Five-Point Strategy for Sharing the Gospel With a Cultist
Got Questions Ministries defines a cult as “a religious groups that denies one or more of the fundamentals of Biblical truth” (Got Questions). John Thomas Rogers adds that a cult “… is a religion that as not yet achieved respectability or has not grown up yet – a baby religion” (Rogers xxiv). An estimated seven million Americans have been involved in cults (Cult Hotline) with new members being recruited everyday. With such growing participation in the cults, it is in the Church’s interest to identify the theological issues cults have in common, refute them with sound Biblical doctrine, and to create strategies to share the gospel with those unfortunate people who have been led astray. There is a two-fold purpose behind the need of such a proactive stance by the Church. First, such a strategy would serve to ‘inoculate’ church members who may be in danger of being attracted to cults. In addition, the issue is a matter of salvation for those lost amid the cults. Christ charged the Church with the mission of spreading His gospel to the world and creating disciples; refusing to formulate a strategy to refute the cults is akin to ignoring the soteriological needs of those who are lost. This paper will serve as a preliminary attempt to address these issues. Theological issues common to the cults will be addressed with an eye towards how these issues impact the individual cult member. These issues will then be refuted Biblically and a five-point strategy for sharing the gospel with a cultist will be presented.
Of the theological issues common to the cults identified by John Thomas Rogers (Rogers xxiv), three will be addressed in this paper. First, cults do not see the Bible as the final authority on theological issues and, as such, include outside authorities. Rogers writes, “One of the most common reasons cults give for their existence is that the Bible has errors, or at least that it cannot be understood without help … In other words, cults exist on authority outside the Bible” (Rogers 65). This view of the Bible’s authority (or lack thereof) stands in stark contrast to Biblical Christianity, which teaches that the Bible alone is authoritative on matters concerning God. One of the foundations of the Protestant Reformation is the principle of sola Scriptura (or by Scripture alone), which means, “only the Bible has the authority to bind the consciences of believers” (Sproul 42). The Bible is seen by Biblical Christianity to be the ultimate form of authority, inerrant, and infallible. Furthermore, Biblical Christianity teaches that the Bible is complete. Rogers writes, “Once the task of completing the Bible was done, the apostles would be replaced by the Bible” (Rogers 129).
Once the sole authority (and inerrancy) of the Bible is denied, cults are then free to deny the deity of Christ. Rogers writes, “… most cults doctrinally lower Christ to the level of an angel or claim that He is only an angel …” (Rogers 108). This is in direct contrast to Biblical Christianity’s teaching that Christ is God the Son and the Second Person of the Trinity. John Walvoord writes, “Christianity has always honored Jesus Christ as its historical and theological center [and] one’s faith in and understanding of Jesus Christ involve the most important theological issues anyone can face” (Walvoord 11). One of the wondrous aspects of Christianity is the hypostatic union; the weaving of Christ’s complete deity with His complete humanity. A concise vision of Biblical Christianity is expressed by the Nicene Creed of the 4th Century; Christ is eternally begotten of God the Father, assumed humanity by incarnation through a virgin birth, and secured salvation for a sinful mankind through His death on the cross and resurrection. Furthermore, Biblical Christianity teaches that Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead and will reign over an eternal kingdom.
Finally, having denied the deity of Christ, cults are free to replace the salvation offered by His sacrifice on the cross with a salvation secured by works. Rogers writes that this salvation by works is accompanied by an absolute obedience to the group (Rogers xxiv). This teaching is opposed to the Biblical teaching of salvation by grace, “ For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NASB). Rogers writes “To comprehend that salvation truly is the work of God apart from my insignificant efforts caused me to realize that even my response to God as He drew me to Himself could be a source of personal pride. Jesus paid it all; all to Him I owe!” (Rogers 113).
It doesn’t take much imagination to see how these theological issues could work together to impact a member of a cult. Without the authority of the Bible to guide their beliefs, cult members are subject to the ever-evolving theology of cult leaders. Rogers writes, “The doctrines of cults change as needed. If a doctrine has positive results, it can be developed. If it has negative results, it can be changed and then later forgotten” (Rogers xxvii-xxviii). As a result, cult members are left on unstable ground theologically speaking. Their core beliefs are subject to the whims of their leaders. When this is coupled with an inadequate understanding of Christ’s deity and a salvation that is guaranteed only by works, cult members are eventually forced into a situation that requires blind allegiance to their group. Ultimately, and more importantly, these issues work together to become a matter of salvation. Cult members are lost and prevented from seeing a clear picture of the salvation offered by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. It is for this reason that Christians should take great care in sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with cult members. What follows is a simple five-point for Christians to adopt when sharing the gospel with cult members.
- Know Your Own Doctrine: Rogers writes, “To know the doctrine of every cult or religion is impossible” (Rogers 55). There are simply to many cults out there that employ evolving doctrines to be an expert in all of them. It is best to be grounded in a good knowledge of Biblical doctrine when sharing the gospel with cult members.
- Keep the Discussion Friendly: Refuse to engage in an argument with cult members regardless of whether or not they attempt to argue with you. Their salvation is of utmost importance and we do not want out behavior to serve as a stumbling block in their acceptance of Christ (see 1 Peter 2:12).
- Establish the Authority of the Bible: As a Christian, do not sacrifice the authority of Scripture. Politely explain to the cult member in question that if they want to prove a position, they must do so using the Bible only. Rogers writes that by insisting the discussion revolve around the Bible alone “… you are not being unfair; you are being honest. You are asking the [cult member] to do with you what you would have to do with a Jewish individual who rejected the New Testament and accepted only the Old” (Rogers 70).
- Continually Point the Discussion to Christ: Remember, it is common to all cults that works be required for salvation. By continually returning the conversation to the Person of Christ you are offering the cult member something they simply don’t have – salvation by grace alone.
- End Well: Rogers writes, “How one closes a conversation with religious people or cultists is just as important as how one opens it” (Rogers 114). If you sense tension developing in the conversation or can tell feelings are being hurt, don’t be afraid to recommend a break in the conversation. Your task is to share the gospel with the cult member and then allow the Holy Spirit to convict them. Time away from the conversation might be just what the Spirit requires.
It is been demonstrated that the prominence of cults in the United States requires the Church to formulate a strategy to share the gospel with cult members. It should be recognized that there are theological issues that separate the cults from Biblical Christianity. Three such issues are of immense importance; the authority of Scripture, the deity of Christ, and a salvation of works as opposed to grace. Ultimately, these issues boil down to matter of salvation. Christians who hope to share the gospel with cult members should keep these issues in mind and employ a five-point strategy; know Biblical doctrine, keep the discussion friendly, establish the authority of the Bible, continually turn the discussion to Christ, and ensure the discussion ends well. By employing such a strategy, Christians may successfully lead a cult member to Christ and proactively protect their own church members from being attracted to the cults.
Cult Hotline & Clinic. The Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services, 2010. Web. 30 October 2012.
Rogers, John Thomas. Communicating Christ in a Religious World. Xulon Press, 2009.
Sproul, R.C. What is Reformed Theology? Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1997.
Walvoord, John. Jesus Christ Our Lord. Chicago: The Moody Bible Institute, 1969.
“What is the Definition of a Cult?” gotquestions.org. Got Questions Ministries, n.d. Web. 1 November 2012.
 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).
 1 Peter 1:23 describes the Word of God as being living, imperishable, and enduring.
 Unfortunately, it is beyond the scope of this paper to offer a complete treatment of Christology, however, the Nicene Creed sums traditional Biblical Christology up well.