In the last few decades, we have witnessed the emergence of groups like the Moonies, the Hare Krishnas, various New Agers, Scientologists, and numerous other cults.
Their jaded effort at controlling the minds of their followers is nothing short of brainwashing. It has been practiced by the Nazis, by Soviet-style Communists, and by totalitarian regimes all over the world. The result, of course, is a far cry from the role of a servant that Jesus Christ modeled. That form of mind bending turns a human being into a puppet, a slave without personal dignity, without the privilege to think and to ask questions, and without the joy of serving others willingly under the control and authority of Jesus Christ.
You may remember the story of a young man named Christopher Edwards who became a helpless pawn in the hands of one of the New Age religious groups that first came on the scene in this country back in the 1970s. Edwards was so captivated by this insidious movement that he had to be kidnapped by his own family before there could be any hope of recovery.
This bright, clear-thinking Yale graduate became virtually a glob of human putty in the hands of the "Moonies" in Northern California. Without realizing what was happening to him, the cultic system brainwashed him. After his father and a group of trained professionals finally snatched him from the tight fist of that cult, it took a full year of intense therapy before Chris regained his equilibrium.1
No, blind loyalty is not servanthood. Believe me, not only am I strongly opposed to the "mind bending" employed by cultic leaders, I see dangers in other ministries that take unfair advantage of people—ministries we'd certainly not think of as cults.
Any ministry that requires blind loyalty and unquestioning obedience is suspect. Not all gurus are in the eastern religions, you know. Some discipleship ministries, quite frankly, come dangerously near this point. I am not discrediting all discipleship programs! My main concern is the abuse of power, overemphasis of loyalty to a human leader, an intense and unhealthy accountability that uses intimidation, fear, and guilt to promote authoritarianism. Weak and meek people can become the prey of such paranoid, self-appointed messiahs, resulting not in spiritual growth, but in exploitation and the loss of human dignity.
People in the pew and pastors alike need to beware of super-hero leaders with an abundance of charisma. We need to watch out for the highly gifted, capable, winsome, and popular superstars who focus attention on themselves or their organization. Rather, the true leader must consciously turn people's devotion and worship to the Head of the body—Jesus Christ. The Savior is the Lord. He shares that preeminent place of authority and glory with none other.
He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything . . . . We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. (Colossians 1:17–18, 28)
Taken from Improving Your Serve by Charles R. Swindoll. Copyright © 1981 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. www.thomasnelson.com
Used with permission. All rights reserved.