Common Traits of a Cult Leader

Bethel | Book | Podcast | Sharing Jesus with the Cults | Youtube

To listen to this section via podcast, click here.

To watch this section via Youtube, click on the media window below:

Just as there are basic commonalities in regard to characteristics of cults as groups, there are some basic commonalities when it comes to the leaders of these cults. There will be some overlap from the previous chapter, but also some unique characteristics.

The first thing a leader of a group that will soon become a cult needs to establish is that the Bible is no good. It has been corrupted, or has taught false things, or has been misunderstood all of this time. But any way they can, the cult leader will take their followers or potential follower’s eyes off of the Bible as an authority for doctrine or practice.

The second way the cult leader will establish dependence of the group upon them is by redefining otherwise familiar terms or coming up with their own set of terms and definitions. This further creates the feeling within the group that they are not able to understand the Bible by themselves, but need the interpretation of the group and its leader. This also creates the ability of the leader to create new doctrines or new ways of looking at historic doctrines.

Third, the cult leader will shift their focus from taking people’s eyes off of the Bible to putting their eyes, attention, devotion, upon them. Many cult leaders have done this through special revelation or the finding or creating of new Scripture. Since they have established the Bible to be untrustworthy, when they release the new Scripture, it will be seen as having more authority than the Bible right out of the gate. When new Scripture disagrees with the Bible, the group and cult leader will favor newer revelation, which will further put the Bible in the distant background.

One doctrine that cult leaders will almost always change will be to move away from Orthodox Christian teachings about Jesus. Jesus will have a different identity, origin, death, resurrection, purpose, etc… In doing so, it allows the leader to establish his move away from grace toward works and complete dependence of the group on them and the group for salvation.

The cult leader will further the dependence upon the group by creating a unique culture that begins to control the cult member’s behavior, information, thoughts and emotions. Over time, the cult members begin looking the same, acting the same, believing the same, and only having relationships with members of the cult.

The last move completes the circle. With new definitions, new Scripture and new doctrines, the cult leader will point back to the Bible to show their beliefs were taught in the Bible, maybe even prophesied, all along. This is a powerful method of attracting new converts. This step may even at times include the re-translation of the Bible using special revelation.

Cult