January 20, 2023
by Pastor Chuck SwindollScriptures: Colossians 1:17–18, 28
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.
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.
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
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
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)