Although many cults continue to grow, many of their members leave after becoming disappointed by problems and errors in the groups. This has increased in the last 20 years with the increase in publication of evidence that cult leaders often use plagiarism, false prophecy, immorality, deceptive scholarship, manipulation, dishonesty, greed and authoritarianism to advance their interests.

Some who leave these cults become Christians. The majority drift off alone or stay in contact with just a few friends who are ex-members.

Others form groups composed largely of ex-members of the mother cult. Among the offshoot groups are the Christian Educational Services (The Way International), "Fundamentalist" Mormon sects (Latter-day Saints), Seventh-day Adventists (Millerite movement) and Christian Renewal Ministries (Jehovah's Witnesses). These people typically see their group as different from the cult they left. Selected beliefs are rejected. Authoritarianism often is discarded, along with some minor practices of the parent group.

However different members of these groups believe they are from the parent cults, the similarities are obvious to outsiders. Members accept and defend most of the parent group's teachings and practices. Consequently, some of the same problems arise again, although it may take a decade or two.

Jesus Christ offered wise counsel on what to do when one comes upon such a group:

"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them... Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire... Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name ... Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers.'" (Matthew 7:15-19, 22-23, NIV)

Members of these groups err by pruning the tree of the cult's teaching instead of cutting down and burning the whole thing. Just as a color-blind person cannot discern certain hues, so an ex-member of a cult cannot accurately discern some of the cult's most critical errors. As a result, these groups frequently mimic the parent cult's errors such as distrust of Christianity and its leaders, rejection of the deity of Jesus Christ, rejection of the deity and personality of the Holy Spirit and salvation by grace through faith alone. Even worse, members unknowingly retain practices learned in the old group, such as their methods of interpreting Scripture; attitudes, such as pride or materialism or the view that all clergy are corrupt; sources of teaching; and ways of thinking.

Former members of these cults have been so saturated with the sap of the corrupt tree that they do not realize how much bad fruit they carry with them when they leave.

Ex-members need the Holy Spirit and help from Christians who were never members, or from ex-members who are well along in the process of putting off the old ways. They need to reject not only the errors that led them to leave the cult, but also the attitudes and approaches that enabled the bad fruit to develop. Pride must be eliminated so as not to be a hindrance to the wise counsel of mature believers. One's whole relationship with the Lord and His people must be reworked or replaced.

Christians who minister to those in the cults and new religions should continue to use evidence of false prophecy, plagiarism, deception and so forth to help people leave these groups. Yet we need to be careful to match this with biblical instruction that guides these people into new life and away from the old.

Satan has used human groups and religions to distract people from the true faith. We must never be so distracted by concern about the cults and new religions that we do not focus on and accomplish the foremost goal of making disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ, baptizing them and teaching them to obey all that He has commanded.

Dr. John Juedes, C. 1989, Personal Freedom Outreach Journal, www.empirenet.com/~messiah7

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