Updated: Jan 10, 2022
We wanted to make sure you are aware about the Shincheonji cult so you can be alert if your contacts show signs of being targeted. The group has been operating in Wellington and Auckland for awhile now, and recently (as our Board Chairman, Andrew Lim has noted) seems to have reached Hamilton.
Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8
Below is a summary of how they operate and their beliefs, as well as two videos from the Street Church’s series on cults and how Christian leaders can help.
Even though Shincheonji originated in Korea, the people doing the recruiting can be Kiwi. They target young adults (often new believers) who are hungry to grow deeper in their bible knowledge.
Typically the recruiters join churches or campus groups, and pose as enthusiastic believers. They then approach people for a catch-up over coffee, befriending them and targeting their weaknesses (loneliness, feeling of isolation, unemployment etc.) and later invite them to Bible studies with a mentor.
During the bible study, they drip-feed biblical half-truths to followers, making it hard for them to discern truth from lies. Slowly, the ‘church' becomes more and more demanding of the recruit’s time, drawing them in deeper, all the while hiding the ‘church’s’ true identity, until recruits have become hooked.
Shincheonji teaches that their leader, Lee Man-hee, is a god-like figure who has the spirit of Jesus, and that salvation only comes through following Lee Man-hee.
Followers are fixated on the apocalypse, believing that after it, only 144,000 true believers will be elevated to the status of high priests. Since there are already more than 200,000 believers, the devout have to work hard to compete for a coveted space.
They do this by participating in activities, donations, and introducing their friends to their mentor, thereby growing the influence of the group.
Shincheonji teaches followers to lie, promoting secrecy and deception. Some early signs that someone is being recruited to join the cult is withdrawal from relationships with their friends, family, and partner, church involvement, and their jobs, as the cult takes hold.
Despite all this, it is also important not to demonise Shincheonji followers and recovering followers, as the reality is they too have been deceived by the cult.
Responding to Shincheonji: How leaders can help: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RaYQENyr6lk
How to spot a cult: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0KslR4U5iA
Hope this helps you as you work to disciple our international friends.