We’ve got more people upset with our negative reviews of their churches, and as a result, naturally, we’re seeing the backlash. This is to be expected, but this particular dissatisfied reader decided to take things a step further.
Whereas most people typically just leave a comment of disagreement with our check, send us nasty hate mail, or post insulting and derogatory comments on our Facebook Page (you know, as loving, faithful Christians tend to do when challenged or disagreed with), not only did this particular fellow, Isaac Farley, express his disagreement in a comment on his church’s Quick Check (here), but he apparently decided to write a “check” of his own as well (here). About Check My Church. And one of our recommended churches, CAMPUS Church in Murray, Utah.
My dear church checkers, this is going to be fun. Let’s not waste time rambling and get down to business, shall we?
Deflection By Distraction & Redirection
Why Isaac Farley decided to go after one of our recommended churches in a personal diatribe against its pastor (Shawn McCraney) instead of just answering our Check for his church (Living Faith Discipleship Community), I don’t know.
Perhaps he was uncomfortable being on the defense for his church, to which there may be no defense for the observations we made about them.
Maybe he thought it would be easier to just attack someone that a good number of people will take his side against, rather than facing the problems with his own church, which I’m willing to bet very few people would support him in.
Maybe he’s not ignoring our assertions about his church purposely at all, and is either just a bad debater who doesn’t realize the rules of debate (don’t ignore arguments against your position unless you want to concede them), or someone who isn’t experienced in the area of rational disagreements in general.
Or maybe he thought by “checking” one of our recommended churches and showing it to be a bad church, he could ignore our check of his church entirely as just as faulty as our check for CAMPUS.
Whatever the reason that Mr. Farley has for completely ignoring our check of his church while at the same time claiming our methodology is lacking and our theology is “broken,” I think it should be pointed out that he did in fact drop that aspect of this disagreement entirely. Instead, he is trying to turn the attention towards Shawn McCraney and his church.
I’m not going to engage with anyone about the doctrinal disagreements anyone might have with Shawn McCraney or his church. My job as a church checker is not to find churches that align with a specific set of doctrinal statements. All Christians agree on a few basic and essential doctrines, and all of them disagree on everything else. Judging churches by those thousands of other doctrinal issues would be fruitless and futile.
I will, however, reiterate the fact that Farley has yet to answer a single assertion, argument or claim made about his church, Living Faith Discipleship Community in Ogden, Utah.
Secondly, I will respond to the claims made about me personally, and Check My Church.
Third, I’m going to respond to Farley’s attempt to mock, belittle, and even mimic our Checks by pointing out the many flaws in his “check” of CAMPUS, the holes he leaves everywhere in his assessment of CAMPUS, and the fact that he misses the entire point of the Checks in the first place by mocking them and failing to conduct a single one with any form of reverence for God whatsoever.
Because that’s what this is all about, in case anyone missed it. Reverence for the only authority over the Christian Church on the face of the Earth. God Himself. We’re not doing this as some kind of schoolyard game of politics and whose Christian clique has the most supporters. It’s not a joke, it’s not a business venture, and it’s not for our own amusement. It’s out of respect and reverence for God and what we believe to be His will for His Church in this world. Clearly people aren’t getting it. Maybe this post will help clear a few things up for those who don’t.
Now, onto the response to Isaac Farley.
Living Faith Discipleship Community Church
For starters, Isaac fails to respond to anything we’ve said about his church, which supposedly initiated his comment on their Quick Check, and his entire blog post, in the first place.
We had a lot of concerns about LFDC, and Farley has no answer for any of them, apparently. Instead, he deflects by making a series of personal attacks on myself, and “checking” CAMPUS Church himself, which he didn’t even really do.
Isaac, if you have a disagreement with how we checked your church, what our assertions regarding your church were, or anything like that, address them please. Did we say anything about your church that was factually incorrect or untrue? Did we misunderstand the teachings of your pastor, or misrepresent them in any way?
I don’t see you making any of these claims, Isaac. RIght now, it seems you’re just angry that we didn’t like your church, but since you have no defense for them, you want to attack us and the churches that we recommend instead.
Okay, let’s address those attacks then.
The Claims Against Check My Church and Myself, Mrs. Sarah Young
I’m not going to waste time filling space with too much chatter here. I’ll quote what was said about CMC and myself, and respond to each quote that was made in Isaac Farley’s post which is either untrue or misrepresenting CMC or myself in any way.
“...The warned members about a new “McCraney-ite tact” by using a website called RateMyChurch.org to cast doubt on the validity of different congregations…”
First of all, I don’t know what a “McCraney-ite” is, but I’m assuming it’s a derogatory term that some loving legalistic Christians came up with in order to demonize and ostracize anyone that finds themselves agreeing with anything Shawn McCraney believes, but I am not a “McCraney-ite.” I’m a Christian. I find myself disagreeing with Shawn on some topics and agreeing with him on others, but my allegiance is not to any one person or church. It is to God.
Secondly, the website is checkmychurch.org, not ratemychurch.org. And it’s not to cast doubt on the validity of congregations, but to raise questions regarding the materialism, legalism, corruption, and abuse that has seemingly infiltrated far too many Christian churches in America today. Our findings speak for themselves.
“...One of his followers, a woman by the name of Sarah Young took his comment to heart and has started this website that is in question. Young claims to be doing “unbiased and biblical reviews” but it doesn’t take much to find that none of this is true. The framework by which she is rating churches is McCraneyism a sub-biblical-at-best doctrinal system taught by McCraney…”
Again, I’m not a follower of Shawn McCraney. I’m a follower of Jesus Christ. This statement is just an attempt to further bash the character of both myself and Shawn McCraney as non-Christians, but it’s not a valid argument.
You, Isaac, have yet to show how my review is biased or unbiblical at all. You claimed to have done this in your last comment to me on your church’s Quick Check post, but you haven’t. How have I been biased or unbiblical? Please, tell me.
The framework by which we are rating churches is a criteria that we came up with completely separate from what Shawn McCraney may or may not agree with. It makes no reference to doctrine whatsoever, and the fact that McCraney may agree with and/or align with it does not make it his or something that he came up with. There are other Christians and Christian churches that agree with it and align with it as well. Are they all “McCraney-ites”, or do they just see church differently than you and the other legalists who believe church must be a very specific way in order to be Christian? Your legalism is showing.
“.... Moreover this women doesn’t even VISIT the congregations that she is rating....”
I have visited a few of them, but since I don’t live in Utah, in-person checks are impossible at the moment. This doesn’t mean we will never visit the congregations we are checking. We will visit every single one that we can, but the fact that we aren’t able to currently doesn’t mean we don’t want to or that we never will. Regardless, it’s irrelevant to the validity of our Checks. Everything we post is true and can be verified by publicly available information.
“...The review of my congregation went online in early May and I will not be responding to it here…”
You didn’t respond to it anywhere. When and where are you going to respond to it if there’s really anything wrong with it?
“...Rather I will be discussing Ms. Young’s methodology as a whole and interacting with an exchange we had in the comments of her review. You can read my full comments to Ms. Young here ...”
I don’t mean to nitpick, but it’s Mrs., not Ms. I think I’ve made it pretty clear to the public that I am married.
“...Me Hypothetically to Young: Ms. Young, you are propping yourself above everyone else, acting like you are the sole arbiter of truth, you presume that you know better than anyone else what makes a church biblical and not. Your ego is large and for that I’d expect you to have the common courtesy to walk in the building before you wash your hands of it. It seems to me that God always sent the prophets to places that need truth (eg Jonah and Nineveh). If I was to write a review of C.A.M.P.U.S. MY STARTING POINT would be walking up to Shawn McCraney, shaking his hand and introducing myself....”
I’m not propping myself above anyone. I believe all Christians are capable of doing what I’m doing by checking churches, and that the criteria we uphold at CMC is based on the universal truths that all Christians know inherently through their faith in Jesus Christ. I am not the arbiter of truth. Just a seeker of the truth and someone who tries to speak it as much as I can out of love for God and others.
At no time do I presume to know better than anyone else about what makes a church biblical or not. I am only observing and assessing churches based on what I know about what the Bible teaches. Disagreeing with others doesn’t mean I think I know better, but I do believe I am sharing the truth, and I’m willing to defend it if necessary. There is nothing wrong with thinking you are right and someone else is wrong in the pursuit of truth and love for God, even if it means other people have to be wrong.
Ad hominem attacks on my personal character are not arguments, and therefore do nothing to refute or diminish Check My Church, its criteria, its checks, or my assertions as a church checker.
And once again, I plan to meet as many pastors in person as I can once I’m physically able. In the meantime, anyone is capable of assessing a church in the ways that we’ve done online. Seeing the physical building does nothing to change the cold, hard facts.
Now enough about me. Let’s get to Farley’s attempted Check of CAMPUS Church, and point out the many flaws in his own “methodology.”
Church Checking 101 For The Haters
As stated earlier, I’m not going to engage with Farley, or anyone for that matter, about the various doctrinal differences that every single Christian has with every single other Christian in the world. It would be a waste of time, and it’s not what CMC does when checking churches. Shawn McCraney’s doctrinal differences with ourselves or other Christians is not what we’re assessing when we’re checking his church, or anyone else’s.
The criteria is made clear on our website, which you can read here. If Isaac Farley or anyone has a disagreement with that criteria or thinks it needs to be changed for any biblical or logical reason, I’m more than willing to discuss it and make adjustments, but Farley has yet to do that to any extent.
Our aim has never been and never will be to make sure that churches line up with our own particular doctrinal dogmas or positions. It has always been and will always be about exposing corruption, money serving, materialism, legalism, and spiritual abuse in the Christian church. If any Christian thinks there is something unbiblical about that, I would love to hear about it.
Now, to Farley’s “Check” of CAMPUS Church, which needs correcting in many ways.
Isaac, you obviously haven’t read very many of our checks, nor do you understand the purpose of them, because you missed a lot, my friend.
1. You should never insult the pastor personally, or anyone for that matter. Personal attacks and insults are ad hominems, and not only fallacious in an argument based on facts and reason, but quite frankly they’re just unloving. Secondly, as a church checker, your job is not to assess the character or express your personal disdain for someone you disagree with. It’s to assess the church itself and whether or not it lines up with the criteria for a good church. Calling the pastor stupid not just once, but several times, automatically makes your check completely biased and unreliable as a source of objective information. You clearly have some kind of personal problem with Shawn McCraney, and therefore your assessment of his sermon is biased and unreliable.
2. Always back up every claim with evidence and facts. Your claims that someone at CAMPUS openly admitted to being bisexual, that he was wanting to practice, and that other attendees of CAMPUS said they were proud of him, is all hearsay. You have no way of substantiating or proving that claim, and quite frankly, I don’t believe that actually happened at CAMPUS. Even if it did, it’s clear that your are, again, attacking the character of the members rather than the actual beliefs and stated teachings of the church. You could walk into any church in America and hear something that could be argued is unChristian or unbiblical. That doesn’t mean the church necessarily agrees with what its members are doing, or saying. You are clearly just trying to make the church look bad based on rumors, gossip, and dirt. It’s bad form, in bad taste, and unloving.
3. There’s a reason we don’t judge churches based on the character, actions, or behaviors of the members, and that’s because all churches are full of sinners, broken, and fallen people. The fact that churches contain people who struggle and fail doesn’t make the church itself a bad church, and again, it doesn’t mean the church approves of everyone’s mistakes. Is your criteria for a good church is that churches should have perfect members? Because if that’s the case, I’m thinking your methodology in church checking is “wack.” There is no such place.
4. Stick to the criteria. Politics and non-essential doctrines don’t matter. In your check, you ignored the website review entirely because you don’t understand the importance of learning everything you can about a church in order to fairly and objectively assess them. It appears that you think a church’s political views and non-essential doctrinal dogma positions are what matters, and nothing else. Those things aren’t a priority at CMC. Whether or not a church believes every single non-essential doctrine that I believe in isn’t nearly as important as whether or not the church is corrupt, serving money, abusing its people, preaching legalism, and/or being dishonest in how it handles its money. Everyone is going to have differing opinions of what constitutes biblical doctrine and what doesn’t, so your Theology Scale is futile and subjective at best. We deal in facts and truth, not opinions and dogmas.
5. Asking questions is key. We don’t have a Questionnaire because we enjoy being ignored and attacked by pastors. We ask questions to get answers, not only because they’re essential in fairly assessing a church, but also because churchgoers deserve to have the answers to those questions when looking for a church they could call their own. It also determines how transparent or secretive a church is regarding its finances, practices, and so forth. You skipped this part of the Check entirely for some reason, and with a church that is well known for answering questions! Why? You even physically attended CAMPUS Church, where pastor McCraney opens the floor to questions at the end of every service. So, why wouldn’t you ask him your questions on the Sunday you attended, or any questions at all for that matter? You could have not only gotten the answers right there on the spot from McCraney, but it would have been recorded online, live, for the whole world to hear. Isn't that what you want, or perhaps are you only interested in making people look bad?
All in all regarding the check itself, while it’s clear you disagree with the pastor’s interpretation of Scripture and the supposed political leanings of the congregation, this is not a fair, objective, or neutral church check in the least. You personally attacked the pastor, the congregation, neglected two entire sections of the Check, failed to collect essential data for a fair and complete assessment, you missed the point of the Political Scale entirely, and you made up an additional Theology Scale that ends up being completely useless and subjective.
You entirely missed the point of why we check churches. It’s not about doctrinal dogmas or gossip hearsay about the sexual orientation of church members. It’s not about politics either, which you’ve clearly exposed yourself as being politically biased by bashing on a church for not agreeing with yours, by the way.
It’s about whether a church is serving God, or something else. Whether they are preaching the Gospel, or legalism, or something else entirely. Whether they are transparent, or dishonest and closed off. Whether they worship God alone, or idols like doctrine, politics, man-made philosophies, or anything else that isn’t God Himself. It’s about the heart of the church, not its outward appearance. Are they working for God, or themselves? Are they being honest with people about what and who they are, or deceptive and manipulative? Are they working towards popularity and physical growth, or faith toward God and sanctification in Him?
These are what matters to CMC, not nitpicking at minor details that make no difference in the end.
So...What Flawed Methodology & Broken Theology?
Last but not least, I have yet to see how our methodology in checking churches is flawed. The only thing I can see that Farley has said regarding this is our lack of in-person checks, but as I’ve said before, it’s not out of choice, and it doesn’t prevent us from fairly or accurately checking churches in any regard, so it’s irrelevant.
As for theology, all Farley has done is criticize (inaccurately) the theology of CAMPUS Church. We are not CAMPUS Church, and recommending CAMPUS Church doesn’t automatically make all of pastor Shawn McCraney’s beliefs Check My Church’s beliefs. We are two separate entities, and while we do recommend CAMPUS Church for its alignment with our criteria, that has nothing to do with their theology. Nothing. Period.
CMC’s theology never goes beyond the essentials, because we refuse to quarrel over the minors. We’re in the business of addressing the majors. Idolatry, money serving, and legalism are the name of the game. We don’t care if CAMPUS teaches preterism, if Calvary Chapel preaches the opposite, or if anyone else preaches something in between. We care about churches that preach tithing out of greed, legalism, and anything that opposes or contradicts the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
So, Mr. Farley, unless you have something of real consequence to address here, I will consider this issue resolved. Unless you plan on answering our critiques of your church or addressing anything else CMC has actually stated, I suggest you take your grievances about Shawn McCraney and CAMPUS church to him and his.