2 Timothy 4:3-4 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
Here are signs your church is cultish
1 Fear and Intimidation
Cult leadership is feared. To disagree with leadership is the same as disagreeing with God. The cult leaders will claim to have direct authority from God to control almost all aspects of your life. If the cult is not a religious group, then questioning the leaders or program will still be seen as a sing of rebellion and stupidity. Guilt is a tactic they will use to control you. Maybe the reason you’re not making money is because you’re not “with the program.” Maybe the reason you’re not able to convert new recruits is because “your heart is prideful and full of sin.” It could never be that the program isn’t working, or those new recruits have valid reasons for not joining. It’s always your fault, you are always wrong and so you must try harder.
A normal religious organization would not have any trouble with you moving to another similar organization as long as you stayed in that same religion because it is the belief system that matters, not membership in an organization. For example, if you are Christian, then you could move from church to another and still be Christian. However, cult leaders will tell you, you can only be saved or can only be successful in their organization alone. No other organization has the truth, all others miss the mark. So it is not the belief system that decides your future, but it is the belief system and your membership with that particular group. The cult leaders will make you believe there is nowhere else you can go and still be saved, and if you ever leave the “one true church,” then you are going to hell. This is a fear-based control mechanism designed to keep you in the cult.
A cult needs to recruit and operate using deception. Why? Because if people knew their true practices and beliefs beforehand, then they would not join. A cult needs to hide the truth from you until they think you are ready to accept it. A cult will also have a slick well-rehearsed public relations front which hides what the group is really like. The mission of the cult may look similar to a church. You will hear how they help the poor, support each other in community, emphasize peace or save the environment. They will tell you how happy you will be in their group. Everyone in the cult always appears to be happy and enthusiastic, mainly because they have been told to act happy and will get in trouble if they don’t. But you will not be told what life is really like in the group, or what they really believe. These things will be introduced to you slowly, one at a time, so you will not notice the gradual change, until eventually you are practicing and believing things which at the start would have caused you to run a mile.
4 The Pastor/Leader is Always Right
If the pastor or leader is always making himself or herself right, this may be a sign of cult involvement. There is no tolerance for questions or critical inquiry. If you disagree with church leadership, then you are told it is your issue because you have to learn to submit to imperfect authority. Whenever you bring up a legitimate, biblical issue to leadership, they find a way to turn it around on you and point out that you are not only wounded, but also have no right to question them. No one is always right, including pastors. A pastor’s responsibility isn’t to interpret the Bible; their job is to preach the Gospel. It’s not based upon what they think. It’s based on what God says. If your pastor or leader is unwilling to acknowledge or admit their mistakes or doesn’t accept an obvious mistake, that should be a major red flag. Also, if there’s a problem in the church, your pastor should be approachable. If a pastor is so unapproachable and not open to constructive concerns or criticisms, then his or her heart is not in the right place.
5 Emphasizing special doctrines outside scripture
6 Only preach gospel of prosperity rather than salvation
7 You’re asked for money, and your worth is tied to the amount of money you give
If anyone asks you for money…they probably just want your money. If they demand money from you and threaten you and your family for not paying up then you’re can be even more sure they just want your money. If the person asking you for money is wearing a suit that cost more money than what you’re wearing…then don’t give that person any more money.