As found in the Bible and today, Jesus’ Church is certainly not a cult. Jesus built His Church and bought the Church with His blood. Yet, there are so-called Christians claiming to be members of the Church of Jesus Christ who have strayed into abusing and trapping others.
Many sectarian leaders may argue that any church that differs from their own is a cult. Why? Because those churches harm and even cut off people from salvation and thus these churches are the worst in abuse. Therefore according them, this makes a body holding these contrary beliefs a cult. Some of such church leaders defame almost every differing church from them as a cult. For matters of salvation, anyone who does not believe the same from atheist to agnostic and Jew to Muslim and Mormon to Witness could be called a cult. The truth is that every denomination is labeled a cult by someone. Often the most influential churches are slandered as “cults” to strike fear and to cause doubt in associating with those churches and their members. Labeling churches as “cults” for such reasons is clearly slander and defamation.
Even the churches of Christ are labeled. The churches of Christ are slandered as a cult simply for teaching that Jesus died to save everyone (1 Tim 2:4, 2 Pet 3:9), that one can fall from grace (Gal. 5:4, Heb 6:4-6), sin is done and not inherited (Rom 5:12, Ezek 18), and that obeying Jesus’ commands especially baptism are essential to salvation (Heb 5:9, Mark 16:16). These teachings are thought to be the spiritual abuses of the churches of Christ by Protestant denominations. Judge for yourself. Does differing in teaching make the churches of Christ a cult? See how contemptuous teachers slander the churches of Christ as a “cult” and they do the like to others. Does such contempt for those of differing beliefs make them a cult? Now according to them, every church who are not Protestant Calvinists who accept Fullerism would be a cult, which includes Free-Will Baptist, Christian churches, Catholics, Orthodox churches, Episcopalians, churches of God, and a list of other bodies. The word “cult” is used as slander to slander and libel groups that differ from mainstream protestants. We have to be aware of such slander and not allow other fellowships to be defamed in such ways. Disagree with the teachings of the churches of Christ. You have that right, but don’t slander.
What if the churches of Christ with other free-will believers were dominant and these like-minded churches defamed the Baptist, Presbyterian, and Methodist churches as “cults” for teaching that baptism is not an essential act of faith to be raised with Christ and saved by faith (cf. Eph 2:4-6, Col 2:12-13)? See, we need to know what a cult is.
What is a cult? Most people understand that a cult is a body of a specific and often peculiar belief being led by influential leaders who either trap and abuse or allow such to their members, so that their members are abused socially, emotionally, physically and, or sexually. Cults often threaten and, or delude the thinking of their members into isolation from society and family. Contrast Jesus to cult leaders. Jesus walked and taught in the open. Jesus permitted people to come and go in following Him (cf. John 6). Jesus lived in all purity of thought and without any abuse of His disciples. Although Jesus established a new covenant, that new and different set of beliefs did not make His group of followers into a cult. The Christ instructed punishment in not keeping company with professing Christians, who live openly sinful lives (1 Cor 5, Matt 18). Although Jesus said that families would be divided over Him and that parents would be against children (Matt. 10:34ff), this does not make Jesus’ followers a cult.
The abuses of cults are clearly in opposition to Christ’s teaching. Such abuses can include forced marriages, pedophilia, orgies, beatings, starving others, forced labor, and so on. These are embedded in secret teachings outside the Bible. Many cults often encourage confession of sins and even the intimate details of one’s personal life. When a member rebels, the cult leaders believe it to be their responsibility to publicly tell of such “sins”. They justify such actions as necessary to defend the body of believers and to show some corruption for someone leaving them. This is not taught in the Bible. Opposing open sin within congregations is necessary (1 Cor 5), but this does not mean publishing the sins and intimate details of their life before those who leave the group. For this matter, a small body of believers, a huge hierarchy, and even a society of agnostics can take on the abuses of a cult. This is often the accusation against a group as being a cult.
By the definition of a cult, the churches of Christ do not qualify to be a cult. They are not abusive socially, emotionally, or physically. They do not isolate members. They have no hierarchy or central leader(s). They have no dictating leader(s). They have no creed other than the Bible. They rely on the words of Jesus given to the Apostles and prophets, which are written for everyone to read. Some people may believe that the teachings of the churches of Christ are heretical, but every differing group does not make that group a cult, an abusive trap. The practices of the Church of Christ are open and apparent, and the characteristics of the Church of Christ do not match a cult in any way.
How about challenging the teachings of the churches of Christ with Scripture? Let’s try establishing Truth from the Scripture and supplementing Scripture with Scripture, rather than contradicting an interpretation with an interpretation, which is fruitless.