This form of emotional manipulation is usually a subtle one. There aren't a lot of church leaders who just come out and say, "It's us against EVERYONE else," including other churches. There are some who do that. Stay away from them. :-)
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
This is about a more subtle approach. It is one I am familiar with as it was employed at a church that I went to for many years. They don't come out and say that everyone is against them because they KNOW that would be a big red flag for most people. Instead, they say things like, "Be prepared when you talk to people outside of our teaching. They aren't going to understand you and may call you crazy for believing what we believe." Then they will say something about how persecution is to be expected if you are really doing what God says.
This pastor actually said, "If you want to visit another church, that's fine; as long as you are attending every service we offer first. If our doors are open, you should be here." Notice he didn't come right out and say that you shouldn't go to another church. The church offered three services a week. How many people are going to be into attending more church services per week than that? If you feel guilty about even going to a a special meeting hosted by another church, you need to examine that. If that seems to be a church wide feeling, get out.
Isolating from other churches is a precursor to the forming of a cult. Those that they can get to go along with the isolation policy are then targeted for the next step. They are drawn into the "inner circle" of the leader's friends. From here the leader will hand pick a core group that will be his buffer - that will defend him to the teeth - that will be loyal to him no matter what they hear. From there, it can really begin to get ugly.
This same pastor has said, from the pulpit - with a smile, "Some people out there have actually accused us of being a cult. Can you believe that?" Then the part about being wary of the people outside his teaching because they didn't get it, poor souls.
Another way they reinforce the "us against them" mentality is by disparaging those who have left the church. Not blatantly - carefully, under the guise of being concerned about the spiritual health.
Another aspect of this is the idea that because their church is so "faithful" to the 'fill in the blank,' now they are going to get special revelation. The implication is that you will not get this revelation ANYWHERE else and so you better NOT go anywhere or you might miss out.
If any of this sounds familiar, please, step back and apply some logic - some discernment - some (yes) judgment - to the situation. If what they say will not stand up to logic and questions - if you feel overly embarrassed to discuss what your church teaches with other Christians, you're probably being led down the primrose path. Leave. Period.
Remember, the more isolated you become, the less accountability they have and the more they can begin to teach you things - slowly, carefully, bit by little bit so you don't choke - that are further and further from reality - from Truth.