A cult leader seeks to isolate his followers from outsiders. In the name of pastoring or shepherding or protecting the flock, he seeks to ensure that his followers will only hear the cult leader’s propaganda.
The cult leader tries to control the flow of information to his followers and between his followers. If the cult leader has his way, his followers will only hear his slant on the Bible, because he has set himself up as THE teacher…actually the Guru. Literature and books are closely controlled. And in the age of email and the world wide web, the cult leader will ensure as much as he can that his followers will be ingrown and inward looking by the control of authorized mailing lists and approved web sites.
The cult leader will pervert the Biblical teaching of gossip in such a way that his followers are controlled by fear and guilt. They become trained to no longer be Bereans (Acts 17:11). They no longer truly bear one another’s burdens. Individuals will suffer alone rather than risk being accused of gossip. They can no longer discuss important things together. They can no longer evaluate the doctrine and behavior of their leader or leaders. The cult leader seeks to establish a Stalinist totalitarian system that suppresses honest differences and reasonable critiques… all by the use of fear and control.
Eventually the relationships between friends are interfered with, micromanaged, and controlled by the cult leader. If adequate zeal and loyalty for the leader and his system are not sensed by the leader, the leader brings the power of his system down on the individual in the form of withholding of affection, verbal attacks, and threats of various kinds. The individual is likely to be dragged before a tribunal for interrogation which itself brings threat of expulsion.
Once an individual and his family are fully invested through friendships and relationships within the social system of the group, it is indeed a feeling of deep despair and hopelessness that comes with the Cult leader’s threat of expulsion. Many are willing to compromise convictions and give up all freedom in order to maintain the comfort of the social system and all their friends.
The cult leader not only uses threats but also the “carrots” of position, public recognition, power, and prestige. The cult leader entices his allies and those he considers “assets” with affection, periodic exposure in the spotlight, and the pride of being able to “rub shoulders” with the leader.
When I see trends among Evangelicals that seem to have these traits, it greatly concerns me.
It is wrong for a man to turn the fellowship of the saints into a religious system that revolves around himself. It is wrong for a man to consider himself a dictator over a congregation of Christians. It is wrong to create a totalitarian system where there is no freedom to differ and to discuss important things as Bereans. We are called to be brothers and sisters in Christ, not followers of an earthly king.
Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
2 Corinthians 3:17
Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.