What is a "Personality Cult"?
Wikapedia defines it this way, "A cult of personality arises when an individual uses mass media, propaganda, or other methods, to create an idealized and heroic public image, often through unquestioning flattery and praise." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cult_of_personality)
In modern Christendom, it boils down to following men's ministries through their non-profit organizations, meetings, regional conferences, books, seminars, conferences, CDs, DVDs and websites. Ever notice how some people seem to be obsessed with getting notable people to endorse their books, and other products? Becoming a Personality Cult follower is all too easy unless one recognizes it and guards against it
Sometimes you fall into it because you admire the founder, CEO, president or the gurus of the movement. Admiration often derives from benefits you gain from these persons or their movement (perceived as 'deliverance' whether real or not). Admiration turns to hero worship and you're engulfed into devouring all their books, multi-media offerings and personal appearances. The guru-heroes prey your loyalty with continual events, pumping out more books, more CDs, more DVDs in a never ending stream of things for you to purchase ... for which they get royalties.
How do I know this? I spent 50 years in a faith based Personality Cult! I did not see any problem with this, promoting the organization for 30 years and even taking their two year leadership training program. However, after I finished the leadership program, I discovered over the next two decades many things that undermined my faith and trust in this organization and its leadership. I started to question and really search the scriptures for an improved path for my personal Christian life. That led to a growing independence from the organization as they grew more commercial and more internally oriented.
During my last decade, I discovered that their leadership tracks and grades the quality of your involvement. Proper followers have several characteristics:
What happens if you fail one or more of the above? You come under 'godly suspicion' as a dissenter, doing your own thing, not supporting the 'root' of your faith (meaning the corporate officers & the treasury). Their foundation is in their organization, more than scripture which they interpret as they see fit to conform passages to their agenda. Of course, you have to be pretty good at recognizing biblical context to see how passages are removed from it to support a favourite dogma or a corporate policy.
One unwritten corporate policy is to avoid the evil Internet (that's where former followers post their criticisms). That proved to be the sticking point for my dismissal, my refusal to take down my faith based but non-critical websites (painful for a Christian webmaster).
Finally, they had had enough of my resistance to 'walk their talk.' I was barred from their official events, along with my wife and children. That caused quite a stir in their fellowship groups, since I was viewed with respect as nearly a founder due to my longevity with them! (I was personally acquainted with the founder and his family) My children weren't really too concerned over this since they were pretty independent anyway. But my wife had not up to then seen the difference between appreciation and blind hero worship which leads to defining yourself according your involvement. She was stunned and angered when they dismissed her along with me. But, in the months following our dismissal, she got her eyes opened to the dangers and errors of how you can define yourself as a "Personality Cult" member ... not after Christ alone.
The long and short of it is this: Personality Cults stunt spiritual growth. You are limited to the glass ceiling of the gurus' own spiritual development and their agenda. This leads to a very weak and dependent faith. You become obsessed with conformity and approval, which are typical human behaviours. I say this on the grounds that the apostle Paul said it first.
ESV: I Corinthians Chapter 3  But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.
How does he know to say this?
ESV: I Corinthians Chapter 3  For when one says, I follow Paul, and another, I follow Apollos, are you not being merely human?
Paul was against believers developing a Personality Cult of following a man's ministry. Why? Because you are limited to only their view of the conduct and concepts of the Christian faith. Little do Personality Cult followers realize their lives contradict the instructions set forth by the apostle Paul.
When you're involved in a Personality Cult, you seldom realize it until you rub shoulders with people who are not. Until then, you flutter about in a gilded cage. Such organizations have enough truth to hook you but not enough to set you free to fly. But now I fly with the spirit, now my independence is finally full to follow the spirit's leading and loving every minute of it.
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