Note: This is part of our current series “Correcting our Misconceptions about Evangelism” adapted from Larry Moyer’s book 21 Things God Never Said.

Misconception: “To reach a cult member, you must know what the cult believes.”

“My daughter married a Seventh Day Adventist. Can you explain what they believe so I’ll know how to talk to him about Christ?”

“I’m witnessing to a Mormon who keeps bringing up the Book of Mormon. Where can I get a copy so I can read it before I talk to him?”

“What book would you recommend on Jehovah’s Witnesses? I’m trying to talk to one. I need to know what they believe.”

“Ever since September 11th I have been aware that I don’t know what Muslims believe. Maybe I should take a class that explains the Muslim faith so I’ll be more effective with them.”

You’ve probably heard those kinds of comments. They express, “To reach a cult member, you have to know what his cult believes.”

Why is that a misconception? Prior to addressing that issue, two questions need to be answered: (1) What is a cult? And (2) Is it wrong to invite a cult member into your home?

What is a cult?

A cult is any group of people or system of belief that does not adhere to the central doctrines of Christianity. A cult promotes a founder, leader and a way of eternal salvation other than the Person of Jesus Christ.

With that definition in mind, it is helpful to know what characterizes most cults. Cults err in that:

1. They teach that one is saved on the basis of human merit or good works. Scriptures teach that salvation is free (Eph. 2:8-9).

2. They deny the certainty of salvation. Scriptures teach that upon trusting Jesus Christ as the only way to heaven, one can be certain of salvation (1 John 5:13).

3. Their self-appointed leader is the messiah. Scripture teachers that Christ alone is the Messiah (John 4:25-–6).

4. They deny the inspiration of Scripture insisting there is additional revelation outside the Bible. Scripture teaches the Word of God is inspired (meaning God-breathed) and without error (2 Tim. 3:14–16; 2 Peter 1:20–21).

5. Some cults believe God is still giving additional revelation. Scripture affirms that all revelation has already been given through His Son (Heb. 1:2).

6. They deny the deity of Jesus Christ. Scripture teaches that Jesus Christ was the One He claimed to be—God in the flesh (John 14:7, 20:24–29).

7. They lead people into a lifestyle of bondage. Scriptures teach there is freedom in Christ. We are not to be “entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (John 8:36; John 10:10; Gal. 5:1).

Is it wrong to invite a cult member into your home?

Second John 10–11 has given some people cause to pause:

“If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.”

In John’s day traveling speakers were common. Hyatts and Holiday Inns were not. Therefore, a traveling speaker continuing his itinerant ministry needed help in two ways—food and lodging. We refer to that kind of hospitality as “bed and breakfast,” complete with down comforter and hazelnut coffee. Should one offer a false doctrine such hospitality would encourage him in his ministry. It would say, “Let me help you as you spread your false doctrine.” John forbids them to do that and says not to even greet him. Greetings similar to “I am glad to see you” or “I wish you well” were not to be extended.

When a cult member visits your home today and you invite him in, it is not the same situation. You are not offering him a bed nor extending him a meal. The application, though, would be don’t offer hospitality and encouragement. In fact, if you do what you ought—put before him the clear message of the gospel of grace—his time in your home should discourage him more than encourage him. But in light of the context of 2 John, moments of conversation spent in your living room presenting a cult member with his need for Christ is not in violation of Scripture.

The rest of the week, I want to answer the misconception at hand. To reach a cult member, why does a believer not have to know what that cult believes? Come back Wednesday!