Spiritual abuse is no new idea. There are some very subtle ways that abuse can hide in the Church, and we want to help you spot them! Go through the list and think about what you may notice around you, at your church, workplace, or community. This doesn’t mean that you’re in a cult or that your church has become a cult; it may simply mean that you are experiencing effects of control or manipulation.
Ask yourself the following questions to determine whether a group is abusive and/or spiritually deceptive–
- Do they exalt someone as an irrefutable authority in the group?
- Do they discourage my questions?
- Do they demand my absolute allegiance?
- Do they have a long list of rules related to dress, hairstyle, or activities?
- Do they judge those who do not keep their list of rules?
- Do they consider themselves the “only true church”?
- Do they insist on making my major life decisions for me?
- Do they consider those who leave their group “apostates,” “backsliders,” or “doomed”?
- Do they shame people publicly?
How Do I Respond to a Spiritually Abusive Group?
Separating from a spiritually abusive group can be grueling because the leaders use fear, false guilt, and shame to keep members from leaving.
Regardless of the difficulty, if you are in such a group, the Bible says you must leave—your spiritual life depends on it!
“If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions … From such withdraw yourself” (1 Timothy 6:3–5).
For every abuse that your church has committed, repeat the following out loud:
“It was inappropriate for my church to ( name abuse ).
I renounce this practice/position and announce my allegiance
to God and to His Word.”
Pray the following prayer of King David every day to reaffirm your reliance on God to guard and protect you against spiritual abuse.
“Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me. Keep me free me from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge.” (Psalm 31:3–4)
FREE “What is a Cult?” eChart
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This “What is a Cult?” eChart was written by cults expert and former co-host of “Bible Answer Man” radio program, Dr. Ron Rhodes. This fact sheet gives quick answers for Christians to these questions:
- What is a cult? How is it different from a religion?
- What are the central beliefs of Christianity?
- What are some of the most common cults of Christianity.
- 3 Christian beliefs that most cult groups reject.
- Scripture verses about the Trinity, the deity of Christ, and salvation.
Dr. Ron Rhodes is the president and founder of Reasoning from the Scriptures Ministries. This free Bible chart is from his pamphlet Ten Keys to Witnessing to the Cults.