From time to time we receive calls from individuals inquiring as to how they might become part of a ministry like this. As we talk with them, it often turns out that their vision of counter cult ministry is speaking in churches on issues of cults, other religions and discernment. Teaching in churches is a very important part of the ministry, but it is only one part. Some do not realize that long hours of research, reading, and responding to questions via email and telephone comes with the territory. They also often have the expectation that they will be leading JWs, Mormons and others to the faith in Christ nearly every week. We wish that were the case, and we are glad that their heart’s desire is to free the captives, but we have to point out that this is an unrealistic expectation, as cultists are deeply rooted in their groups, and very emotionally connected to them, and cannot easily be pulled away. Lots of time must be given over to preparation – seeking to gain a deep understanding of what the group teaches and how it impacts the followers. We believe it is important to learn everything you can about the group and its teachings, so that we can “swing from any tree” that presents itself in an encounter with a cultist. This is because the cultist is very adept at swinging from tree to tree to escape any difficult line of argument. You start out talking about the deity of Christ, and have all the bible passages on that subject ready to go, but soon find yourself being attacked on the pagan roots of holidays, or why it’s wrong to vote or serve in the military.
So, you have to know your stuff, and it really helps to know the history of the group, so you can undermine their TRUE authority. This education requires time and effort. And then, IF the meeting goes swimmingly, and you know you have done a good job presenting truth, often they will still walk away convinced (outwardly at least) they are right, and you are one of Satan’s minions. That can be frustrating. There is a very high burn out rate in this type of mission. The average person drops out after about 2 years. It largely is a problem of focus and expectations. As a missionary to the cults, you have to accept that what you are doing is planting seeds in the person’s mind – seeds which may sprout after a time, or be further nourished and watered by the witness of others. To be honest, many times you have no further knowledge of the person you’ve met with. You do not know what fruit your meeting may have produced. You must simply commit your efforts to the Lord. And of course, pray for the person you met with, that the Holy Spirit will bring to his mind the things he heard and bring other knowledgeable Christians into his path. Most cultists are walking around with a miserable cloud over their head – they know that if they are only to be saved by their own efforts and good works, they simply are not making the grade. There is no grace in their lives.
But, whether they choose to listen to us or not, our efforts will often bear great fruit in other areas. For example, we get many calls from people whose family members have been drawn into a cult. Often, these family members are not Christians, but are willing to take any help we can give them. And very often these people, through our conversations with them, become believers. This may not seem as glorious, or as cool as winning deeply entrenched “hardened” cult members to Christ in one sitting, but no, it IS glorious to us, and VERY cool.
You see, quite frequently non-Christians who call us are also counting on their own efforts and good works to get them into heaven. So, when we tell them that their family member or friend is counting on his own efforts to appease God and get them into heaven (or Paradise earth or whatever) it often occurs to them that they are doing the same thing! They are trying to live good enough lives to secure God’s love, thinking that He grades on the curve. If their good deeds sort of outweigh their bad, in their estimation, and if they compare their own lives to a Hitler or a John Gacy, they may see their prospects of getting into heaven as pretty good. But with their ears open to what we have to say, we have the opportunity to tell them the gospel – that God is righteous and must judge sin, that He does not grade on a curve, and that a human being’s piddling efforts will never get them into heaven – BUT that God loves them and offers them grace and the free gift of salvation if they will believe on His son.
Similarly, people are often counting on their own church affiliation to get them into heaven. They’ve been baptized, they’ve been confirmed, they take communion, and even give money to their church. That is their ticket, they think. So, when we tell them that their son or daughter is counting on their affiliation with the cult to save them, it strikes a chord within them. It dawns on them that perhaps Church affiliation won’t save anyone, any more than cult affiliation will. So now we can tell them Who will save them, if they will only receive Him. You see, you can say an awful lot to people while your teaching them about a cult or another religion. Their self-defensive guard is down, because you are, after all, talking about someone else in a different group. But it can hit home, and open their eyes to their own need.
By the way, this is something that can be used in many other settings. If one is speaking to their unbelieving hairdresser or friend about the Jehovah’s Witnesses or another cult – how that cult members sadly believe they can be saved by their own good works – you may open up their hearts to the gospel, and plant a few seeds while you’re getting a trim! Unless they are a dyed-in-the-wool atheist, and very few people actually are, they are probably riding the “works trolley” too, to some extent, seeking admission to heaven by being good, or at least better than really bad people. You are giving them something to think about.
There are other ways in which one’s research and education is very useful to the body of Christ. We get calls all the time from people with thorny doctrinal questions, or who may even be doubting the faith. Oftentimes, we can help them solve the issue, or recommend books that will answer their questions. This may seem like a small thing to some, but it really is not.
It is the same principle whether one is a counter cult minister, a Sunday School teacher, or someone who makes it their business to care for people in various ways, who may not even be recognized by others for all they do. The small things are often very big things in the eyes of God! Who looks out for the lonely? Who visits the sick? Who sees to the poor? Who refuses to judge others based on outward appearance or social standing? Lots of Christians do – people who may be unsung heroes, but whose efforts of love do not go unnoticed by God.
All that we do, whether seemingly small or great, we should do as to the Lord. He will see to the outcome.
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Don & Joy, A brilliant article. Having spent nearly 40 years involved to various degrees in the field of ‘counter-cult’ apologetics and discernment ministry I can totally identify with all that you have written here – it certainly ‘ticks all the boxes’ for me! To use another well-worn metaphor I have managed to ‘collect a few t-shirts’ along the way that relate to the points you raise.
Just one observation – Over the years I have noticed an interesting phenomena – i.e. how many individuals and ministries in this this category have started out with the aim of reaching people caught in false religious teaching outside the Church but then have found themselves ‘expanding’ into dealing with false teaching that has been seeping into the visible Church. Maybe a case of making use of (in HR speak) ‘transferable skills’?
Yes, so true!!
the good news is the gospel and Our Lord was not kidding when He said He would send us the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is our GPS.. our Godly Positioning Spirit… we have to trust His path though it be unfamiliar to our earthly eyes.
I was a Catholic until I picked up the bible and started reading (Jeremiah was my first book and I was pretty freaked out by the Queen of Heaven thing so I read Isaiah to see what I missed in the preceding book but soon discovered that the RCC was satanic and there was no good excuse to call Mary by the title of the devil).. As my faith in understanding of Our God Jesus Christ was shaped through scripture over the next few months, I noticed how every day, one way or another, what I was presently reading in scripture applied to something in my day. For example, I had 2 JWs show up after I had just noticed Peter telling Ananais they were lying to the Holy Spirit in Acts.. that means the Holy Spirit is not a thing and I was able to very naturally argue that to my visitors with the scriptures.. which just happened to be open on my counter because I was reading the bible when they came… Or another time, I noticed Jesus instructs the disciples to not go house to house.. and who was out but the JWs peddling the block, only this time they didn’t stop at my house so I made a sign, like a garage sale sign- stuck in my lawn for the 30 min until they made their way back to see the very clear and simple words of Luke 10:7- very simple.. they had to see it when they passed by and they did, they stopped and looked, walked away and the sign went down.
My point is that we may not be “called” to serve full time in apologetics but we have opportunity all the time to serve and defend the faith, some times we will help the poor, sometimes there is a neighbor who needs some yard work… the bottom line is that if we trust that our Commanding Officer (The King, Jesus Christ) knows what He is doing in commanding us, we can count on the assignments He gives us and our preparedness for them, everyday… not necessarily as a career.
I think it is a shame to expect the Spirit of God to “employ” us all in a single position, that is a human construct not defined outside the bare minimum of waiting tables and caring for the poor in Acts. We don’t know what Philip did after meeting that Ethiopian eunuch and there is no way he could have seen that assignment coming! Our Lord Jesus tells us to pray that we get more workers for the harvest but the harvest work is so broad in scope and the workers are so few in all field that we have to be careful not to let our ideas of the roles interfere with the jobs to which we are assigned..”The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” The greatest work therefore is to be girded in the word and ready to go where ever God puts us, just like Philip… we won’t know how or when and that is the part of our faith that just lets God decide what He wants us to do, knowing 100% whatever it is we are prepared… we just have to be willing to let God do His assigning.
God puts us in the right place at the right time with the right equipment to do exactly what He expects of us so long as we spend our free time trying to fine tune our understanding of what His will is through a close study of His word and ongoing prayerful humility seeking His direction and strength, knowing we won’t, because we can’t, know exactly what God is doing with us, through us and around us, but we know how to behave and respond in all situations because He has made that clear in His word and we are right to be girded in that study.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
I haven’t put the bible down in nearly 7 years and in that time I have had a great adventure, not a dime in my pocket, fully armed with what I need when I need it. Seriously, from salvaging suitcases for the homeless to lug their belongings around after my neighborhood had a storm flood nearly every basement (an odd pursuit which started with the discovery of full box of cleaning supplies)… to asking the mailman to give my name to any elderly neighbors who need help with errands or misc things… I don’t have a “ministry” that men can point to but I minister, daily, even here.. disciples are kind of strange like that..we are not of this world, we are chosen out of this world so we do not exactly fit the mold and as uncomfortable as that is, it is the best way to endure this present evil world through which we sojourn.
To whose who would write and ask how to be defenders of the faith, I would say that living the faith that God knows what He is doing is their best place to start. Simply knowing the scriptures arms you to be able to defend their daily misuse on all fronts, and applying them comes from the understanding given to us by God so seek Him, He will put the people and work in your path, and all the cleaning supplies, from scripture to borax, you need to do the job He is assigning to you. Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.
God does not give us sexy jobs.. It’s hard to describe my employment other than to say I am a John 8:31-32 disciple, I put it on my jury duty questionnaire and didn’t get called but that’s what I am and that’s what I do and everyday it looks different but I never fail at any of the tasks God assigns me because I do all things by Him in faith: James 1:25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. …
And when no task is before us, God wants to be the center of our attention, so give it to Him… get fat eating the bread of life.
Easy as Psalm 1:2-3
1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.