People suspect “cult” because they don’t like holiness?

July 16, 2008 in Sovereign Grace Ministries

From a comment left by longtime reader Ellie:

…and then there are some who think that only unbelievers and immature Christians would criticize Sovereign Grace Ministries. 

This can only be found, at this time, on google cache.  [Kris says:  Ellie included the link at the end of her comment, but for those of you who are already curious, here’s where she found this.]  Apparently some don’t believe that there should be ANY criticism of SGM allowed to remain and just try to erase it all.

Cornerstone Church – Knoxville Cult?
Filed under: CCK, Church, Religion, Theology by SVD

You never know what you are going to find when you search the Keywords on your Google Analytics page, but I was a little surprised to find the phrase “Cornerstone Church Knoxville Cult” not once but several times in KTOWN’s keyword cache.

My first reaction was, “Ha. That’s funny.”

But then it struck me, that for some reason or reasons, this is exactly what people think or have heard about that church. You see, when people punch in words into a search engine, they are usually very efficient with their word choices. That’s the whole point of keywords and search engine optimization (SEO).

But back to the “cult”. I started thinking, “Why would some folks associate this church with a cult-like status?”

Then it hit me…

1 Corinthians 1:27-28

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are,

That church seems foolish to people…probably even other Christians. But why?

You could chalk it up to theological differences and debate whether that church is practicing certain doctrines in a certain way, but that’s pretty typical with any various denominations. And all that info is available on their website (see Statement of Faith). No secrecy there.

I mean as an evangelical Christian myself and a member of Cornerstone, I have vastly different doctrinal opinions of say… the Catholic Church, the United Methodist Church, or even the Church of God…but I would label these different denominations…just that…denominations….not cults.

So why would “cult” show up in the keywords. Most likely it’s what these people have heard and seen about the lives of the church members, not so much the specifics of the doctrine…and here is a list of the things my family loves about the church, that when the non-Christian or even worldly Christian encounter may make them think…”Oh, that’s a cult.”

1. They don’t have a youth group. The parents of the youths actually lead them in different group activities. Parental involvement. It used to be called “Family Time.”

2. Large families. Four or more children in a family is considered nothing unusual.

3. Stay at home moms. Lots of these. And we are talking about college educated, highly skilled stay at home moms.

4. The discouragement of dating and the encouragement of courtship. This one really freaks people out.

5. The practice of church discipline. It’s in the Bible and Cornerstone does not ignore it.

6. The “near mandate” of a husband to romantically pursue and serve his wife. The only dating that the church encourages is within the bonds of marriage…a husband “dating” his wife, and believe me it is one of the best ways to protect and serve your marriage.

7. College students that are selflessly serving the church. VFC is different from the most student groups…and I am sure that other college students think they are weird.

8. Women teach and train other women in modesty. This is definitely foolishness from a worldly perspective.

9. Celebrating the God designed roles of men and women. The church realizes that men and women are different…designed for different roles and tasks and they aren’t afraid to teach and preach that.

10. Sincerity. The people of that church genuinely love each other. And I am not saying they like going to church on Sundays to see or be seen. I am saying that they get involved in other members’ lives. The moms get together for play dates with the kids, the college kids serve other families, men meet for accountability, and the care group leaders “get up in your business”…all in order to serve and encourage one another.

So I guess I understand why people would use the word “cult” in searching for information about Cornerstone Church of Knoxville…if “cult” means not worldly, but my guess is that if that person digs a bit deeper, he or she will find out there’s nothing cult-ish about Cornerstone Church of Knoxville (everything the church believes can be found at their website and by speaking to any member or pastor), but just a group of believers that are acknowledging the sovereign grace of God under which we live.

Kris here again:  The comments following this article are interesting, but since you can see those by accessing the Google Cache link above, I won’t copy and paste them here.

Here were my (Kris’) thoughts:

I just love the author’s arrogance. Does he really think people are searching for information about his church and using the word “cult” in their searches because his Sovereign Grace church seems “foolish” to them?

Give me a break!

If something seems “foolish” to me, my first reaction is NOT to think “cult.” Or actually, to think much about the thing at all. If something strikes me as “foolish,” my general reaction is to shrug it off. People typically don’t research “foolish” things – they simply shrug and move on.

And certainly the word “cult” is not synonymous with “foolishness.”

People attach “cult” to their internet searches because they suspect abusive practices. Or they’ve heard things about an organization’s control over its members…or they’ve heard about shunning…or they’re aware, however vaguely, of someone who has been devastated by the organization.

I will confess, I used to search for “Sovereign Grace Ministries” + “cult” quite frequently. And it wasn’t for any of the reasons that this dude gives! Rather, it was because I sensed something odd going on, something much broader, that MANIFESTED ITSELF in the almost universal compulsion to engage in ALL the practices that the guy lists.

It was because I sensed something “odd,” NOT “foolish.”

Oy. The arrogance! And the complete blindness, the complete inability to step outside his own perspective and see how it’s NOT his church’s emphasis on true Biblical holiness that makes people think they might be a cult. Rather, it’s that his church treats its cultural practices as though they are Biblical absolutes.

This guy’s blog post is Exhibit A for how SGM people truly do believe that they have an exclusive, superior understanding of the Christian life. I mean, does this guy really think that he can so blithely write off all of the rest of “Evangelical Christianity” as so hopelessly lost, stupid, and Biblically illiterate (and so completely corrupted by modern-day culture) that they would mistake married couples going on “date nights” for a cultic practice?  Or think such things are “foolishness” (whatever that means!)?

The majority of Bible-believing Christians have no problem with teachings on modesty, or with parent-led youth groups, or with stay-at-home moms, or even with the idea that we need to be “purposeful” in our pursuit of romance.  And trust me, “sincerity” was NEVER on my list of reasons why SGM made our family uncomfortable!

This author is building a straw man for himself so that he can quell his nagging suspicion that perhaps those stupid, inferior, non-SGM Christians might just be onto something as they Google his organization.

What do YOU think?


(Posted later) Please note:

I came home from a long day out and realized that I need to put up a sort of disclaimer to this post.

I do NOT believe that ALL Sovereign Grace folks share this guy’s (the author of the original article now available only on Google Cache) arrogance. Many do not.

But if you were reading the guy’s list and going, “Mmm hmm, yessir, amen!” then I’d suggest that you might share in his faulty logic and his belief in SGM’s superiority to other Christian churches. And if you can’t see even a bit of what’s wrong with his logic or this belief that SGM has a better handle on Christianity than other churches, then yes – you’re probably one of the arrogant SGMers I was referencing.

Otherwise? You’re not. I don’t – repeat DON’T – believe that all SGMers are exactly the same. That their church officials push them to be is, to me, pretty obvious, but there seem to be at least some who successfully buck the trends. 

© 2008, Kris. All rights reserved.