This is a short survey which can help you assess your current group or church, or one you’re thinking of joining.
As always, we recommend you investigate any group that you are considering joining.
No church or group is perfect. If you go in expecting perfection, you are going to be disappointed. Putting a group of imperfect people together, is not going to create perfection.
We need to balance any flaws in a group with the positive aspects they exhibit.
That said, there are a number of risk factors to be aware of. One or two may not be a problem. Some could also be due to general human frailties. For example, murky finances can be simply an incompetent or lazy financial manager and not something more sinister.
But bear them in mind when you attend and investigate a group.
Some flaws however, are strong indicators of a problematic group or church. Those factors have a strong negative rating in this survey.
Tick all that apply to your church. They are all risk factors, and we have assigned values to them depending on how strong we think they are. At the end you will get a score and an explanation of how that was derived, and what we recommend.
Note: these survey results are not sent back to CULTWATCH. They only exist on your mobile or computer as long as this web page is open.
CULTWATCH Church Risk Survey
The Questions (tick each that applies)
The group has one main leader.
Their meetings are overly emotional.
You’ve made friends at an unnatural pace.
There is no wider authority outside the group.
Family members of the leader(s) are heavily involved in running the group.
The group does not have regular formal meetings (such as an Annual General Meeting).
The group’s leader(s) is surrounded by an inner circle of people, and is hard to access.
There is little teaching from the Bible.
The rich are treated differently from others.
You are discouraged from any activities outside the group.
They spend a lot of time focused on money.
There is the perception that gaining wealth is the prime way to detect blessing from God.
The group gives your leaders expensive gifts.
They told you before or soon after you joined that they are not a cult.
Tithing is taught as a law or principle for them.
Information from the leadership is perceived as automatically true, while information from outside the group is automatically doubted.
Your leader claims to be an Apostle.
All people who leave are seen as bad, or there are few approved reasons to leave.
They say, or imply, they’re the best or the only true group.
Within the group there is the perception that they are the exclusive pipeline to knowing truth.
You don’t understand the finances, and suspect they are hiding things.
The group expects members to sign a document, which may include saying you will tithe to them, obey its leaders, and never criticise them.
You (or others) have been told that if you disobey the leaders or leave the group, you will lose God’s blessing in our life.
Your giving is monitored and you expect repercussions if you don’t meet the group’s expectations.
They tell you who you can and can’t talk to, or who you can and can’t date.
The group takes up a lot of your time with meetings and other activities that you are expected to attend.
They encourage you to avoid friends and family outside of their group.
They teach it is acceptable to lie to or misinform those outside the group.
The leaders rule with fear and intimidation, or use character assassination as a tool to control members.
You are instructed not to read information critical of them.
Score = 0
Our Comment: All good, no boxes ticked.
We Suggest: That no action is needed.
Final comments after finishing the survey
It is good and praiseworthy to test everything. In Acts the Bereans are called “noble” precisely because tested what Paul was saying against Scripture. Paul himself says in 1 Thessalonians 5 that while we shouldn’t treat prophecies with contempt, we are also to “test everything”.
Jesus warns us about false prophets: “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” – Matthew 7:15
Peter does the same in his second letter: “But there were also false prophets among the people [in the past], just as there will be false teachers among you.” – 2 Peter 2:1
John warns us: “Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray.”
And Paul warned his protégé Timothy that “…the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”
False teachers and prophets are certainly present in the world, and when Jesus, Peter, John and Paul all warn us about false leaders, it’s something we should take seriously.
No group or church is perfect, but if you investigate any group that you are considering joining you may be saving yourself a lot of pain later on.