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Date Posted:19/03/2010 5:54 AMCopy HTML

Is Your Revival Centre a ‘Cult’?

Adapted from Identifying a Cult by Jan Groenveld

Compiled by Troy Waller

If you tell a Revivalist that their group is a cult, they often reply with something along the lines of, “The Church of the apostles’ day was also called a cult!” or “Jesus was called a cult leader too!” Some have heard RCI and Geelong Revival Centre pastors say something along these lines numerous times. It seems that some Revivalists think that to call the Revival Centres a cult is to align them with Jesus and the early Church.


In the other hand, some Revivalists take great offence and get most upset when you call their church a cult. They think that we are accusing them of all sorts of crimes, simply by calling them a cult. So why do we get such varied reactions when we label the Revival Centres groups as cults?


It all has to do with definitions. You see, the word ‘cult’, as with a lot of English words today, has a few different meanings. The word can be used in various ways in various contexts. There are three major definitions.



What is a Cult?


1. The Secular Definition

CULT - From the Latin “cultis” which denotes all that is involved in worship, ritual, emotion, liturgy and attitude. This definition is not concerned with specific doctrines or behaviours but actually denotes what we call denominations and sects. By this definition, all religious movements are cults. This is the definition that can be applied to the early Church and Jesus as its leader.


Obviously this website is not concerned with the Revival Centres as denominations or sects.


2. The Christian Definition

CULT - Any group which deviates from Biblical, orthodox, historical Christianity. That is they deny things such as the Trinity, or Deity of Christ. Some deny Jesus’ physical resurrection; His personal and physical return to earth or salvation by FAITH alone.


This definition is concerned with the beliefs of specific groups and not so much with behaviour. This definition only covers those groups which defined as cults doctrinally from the perspective of the Christian Church. This includes the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses. This term does not refer to other world religions such as Islam and Hinduism.


One could define the Revival Centres as a cult from this perspective as they have a different view from historical Christianity on issues such as salvation and the Trinity.


3. The Modern Definition

CULT - Any group which has a hierarchical authoritarian leadership structure with all teaching and guidance coming from the person/persons at the top. The group will claim to be the only way to God; Nirvana; Paradise; Ultimate Reality; Full Potential, Way to Happiness etc, and will use behavioural, information, thought and emotional control techniques to gain control and keep their members.


This definition is concerned primarily with the behaviour of the group in question. It covers cults within all major world religions, along with those cults which have no obvious religious base such as commercial, educational and psychological cults.


Different cults operate in different ways. For example, some are more prone to information control than emotional control or vice versa. Some cults are less extreme than others in some areas of control but these are still cults nonetheless.


This website does present the RCI and its splinter groups as this kind of cult. Let’s expand on this definition and see how the Revival Centres fit or don’t fit this model.



Identification Marks of a Cult


(a) The group will have an elitist view of itself in relation to others, and a unique cause. (THEY ARE THE ONLY ONES RIGHT - everyone else is wrong. THEY ARE THE ONLY ONES DOING GOD’S WILL - everyone else is in apostasy. )


(b) They will promote their cause actively, and in doing so, abuse God-given personal rights and freedoms. This abuse can be SPIRITUAL, SOCIAL & PSYCHOLOGICAL.


They do this through the following means,


1. Their leader/s may claim a special, exclusive ministry, revelation or position of authority given by God.

The Revival Centres believe that the Church at large (Pentecostal or otherwise) has fallen into apostasy. They openly teach that the ‘truth’ about salvation was re-discovered by Lloyd Longfield or Noel Hollins, (depending on which Revival Centre group you belong to) just after the World War II. They now believe that they promote the true formula for salvation (Acts 2:38 as they interpret it) and those that preach salvation by faith alone are apostate.


2. They believe they are the only true church and take a critical stance regarding the Christian church while at the same time praising and exalting their own group, leader/s and work.

The Revival Centres leaders will rarely come out and say that their church is the only true church. But this is very much implied and members know that to leave the Revival Centre is to lose your salvation. Much is said in talks from the platform and in official literature which denigrates and disparages other churches, even those that believe in speaking in tongues.


They will even question the salvation of those who leave one Revival Centre splinter group for another, even though they all preach the same salvation formula. The Geelong Revival Centre members are even told that other Revival Centre groups preach a different salvation message to them. This is a blatant lie, as they all teach the same salvation formula.


3. They use intimidation or psychological manipulation to keep members loyal to their ranks. This could be in the form of threats of dire calamity sent by God if they leave; certain death at Armageddon; being shunned by their family and friends etc.

As mentioned earlier, all Revival Centre members know that to leave the Revival Centres is to lose your salvation and go to hell. Even people who leave to attend other Pentecostal Churches are said to have ‘fallen away’.


The Revival Centre preoccupation with Armageddon and nuclear devastation rivals only the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ use of the ‘imminent return of Jesus and destruction of the world’ as a means to promote fear and maintain members. Some ex-members of the Revival Centres report having had terrifying nightmares of nuclear holocaust while in the group and after leaving.


The Revival Centres spread half truths and lies about those who have left even saying ex-members fall gravely ill and die. One ex-member said that he heard a pastor pronounce this upon people who had just left the church. Stories of those who fall into addictions and immoral behaviour (true or not) upon leaving the group are also lauded in front of those still in the group.


Shunning is also a common experience for those who leave. Current members are expected to discontinue relationships with ex-members. Both the RCI and RF make their position clear,


MARK THEM - identify those who cause divisions and offences. The most obvious are former members who left over personal grievances. Their doctrine and practice are not what we have learned from our Bibles. Identify them - don't be sentimental about old fellowships. (Separation - The Revival Fellowship)
16. Any member who has been “disciplined” by the oversight should not be “comforted” by well-meaning friends. This can encourage rebellion and could result in disaster for those concerned. Any member who has been permanently or temporarily “de-barred” from fellowship should not be visited without permission from the oversight. It is most important that their “case” should not be discussed with them or with others. If and when such action is taken, the Assembly will be officially advised of the reason for such measures. (RCI Assembly Guidelines)

Many an ex-Revival Centre member can tell you stories of having to shun those who left before them and then being shunned when they themselves left. Some are even shunned by family members. One ex-member even reported being ex-communicated herself after a former member’s car was seen in her driveway by a ‘spying’ member of the oversight.

4. Members will be expected to give substantial financial support to the group. This could be compulsory tithing (which is checked); signing over all their property on entering the group; coercive methods of instilling guilt on those who have not contributed; selling magazines, flowers or other goods for the group as part of their “ministry”. At the same time bible-based cults may ridicule churches that take up free-will offerings by passing collection plates and/or sell literature and tapes. They usually brag that they don’t do this. This gives outsiders the intimation that they are not interested in money.

The Revival Centres are staunch tithers. However in fairness to them, they do not usually expect their members to contribute over and above this tithe except in some circumstances such as a fund raising drives for a new project (such as the RCI purchase of the Freshwater Creek Camp in Victoria). They do not force their members to sell books, etc. outside of the church, but there have been some reports of heavy handed tactics over money in the CAI.


5. There will be great emphasis on loyalty to the group and its teachings. The lives of members will be totally absorbed into the group’s activities. They will have little or no time to think for themselves because of physical and emotional exhaustion. This is also a vital part of the thought control process.

In this way the Revival Centres are not as severe as groups like the Moonies or Hare Krishna. However, the RCI do expect people to attend 2 Sunday meetings, 1 weekly house meeting or mid-week meeting, weekly young people’s meetings (if at an appropriate age or unmarried) and any outreaches or special events. Some Revival Centre groups have a heavier schedule again. These meetings are forced upon members and are not optional.


Unknown to most members, lower level RCI leaders even take a roll to check who is and is not in attendance. Missing members are then sometimes questioned as to why they are skipping meetings. Christmas and Easter camps are also usually compulsory unless an adequate reason for not being able to attend is given. This busy schedule leaves little time for meaningful relationships outside the group and brings members deeper into the group dynamic.


6. There will be total control over almost all aspects of the private lives of members. This control can be direct through communal living, or constant and repetitious teaching on “how to be a true Christian” or “being obedient to leadership”. Members will look to their leaders for guidance in everything they do.

The Revival Centres have a list of written Assembly Guidelines (i.e. RULES!) that members are expected to strictly adhere to. The preamble to the RCI list states,


The following guidelines are for the protection of individuals and the assembly as a whole… ...All policies are international and are not subject to local change or variation.
The list contains rules covering things such as private gatherings of members (not allowed without permission from leaders), marriage (again, permission is needed) and the repression of critical comments. The full list can be found here.

A quick read of these rules demonstrates the invasiveness of the Revival Centres groups into the lives of their members. This behaviour by the groups undermines the individual’s personal freedom and eventually their ability to make even simple decisions for themselves.


7. Bible-based cults may proclaim they have no clergy/laity distinction and no paid ministry class - that they are all equal.

The Revival Centres members like to point the finger at the clergy/laity distinction of other churches, especially the Catholic Church, whilst claiming that their leaders are just ‘normal people’. However, every single Revivalist knows that the ‘oversight’ are much more than ‘normal members’. Members are forced to address pastors as Pastor (e.g. Pastor Bill) and never by their first name alone and, as mentioned, have enormous power over regular members. They do pay some ministers a wage.

8. Any dissent or questioning of the group’s teachings is discouraged. Criticism in any form is seen as rebellion. There will be an emphasis on authority, unquestioning obedience and submission. This is vigilantly maintained.

Anyone who has been in the Revival Centres for even a few months knows that criticism and dissension is not tolerated in the slightest. Numerous stories have been reported by ex-members of the harsh and often emotionally damaging ways that the pastors and oversight have treated people who have crossed this line. The guidelines mentioned earlier make the Revival Centres position quite clear:

5. Members should not enter into any conversation criticising doctrines, practices or beliefs held by the assembly. Again, Pastors and Elders are ready to discuss any such problems that may arise.
10. Any case of disloyalty towards the Assembly or spreading of any discord whatsoever will be viewed as “divisionary” and dealt with severely.
24. Members must not enter into any controversy or criticisms of the beliefs or practices of other persons in other Assemblies. Any “different” teachings should be reported to the home Pastor who can communicate with other Pastors if necessary.

You cannot question Revival Centre doctrine as a member. If the Revival Centres have declared something as true then you must accept it wholeheartedly or be prepared to be ‘dealt with severely’. Once the pastor or elder has discussed the matter with you then the matter is closed whether you accept their explanation or not.


9. Members are required to demonstrate their loyalty to the group in some way. This could be in the form of “dobbing” on fellow members (including family) under the guise of looking out for their “spiritual welfare”. They may be required to deliberately lie (heavenly deception) or give up their lives by refusing some form of medical treatment.

Members of the Revival Centres are encouraged to report any violation of policy or practice by other members to the leaders immediately. This is under the guise of “caring for brothers and sisters”. Husbands, wives and even children are encouraged to report on each other. We have had no reports of deliberate lying being encouraged, but I was present in a Young People’s meeting where we were trained to give our public testimony. In this talk, the oversight member instructed us to leave out any undesirable information about church life such as ex-communication, people leaving to go to other churches or personal struggle with ‘sin’.

10. Attempts to leave or reveal embarrassing facts about the group may be met with threats. Some may have taken oaths of loyalty that involve their lives or have signed a “covenant” and feel threatened by this. Refugees of the group are usually faced with confrontations by other members with coercion to get them to return to the group.

Put simply, there is no good way to leave the Revival Centres. There is no valid reason to leave from the perspective of the leadership. When individuals leave they are disparaged, sometimes publicly, by leaders. Half-truths and rumours are spread amongst the members to discredit those who leave. The organisation is never at fault in minor or major parting of ways, it is always the fault of those who have left. Noel Hollins said that he parted ways with the RCI as they ‘no longer wanted to follow the Lord’ and Lloyd Longfield said that the ‘Spirit is weak’ in the Revival Fellowships. Members have reported a heavy handed approach from leaders who were attempting to deter them from leaving the group.


Conclusion


This article has not tried to manipulate the facts to make the Revival Centres fit the pattern of a destructive cult. It didn’t need to. Anyone who has been involved with a Revival Centre for even a short while can testify to seeing many, if not all, of the things discussed here. Sure, not all these points will be found in every Revival Centre group. But all Revival Centre groups will have some, if not most of them, and these may vary to some degree. And pointing out these marks in other groups doesn’t make the Revival Centres any less a cult. It only means there are other groups out there warranting a similar investigation. But most churches don’t exhibit enough of these signs to be labelled a cult as we labelled the Revival Centres in this article.


So, is your Revival Centre a cult?


Copyright 2003. Troy Waller. Original article, Identifying a Cult Copyright 1985, 1995. Jan Groenveld.
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