Updated: Sep 24, 2019
As was expected, as soon as the news that someone who attends the infamous CAMPUS Church in Murray, Utah was checking Christian churches in Utah for Biblical adherence, the misinformation and the lies started putting on their shoes.
And boy, can they run fast.
These are some of the lies and unfair accusations that have been swirling around the internet (and probably elsewhere) about Check My Church over the past few weeks. And here is our response to each of them.
Is Check My Church Biased?
As we've explained a few times now, Check My Church is not completely unbiased. Yes, we admit that. After a lengthy and critical discussion with one of Utah's pastors, we decided that we should clarify our biases. So here they are again:
We have a strong bias in favor of the authority and superiority of the Word of God over the words of men. Because of this bias, we will critique a church that has verse by verse studies through the Bible differently than a church that does topical sermons. This is because topical sermons do not feed the flock the Word of God, but the words of the pastor and whoever else wrote the sermon. Churches and their pastors should be feeding the flock and preaching the Word, not tickling ears. (2 Tim. 3:16; Rom. 15:4; Rom. 10:17)
We have a strong bias in favor of worshiping God alone. As a result of this bias, we will not critique churches that turn their worship service into a big, glamorous show as favorably as we will critique churches which choose to keep their worship about God alone. Not the performers, the equipment, or the show. Just God. We will also critique churches who make money and material more important than they should be. We serve God, not money. (John 4:23; Luke 4:8; Matt. 22:37)
We have a strong bias in favor of the Gospel of Christ and Christian liberty above the laws of men and their legalism. Because of this, any church that attempts to insert men, rules, and laws between the individuals in their congregation and God will receive a poor rating from CMC. There is one mediator between man and God, and that is Jesus Christ, and He set us free. (Gal. 5:13; 1 Peter 2:16; 1 Cor. 6:12; Gal. 5:1)
As far as everything else goes, such as doctrinal differences, music style or genre, denominational affiliations, and so forth, we do not allow our personal preferences in these areas to affect our rating of churches. All Christians will have their own unique take on these things, and none of them have any bearing on whether or not the church is feeding the Word, worshiping God alone, or preaching the Gospel.
Regarding our supposed bias in favor of Shawn McCraney and CAMPUS Church, I'll get to that in a minute. That accusation needs an entire category of its own.
How Important is Physical Attendance?
Currently, since Joe and I are living in Idaho, checking churches in Utah obviously makes physically attending these churches impossible. We are going to be moving down to Utah in the next few months, God willing, but for now, all of our checking has solely been through online research and the input we receive from local churchgoers in Utah.
How do we check churches without physically attending them?
We talk to the church staff and their pastors, if they don't stonewall us, and ask a list of questions to find out more about how their church operates regarding memberships, requirements for members, financial issues, handling doctrinal differences, discipline of sin, etc...
We listen to at least one online sermon from within the past 30-60 days to make sure our assessment is of their most current teachings and sermon structure. If we can't find an online sermon, we will postpone the check until we can physically attend one.
We watch the online worship service if it is available. If not, we will refrain from making any judgment about the worship service portion of the check until we can physically attend one.
We study the church website, which actually tells us a lot of what we need to know about a church in order to check it thoroughly. In the information age and because of our generation's obsessed with the internet in general, church websites have become the perfect place to find out a lot about them. Through our website reviews, we look for: their statement of faith, beliefs, values, their vision and/or mission, membership information, what their church building looks like, the kind of environment and atmosphere the church aims to provide, and the list goes on. We've been mocked by some people for using the church website as a source for our church checks, but I would argue it's one of the most important ones. Think of a church you'd like to check for yourself and go to their website. Tell me you can't find anything important about that church by spending ten minutes on their website. I dare you.
The Legalistic Argument
There are some who criticize our lack of physical attendance for another reason, however. Knowing that CAMPUS is our home church, and they're in Utah, we've been told that we are actually disobeying Jesus' commandments by only attending church online. How does this disobey Jesus?
Well, people have suggested that by only attending my home church online, I am actually "refusing" to take communion and the Lord's supper, and am actively and willingly sinning as a result. I must repent and find a local, brick and mortar church to attend, participate in these physical ordinances and traditions, or I am on a path to Hell.
My response? I'll try to give it without laughing hysterically.
First of all, religious ridiculousness aside, Joe and I would prefer to physically attend a church. When we lived in Utah, we enjoyed attending CAMPUS in person. So it's not like we are against physically attending church. We just don't live in Utah, so we can't go there right now.
Secondly, Joe and I have attended several churches in Idaho Falls, and they're no different than the majority of churches we've already checked in Utah and Idaho. The legalistic Christians who demand that we physically attend church would apparently prefer that we attend a bad church that puts money and material above God, neglects preaching the Word, and inserts laws and legalism between Christians and God, than to attend a good church online. Guys, your legalism is showing!
Third, even if we could find a good church in Idaho Falls, there is no way for us to physically attend any church right now. About a month ago Joe was driving to work and got hit on the highway going 70 mph. By the grace of God, he wasn't hurt too badly, but our car was totaled. Until we buy a new car, Joe is stuck renting cars when we can afford it, hitching rides with co-workers and family members to get to work and home. And me and the kids are stuck at home too.
Would the legalistic Christians of Utah demand that we strap on our boots and walk to church for five miles in the snow going uphill both ways? Is God mad at us now, determined to punish us and send us to Hell for eternity because we're stuck at home and we'd rather watch a good sermon online than walk to a crappy one somewhere nearby? Because we aren't doing a couple of physical ordinances that religious men think are necessary for our salvation?
I don't think so, and I don't think God really cares either way to be honest. He knows our hearts, we don't do what we do to be approved of men, and God doesn't condemn us. (Rom. 8:1; 1 Thess. 2:4)
Are We Trying to Tear Down Every Church Except For Ours?
Long answer short: No.
We've explained this in a few of our posts regarding what we are trying to accomplish, and it is NOT to tear down churches, but to build them up. Let me explain.
Right now, we have a lot of negative church reviews, yes. The aim in doing that, however, is not to tear those churches down, or to condemn them as terrible churches that no one should ever attend.
Rather, it's in an effort to encourage those churches to change. We will be regularly checking in on churches that we've already reviewed to see if any changes are made, and when they are, we will happily update our reviews. We WANT to have to change our reviews.
We don't want to give negative reviews, and our ultimate goal is to have a lot more positive reviews than negative ones, but we have to be honest. The Christian churches in America are failing miserably right now, and it needs to change.
Secondly, it has been suggested that the only church we find to be acceptable by our standards is CAMPUS Church, and we are trying to prop up Shawn McCraney and his ministries while trashing all the others.
This is simply a lie. Out of a total of twelve churches checked so far, we have given five positive church reviews:
CAMPUS Church in Murray, Utah
Fellowship Bible Church in Lindon, Utah
Christian Life Assembly of God in Payson, Utah
Calvary Chapel Sevier Valley in Richfield, Utah
Redemption Hill Church in Saratoga Springs, Utah
And every time we find a church that we believe to be a Biblical House of God, we absolutely love it. We want to find these churches and encourage Christians to go to them, rather than the churches that we have discovered to be dishonest, legalistic, or materialistic.
Is our golden standard for checking churches based on CAMPUS Church, or Shawn McCraney's model for church?
No. We have very clearly described what our standards are in our own criteria, and while legalistic Christians who have a particular distaste for McCraney and his style will find similarities between our views on how a local church should operate and automatically conclude that he is our foundation, he is not.
The Bible is. God is. Jesus Christ is. The Holy Spirit is. The Gospel is.
If CAMPUS Church or Shawn McCraney announced next Sunday that they are going to start passing a plate to collect donations because as Christians we should really be giving to the church, or that they're going to stop spending so much time in the Word and start making their sermons more topical for whatever reason, Joe and I would snatch our kids up and race to the door. Or actually, we'd just close the YouTube window on our computer, since that's how we're attending church now. Ha.
But the point is, we tried a lot of local churches before we found CAMPUS and made it our home church. The simple fact is that CAMPUS is the first church we found that aligned with our standards for a good church.
Do we think CAMPUS Church is the best church we've checked so far?
Yes, and here's why.
They preach the Word more thoroughly and deeply than any other church that we've attended so far.
Their worship service does as little as possible to elevate the works and talents of people above worshiping God Himself. They refuse to put on an emotional, impressive show for people to glory in the experience itself, rather than God. Their worship songs are literally the Word of God set to music. If someone can do better than that, we would absolutely LOVE it.
They allow Christians to have their freedom in Christ by refusing to set legalistic church standards and requirements, and in doing so they stay true to the Gospel, never compromising Christian liberty in favor of the laws of men or legalistic traditions.
Any other church that does the same will get the same enthusiastic recommendation from Check My Church, and they have. We want to find those churches. That's our entire purpose and goal here. To find them and spread the news of their presence like wildfire, so that every Christian goes to those churches, rather than the ones that neglect the Word, stifle the Gospel, and worship material and money above God.
Ecclesiology & Qualifications
Another accusation that's been launched against us is that we are not qualified to check churches and that our ecclesiology is "weak" and "awful."
Such accusations are motivated by a purely legalistic mindset which dictates that a Christian actually needs some kind of formal qualification in order to go to churches and make public assessments of them based on the Bible.
What are our qualifications? Our faith in Jesus Christ, and the the priesthood that we have as believers. (1 Peter 2:5-9)
Our ecclesiology? Again, it's clear in our criteria. Legalistic Christians will criticize us for not caring about a church's government, it's emphasis on physical traditions and ordinances such as the Lord's Supper or Communion, but there's a very good reason for that.
Because it doesn't matter.
Nowhere in the Bible do we find the ecclesiastical standard that legalistic Christians prop up today. If it's there, none of our accusers have pointed them out to us. In fact, a few of them have even admitted to me that there is no real guideline in the Bible for how a church should operate locally.
To me, this means that God doesn't care. If He did, He would have laid it out for us. Christ would have been scolding the Pharisees and turning tables in the temple for their "weak ecclesiology" if it really mattered. But He didn't, did He?
On the contrary, He chased them out with whips for turning His Father's House into a den of thieves. He scolded the Pharisees for their legalism, and He established a New Covenant of grace, love, and freedom. Ecclesiology is for minds set on the things of the flesh, because that is all physical ordinances and traditions really are: things of the flesh that men do to feel holier than you. (Romans 8:1-17; Matthew 6:5)
Specific Doctrinal Positions & Their Relevance
Lastly, to the question of whether we ascribe to the same doctrinal positions and unorthodoxy that Shawn McCraney has taken.
Another question that only legalistic Christians overly concerned with minor doctrinal differences will focus on...but I'll bite.
Some things Shawn preaches and believes, we agree with. Some things, we don't. Minor, non-salvation doctrinal issues are not worth dividing over, and that's exactly what these accusers are talking about.
We don't rate churches by their doctrines unless it is another Gospel as described by the Apostle Paul in Galatians 1, and therefore, we do not judge Shawn by it. Some will argue that Shawn teaches "another gospel," but this is coming from people who actually believe that I am going to Hell because I attend church online. People who believe you must go to a physical brick and mortar church that provides Communion and the Lord's Supper in order to be a Christian.
So, heh...I don't really think they're in a position to make that claim.
Take from all of this what you will, churchgoers. If you still have questions, you can check out the posts below, or post a comment below and we will answer any questions you have.