Is the Church of Christ a Cult?

by David Diestelkamp
via The Sower, Vol. 51, No. 4, July/August 2006

One man jokingly wrote that a cult was any group he didn't like. He was pointing out the tendency to use prejudicial or inflammatory language to describe those with whom we disagree. People sometimes throw the word cult around out of fear of the unknown and as a way to avoid open-minded investigation.

Of course, there are religious cults that are spiritually, emotionally, and sometimes physically dangerous and damaging. Deciding what is a cult and what isn't can be difficult because there is not one, all encompassing, definition which can be applied in every situation. While using care to avoid unsafe religious groups, we also need to resist the temptation to label as a cult any group we aren't familiar with or which seems different from what we are used to.

"According to cult expert David Halperin, most cults are groups organized for the purpose of venerating an authoritarian, usually self-proclaimed leader. This leader claims to have a special relationship with God or with some other supernatural force, a relationship that imbues him or her with special powers." [A Parent's Guide To Teens And Cults].

Because some people are unfamiliar with the church of Christ they have wondered if we are a cult.

Here are some reasons why we do not fit the cult description:

  • We do not have a human leader. Christ is the Head of the church (Ephesians 1:22).
  • We do not claim to have special revelation (knowledge) which others do not have -- we believe the Bible is our sole authority (II Timothy 3:16,17).
  • Reason from Scripture is used in teaching, not pressure, manipulation, or control tactics (Isaiah 1:18).
  • Every member is to study and understand God's Word, not following any man or group ideology (I Corinthians 4:6; II Timothy 2:15).
  • We do not isolate ourselves, but are to be in the world while not being of the world (John 17:14,15; Matthew 5:13, 14).
  • We are not closed minded, but are willing to "test all things" (I Thessalonians 5:21).
  • We are not antagonistic, but believe, "if it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men" (Romans 12:18).
  • Zeal is expressed in ways controlled by God in the Scriptures (Romans 10:2).
  • Without exception, we are committed to God's high standard of morality, refusing to compromise anything revealed in the New Testament.

Being a follower of Christ has always been about faith based on personal study and investigation. True faith and its expression may seem strange, even extreme, to those who are unfamiliar with faith as revealed in the New Testament. Different or devoted does not mean cultic.

Our desire to do what is right in the sight of God must drive us to search for and find His true Will as revealed in the Bible. These are the people you will find in God's true church. A cult tries to decide for you -- God's people want you to look to God in His Word to decide for you!