Red Flags to Watch for in LEADERS of the Messianic and Natsari Movement
Rabbi Yehudah ben Shomeyr
In my first “Red Flag” article I gave you the tools on how to spot a cult within the midst of the Messianic/Natsari Movement. How to know if the synagogue or ministry you are a part of is a cult or the genuine article. In this article I will give you the tools to spot a cult leader within the Messianic/Natsari movement, regardless if they have an established ministry or not.
In this movement we all have a unique past with parts that we are not proud of that’s under the Blood of Messiah and a faith walk that has brought us to where we are today. However, if they are cult movements and splinter groups among us, there is usually hucksters and con-men in them or running them. I know because I have met a few and at one point woke up to find myself under one!
So, how do you spot one?
I’m not calling for a witch hunt, but am simply giving one general guidelines to go by in order to flesh out such corrupt leaders (Rom. 16:17-18).
“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Yeshua Messiah, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.”
Above all else, the very first thing you should go by is if your spirit and or gut feels uneasy about a religious or ministerial leader and or minister. TRUST YOUR GUT AND SPIRIT!!!
Secondly we should weigh such individuals in questions by the Scriptures. For example, I Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:6-9 gives us a good list to go by regarding qualifications of a religious leader. Things such as marital fidelity, humility, has an all-around good reputation publically and privately, is not greedy or hungry for money or power, has a good and stable family life, doesn’t speak out of both sides of his mouth, not a substance abuser, not a “know-it-all”, and not a new converts. The last mentioned is also reiterated in I Timothy 5:22.
Galatians 5:22 and Ephesians 5:9 gives us the fruit of the Spirit in which to weight a religious leader. Do they display the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, meekness, faithfulness, and self-control.
I Corinthians 12:28-31 and Ephesians 4:11-12 gives us the five -fold ministry which a leader should be operating in one or more of these offices/gifts of Apostle, Prophet, Pastor, Teacher and Evangelist.
Once again, these are general and not absolute guidelines, nor are they an exhaustive list of red flags to watch for among Messianic/Natsari leaders. Also, please note that they are not given in any particular order.
1. If they have a Criminal Record. This is NOT a solid or soul indicator because “His arm is not too short to save (Isa. 59:1).” Because people can change. Messiah’s salvation after all saved a thief on the cross (Luke 23).
2. If they are on the sexual offenders list. Again, this is NOT a solid or soul indicator, but a stronger indicator than a simple criminal record because on the rare occasion some are falsely accused and again Messiah changed the demoniac (Mark 5, Luke 8) and sexual crime has been demonized by the majority of modern society.
3. If they go by many aliases without acknowledging or denying that they go by other names.
4. If they have multiple names, titles, profiles and ministries spanning multiple religions and or denominations and sects with in a given religion.
5. If they have current affiliations with other religious groups and or secret societies.
6. If they attempt to break away from the sect they are in, begin their own sect and drastically change theology, doctrine and or traditions and reveal new, secret, mystical knowledge and or revelation.
7. If they are not forth coming about their credentials, testimony or past and or experiences.
8. If they are caught contradicting or changing their credentials, testimony or past and or experiences.
9. If they do not or cannot produce the credentials they claim they have.
10. If they are not transparent and are extremely secretive about their life or themselves.
11. If they have a one dimensional personality.
12. If they are extremely egocentric.
13. If they attempt to draw more attention to themselves more so that God, Messiah or the Scriptures.
14. If they proclaim some sort of supreme authority, rule, or knowledge over something.
15. If they claim to personify or be a reincarnation of or a fulfilment of some Biblical or religious personage.
16. If they demand absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability.
17. If they encourage you to pull away from other believers or teachers and belittles them.
18. If they have no tolerance for questions or critical inquiry.
19. If they express unreasonable fear of the outside world in regards to persecution, conspiracy theories, apocalypse, etc.
20. If you run into a former follower and they share a pattern of stories of abuse and reveal warning signs you have seen but choose to ignore.
21. If they make you feel you are never good enough or will never measure up.
22. If they constantly talk to you in such a way that elevates themselves and diminishes you.
23. If they habitually wield or abuse their authority and or position which has nothing to do with or contradicts Torah and tends to attempt to micro-manage others’ lives.
24. If they use exclusivity as a tool for motivation and allegiance.
25. If they plagiarize; often claiming quotes and teachings of others as their own.
26. If they act as if they are above social, personal, religious, tradition, customary or halachic boundaries and excuses himself from breaking them.
27. If they are prone to extreme mood changes and decision changes (James 1:8).
28. If they are constantly being caught in contradictions or outright lies.
29. Failure to admit if they are ever wrong of they were even caught in a lie or mistake.
30. If they always attempt to justify or spiritualize a lie, mistake, bad behaviour, wrong action or contradiction.
31. When they fail to answer simple and direct yes or no questions directly, especially those dealing with integrity and or morality and instead dance around the issue or try and give a spiritual, mystical or ambiguous answer. Or tries to change the subject all together.
32. If they have familial, flirtatious and otherwise inappropriate (sexual) relations with others that is not their spouse or immediate family members.
33. If they tell you that you must confess your sins to them or go through them in order to get to God, absolution, deliverance and or healing.
34. If they employ unusual, non-biblical or biblically out of context, cruel, humiliating, inhumane and or violent physical and or mental punishment to those who disobey them or break group rules.
35. If they do not provide one choices and instead gives demands or ultimatums.
36. If they attempt to isolate their sect or group from family, friends, others and or the world in communal religious living.
None of us are perfect, besides being perfectly flawed and thus always have things to work on personally, but if a religious leader you know or are involved with exhibits 5 or more of the things listed above, you are likely involved with a conman and or cult leader. Make like Lot, run and don’t look back!
Remember, just because one is standing in a garage doesn’t make of a car or a mechanic, likewise just because one claims to be a Messianic or a Natsari leader doesn’t mean they are one. We determine the validity of ones claim by the fruit they bear and hopefully this list will help you become a better “fruit inspector”.
Rabbi Yehudah ben Shomeyr