Q: How can I know whether or not a group is a cult? A woman in my office keeps trying to get me to go with her to her religious assembly, but I don't know anything about it. I didn't come from a religious family, but I know I need God. — Mrs. L.F.H.
A: I'm thankful you know you need to have God in your life, and I hope you won't let anything take away that desire. Jesus' promise is for you: "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you" (Matthew 7:7).
You're wise, however, to want to avoid any group that might be a cult — because they will lead you away from God instead of toward Him. How can you tell? One way is to find out if the members think that they, and they alone, have all the truth about God. To put it another way, most cults teach that every other church is wrong, and they alone are right. Most cults, incidentally, are of relatively recent origin.
The real issue, however, is what a group teaches about Jesus. Do they see Him as both fully God and fully man? Most cults don't, but the Bible does. Do they teach that because of His death and resurrection we can be saved as we put our faith and trust in Him? Most cults don't, but the Bible does.
The most important thing I can tell you, however, is that you can come to God right now! God loves you and sent His Son into the world to die for you. Ask Christ to come into your life today, and then seek out a church where Christ is central and the Bible is taught.
Q: Our church went heavily into debt to build our new building, but now our pastor has left, several families are drifting away, and we're having a hard time making the mortgage payments. Does the Bible say anything about borrowing lots of money to build a church? — K.R.
A: Christians in the first century didn't build separate church buildings. Since their numbers were small, they usually met in homes. The Bible, therefore, doesn't say anything directly about this issue.
The Bible does, however, caution us about the dangers of too much debt, and this situation might have been avoided if your church's leaders had paid closer attention to this. It points out, for example, that when we owe someone money, our debt easily controls us and becomes our master — although we may have thought the money would be our servant. The Bible says, "The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender" (Proverbs 22:7).
Does this mean it's wrong for churches to borrow money to improve their facilities — and perhaps reach more people for Christ as a result? No, of course not, as long as it's done prayerfully and wisely. On the other hand, however, we must never think that elaborate facilities are essential for an effective ministry. If Christ isn't at the center of a church's life, God has not promised to bless its work.
May God bring your church's members closer to each other — and to Him — during this difficult time. Satan will try to divide you and get you arguing among yourselves; don't let it happen. Instead, face the future with prayer, and with trust in God's provision for your needs. The Bible says, "And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19).
Send your queries to "My Answer," c/o Billy Graham, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, 1 Billy Graham Parkway, Charlotte, N.C., 28201; call 1-(877) 2-GRAHAM, or visit http://www.billygraham.org.