In response, Graham laid out three things to consider, first one being "what do they believe about the Bible? Is it alone the Word of God (as Christians affirm) — or do they add to it, or claim they alone have translated it correctly?"
"Second, what do they believe about Jesus? Is He alone the divine Son of God, sent from Heaven to save us from our sins? Or do they deny this, or claim we must work to save ourselves?" continued Graham.
"Third, what do they believe about other Christians? Do they claim that they, and they alone, have the truth — or do they rejoice that God is also at work elsewhere?"I believe this is an excellent test and one that, if accurately applied, would eliminate much criticism of churches who approach Christianity differently than mainline denominations, but meet the three criteria.
Right now I'm thinking of Bethel Church in Redding, CA which has very many negative articles/blogs written about it and their pastor, Bill Johnson, by legalistic people who call it a cult. They are missing the spirit of the Law while adhering to their interpretation of the letter of the Law. I believe we would do well to assess each church using Billy Graham's criteria and then leave them alone to express Jesus in the way God has called them to. We don't need others to "police" churches for us, warning us away. If we are sincere when asking for wisdom, God will give it. We don't need those self imposed "cult policemen" to frighten the very ones away from churches who could help them. I am speaking from experience because I personally have learned much from Bill Johnson and others at Bethel. I have been inspired, challenged, convicted, encouraged and loved into wanting to be a better person who represents Christ authentically while attempting to follow His great commission to go into all the world to make disciples of all nations, heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons.
To me, denominations--at least when they were first formed before becoming churches who have lost their fire--are like flowers--each one expressing a different facet of God's beauty. How boring if they were all the same. People are not the same and therefore they express worship to God in many different ways. How much less of God would we know if we all believed the same thing in the same way. He is much too big to reveal all of Himself to one little group. He desires for us to learn from others and thereby know more of Him than would be possible by ourselves.
Let's pray we will not be those small minded people who judge everyone according to our criteria, expecting we have all the answers, but instead be open to new ways of seeing and doing things.