Monday, 20 June 2011

Equipping the Cults to Deal With the Church–1 If These are Christians

The Pastor’s Tale

The young man loiters outside the church office as though in a fog of indecision. Seeming to resolve his apparent doubts, he climbs the few steps leading up to the church building and walks purposefully through the door, not knowing what to expect when he gets inside. He finds meets a young woman, a secretary perhaps, who confidently asks him how she might help. He asks to see the pastor.

Ushered through the outer office into an inner sanctum, his resolve is already beginning to fail him. A middle-aged man sitting behind a large desk looks up and asks him what he wants. Words almost fail the young man but he manages, “I am a Mormon” immediately doubting the wisdom of such an opening as he sees a look of caution come over the pastors face. Pressing on regardless he stutters, “I want to talk about the differences between what you believe and what we believe.”

The pastor hasn’t risen from his chair, hasn’t offered his hand and nor has he offered his visitor a seat, suggesting that this might be a very short interview and getting shorter by the moment. “You know,” he responds dryly, “there is a vast chasm between what you believe and what we believe?” His tongue clinging to the roof of his mouth and his voice failing him, the young man says in what is almost a whisper, “Yes, I know.”

The pastor is silent and the combination of the cold welcome and his own failing nerve motivates the young man to mutter his thanks and retreat back out onto the cold pavement where, moments earlier, his resolve had seemed so strong. Where he was once confused and harboured questions about his faith he is now mortified and asking how he could possibly have believed this was a good idea.

The Christian “Witness’”Tale

That same young man stands on the perimeter of a Christian bookshop in the local indoor market, surreptitiously scanning a book that purports to expose the truth about “the cults”. If a pastor won’t help him understand, then he will just have to find out for himself and so he peruses the pages about Mormonism. An older man is looking over his shoulder but he is completely unaware of this man’s presence until he speaks.

“You don’t believe that rubbish?” He hears the disparaging words before turning to see the older man walking off briskly through the market. This time the young man’s nerve holds, indeed he is angry. “Who do these people think they are!” he thinks to himself. Putting down the book he rushes after the man, catching up with him at the other end of the market building. Putting his hand on the man’s shoulder, he makes the man turn to face him and demands, “Do you know me?” This has caught the older man completely off guard and he says, “No, I don’t know you.”

““Then why,” the young man demanded, “assume that I was a Mormon? I needn’t have been.”

He continued, “I am a Mormon, and want to know what exactly gives you the right to speak to me in that way when you don’t even know me?”

The older man squirms, turns and rushes off as a very angry and disappointed young man watches him go. He’s got the message; he’s a Mormon so fair game. “If these are Christians,” he thinks to himself, “I don’t want to be one of them!” I remained a Mormon for another ten years.

the convert’s tale

When I finally became a Christian, I was convinced that it was a true miracle, and one that occurred in spite of most Christians and not because of them. That was twenty-five years ago and I have spent the best part of that time trying to equip the church to deal with the cults. I have chosen the title of this series because I have wondered over the years whether my time would have been better and more productively spent equipping the cults to deal with the church.

Just a few years after coming to Christ my wife and I got involved with Reachout Trust (www.reachouttrust.org) and have spent the past twenty years or so increasingly involved in cult work. For many years I had been a director and trustee, have written books and articles, given seminars at conferences and in churches, met with, spoken to and corresponded with cult members and with those Christians who are concerned with the work of reaching out to the cultist. Having recently (Summer 2008) stepped down from that official position with Reachout Trust I feel I can and should share something of my experience and my deep concern for the role of the church in that work.

Next: The Problem with the Church

Coming up: The Problem With Anti-Cult Ministry

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