Random Blog Clay Feet: August 14, 2008
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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Cults and Leadership

I spent some time on the internet this morning researching some things about cults and specifically about one that I know about. I looked at a number of links from a very large collection put together by a self-proclaimed cult-exposer and even talked with him on the phone for a few minutes. As I browsed through the hundreds of names listed on his site I was surprised by the number of entries that he had listed – things like MLM groups and even ministries that I have heard nothing but good things about previously.

As I looked around on his and some related sites I was also surprised and even baffled for a few minutes by the proud display on the margin of one of them of an award for being so negative. I wondered that we have come to the point where we can be proud of our negativity. What does that tell others about us? And I also wondered just how much of this kind of atmosphere is reflected in many of the things that I say and write. I am aware that this is one of my great weaknesses and I am praying for grace and awareness to weed out more and more of my penchant for dwelling on the negative.

I thought about this more as I began to realize that I did not notice anything on these people's web pages that promoted anything positive or uplifting. It seemed only to be a collection of everything they could find wrong with everyone possible along the lines of their favorite soapbox subject. And while I realize that this was the reason for this particular web page I also sensed that focusing on all the bad things about others tends to reproduce those very same attributes in our own lives. I also noticed that “hard edge” in some of the comments and strong opinions that this person shared with me in our conversation on the phone. It was pretty clear to me that he had very little interest in hearing anything from me that might disagree with his opinions about the people he wrote about.

One thing that bothered me in his comments was his insistence that certain people were just intrinsically bad and, as he put it, were just wired to be evil. I cannot share that sentiment about anyone no matter how reprehensible their life and actions may have become. People are born with the image of God still to some degree intact in their hearts and most of the evil that they engage in throughout their life comes as a result of the evils committed against them in their early upbringing along with the progressive maturing of evil resulting from many of their own choices in life. Just as people can mature and grow as Christians, so too people mature and worsen in evil the longer they indulge in selfish desires and exploit others for their own pleasure.

One of the articles that I came across from this web site really resonated with me. It was written by an alumnus of Bob Jones University but could just as easily apply to any number of institutions or organizations that carry out similar practices and methods. It was very well written and I found it very sobering – a real wakeup call to return to the authentic teachings and example of the real Jesus instead of the polished, self-serving version of Jesus so popular in religion today.

One of the verses that he quoted in his post reminded me of what I have been learning in my study of Romans 14 over the past few weeks. As I thought it about it more I decided to look up this passage and review the context and message God may have for me there. I find that it is very rich with meaning and relevance to what God has been teaching me in Romans.

Matthew 20:25-28, Mark 10:42-45 and Luke 22:25-27 are all parallel passages that have a very important message to me about relationships and attitudes particularly in the body of Christ. They talk about the way that the world achieves order through control, force, intimidation and domination. This is the common method used in all relationships throughout the kingdom of Satan and the governments of men. But Jesus states unequivocally that in His kingdom this is not to be the way things happen. We must have the exact opposite attitude towards each other and to be great we must be the most devoted in service to others.

The bottom line problem that I have observed in all the dysfunction seen in religious groups whether they be cults or mainline churches is this penchant for domination and control by the leaders. It is a fierce temptation that seems to take down many aspiring leaders that try to start up a new movement of genuine Christ-followers. And the more they use intimidation and control of others to manage their image and produce good appearances for their organization, the more the reputation of God is blasphemed and the hearts of millions of followers are wounded.

In Romans 14 I am learning that the real problem behind judging and viewing others with contempt occurs when I fail to stay true to this command of Jesus to watch the condition of my spirit. And it is not so much a command by Jesus but really more of a description of what those will look like who accept His transformational work in their hearts and lives. Instead of working very hard to produce similar results to that described in the early church of Acts, if we allow the spirit of humility and love to permeate our hearts and emotions we will see a spontaneous outbreak of true primitive godliness in its natural form.

Something very important about this has come to me recently in my study of Romans 14. I noticed that the problem arises when we begin acting like a lord in someone else's life instead of treating them respectfully and with love like a good sibling. As soon as we begin to lord it over someone with judgment and contempt we run counter to this clear teaching of Jesus to achieve greatness through humility and service to one another. This is the core problem that I believe derails every cult gone awry and is the problem underlying the weakness of all Christian churches today to really be effective in changing the world around them.

And He said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called 'Benefactors.' "But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. (Luke 22:25-26)