Every time I hear someone refer to NewSpring (or churches like ours) as a cult I have to laugh. Seriously, that criticism has been around since we began…my first thought is, “You REALLY need to get some new stuff…that one is played out.”
BUT—like it or not…that comment seems to pop up every once in a while. So, last week I began doing some research—and I came up with some common characteristics of cults. You know what was shocking—it seems that NewSpring doesn’t actually have any cult like characteristics…but there are TONS of churches that do—let me explain.
#1 - In a cult everyone is expected to talk, look, act and believe the same thing—at NewSpring (and churches like us) there are people from different walks of life and different backgrounds—and that is ok.
Seriously, this past Sunday morning I saw a guy in a suit sitting next to a guy with piercings and tattoos & had this thought, “Only at NewSpring.” (In most cases the guy in a suit would be a visitor and the other guy would be on staff!) :-)
We are not loyal to a particular denomination, nor do we identify ourselves with a particular brand of theology. (Hi, I am Perry…and I am a reformed, Southern Baptist, fire baptized, pre-tribulation King James version only pastor, would you like to come to my church?)
We have people at NewSpring who are Democrats…and then some who are Republicans. We have some who believe in predestination and then some who do not. We have some who love to dress up and some who wear flip flops year around…but we gather under the same roof and worship the same Jesus every single week!
You do not have to believe the same on every identical issue—but loving Jesus with all your heart and loving one another—yeah, that’s what its all about.
Now I could drive you to some churches where everyone in there looks the same, believes the same, uses the same language—wow—sound kind of cult like to me.
#2 - In a cult people strive to keep things the way they are—at NewSpring we embrace the fact that God is wanting to do new things.
If you study cults you will understand that a key motivation in beginning them is so that the people involved can hold on to a certain aspect of society and/or religion. Change is NEVER embraced in a cult, EVER…and anyone who tries to change the way things are usually wind up cast outside of the cult—or even worse—killed. (Remind you of a church or two?) :-)
BUT here at NewSpring—it is our passion to embrace that God does not change in regards to His character, the Bible says in Hebrews 13:8 that He never changes; however, His methods often change. Take a look in Scripture and you will discover that He does old things in new ways many times. Our God is NOT locked into a formula…and because of that we are not either. That is why we are free to do what it takes to reach people where they are!
#3 - A cult’s main concern are those who are insiders while NewSpring’s main concern is those who do not know Christ.
I remember preaching my guts out in a church one time, talking about how we needed to grow and reach that community for Christ. After the service a lady approached me and said, “Perry—we don’t want that here, we love one another and new people coming in would only mess up what we’ve got.”
That was the FIRST time it ever occurred to me that some people do not give a damn about people who do not know Christ. (See…some of you are guilty—you are WAY more bothered by my use of the word damn than you are about your friends who do not know Jesus!!!)
There are churches all over America who do not want to grow because it will “mess up things.” Looks like a cult to me!
However, here at NewSpring we are passionate about those who do not know Christ. We believe that heaven and hell are REAL places…and we want as many people as possible to have a relationship with Jesus and know what eternal life is all about. So in order to do that we want to reach more and more people—and we are willing to do whatever it takes to see that happen.
#4 - A cult is passionate about man-made rules…and NewSpring is passionate about Scripture.
If you study cults there are MANY that will say they are Christian…but then they have added sayings, books and teachings on top of the Bible. (The Mormons and Jehovah’s Witness are examples) We often look at them…but we neglect to see that churches do this same thing—make up man-made rules such as…
You get the picture—many of you have heard these before…and there is only really one problem with them—THEY ARE NOT IN SCRIPTURE!
Here at NewSpring our answer to the questions we receive is, “What does the Bible say?” I believe that the Bible is the complete and inerrant Word of God…but I do not believe it should be added to or taken away from—that pretty much ticks God off!
SO…is NewSpring a cult? Nope…our focus is on Jesus Christ, His Word and people who do not know Him. And for those who would call us a cult…I would take a look at my church first…it may be that you are actually the ones with kool-aid stained lips.