Definition of "Cult"
Before I discuss further, let me show you this article at
|In our modern world of the new millennium, the word "cult" has become largely overused and is now a catch-all for any group, religion or lifestyle which someone doesn't understand, or with which they happen to disagree. This is a dangerous trend, as many of the organizations labeled a cult by dissidents are truly legitimate groups. Once the taint of the term "cult" is applied to a particular group, it is often difficult to change that image to the public.|
To avoid careless labeling which could be harmful to a group and its adherents, it is important to know just exactly what a cult is, and how it is defined. A cult, by modern standards, is any group that incorporates mind control to deceive, influence and govern its followers. Although most people think of cults as being religious, they can also be found in political, athletic, philosophical, racial or psychotherapeutic arenas.
A totalitarian control over the lifestyle and time of its members - Many cults tend to dictate exactly what its followers should read, eat, how and with whom they should spend their time, and even what they should do in off hours. This totalitarian control is necessary for the leaders to indoctrinate the followers in everything they do, and is also an attempt to separate them from anything not associated with the cult. This is why cults often live together in groups.
A charismatic, self-appointed leader with complete authority - Cult members are taught not to question the teachings, practices, or ideas of the leader. Many cult leaders truly are charismatic people, and are able to influence people to believe them. It is common that a cult member is not told everything up front when joining the group, but that they are taught increasingly controlling ideas and teachings as they go. In the case of some of the more well-publicized cults that have come and gone, it is also common that the leader's ideas and demands evolve over time, becoming increasingly controlling and restrictive. One very clear identifying element dealing with the leader of a cult is that the leader will always focus the attention and veneration of the members upon himself or herself. At the heart of a cult usually lies a very self-centered and self-seeking person.
A focus on withholding truth from non-members - Many cults teach their followers to be completely open and truthful within the group, while at the same time they are encouraged to be secretive and evasive when questioned by people outside of the group. This is another form of mind control-instilling guilt in the members if they hold anything back within the group. The members are taught that outsiders wouldn't understand or that they would only make fun of the ideas and practices and requirements for living within the group. Only specially-commissioned members are appointed to recruit members from outside. New members are usually encouraged to keep silent or even lie, especially to their families and close friends.
The three elements listed above are very successful ways to create a group mentality, an us-against-them way of looking at things. This is essential for any cult that wants to keep its members. The more afraid of the outside world the members become, the more strongly and faithfully they will keep within the safe fold of the cult.
New Teaching ≠ False Teaching
By questioning whether NCC is a cult, Kat's friends were implying that NCC members might be a bunch of brain-washed fools blindly following and being controlled by Pastor Prince. No wonder she was upset! She was trying to share the Good News with them but they suspect her of trying to recruit new members for a cult.
If you go by the characteristics listed in the above attached article, then certainly you cannot label NCC a cult. However, nowadays people tend to use the term "cult" loosely and label churches whose teachings don't seem to be in line with the teachings of traditional churches as "cults".
I agree that we cannot simply disregard the teachings that the traditional churches have been teaching over the centuries but we need to understand that knowledge is built upon knowledge, and as new relevations break forth, they cast new light on the old and in the process show us what we hold true in the past may not be true after all.
Instead of casually dismissing these new teachings as false or cultish, those who are serious in finding out the truth need to sit down and properly listen to them firsthand from the preacher's sermons.
There are critics of NCC's teachings who have never really sat down to listen to Pastor Prince's sermons (many sermons, not just a few in order to see the consistency of the preaching). Some of them base their criticism on hearing snippets of sermons or their interactions with some NCC members or hearsay from non-NCC members.
I suggested to one critic of NCC's teaching on tithing to listen to Pastor Prince's sermon CDs on tithing and he replied that he will never pay money for Pastor Prince's false teachings. So we have a critic concluding that NCC teachings are false although he has never heard them firsthand and doesn't want to.
There's another critic doing a "review" of Pastor Prince's book "Destined to Reign". However, this guy has already made up his mind that Pastor Prince teachings are wrong and set about doing his "chapter by chapter review" by concentrating on digging out little details that he disagrees with and highlighting them as "Caution Points". It's like he ordered a KFC meal and instead of enjoying the fried chicken, he is relishing tearing out all the bones.
Sad to say, there are many such armchair critics around. I do not mind that people disagree with NCC teachings but what I do mind is that they don't take the effort to listen before making their conclusions and shooting their mouth off.I admire one couple who did take the effort to listen because they were worried for their son who told them he wanted to join NCC. This is their testimony published in our local newspaper, The Sunday Times:
Keep an open mind even if you live by thou-shalt-nots
I refer to the letter by Mr Winston Chin, 'I'd rather live by the thou-shalt-nots', published last Sunday. In it, he referred to a piece titled 'Church pastors like none other', published in The Sunday Times on Oct 5, which had featured the founders of two of Singapore's so-called megachurches: New Creation Church (NCC) and City Harvest Church.
I find it sad that Mr Chin felt the report had confirmed his observations and views of the two churches.
Just as it takes time and effort to get to know a person, it takes time and effort to get to know a church, its pastors and the doctrines they expound. An open mind and a non-judgmental attitude are also prerequisites.
Let me state from the outset that my husband and I are members of a traditional church. However, for the past few months, we have been visitors at NCC. We wanted to observe the services first-hand, so we could establish if the doctrines being expounded were biblical. This was because our son was keen to join NCC as a member.
We had obviously heard disturbing talk about NCC and Pastor Joseph Prince. However, we did not want to rely on hearsay. Instead, we wanted to make a fair and objective assessment.
No church or organisation is perfect - not NCC nor the church that my husband and I belong to. What mattered to us was which doctrines were being taught and who was being glorified.
We are sorry to disappoint the critics of NCC.
Over the past few months, we have not heard Pastor Prince glorify himself. His bible-based messages constantly focus on God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
In one sermon, he noted that he would have failed in his task if NCC members went away saying he was a great speaker. He considers his job done only when they say Jesus has been glorified during his sermon.
Mr Chin's letter does, however, serve a very useful purpose for the two megachurches. It warns of the perils that can surface when large, successful churches let their guard down and lose their focus.
I challenge those of you who really want to know the truth to come to NCC and listen to the sermons for yourselves for at least 3 months. Do not put any money into the offering bag being passed around at the end of the service. There will be no loss to you at all since no money is involved, just your precious time and effort. After that if you find anything wrong at all, come back here and tell us how and why, shine your light on us.
Listening to Charimastic Preacher ≠ Hero Worship
There are also critics who accuse NCC members of hero-worshipping Pastor Prince. I agree that there may be some who do that but it is unfair to generalize this to the whole congregation. Personally, I love Pastor Prince because number one, he is the shepherd whom God appointed over us and number two, because I find Pastor Prince's preaching biblical, Christ-centred and life-transforming.
Just because Pastor Prince is a charismatic speaker does not mean that those who enjoy his preaching are hero-worshipping him. Many listen to him because they want to learn from him. Hillsong Church has invited him to speak at their annual conference for the past few years and Pastor Prince has also preached at various other conferences all over the world. The conference attendees want to learn from him (not hero-worship him), and we NCC members are privileged to be able to learn from him week in week out.
As an analogy, a Chinese fund manager bid US$2.1 million in a charity auction to have a private meal with renowned investor Warren Buffett. You think this is because the fund manager hero-worships Warren Buffett? For US$2.1 million, of course not! The most compelling reason must be that he is hoping to have a "private tutorial" on how to make more money. This guy wants to learn from the best.
Now please don't twist what I am saying into Joseph Prince = Warren Buffett. No, I am saying that many come to NCC to learn from Pastor Prince because he is able to teach the bible in a brand new perspective resulting in life transformation.
You don't know what I am talking about? Of course not! You have to listen to the sermons for yourself!
(NCC services schedule)