It’s amazing and saddening to see the amount of literature that has been produced in recent decades by Christians that is aimed at judging other churches or ministries and even going to the extreme of labelling them “demonic” or “of the devil.”
Yes, it is important to “contend for the faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3) and stand for truth. However, we must focus on the fundamentals of Scripture and the essential doctrines of the Christian faith, not on minor controversial issues. We should also do everything in the spirit of Christ, which requires a loving and sensitive approach when speaking about other Christian ministries.
The Bible does tell us to test all things and to hold on to the good and let the bad go (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22). 1 John 4:1-3 also tells us to test the spirits and to not believe everything we hear. We should test churches and ministries by what they say about Jesus – who He is and what he has done. We should, however, place final judgement on nothing before its time (1 Corinthians 4:5. James 4:10-12). God is the true judge, and each person will stand before Him (not us) and give account for all they have done.
Christian love requires us to avoid a critical attitude that is quick to pull down and point out flaws in other people and their ministries (Matthew 7:1-5). Instead of judging, Jesus tells us to examine the fruit or results of a person or ministry.
- The fruit of repentance. Are people turning from sin to God?
- Respect for the Scriptures. Is God’s Word being respected, valued and taught?
- Exaltation of Jesus. Is Jesus being lifted up and magnified?
- Love for other Christians. Is there a growing love for other believers?
- Loving concern for the unreached. Is there a focus on reaching people for Christ?
Derek Prince goes on to say, “If a significant number of Christians in the current move (or church or ministry) successfully passes all, or most, of the five tests, then it is safe to conclude that this is, essentially, a move of God. However, this does not mean that everyone or everything in it is faultless. God has no faultless people to work with, but it is amazing what He can do with those totally surrendered to Him, though weak and fallible.” (Please also note that the devil does not want these five things to happen!)
We see this gracious attitude portrayed so beautifully in the advice that Gamaliel gave to the Pharisees when they were considering persecuting the early church. In Acts 5:33-39, he tells them that, if this ministry is not of God, it will die down and come to nothing. However, if it is of God, they should leave it alone lest they be seen as fighting against God.
We would be wise to take his advice today as we observe other ministries and churches.