local church cult

Are the Local Churches a Cult?

The following is an article from The Christian Research Institute’s website, written by Hank Hanegraaff (the Bible Answer Man) himself:

This article first appeared in the Ask Hank column of the Christian Research Journal, volume 32, number 6 (2009). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal go to:http://www.equip.org

On the basis of a six-year primary research project represented in part in this Special Edition of the JOURNAL, the Christian Research Institute has concluded that the local churches are a genuine expression of authentic New Testament Christianity.

To begin with, the local churches are not a cult from a theological perspective. In this sense, a cult may be defined as a pseudo-Christian organization that claims to be Christian but outright denies essential Christian doctrine. While I personally have differences with the local churches when it comes to secondary issues, such as the timing of the tribulation or the meaning of the millennium, I stand shoulder to shoulder with the local churches when it comes to the essentials that define biblical orthodoxy. With respect to the Trinity, for example, we are united in the reality that there is one God revealed in three persons who are eternally distinct. Although we may disagree on the exegesis of particular passages, this premise is inviolate. Moreover, it is significant to note that in interacting with members of the local churches over a protracted period of time, I have witnessed in them a keen interest in doctrinal precision sadly missing in major segments of the evangelical community.

Furthermore, the local churches are not a cult from a sociological perspective. In this sense, a cult is a religious or semireligious sect whose followers are controlled by strong leadership in virtually every dimension of their lives. Devotees characteristically manifest a displaced loyalty for the “guru” and the group and are galvanized together through physical and/or psychological intimidation tactics. It is unconscionable that the local churches have been uncharitably lumped together with sociological cults involved in the most heinous activities conceivable. Indeed, it is tragic that this classification has been used to persecute and imprison members of the local churches in various regions around the world.

Finally, the local churches are an authentic expression of New Testament Christianity. Moreover, as a group forged in the cauldron of persecution, it has much to offer Western Christianity. In this respect three things immediately come to mind.

First is their practice of prophesying—not in the sense of foretelling the future but in the 1 Corinthians 14 sense of exhorting, edifying, encouraging, educating, equipping, and explicating Scripture. As such, constituents are corporately involved in worship through the Word. Second is their practice of pray-reading as a meaningful link between the intake of Scripture and efficacious communion with God in prayer. And third is their fervent commitment to the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19).

If the early Christian church had one distinguishing characteristic, it was their passion to communicate the love, joy, and peace that only Jesus Christ can bring to the human heart. As we become entrenched in an age of esotericism, it is essential that genuine believers in all walks of life emulate this passion—a passion I have personally witnessed as I shared fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ from local churches in such faraway cities as Taipei, Seoul, and Nanjing.

In sum, along with Christians from a broad range of persuasions, the local churches are dedicated to both proper doctrine (orthodoxy) and proper practice (orthopraxy). As such, we march together by the maxim, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, and in all things charity.” While we will continue to debate secondary issues this side of the veil, I have no doubt that we will spend an eternity together growing in the knowledge of the One who saved us by grace alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ alone.

Hank Hanegraaff is president of the Christian Research Institute and host of the Bible Answer Man broadcast heard daily throughout the United States and Canada. For a list of stations airing the Bible Answer Man, or to listen online, log on to www.equip.org.

Discernment Ministry: Is the Local Church Movement a Cult?

In the Christian Research Journal entitled We Were Wrong, this question was posed: Are the Local Churches, Founded by Watchman Nee and His Protégé Witness Lee, a Pseudo-Christian Cult? In a series of YouTube videos on The Local Churches, the Christian Research Institute answers this question. In their reassessment of the Local Church movement of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee, they have done a thorough, in-depth study of the Local Churches and their practices. They give an outsider’s point of view that is both balanced and Biblical.

In this video, Hank Hanegraaff (the Bible Answer Man) and Elliot Miller (Editor-in-Chief of the Christian Research Journal) discuss the importance of doing discernment ministry properly and the consequences of statements made in error regarding the local churches.

The main takeaway message is that ideas have consequences.

Hank says:

We as believers need to learn how to do discernment ministry properly. We need to look carefully at how investigative journalism is being done within the Christian church. Oftentimes it’s not  investigative journalism; it’s the yellow journalism practiced in the world, imported into the church. So often we are stuck in our own psycho-epistomological cocoons, in a linguistic hall of mirrors. And we think that somehow or other we have been able to fully codify the mystery of the nature of God in our language. And denounce those, when cultural barriers are often the obstacle. We need, as Christians, to understand doctrine and theology. We need to know that theology matters. That what we are discussing in studio today is not an ivory tower debate. There are people halfway around the world sitting in prisons and dying, because ideas have consequences. That’s what we’re talking about today.

Elliott says:

That’s exactly right, Hank. Ideas do have consequences. What we in the counter-cult community have published doing our thing of critiquing different movements according to a paradigm that we developed. If you fit into this paradigm, you’re orthodox, if you don’t fit into it then you’re unorthodox. But not really thinking in terms of a larger paradigm that would match the entire human race. We’re seeing things from the paradigm of our Western evangelical perspective. If we stamp heresy on a group because they failed our litmus test, we may not realize that that was:

#1 that that was a culturally more than theologically determined stamp

#2 that the consequences of that is that our brothers and sisters in Christ directly because of what we published, are being put in prison, and persecuted, and some don’t return alive.

And, you know, this is not melodramatic speech. I met people, when you and I were in China last year, who had been in prison as a result of material that we and others have published. And they could not have been more gracious, but the Holy Spirit was gracious enough to let me see the consequences of our past cavalier actions.

 

yellow journalism – 

n: the use of lurid features and sensationalized news in newspaper publishing to attract readers and increase circulation

The published books that Elliot is referring to and to which Christian Research Institute says, “We Were Wrong,” includes:

The Teachings of Witness Lee and the Local Church

The Mind Benders by Jack Sparks

The God-Men by Neil Duddy & the Spiritual Counterfeits Project

These books have been retracted.

 

References: 

Encyclopedia Britannica Online

We Were Wrong 

DISCERN

A Reassessment of the Local Church movement of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee

In the Christian Research Journal entitled We Were Wrong, this question was posed: Are the Local Churches, Founded by Watchman Nee and His Protégé Witness Lee, a Pseudo-Christian Cult? In a series of YouTube videos on The Local Churches, the Christian Research Institute answers this question. In their reassessment of the Local Church movement of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee, they have done a thorough, in-depth study of the Local Churches and their practices. They give an outsider’s point of view that is both balanced and Biblical.

In this video, Hank Hanegraaff, the Bible Answer Man, says:

One of the distinctives of the move of the Holy Spirit that you’re involved in, it’s not for the pastor alone to study the Word of God. It is not alone for the pastor to prophesy in the sense of encouragement, edification, exhortation, and equipping, but it is for every believer to be involved in the proclamation of the Word in praise and in worship. In every sense, we worship God through prayer, praise, and the proclamation of the Word. And that is for every believer.

Regarding the functioning of all the believers, Witness Lee is quoted at the end of this video:

God desires that each of the believers prophesy, that is, speak for and speak forth Him.

References: 

We Were Wrong 

Witness Lee, Functioning in Life as Gifts Given to the Body of Christ (Anaheim, Living Stream Ministry, 2002), p. 16