How do False Teachers get a foot-hold and gain influence in the lives of others? Here are 5 ways.
1. They will target people who are already passionate about faith. They particularly look for people who are either:
– Disillusioned because they feel that the church has failed them by not being loving. Alternatively, if someone feels that their church is not active enough and fails to share their passion and/or is not using them fully.
– Disconnected because the person is in a state of change such as moving home for University, work, seeing children move out when grown up etc.
Ideally, they want both of these together. Additionally, if they can find people who have gaps in their biblical knowledge then all the better. For example, people have joined cults because the cult leaders appeared willing to give answers to their questions which their original church leaders were not prepared or able to do. This is why it is important to be consistently teaching God’s Word.
2. They will replace existing relationships with their own. For example, they may allocate individual “disciplers” or encourage the person to join in lots of meetings and social groups. This is also a reason for encouraging “works based salvation as the person will busy themselves trying to fill their quota of contacts and conversations. This also changes the relationship with friends and family who are now either targets or threats. Note that cults will often undermine relationships between husbands and wives, parents and children etc.
3. Just like all types of abuser they may encourage secrecy. This will be helped if the person believes that friends, family and the local church are really against them. This approach plays on shame and embarrassment. There’s that risky moment when we begin to wonder if we are being misled but are afraid that others will see us as foolish. That’s the danger point because things then remain hidden instead of coming into the light.
4. They will put on an initial appearance of being mainstream and orthodox. They will refer you to Scripture. They may have a seemingly orthodox statement of faith. Remember that even Satan was able to quote Scripture. This is why it is important we know the whole counsel of God not just proof texts.
5. The main relationship that they want to break is the one that believers have directly with God through his Word. They will do this by setting up particular human beings as mediators between you and God. This may mean that you have to consult a disciple or pastor on all aspects of life. It will often mean that the Bible can only be interpreted through their books, literature and Bible study aids.
The aim of cults and false teachers is to shift our confidence away from Christ and the Gospel to other people and their organisations. They do this because their desire is for power. This power may simply come through having spiritual control over someone’s life and decisions but may also include financial gain. Some cults and cult leaders also use this power to gain physical and sexual control over others.