Another request from a reader was Capital Church in Salt Lake City. I’m very curious about this one, so let’s check ‘em out!
You can check Capital Church’s website yourself to verify everything we are observing at http://capitalchurch.com/.
Capital Church’s website is jam packed full of information that should help us get a very good idea of what they’re all about. That’s what the website is supposed to do anyway, right? So, let’s dive in.
When we go to the What to Expect page, this is what Capital Church says about themselves (emphasis mine):
“Our mission is to lead people to become Christ-centered disciples. Capital’s services offer a comfortable environment that welcomes folks just beginning to explore and discover God, as well as those believers that are centered in God and ready to be challenged to dive deeper into his truth. Our community is encouraged to own their faith, partner with others and invest themselves in the church, community and world. We aim to be a life-giving place where adults, youth, and kids seek, above all else, to Love God and Love Others.”
While a lot of this sounds great, such as welcoming people just beginning to explore God and to be a place where everyone seek to love God and love others, I still see a few red flags.
“Lead people to become Christ-centered disciples,” “ready to be challenged to dive deeper into his truth,” and “own their faith, partner with others and invest themselves in the church,” are all statements of concern for me here.
What does this church think a Christ-centered disciple looks like? Someone whose entire life revolves around serving the local church, someone who pays tithing, or performs a certain level of work for the church?
What does it mean to be challenged to dive deeper into His truth? Deeper into the Word? Into a relationship with Christ? Or...into serving the church?
Why do I need to partner with others regarding my own personal faith? Isn’t that between me and God, with Christ being our only mediator? Does this church think that I need other people in order to have faith in God?
And why do I need to invest myself in the church? If I’m filled with the Spirit of God, there’s no investing going on. I’m not serving to get something in return. I’m serving because I have love for God and others and I want to serve. I don’t need to be told to serve the church, and the church should never try to enforce that on me. It’s the Spirit’s job to lead and convict me in my walk with God, not man’s.
All of these red flags are strong signs that this church preaches legalism.
If you go to their Vision & Mission pages, it becomes even more obvious:
“Koinonia (the Greek word for fellowship) is essential in our journey. We weren’t meant to live this life alone. Connecting with others in an authentic way enriches life tremendously, providing us with a group of friends with whom we can be real and held accountable to live a life in obedience to God.”
Here we have another church claiming that you must put other people between you and God in order to be fully obedient to Him. The two verses cherry picked and taken out of context in order to support this do little to make sense of this legalistic practice. Does having a group of Christian friends help us in our walk with God? Of course. Do we really need other Christians to hold us accountable to God? NO. We have the Holy Spirit.
“While God asks us to love him first and completely, he also asks us to live out our commitment to Jesus in a public way, loving our neighbors and letting our actions demonstrate our faith. Serving sacrificially can come in many forms – investing of our finances in ministry, serving on a volunteer team or serving in our local community or across the globe.”
Here’s yet another red flag that suggests this church is big on works and performance in the church. Christians really don’t need to be told to serve others. They want to do that as a result of being filled with the Spirit, and the church is not our mediator nor the Spirit, so they have no right to demand services from individual Christians.
We found a lot of other information in the Website Review, but we’ll save it for the Questionnaire and move onto that since it’s more relevant there.
It’s a thumbs down for the website review.
The good news here is that the Questionnaire wasn’t ignored, and Eric with Capital Church was very friendly and helpful in general as well. While he didn’t offer specific answers to each question, he offered me this response (emphasis mine):
“Thanks again for reaching out, and for offering to provide information to your readers about Capital Church. Our core beliefs, mission & vision, and answers to many of these questions are answered on our website, capitalchurch.com. We are transparent with our community about our stewardship of financial resources, reviewing every dollar at our annual meeting…”
Truth be told, many of our questions could in fact be answered by their website, so we took that as an answer, and began our hunt on the website. This is what we found.
1. What is your church's official position on tithing?
While I couldn’t find anything that specifically speaks on their official beliefs regarding tithing, it’s very easy to figure out what that is based on what we can find on the website.
Sacrificial serving is a big part of their vision & mission as a church, and financial giving is mentioned specifically by them on their website.
Their membership covenant, which we will get into in the next question, suggests that they do preach tithing in two separate ways:
In the Partnering section of the Covenant, it says members must commit: “To faithfully support the mission and the leadership of Capital Church as we journey together following Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:10).” Since part of their mission is to serve sacrificially, it logically follows that this means members must give financially to the church
In the Investing section of the Covenant, it says members must commit: “To support Capital and other ministries of Christ’s Kingdom by giving joyfully of my financial resources, embracing the spiritual discipline of stewardship and practicing increased generosity (2 Corinthians 9:6-15).” They quote 2 Cor. 9:6-15 to support their compulsion of financial giving toward their members, ironically contradicting 2 Corinthians 9:7, which says, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Lastly regarding tithing, if you go to their Resources page you’ll find their “Spiritual Continuum” wherein which they categorize and level your relationship to Christ based on your outward performance in the church. And tithing is a must for anyone that is “growing in Christ,” “close to Christ,” or “Christ-centered.” See for yourself.
It looks like those red flags are ringing true right here in the very first question.
2. Does your church have a particular set of rules or requirements that members must follow or abide by in order to retain their membership status with the church?
They do. Read their Membership Covenant.
And here is their Spiritual Continuum again, which places Christians in a hierarchy based on their performance in the church. Since their mission as a church is to “lead people to become Christ-centered disciples,” it appears they will pressure you to work your way to what they believe is a Christ-centered disciple.
3. Are you transparent with your church's financial information? How much does your church bring in through donations and tithing, and how is that money distributed? What do your profit on average?
According to what Eric told me in our email conversation, they are transparent with their own members. When I pressed on this issue more, this is how it went:
“...In regards to finances, I think it's great that you're transparent with your own congregation, but I'm wondering if you're transparent with the universal Church, the whole Body. Would you be willing to share any of that information with us?...”
“...yes, our annual meetings are open to anyone to attend, whether or not they’re official members…”
So I said:
“Great! When is your annual meeting?”
And they said:
“A date has not been set yet for the next annual meeting, but it will likely be sometime within the next quarter. When a date is set, it will be posted on our church website.”
Now all I need to do is check their website’s calendar on a regular basis and hope that I don’t miss it to find out just how transparent they are. My guess is that I’ll never really find out.
Why not offer to let me know once the date is set? Why not give me last year’s financial information instead of creating hoops for me to jump through? This kind of barrier setting is typical of churches that don’t really want to share information.
4. Which denomination does your church align with the most, if any?
I was surprised to find that they are actually affiliated with the Assemblies of God. They are also members of the Global Leadership Network.
Something I didn’t know until doing further research into the AG is that they believe in abstaining from alcohol, gambling, and hold different positions on many cultural positions that you might want to look into if you’re curious about what AG’s position on specific issues are:
If Capital Church agrees with all of the same positions that AG holds, this only makes them more legalistic, and I might have to re-evaluate my review of Christian Life Assembly of God in Payson as well.
5. Is your church's pastor available for other questions or comments regarding the church, its doctrines, etc.?
I’m actually not sure on this. Since it wasn’t the pastor that responded to my emails, and since this question wasn’t actually answered, I don’t know.
6. How is your church's doctrinal flexibility and tolerance? If a member has a disagreement with the pastor or leadership on a certain doctrine, how is it handled? Does the church change its position on doctrines fairly often, if at all?
I re-sent this question to Eric after I couldn’t find an answer on the website. Here was his answer:
“We believe in the Bible, the Triune God, and the wider Church body. Everyone is on their own spiritual journey, and as we lead others through their own unique journey, these foundations are unchanging in our beliefs. When disagreements arise, we believe there needs to be a balance of grace and truth in how we handle these crucial conversations. Just as Jesus offered grace and compassion to the adulteress, he also told her to go and sin no more.”
7. Does your church require that its members be baptized? What is your church's official position on baptism?
They require members to be baptized, but I cannot find anything that says they believe in baptismal regeneration for salvation.
8. Please describe what a typical service and/or meeting looks like in your church.
The closest thing to a description of their services is on their “What to Expect” page on their website:
“You can expect to hear a message from the Bible that applies to your life.
You can expect to hear about grace and peace.
You can expect a good cup of coffee.
You can expect to enjoy great music and have the opportunity to sing to a God that is listening.
You can expect your children to be safe, to have fun, and to want to come back.
You can expect your tweens and teens to have a great time and learn in a way that makes sense to them.
You can expect to find ways to own your personal faith, get connected with new friends, and serve in a way that makes a difference in your community and world.”
9. How many people do you have on staff at your church, both paid and volunteer?
While this question wasn’t answered, you can see their staff and leadership on the website here.
Who is paid and who is volunteer remains to be seen.
10. What is the pastor's educational history?
On lead pastor Troy Champ’s short bio on the website, it doesn’t mention any educational history, but it does say “...Troy served the church as Executive Pastor for six years before becoming the Lead Pastor in the spring of 2004…”
11. How does the church discipline its members with their sin?
This was another one where I re-sent Eric the question since I couldn’t find the answer on their website. Here is his answer:
“Our church encourages people to foster spiritual friendships, so that we can partner together in accountability for sin as we take ownership of our faith. We aim to model Jesus’ example of both grace and truth. As was taught in a recent message at Capital, “God loves you as you are, but he loves you too much to leave you as you are.”
This further confirms my suspicions that this is a legalistic church. The language of partnering together in accountability for sin with anyone besides our mediator, Jesus Christ, to me, is legalistic.
12. How is the pastor compensated (income, benefits, bonuses, etc.)?
As Eric explained before, this information is (supposedly) given at their annual financial meeting, which is disclosed to anyone willing to attend, whether member or not. But he wouldn’t disclose this information to me upon inquiry.
13. What is the size of your church and any other space the church owns for meetings and church services?
Here is another question I re-sent after unable to find it on the website.
“We have 5 weekend services. Saturday in Park City at 1400 Bitner Road at 4:45pm, and in Salt Lake City at 700 E 1010 S on Saturday evenings (6:15pm) & Sunday Mornings (8:30, 10:00, & 11:30am). Over the span of all 5 services, our attendance averages ~1000 each weekend. We typically do not promote our size as our focus is on discipleship.”
All in all, while our Questionnaire was answered sufficiently by both Eric at Capital Church and their website information itself, the answers we found only revealed the church to be very legalistic in its practices and policies. So we have to give a thumbs down for the Questionnaire.
The Worship Service
I couldn’t find video or audio for Capital Church’s worship services, but I did find this.
It’s five years old and I’m unsure if this has any resemblance to what their worship services are like today, but if it is, it’s no different from the worship shows that most other modern Christian churches are putting on these days.
A great, well practiced and entertaining show that elevates the worship team and takes the focus from worshiping God to praising the talents of men and women.
However, since we don’t know for sure if this is what their worship is like, we can’t give a thumbs up or down here. We’ll refrain from making a critique until we can attend the worship service ourselves within the next few months.
For the sermon, we decided to take Eric’s advice and listen to the message he referenced in answer to Question 11, since he suggested it, and because I’m curious to see if it’s as legalistic as everything else I’ve seen relating to this church so far.
It’s from February 24th, and you can listen with us by going to the sermon on their site here.
Here we go!
Is the sermon Topical or a Verse by Verse study of the Bible?
It’s topical. The title of the sermon is “As You Are” and if you are listening online as we are, this is the description of the sermon that the website displays (emphasis mine):
“As Christians, most of us will tell you the power of God’s grace has saved us. This truth alone is a beautiful gift, but it’s more than a one-time gift. It pursues us, strengthens, emboldens, and softens us. Can all of us say God’s grace has changed us?
"In our most honest moments, we know the ways we are broken. That brokenness can even make us afraid of coming to God, because we know when God gives us grace, he accompanies it with truth, and we would rather forget the shame we feel. We would rather bury and burn memories of seasons we regret than hear the truth about ourselves.
"Grace is the voice that calls us to change and then gives us the power to pull it off. God draws us into his embrace, showering us with love, and like any good parent, he tells us when we have some things to work on. It is because of his grace that you don’t have to be afraid of the truth. God loves you just as you are, but he loves you too much to leave you as you are.”
A few remarks regarding this description before we get on with the sermon itself:
“Can all of us say God’s grace has changed us?” - Is this a question, or a statement? Because...God’s grace does change whomever accepts it by putting their faith in Jesus Christ. I’m unsure of what they mean by asking this question. I guess we’ll find out by listening to the sermon.
“Grace is the voice that calls us to change and then gives us the power to pull it off.” - Actually, that's called the Holy Spirit which dwells within all Christians.
“God loves you just as you are, but he loves you too much to leave you as you are.” - Okay, I agree with this. The question is, are they going to turn this into a message of legalism and church-mediated works, or direct us to Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit?
How frequently is the Bible used? Is the Bible interpreted in context, or cherry picked and interpreted out of context to support a different message?
Frequently. He quotes from several cherry picked verses throughout the sermon, but since it’s not a verse by verse study but rather a topical sermon about grace and truth, effectively, the Bible is not read in context.
The understanding of each particular passage taken from the Bible may be interpreted and applied based on its context, but since the verses are cherry picked rather than studied contextually, it’s hard to keep track.
Biblical references made: John 1:24-18, Exodus 34:6, Exodus 20, Ephesians 2:8-9, Titus 2:11-12, Colossians 4:6, 1 Peter 4:10, 2 Corinthians 12:9
What’s at the heart of the message: God, The Gospel, The Word, Jesus, or something else?
Pastor Troy puts a lot of emphasis and focus into the topic of grace and truth. The title of the sermon “As you are” is taken from the sermon’s premise: “God loves you just as you are, but He loves you too much to leave you just as you are.”
I can’t say I disagree with any of it. It’s all Biblically correct and easy to understand and agree with, and in the end, I would say it’s about God’s grace, truth, and how it relates to us personally and individually.
Is the sermon Biblical? Were you fed the Word of God, or the words of men?
While it was technically Biblical, just as with Utah Valley Church, I can’t say I was fed the Word. We weren’t really in the Word at all. Pastor Troy did frequently and quickly quote from the Bible, but the majority of the sermon consisted of personal anecdotes to support the topic of the sermon and his own insights.
At the end, he gives the congregation a homework assignment, which you can see on the website for this particular sermon for yourself, to read specific passages from the Bible. He also strongly recommends people buy and read some of his favorite books on these topics from the church bookstore.
I’m beginning to see a trend in churches that used to be more in the Word but have backed off from it in favor of topical sermons. What they do now is give people homework assignments and tell them to “feed themselves” the Word, abandoning their responsibility to do this. If Christians could “feed themselves” the Word, why are they going to church on Sunday? To hear the words of men? To me, it’s akin to a teacher that doesn’t want to teach, so she just hands out homework assignments and puts all of the teaching responsibility onto the parents.
In conclusion to the sermon section of the Check, pastor Troy is a great speaker. He has wonderful humor and charisma, and does a great job of keeping his sermon clear and concise.
I agree with everything pastor Troy says all the way up until he starts conflating the Holy Spirit with God’s grace. They’re actually two separate things and in conflating them it sort of pushes the Holy Spirit into the background, out of our minds, and thereby out of existence.
It’s so subtle, and so hard to catch, but in making this tiny conflation we forget that it’s the Holy Spirit that keeps us free and actually prevents us from falling into the trap of religion. Without the Holy Spirit, we are doomed to become accountable to men and women, and to confess our sins to each other, and we are trapped by religion.
He also mentions that the way God tells us the truth and challenges us is through other people. While I can agree that this can be true, the failure to mention the Holy Spirit and its job in convicting and holding us accountable as Christians is concerning for me.
The sermon is jam packed full of gracious rhetoric, but being that they have such legalistic policies at this church and the Holy Spirit is neglected entirely in the sermon, I have to question whether they practice what they preach.
The sermon itself, in the end, was Biblical. It just didn’t feed me the Word. I was given a homework assignment to feed myself the Word, and to buy some books recommended by the pastor and read them too.
Additionally, the neglect of the Spirit as our accountability and conviction in our sins in favor of other people, and the personification of grace itself in place of the Spirit, has brought me to give the sermon a thumbs down.
While the sermon, as I said, was full of gracious rhetoric, everything we’ve found on the website contradicts that message. The Spiritual Continuum, the Membership Covenant, and the replacing of the Holy Spirit in the sermon for grace, leads us to believe that this is a very legalistic church overall.
On top of all of that, they require members to pay tithing and appear to encourage a legalistic system of man-made accountability, rather than preaching the conviction and accountability we have by God Himself by the Holy Spirit.
The only thing I find gracious about this church is their statement of faith and the gracious language during the sermon. Actions speak louder than words, unfortunately.
Their affiliation with the Assemblies of God is the only thing we can see that would put them on the more conservative side of the Political Scale.
Scandals & Controversies
I haven’t found any scandals or controversies of note for Capital Church.
When all is said and done, there are far too many negatives that outweigh the positives at Capital Church.
The sermon, while Biblical and focused entirely on grace and truth in its language, replaced the Holy Spirit with the word “grace,” did not feed us the Word of God, but rather gave us a homework assignment to feed ourselves the Word, as well as purchase some books that the pastor recommends.
The Website Review revealed a lot of legalistic practices and policies within the church, and the Questionnaire only further confirmed that impression.
While they were very prompt and friendly in answering my emails and I was able to find almost all of the information I needed to complete the Check, financial transparency is still unknown, and there are too many concerns about this church to give them a recommendation.