The Cult Mentality in Scripture

March 13, 2010

Dear Reader,

Allow me again to state my purpose for writing to you. I want to tell you things God is showing me in the hope that you can find the truth and have a more intimate relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ. Because I am imperfect, some of what I write may not give you what you need to draw closer to our Father. Please reject what is untrue and hold fast to what God is using in these pieces to bring you to Him. It is possible that what I am learning is for me and not for you or anyone else. It is also very likely that these ideas which are new to me, but not to you are something some other brother or sister in Christ has already written. You are not obligated to receive anything I write here. My hope is that, as an ex-cult member, you might be set free from your captivity by what I tell you here.

For those just joining me on the site, I got born again in 1975 at the age of 13. My brother Chris led my two best friends and me to Jesus at a backyard picnic table. My brother Chris, my 3 other brothers, and my mom were born again too, November of 1974, 6 months before me. What we all did not know is that the group that first made contact with us, The Forever Family, was a cult started by Stewart Traill. It would take a very thick book to relate to you the 40-year history of that leader and his followers. For now, I would like you to look at a passage of scripture and see if you recognize the Cult mentality demonstrated.

But first some definitions:

Latin cultus, worship, from past participle of colere, to cultivate; see kwel-1 in Indo-European roots

5 a : great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (as a film or book); especially : such devotion regarded as a literary or intellectual fad b : the object of such devotion c : a usually small group of people characterized by such devotion

1. A usually nonscientific method or regimen claimed by its originator to have exclusive or exceptional power in curing a particular disease.

2. 4 : a system for the cure of disease based on dogma set forth by its promulgator

What is the difference between a cult and a culture? People who share and practice common customs, beliefs, and traditions are members of a culture. People within the culture who hold uncommon beliefs and doctrines, who then create and practice uncommon traditions based on these views, usually taught by a leader, are in a cult.

Cults are exclusive, and devoted to a single leader. Ex-members will remember in the Forever Family how we used to talk like Stewart, wear a bible pouch like him, use rapidiograph pens and file cards and even mimic Stewart's mannerisms. Why? Stewart didn't directly teach this, but he didn't firmly stop the brother's from this form of worship. It is also interesting that the original Latin word "cultus" means worship. For anyone who was a member of a cult or who is now a member, it might be hard to hear this. To accept that you were or are in a cult, you would have to admit that you were fooled or deceived by the leader and/or his followers. Some ex-members find it hard to think that they gave up so much only to be deceived and used for years at the pleasure of Stewart Traill. I want to comfort you by saying that, although you got hurt or damaged by this experience, your time in the cult was not wasted. If you were forgiven of your sins, and you received the Holy Spirit, then your experience in a cult is not your spiritual death but a spiritual lesson God wants to teach you. I will write more about this latter. You have to accept that God did not and doesn't want you in a cult. God created us with Free will. His desire is that we love Him and have a relationship with Him with no man or church in between us and our Lord. In our relationship with God the Father we then have fellowship with other sons and daughters of God REGARDLESS of WHERE the other brothers or sisters are on the planet. The problem is, if you were taught that the only place God wants you is, for instance, "The Church of Bible Understanding," then you are trapped. Your faithfulness to God is directly linked to where you are physically, what group you are in, and who is teaching you.

Let's look at the scripture I think is a demonstration of the Cult Mentality.

Mark 9:38-41

38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 For the one who is not against us is for us. 41 For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.

This scripture came to me when considering if there were any examples in the bible of "Cult-Like" thinking. Those who lived in the Church of Bible Understanding can remember the many times we heard the idea, "that if you leave, you will backside, or go to a church that has a lesser or lower calling than the high calling of the fellowship Stewart Traill designed. Of course, it was never said that bluntly and not in those words. Stewart would cite statistics about those who left. Why? To prove to those still inside that it's God's will that they stay in COBU and that there are consequences for leaving. If you left COBU, you left God. Every current member and ex-member knew that Stewart meant this. In the early 80's Stewart acted surprised at the Stone Mountain Manor meeting when brethren brought this idea to his attention. My brother Chris, recalled Stewart acting like he never conveyed to us the idea that we couldn't be faithful to Jesus anywhere else but the Church of Bible Understanding.

Try this test, current and former members of COBU. Can you picture any member at any time making an appointment with Stewart and telling him that God was calling him, the member, to go elsewhere for fellowship and/or to do God's will in some other church? I can think of only one brother who did this. I also remember what we thought of him when he left. Why did we believe that we who were saved, born again, by way of the witnessing of brothers and sisters in the FF /Cobu; Why did we believe that we MUST ALSO only fellowship with Christians within the FF/COBU? Where did this idea originate?

Look at the scripture again.

Mark 9: 38-41

38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, F43 and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 For the one who is not against us is for us. 41 For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.

John , son of Zebedee, wanted to stop a man from casting out demons in the name of Jesus. What was his reason? "Because he was not following us." It seems clear that John believed one had to be "with" Jesus (in Jesus' group), to do a mighty work. In essence, you had to be a part of Jesus' group, fellowship, church, to do God's will. Doesn't this seem reasonable? But Our Lord, says "Don't stop him from doing what he was doing. Why? Because if God is casting out demons, using this man, then God is at work in this man's life. Look at this statement," For the one who is not against us is for us." Consider now Stewart Traill's reported beginnings, going from church to church, arguing and getting thrown out by, we can assume, Christians. Now consider his language in the early days of the FF, labeling such people as CCC, Contentious Church Christians. And if these were not "real" Christians, How did Stewart treat "real" Christians? They did exist in the 1970's. Did he seek them out, did he welcome other believers in Allentown? At the very beginning Stewart didn't fellowship with other Christians. More importantly, Stewart was never humbly under another brother's authority in the Body of Christ. In Timothy we read that leaders should not be recent converts or they might be puffed up with conceit. Stewart has been alone all his Christian life. His contempt for other Christians was obvious from the beginning of Forever Family. Some of the brethren from those days think Stewart getting booted out of these churches was an indication of his unique stand for the truth. Isn't is also possible that Stewart was standing for "his own" truth and "his own" interpretation and they rejected him as a false teacher. They may have also just ejected him simply because they found him annoying.

In Cobu, we were never encouraged to fellowship with Christians outside our group. We were taught by Stewart to hold other Christians in contempt. He was not accountable to any Christian his own age. His pride did not permit him to fellowship with other Christians and he taught this contempt to us.

There were, however, cracks in Stewart's cultic control. Brothers and sisters were still able to read other Christian writers and we also were blessed by two guest speakers, Rev. Richard Wurmbrand, and Pastor Harlan Popov, brothers in Christ who suffered in Communist prisons. These brothers and books like The Pilgrim's Progress, Of the Imitation of Christ, Books by C.S. Lewis, were allowed into the fellowship. My guess is that Stewart did not see these brothers or other Christian writers as a threat to his control over members. Of course, what we believed about the Bible, what we understood about what we read was controlled by Stewart. Interesting how we developed an inconfidence and doubt that God could teach us anything by reading the bible by ourselves. So perhaps, by the time these brothers in Christ came to our church, Stewart was overly confident that there testimony would not diminish the strength of his grip on us. This characteristic of the FF/Cobu as a closed society is not what Jesus meant when He said, "He who is not against us is for us." To the cult leader, everyone outside his control, is against him, even brothers and sisters in Christ.

I remember in 1986, when God gave me a vision, baptized me in the Holy Spirit and gave me the gift of tongues, I was overjoyed at the Lord's mercy and blessing for me. I called up the then current members of COBU to tell them what the Lord had done. The response of the brother on the other end of the phone consisted of one idea: "When are you coming back." The inability of current, and some former, members of COBU to have fellowship with other Christians is a testimony against Stewart Traill. If you do not listen to Stewart, you are not listening to God. If you are not in COBU, you are not in fellowship with God. You are playing games. Stewart Traill has been in the place of God long enough. Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Please return to God being first, God being the One you listen to, God being your Father who loves you. If you can't go the your Father in prayer without the sense of someone or something stopping you from being close to your Father, then that something or someone has become more powerful than God in your life, this is idolatry.

PLease look at the next passages and recognize again the Cult mentality.

1 Corinthians 1:10-13

10 I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chlo'e's people that there is quarreling among you, my brethren. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, "I belong to Paul," or "I belong to Apol'los," or "I belong to Cephas," or "I belong to Christ." 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

1 Corinthians 3

1 But I, brethren, could not address you as spiritual men, but as men of the flesh, as babes in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not ready for it; and even yet you are not ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving like ordinary men? 4 For when one says, "I belong to Paul," and another, "I belong to Apol'los," are you not merely men?

5 What then is Apol'los? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apol'los watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are equal, and each shall receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building. 10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and another man is building upon it. Let each man take care how he builds upon it.

11 For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw-- 13 each man's work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

16 Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? 17 If any one destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and that temple you are.

18 Let no one deceive himself. If any one among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, "He catches the wise in their craftiness," 20 and again, "The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile."

21 So let no one boast of men. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apol'los or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future, all are yours; 23 and you are Christ's; and Christ is God's.

There is much here to look at. This scripture is perfect in responding to some ex-members who still cling to Stewart in any form, or the Forever Family, or the Church of Bible Understanding, as much or more than they cling to God. They have a kind of loyalty to the group and/or to the person, something not scriptural. Look the chapter, If you see yourself, saying "I belong to Paul", or "I belong to Stewart" then you are wrong, you are sinning against God in that this kind of devotion belongs to God and not men. Consider this part:

What then is Apol'los? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apol'los watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are equal, and each shall receive his wages according to his labor.

Note the language "So neither he who plants is anything nor he waters, But ONLY God who gives the growth.

The Cult Mentality is a shared wickedness: The leader who, little by little, accepts allegiance and loyalty from the believers in his care, and the brothers and sisters who offer it. According to Paul, those who led you to Jesus will receive their wages, their reward, but they do not get what belongs to God, the credit, the glory, the worship. These things belong to God.

The last part of the scripture about building, let's look:

11 For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw-- 13 each man's work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

We are builders, we build upon the salvation that Jesus made as a foundation, with his blood. We build upon or add to a believer. When the testing comes, what was good will stand, what was bad will be burnt up. Notice that the Foundation remains.Christ! Thus the scripture," If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

This is how God sees us. This is His perspective of us. We are nothing and yet we will receive wages and reward for partnering with God, helping in His field. Don't be deceived anymore that you owe Stewart or COBU anything. God will reward them according to their deeds. Glory and Honor and Worship belong to God. ONLY GOD!

The next pieces of writing, soon to come on the web page: Doctrine, Division, and Denomination, Idols, You CAN actually Please God, The Difference Between Dependence and Insecurity, and "What will you Do When he's Gone?"

I hope you will recognize the spirit at work in Stewart Traill. Whether he was or is a Christian right now should only matter to him at this point. What matters to us, current and former members is our life with God our Father and Our Savior Jesus. If a man has come between you and your Lord, that man is an idol. If a fellowship or church is impeding your ability to trust your Father's love for you, you must act. You are fighting to get back to the relationship with Jesus, the one He began with you when He forgave your sins and put His Holy Spirit inside you. You are to no longer let a man tell you things that make you doubt that your Father loves you.

CULT:

Etymology: French & Latin; French culte, from Latin cultus care, adoration, from colere to cultivate — more at WHEEL

Date: 1617

1 : formal religious veneration : WORSHIP

2 : a system of religious beliefs and ritual; also : its body of adherents

3 : a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious; also : its body of adherents

4 : a system for the cure of disease based on dogma set forth by its promulgator

5 a : great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (as a film or book); especially : such devotion regarded as a literary or intellectual fad b : the object of such devotion c : a usually small group of people characterized by such devotion Another set of definitions follow:

CULT

a. A religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or false, with its followers often living in an unconventional manner under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader.

b. The followers of such a religion or sect. 3. A system or community of religious worship and ritual.

4. The formal means of expressing religious reverence; religious ceremony and ritual.

5. A usually nonscientific method or regimen claimed by its originator to have exclusive or exceptional power in curing a particular disease.

6. a. Obsessive, especially faddish, devotion to or veneration for a person, principle, or thing. b. The object of such devotion.

7. An exclusive group of persons sharing an esoteric, usually artistic or intellectual interest.

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The Dictionary quotes are from Merriam Webster Dictionary on Line and another on line dictionary which I am having trouble locating.

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