Characteristics and Control Mechanisms of Counterfeit Churches and Groups

1. They have a persecution complex.

2. They claim to be the “only true church.” Your group is the only true group. All outside the group are judged as evil, worldly, and are under the Devil.

3. They claim to have the “only true prophets on earth.” If a group can convince us that they have some special authority from God, that God has appointed them, we readily accept their control. These claims take many forms: modern-day prophets or apostles; only true church; God’s only channel or organization, etc.

4. They challenge the infallibility of the Bible. Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross was never enough, each individual has to add their works.

5. Some counterfeit churches claim to be true “Israel.” The group becomes the modern-day fulfillment and counterpart of all biblical accounts and Bible prophecy. They re-write their history to fit the needed scenario.

6. They deify man. (Man is a god or will become one.)

7. They humanize God. (They limit God to a body.)

8. They have a procedure by which they attack the deity of Jesus Christ.

9. They claim to have divine books in addition to, or in place of the Bible. (Esoteric doctrines to be understood only by them.)

Special meanings: Specific meaning are given to words, phrases, and Bible texts that thereby seem to identify the group.

Conditioned response: Just like Pavlov’s dog, those in the group will respond exactly the same to any subject or Bible text.

Testimonies: They all bear a similar testimony.

10. They have unswerving loyalty to their leaders. They never question what their leaders say.

Guilt: The group elevates its extensive rule and performance requirements. To ensure you will live up to those requirements, they equate meeting the requirements to pleasing God, and not meeting those requirements to displeasing God and failure.

Fear: The group identifies some soon-to-occur cataclysm and then guarantees protection from or through such an event, so long as you are meeting the performance requirements, are loyal and faithful, and in good standing with the group.

Special insight from God: “Truth” that we get from nowhere else. Special men in an apostolic council or a governing body with whom God deals directly. No independent thinking, blind loyalty. Those in the group, while actually believing they are in full control, have unwittingly become mindless robots that are under the group’s control and serving the group while feeling they are serving God. The group demands loyalty and obedience to the group and equates that with loyalty and obedience to God.

11. They have an elite society, or they create a racist system. They may also have earthly temples where only a select few can go. The more deeply you go, or higher up you go into the group, the closer you come to God (you think).

Elite status: Importance, prominence, and acceptance (by others and by God, a basic human need) are only received through the group.

12. They have or have had abnormal sex practices. Celibacy, free sex or sex with their leader only, or with children, or they practice polygamy.

13. They must perform “good works” as a means to gain salvation. By teaching works for salvation, the group has its members on a treadmill of performance that they can never get off, and the treadmill never stops.

14. They claim that salvation and exaltation comes only through their organization.

Legalism: In addition to the biblical old covenant rules, the group establishes extensive modern day rules of its own which dictate policies for every aspect of your life. Enforcement of their rules and of their conscience is one of the major control mechanisms empowering the group.

Intimidation: Constant reminders that all in the group are unworthy. It is their association with the group that gives them any worthiness. They could never understand “truth” without the group, nor could they have any relationship with God, except through the group. The responsibility to save the world rests on you and your group. Everything comes through the group: salvation, acceptance by God, relationship with God, Jesus and Holy Spirit, etc.

15. They encourage their members NOT to read materials of the opposing view (materials that are not faith promoting).

Mind-control indoctrination: Systematic programming of information and control of information to effect a conditioned response.

16. Each counterfeit church is a financial empire and the myth must be promoted at all costs to keep the 99% at the bottom from realizing the support the 1% at the top. (They have doctrines of surrendering all worldly goods, possessions and lands to the organization, and they have strong tithing laws towards this end.)

Purpose: The group provides a purpose for life (a basic human need), and that purpose is to work for the group, which is, of course, working for God.

17. A subtle doctrine of the counterfeit church is the “church state” (their own) instituted some day in America. Millions of dollars are spent towards that goal, such as propaganda, purchase of lands, banks, TV stations, radio stations, and other businesses.

18. Excommunication: They excommunicate or ban dissidents in order to keep and maintain control of doctrine, thought patterns, and requirements of the other followers.

Disfellowshipping and shunning: The threat of this control mechanism keeps everyone in line like no other device (emotional blackmail).

Conditional love: Since love is a basic human need, they establish a system by which all “love” and friendship will be cut off, should the person leave the group.

19. They use deception in recruiting and/or fund raising.

20. They use secretiveness and vagueness regarding beliefs and activities.

21. They separate recruits from family, friends, and society, a change in personality or values is seen and substitution of the counterfeit church as the new “family” takes place. They call each other “Brother” and “Sister.” All the group are now “elitists” and all think alike (“group think”).

Limited association: No association is allowed outside the group. None in the group can have fellowship with “worldly” people, other than to recruit them into the group. Anyone who rejects the group is your enemy – even mother, father, husband, wife, sister or brother. Your loyalty, which you think is to God, is really to the group. The counterfeit church has, in essence, replaced Jesus Christ as mediator between you and God. The fortress is now complete, the wall is built. You block out anything and anyone that questions the group.

Common enemy: Satan and all his cohorts (i.e., everyone that is not in the group) are established as the common enemy. To have anything to do with anyone outside the group (other than to bring them into the group), even family, is to have dealings with the enemy. No association with apostates is accepted. It can effect your “worthiness.” You are to report other’ “failures” to a higher-up leader.

22. They promote the goals of the group over the individual and approve unethical behavior while claiming goodness (“lying for the Lord”). There are many, even in your group, who are not going to “make it” because they are not living up to the rules. Now you are, like all the group, a very humble person because you have exchanged pride in yourself for group pride.

Dependency: Those who are in the group become totally dependent upon the group and “group think” to make day-to-day decisions. The remarkable factor here is that members actually believe they are making these decisions on their own.

These counterfeit organizations flourish because of Biblical illiteracy!