Pat’s Praise: Cult Leaders and False Prophets

Just as serial killers share certain personality traits, so do cult leaders.

You may recall I have spoken about the proper use of power on several occasions. The goal of the cult leader is to create and maintain an imbalance of power. Some cult leaders (think Charles Manson, David Koresh, Jim Jones) rise to enigmatic, notorious figures.

Dr. Janja Lalich, Ph.D. professor of sociology, has this to say.

“Cult leaders tend to be highly self- absorbed. They may have grown up thinking they’re superior, or some gain their sense of self-aggrandizement after having what they believe to be an encounter with a god or deity – and it’s that visit which inspires them to start their cult.” She says that narcissism is the root of most of their behaviors. “They demand extreme loyalty, don’t allow criticism, and seek to control everything within their following. Because their ego drives them, they believe they deserve to make these demands.”

We must be on guard because of many cults who have a different way of salvation, interpreting the Bible differently. Jesus taught us about the Way to Heaven.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate, and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”  Matthew 7:13-14 NIV.

Believing in Jesus is the only way to Heaven because he alone died for our sins and made us right before God. Living His way may not be popular, but it is the only way. If we could enter Heaven due to our “works,” it would make Jesus’ life nil. “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit, you will recognize them.” Matthew 7:15-16 NIV.

How do you know if a false prophet is leading you? It is said that cult leaders find people who latch onto them because of their charisma – they present an aura of being unique. Then their inner circle takes up the cause and spreads it to a broader range of people. Their overall confidence, magnetic personality, narcissistic ego, and unpredictable behavior allow them to maintain that imbalance in power.

Toxic leaders know their followers well – be wary of dark leadership; they are masters at mind control. The possibility is present for the entire group to turn toxic.
Jesus has been called a gamut of names: “simple teacher,” “misguided fool,” suffering from delusions of
grandeur – a “messiah complex.”

And that He was just a man, like any other. The Apostle John wrote these words to dispel doubts and present a clear picture of Christ. He shows God as light, love, and life.

“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they are from God because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that
does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.” 1 John 4:1-3 NIV.

One of the best ways to determine a false prophet or cult leader is to check if their words match what God says in the Bible. But the most crucial test of all is what they believe about Christ.

We must verify every message we hear to assure it is from God. We are surrounded by evil, but John assures us that God is more powerful.

“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4 NIV.

Do your pastors preach against sin? Do they preach the Ten Commandments? Jesus freed us from the law of sin and death, but He did not exempt us from God’s moral law. Yet modern pastors dwell on “Jesus freed us from the law” and stop there. It is no wonder that some churchgoers see nothing wrong with lying, adultery, stealing. The message sent from the pulpit is that Christ came to free man from “the law” so he can do as he pleases. Some pastors even do not hesitate to lie to their congregants.

Does your pastor rule with a tight fist, and is he temperamental?

Joel Osteen is a prime example of lying to the people. As co-pastor of that megachurch in Lakeland, Victoria Osteen blasphemously said, “We’re doing it for ourselves, do good for your own self, we’re not doing it for God really.”

Joel does not preach the basic concepts of the Bible, which are repentance from sin, and victory over sin and hell. He won’t preach on these topics, nor will he allow their use in his church. Self-exaltation personified.

Do not be taken in by these charlatans’ smooth and charismatic style. Christians who study God’s word will not be fooled. As the Apostle Paul said in Romans 16:17-20 NIV, “I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.  For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery, they deceive the minds of naïve people. Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you, but I want you to be wise about what is good and innocent about what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.”

A retired nurse, published author and columnist, Pat Throckmorton can be reached at