10 Questions to Ask Before Joining a Church

I had the privilege of working with Rosanne Henry, MA, last year, cult recovery specialist. The similarities between abusive marriages and cults are striking. I took one of her lists of questions to ask (before joining a community) and modified it to better suit Christendom. Once posted on social media, I have had a handful of people ask for a copy so we decided to post it here.

We highly suggest that people ask themselves and others these questions before joining a church. In Christ, there is freedom. In Christ, there is love. In Christ there is justice and there is the Body — One Body. There are no cults in Christ. No control in Christ. No narcissism in Chris. If any of the answers to the below questions are shady or unclear, don’t attend. We hope you will watch for red flags. Love, Megan

  1. What credentials does this pastor/leader/elder possess that qualifies him/her to give this instruction?
  2. How does the pastor/leader/elder maintain his/her authority in the group or in relationships? Does he/she claim to be the only person that gives this instruction? Is his word the final word on decisions? Does he base decisions upon his preferences?
  3. Can you challenge the pastor/leader/elder’s instruction? Can you question his/her advice? What happens if you disagree with the leader?
  4. Who does your pastor/elder/leader report to? If you were to complain about the leader, to whom would you go? Is there a system of checks and balances within his/her line of authority?
  5. Within the church, who makes the rules? Who can change the rules? How often does this happen? What happens when someone breaks the rules?
  6. What will you be expected to “give up” or “sacrifice” to be a part of this community? Ask this question in advance and be as specific as possible.
  7. Are parishioners free to leave this congregation? What happens to those who leave? Is it punitive for them to leave? Do they become “outsiders”?
  8. How does the leader talk about people who have left the group? Is contact with them allowed, discouraged or forbidden?
  9. What attitudes does the leader/pastor/elder have toward maintaining relationships with friends, family, and others outside the group? Do they take issue with other people in the congregation remaining friends with those who are discarded or who have left?
  10. What is the leader/pastor/elder’s attitude toward people outside the group in general? Are you encouraged to be compassionate and understanding, or judgmental and elite?
  11. Are secrets being kept from you? Are doors locked, access to telephones limited, or is information restricted in any way? Are you banned from returning or communicating with others?”

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