How to Recognize a Cult

Christians ought to train their powers of discernment to be ready to defend the good and denounce the evil. Paul commends those who reason carefully about what they hear—and who do not simply follow the persuasive power of a famous leader. “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11).

In light of recent claims of “cult-like” behavior that have been leveled at leaders of Apologia Church (see more information linked below), it seemed helpful to point out the difference between being a cult and being “cult-like.”

Got Questions explains:

From a Christian perspective, a cult is any group that follows teachings that contradict orthodox Christian doctrine and promote heresy. Under this definition, the Watchtower Society and the Latter-day Saints (Mormons) are both cults.

There is no indication that the leaders of Apologia Church have embraced or taught false doctrine.

We may also recognize certain practices as being “cult-like.” Any group, religious or otherwise, can engage in cult-like behavior if it seeks to exert dictatorial control its members, especially mind-control. Steven Hassan, author of Combatting Cult Mind Control, lists the following types of behavior as destructive and “cult-like.”

1. Behavior Control: An individual’s associations, living arrangements, food, clothing, sleeping habits, finances, etc., are strictly controlled.

2. Information Control: Cult leaders deliberately withhold or distort information, lie, propagandize, and limit access to other sources of information.

3. Thought Control: Cult leaders use loaded words and language, discourage critical thinking, bar any speech critical of cult leaders or policies, and teach an “us vs. them” doctrine.

4. Emotional Control: Leaders manipulate their followers via fear (including the fear of losing salvation, fear of shunning, etc.), guilt, and indoctrination.

Gladly, the leaders at Apologia Church have not, to our knowledge, engaged in the first of the four “cult-like” practices. As to the others, we invite readers to be Bereans.


The following information shows Apologia Church Pastor Jeff Durbin’s recording or confidential audio of church members and others and weaponizing it against his critics.

Apologia Church Saved Private Clergy-Penitent Recordings, Then Released Them to Punish Critics

Questions for Jeff Durbin and Apologia Church that Need Frank Answers

Petition: Apologia Church Elders Should Repent of Secretly Recording Church Members and Others

Jeff Durbin Admits to Anonymously Posting Confidential Audio

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