teaching in relation to faith, salvation and Christian living.
These concerns are not so much about change, as they are about excessive change for the sake of change and the way in which change is brought about, or attempted to be brought about.
In the past decade, in relation to our Ministry and work, more people have been hurt and damaged by the Church than by traditional cults. There has to be a better, more Biblically appropriate way!
(From TACL Vol 31 # 1 Jan-Feb 2010)