When people think cults they immediately think Jones-town massacre, Waco Texas, Scientology, Mormons etc. The list goes on and on and what most have in common is that when people are involved in cult definitions it is based on religious beliefs that they decide are 'dangerous' and either have or have the potential to destroy lives.
Time is therefore spent on parsing out what religious beliefs are dangerous and what isn't. You can look up any church on the internet, no matter how reputable or how much they have helped the society they exist in and they will appear on someone's hit list of cults.
I'm intellectually and experimentally convinced that a belief in an all powerful God who has revealed Himself to mankind through the historical accurate person of Jesus Christ is not the problem.
On one side of the coin you have people attempting to come to terms with the implications of the reality of God and how that works through into our daily lives and yet on the other side of the coin there's the heart wrenching fall out of the abuse of authority and manipulation of people where the cry of cult is often exclusively associated with just religion.
Over the past 30 years I've studied cults from the unique perspective of having grown up in one and yet fully subscribing to the truth of God's word as revealed in His inspired word - the Holy Bible. I've lived this out for over 27 years in a Pentecostal church that many times has had the label of cult applied to it by those that have freely disengaged themselves from a biblical world and yet have struggled to come to terms with that disengagement process. They have found it easier to call it a cult to justify the rejection of an ideology that they used to subscribe to.
I had an individual contact me and leave a very aggressive message claiming the world wide fellowship that I am part of is a cult. However, when I contacted him and took the time to discuss his experiences with him he quickly withdrew the comments. He informed me that he was in fact struggling to process the fallout of his decision to reject the divinity of Jesus and it was easier for him to call the church where he had served God in a cult rather than being intellectually honest and admitting he'd turned his back on what he'd believed and previously held dear to him.
From my experience of having grown up in Australia's most notorious cult 'The Family' and then been able to go one and successfully build a family, hold down a high pressured job with IBM for over 20 years and actively serve society from the foundation of being a practicing born again Christian I've come to realise that cults are not just religious.
The terms of reference need to be widened and certain truths have to be understood of what is and isn't a cult.