The following are some of the signs and symptoms, or common characteristics, of hyper-authoritarian groups, churches, networks, and ministries. It simply is not feasible to elaborate on them in an article such as this. However, I have addressed most of them in various books, booklets, and articles I have written on the topic, particularly my book, Charismatic Captivation, from which this article is taken. Bear in mind that the list is by no means exhaustive, and that these are general, rather than, exact descriptions.


1.     Apotheosis of the leadership — exalting them to God-like status in and over the group;
2.     Multi-level authority/government hierarchy;
3.     Absolute authority of the leadership;
4.     No real accountability of the leadership to the corporate body;
5.     Hand-picked sub-leaders, based on their demonstration of submissiveness to the ultimate leader rather than on the basis of their leadership skills, spirituality, and anointing and appointment by God;
6.     Pervasive abuse and misuse of authority in personal dealings with members;
7.     Paranoia and insecurity by the leaders;
8.     Abuse, misuse, and inordinate incidence of “church discipline;”
9.     Personal materialism, covetousness, and self-aggrandizement by the leaders;
10.  Members and/or sub-leaders must make a “spiritual covenant,” sometimes a signed covenant agreement, pledging their total commitment and financial support to the leadership and church/ministry;
11.  Partitioning of the group into smaller groups that are led by internally “raised up” lay-leaders who have not been anointed or appointed by God for leadership within the church;
12.  Financial exploitation and enslavement of the members;
13.  Inordinate attention to maintaining the public “image” of the ministry;
14.  Doctrinal demeanment and devaluation — the requisite of espousing and teaching “sound doctrine” is demeaned and devalued;
15.  Theological incompetence by the leadership, especially with respect to the rules of hermeneutics and Bible exegesis employed in the formulation of doctrine, giving license to twisting and adulteration of Scripture in order to provide proof-texts for unorthodox and invented doctrines;
16.  Spiritualism, mysticism, and unproven doctrines;
17.  Abuse and misuse of prophetic giftings as a means to dominate and intimidate;
18.  Devaluation, disallowance, disregard, and displacement of the true Fivefold Ministry within the church;
19.  De facto legalism, or works mentality, and its resulting loss of the “joy of salvation,” though “freedom” is forever preached from the pulpit and the church is constantly touted as being a “safe church” by the leadership;
20.  Esotericism — hidden agendas and requirements revealed to members only as they successfully advance through various stages of “spiritual enlightenment,” i.e., unorthodox, unproven indigenous doctrines;
21.  Isolationism — corporate and individual, especially with respect to exposure to outside ministry sources;
22.  Performance-based approval and promotion system of members predicated on “proven” “loyalty” (i.e., submission) to the leadership;
23.  Devaluation, suppression, and non-recognition of members’ bona fide God-given talents, abilities, gifts, callings, and anointing, as a means of subjugation;
24.  Requiring members to perform menial tasks, such as cleaning toilets, setting up chairs, and acting as the leader’s personal valet or slave, as a supposed means to humble them and teach them to “obey their leaders;”
25.  Constant indoctrination with a “group” or “family” mentality that impels members to exalt the corporate “life” and goals of the church-group over their personal goals, callings, and objectives;
26.  Members are psychologically traumatized and indoctrinated with numerous improper fears and phobias aimed at keeping them reeling in diffidence and an over-dependence or co-dependence on their leaders and the corporate group;
27.  Corporately, there eventually develops an inordinately high incidence of financial, marital, moral, psychological, mental, emotional, and medical problems, including sudden deaths and contraction of “incurable” and “unknown” diseases;
28.  Lack of true personal spiritual growth and development, especially in terms of genuine faith and experiencing the abounding grace, forgiveness, goodness, blessings, kindness, and agape-love of God;
29.  Members are required to obtain the approval or “witness” of their leader(s) for decisions regarding personal matters;
30.  Frequent preaching from the pulpit regarding not getting out from under the “spiritual covering” of the leadership;
31.  Members departing without the prior permission and blessing of the leadership leave the group under a cloud of manufactured suspicion, shame, and slander;
32.  Horror stories frequently told by leaders about individuals or families who left the group without the prior permission and blessing of the leadership, and the terrible consequences and curses they suffered as a result;
33.  Departing members often suffer from various psychological problems and display the classic symptoms associated with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

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