Is an NRM the same as a cult?
The Jesus Army — also known as the Jesus Fellowship — has been studied by some sociologists as a “New Religious Movement”, largely because it is a relatively new church. The term “New Religious Movement” is sometimes loosely used as a synonym for “sect” or “cult”. However, that does not do justice to the breadth of religious interest that there has been over the last fifty years. The charismatic movement and the “new churches” that sprang from it, the resurgence of evangelicalism, the “new Catholics”, the increased interest in Eastern Orthodox Christianity are a few of the examples that come to mind.
Naturally, all relatively new (and successful) movements share certain sociological traits, such as a sense of purpose and a strong group identity. Often such groups seem to attract a degree of controversy. While this may be of interest to academics, what concerns the man in the street is whether a religious group is orthodox, how it is viewed by other churches, and what is its track record of helping members and outsiders.
Controversial or not, the Jesus Army is an orthodox evangelical Christian church, upholding the historic creeds of the Christian faith: the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creed.
The Jesus Army is linked with other Christian churches and groups through the Multiply Christian Network, and is a Faithworks Associate and a member of the mainstream Evangelical Alliance UK.
It is clear that the Jesus Army is a widely-accepted Christian church, and by no means a cult.
The Jesus Fellowship Church has grown out of the old-established Baptist Church in the village of Bugbrooke near Northampton in the period since 1969. The Jesus Army is the gospel and social outreach identity of the Church.
The Jesus Fellowship Church fits within the pattern of charismatic (or neo-pentecostal) “New Churches” or “House churches” that have sprung up in the UK over recent decades. A number of statistics concerning this type of church in general and the Jesus Fellowship Church in particular may be found in the current edition of the UK Christian Handbook (Vol 2, Religious Trends).
In common with other Christian churches, the Jesus Fellowship offers the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ, the experience of new life in the Holy Spirit, the reality of a brotherhood church where new believers can find their place, and a cause to stand for. In particular it reaches the disadvantaged, including homeless people, those involved in drugs, and prisoners and ex-prisoners. Because a substantial minority of the Church has embraced a lifestyle of Christian community, it is particularly well-placed to offer both practical and spiritual help to those in need. The Jesus Army is particularly noted for the relative success of this work over many years.
Initial contact with the church is normally through personal contact and friendships which may lead to an invitation to Christian worship meetings, which are open to all. Some of those who come to meetings may eventually join the Jesus Fellowship Church, but obviously the vast majority do not.