Small, struggling churches are vulnerable to hostile takeovers, just like small, struggling companies.

With companies, the stronger company will pay off the target company’s debts and may give some cash to the owner in return for not starting a competing company right away. The deal is done and everyone leaves satisfied.

With churches, someone moves in and quickly volunteers their substantial Bible knowledge and shows a great willingness to help. Next, they bring a couple of friends “from the other church.” Sometimes they are single and sometimes they come with a family. Often, they are a bit more fundamentalist than the existing congregation, but they have the time to do the jobs that have not been done in a while – like working in the nursery, cleaning and waxing the floor, decorating the children’s wing.

Then the first all-church business meeting. The new members outnumber the old-timers, and begin to make changes. Within a few months, they begin to act like Absolam, undermining the authority of the pastor, and soon they suggest the pastor should be asked to leave, and to put one of their number in his place to “grow the church” and “preach the authentic Gospel.”

Shortly, the pastorship becomes formal and the church votes to end their former denominational affiliation. From struggling church to stolen church in less than a year. Often as not, the new church is a cult, needing space to grow.

Not all new workers are there to steal your church. I myself have come into a struggling church, full of passion and energy, but always taking pains to submit myself to the authority of the pastor and the deacons. I do not suggest any changes in structure that have not been addressed by the pastor first. You need people like that, who move into the congregation as a gift from God to help restore its vibrancy.

But you need to be aware of the presence of destructive cults. If you need to learn more, surf on over to the F.A.C.T net (for Fight Against Coercive Tactics Network).

(Thank you to Tracy at the After Cult Life blog for the link!)

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CNN has an article today about an evangelist known as Tony Alamo being arrested for child porn.  (In reality, it was for suspected child abuse.) Reading their account of the story, it looks like he’s involved in some questionable behavior, but I don’t know, and will refrain from judging that here, because it is only allegations.

What caught my eye was the last sentences of the article:  They said that “Alamo compared himself to Christ” because he said “Jesus is living within me.”

As one who calls himself “Christian” I have Jesus living in me, but comparing myself to Christ is no comparison – I lose every time.

The reporter tried to accuse Alamo (whose real name is Bernie Hoffman) of having a Messiah complex, supporting an accusation of being a cult because he is aggressive in his evangelism and successful in getting his parishioners to live his brand of Christianity faithfully.

Isn’t that our goal?  To lead those in our charge to live Christ-like lives such that the depth of our faith looks unreasonable fanatical (almost cult-like) to an agnostic world?

Just be sure what you teach is accurate to scripture, and to local laws if possible without contradicting scripture.  He’s been investigated multiple times for tax evasion and for promoting spanking (child abuse).  Alamo has young children living with him at his church-owned housing complex on 10 acres near Texarkana, and , and had six children living with him at the time of a raid last week.  He claims that the age of “consent is puberty” for young teens, and has performed marriages of old men to juveniles having just reached puberty. (source:  CNN)