Looking back at my own Christian "career" I can only say that I was in a cult-like experience once and that was a hard core Navigator training center, which I endured for almost five years. However, as we know, everything is an issue of degree. While the Nav situation was the only true (9-10/ on the 10 list of traits of a cult mentioned in the last comments) cult experience, I have been in many churches that may have 1-2 items on the list (haven't seen the list yet so this is speculative).
I would never have used the cult word at my recent past church. The pastor was the dictator, but that was the only trait. But my leaving has thrown back the blankets to expose a deeper problem and, yes, I used the "cult-like behavior" with my ex-pastor.
The issue was control. He, considering himself as anal about being "Biblical" came down with the position (regarding my leaving) that I am under the authority of his church (church is a surrogate for himself) and I couldn't just walk away. I didn't have the authority to do that. That is why he felt like he had the right, given him by God, to chew my ass out . . . in the name of God. That is why tonight the church board is having a board meeting to discuss the issue of my leaving.
I would like to be a fly on that wall. I am 100% confident that the meeting will not be about "What can we do differently to keep people from wanting to leave." But it will be a full frontal assault on my character, being led by the pastor. I had served that church faithfully for 7 years, yet my leaving is deep sin, according to the pastor.
So my point, before I digress into my own situation again, is that many churches behave with cult-like behavior at times, usually around control issues. Like my premise that we all are desperate to feel that we have value, some men (almost always men, sometimes women) only feel valuable (inside) when they dominate and control other people.
I feel really sorry to those of one who have been/are married to these people. Talking about a nightmare.
I'm late for a meeting and I didn't have time to proof-read, so sorry for any typos.