There are many men doing the work of God and leading a church. Sadly, some cross over from pastor to cult leader. I don't believe that Mark Bullen ever intended to be a cult leader. My personal opinion is that he has an interpretation of the Bible that he believes is right and then imposes his EXACT belief on Living Faith Christian Fellowship, not intending to be abusive or intimidating, just believing himself to be more right than anybody else.
The following warning signs are from the Ross Institute, experts on cults and how to identify them. I will give examples of how Mark Bullen fits each and every one.
- Absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability. - The keyword here is meaningful. Living Faith Christian Fellowship presents itself as a brotherhood. But in reality Mark Bullen is not just another brother. He is the bishop and final say in EVERYTHING. Any attempt to disagree with him is met with intimidation and excommunication. He calls the "brothers" meetings and keeps everyone accountable.
- No tolerance for questions or critical inquiry. As stated in sign number one, disagreement is not tolerated. If you question a new rule you are called rebellious and divisive. My husband dared to question why boys and girls can play together inside and not outside and he was labeled a rebel.
- No meaningful financial disclosure regarding budget, expenses such as an independently audited financial statement. Budget, audit, financial statement? What are those? Records are not disclosed even though church members tithe and give offerings.
- Unreasonable fear about the outside world, such as impending catastrophe, evil conspiracies and persecutions. Mark Bullen uses fear of the world to get families to move to Brookfield and he uses that same fear to get them to stay. He teaches the end is coming soon and the families must be prepared for the persecution that will arise. There is also the general everyday fear of your children being "lost to the world" if they do not have a church such as his to attend.
- There is no legitimate reason to leave, former followers are always wrong in leaving, negative or even evil. We were told we were deceived and rebellious for leaving. During every church service former members were mentioned, always as having really wanted the world. They are certainly labeled as evil and worldly. Mark Bullen mentioned them so often, that we knew the names of most of the families that had come and gone before us, even though we had never met them! He says the only valid reason to leave is if he is shown that something in the church is not biblical. How can you do that when HIS interpretation is always right and you're always wrong!?! That goes back to sign #2. . .
- Former members often relate the same stories of abuse and reflect a similar pattern of grievances. Once we left the church we, we ran into former members almost daily, and we all shared the same experience. The little details were different, but we all left due to Mark Bullen attempting to control the beliefs, clothing, behavior, and lives of his members.
- There are records, books, news articles, or television programs that document the abuses of the leader. Not until now!!! Before moving we had diligently searched for first-hand accounts of former members, finding nothing. After we left Living Faith Christian Fellowship we understood why. The emphasis during my husband's final conversation with Mark Bullen was how we were responsible for the opinion of God's church and not making it look bad. His final speech was so well said, it made us think of how many times he's said it before.
- Followers feel they can never be "good enough". I know I felt like my behavior and that of my entire family was being constantly watched and evaluated. One member once told me that my 14 month old daughter needed more "discipline" because she was fussing during service. (Church was in the middle of her morning nap, of course she was fussy!!!!) Another told me how unhappy my 3 year old always looked. (She was very shy around all those new people.) My husband was said to be angry looking. (I agree, that beard made him look awful!) I can't imagine all the stuff they said behind our backs, I know they certainly had a lot to say about everyone else in the church!
- The leader is always right. Mark Bullen is ALWAYS RIGHT! On the Living Faith Christian Fellowship it says he is looking for "teachable" people. This means "only come if you will do everything MY WAY because I'M RIGHT."
- The leader is the exclusive means of knowing "truth" or receiving validation, no other process of discovery is really acceptable or credible. I got very scared when I was talking about a great series I had found on creationism vs. evolution and another member put an end to the conversation simply by saying, "Well I'm not sure what Brother Mark would think about that?"