Is the Twelve Tribes a Cult?

There are many ‘anti-cult’ sites (Rick Ross Twelve Tribes resources, Twelve Tribes-EX) that attack the Twelve Tribes for being a cult. Their claims often attack positions the Twelve Tribes takes on discipline, lifestyle and Biblical authority. I’ve had a couple people request feedback from my stay at the Twelve Tribes commune in Vista, and whether I believe they are a ‘cult’.

First, I want to say that my experience there greatly impacted me. I was blown-away that a community of people were willing to ‘give it all away’ so that they would share all their life’s resources. At the start of each day, the community gathers in a covenant reminder that they will ‘die to themselves’ and love one another. Much of the bad press towards the Twelve Tribes isn’t so much an attack on their community but on them living out what the Bible commands. You may be surprised I say that. Well I do need to say my experience was not exhaustive, so I did not get to see how (method) they lived out these beliefs (principles). But they do seek to base their principles on the Bible. For this, most of American modern Christianity will want to reject what they are doing. The price is far too great for us to give up our worldly possessions and consumer mentality. Many of us our too deeply entrenched in the American-brand of Christianity that fits our lifestyle easily.

Here is where I would differ with the Twelve Tribes and warn people about deciding to join their community.

1. They believe that in order to be saved, you must accept Jesus and move in to a Twelve Tribes community. They mix justification with sanctification. I asked several questions to determine what they meant. First, I asked, if a person came to the same convictions and were not in an area where the Twelve Tribes had a community, would they be saved. Second, if a person came to the convictions and decided to move to a Twelve Tribes community but died before they got there, would these people be saved? An elder at the Vista location could not say ‘yes’ to these scenarios.

2. Three different people stated that from after the book of James was written until 1970, there is no evidence of true Christians in this (roughly) 1,900 year period.

3. They believe there is no room for disagreement with their doctrine. Those who disagree are considered rebelling against God’s bride, the church. There ‘doctrine’ is the interpretation of scripture based on Eugene Sprigg’s (and other leaders?) interpretation.

4. There is an element of sectarian us/them with the world. Don’t catch sin like the ebola virus out there in the evil world. People only work for the Tribes, they see the ‘world’ as being the evil system rather than a place where they work side-by-side with non-believers and live out the gospel.

5. An elder told me that John Calvin was ‘under a spirit of evil’ when he interpreted scripture. He said that the modern (false) church has been under his influence ever since.

6. They believe that all professed Christians that are not apart of their community are no different than atheists.

It is because of these stances that I would not encourage people to get involved in their community. I say this with sadness because so much of their life seems more Christian in substance than my life and the church-communities I see.