Updated: Apr 29, 2019
Okay, time for another church review, Churchgoers!
For this one I decided to go with the most recent church I’ve attended besides my home church. I attended two services for One Place Church in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho. One was the Christmas Eve service in person while I was up in C’da visiting family, and the other service was online much more recently.
Today I will be reviewing my experience from the Christmas Eve service as well as the other interactions I’ve had with One Place, and one of their members.
I’ve been hesitant to check this church because I actually have family who attend it on a regular basis and absolutely love it, but then decided that the purpose of Church Checking isn’t to spare feelings for anyone in the first place, nor is it to make personal attacks or insults toward anyone either.
The purpose is to present the facts about churches for everyone to see and judge for themselves in order to find the best church for them.
It’s just the facts, people. If we want to nourish the flock, we have to improve our churches. So here is it, but first, some background information.
About One Place Church
Unfortunately, it was very difficult to get a hold of anyone with One Place to find out more about them, and whenever I did get someone to talk to me to get more information from them, my questions were basically ignored and I was sent to their website, or told that I must attend their “Base Camp” courses at their church in order to learn anything beyond what the website says.
Honestly, if the Base Camp was available for free online, I’d have no problem doing that, but since they are not, I’m not sure how that suggestion answers my questions at all. So, they were basically ignored.
All I can really go off of is what I was able to read on their website at www.oneplacechurch.com and what I experienced while I was there. I’ll do my best here to provide some basic facts about the church before continuing on to the main Check.
One Place Church is a non-denominational Christian church in Hayden, Idaho led by Pastor Pace Hartfield. Before they got their current building in Hayden, they were using the C’da Regal Cinema to hold services until they could buy a space of their own.
Like many non-denominational churches these days, they express a strong emphasis on togetherness, being a team, loving each other, and so forth. Also, having a good time, of course.
They’re also very open about their gracious attitude towards sin and imperfections, which is a good thing, however, there are a few things we disagree with One Place Church on. Any Christian looking for a church focused on feeding the Word every week may leave this Place half starved to death, and 10% poorer, too.
1. The Questionnaire
After numerous attempts to contact One Place Church through several different avenues, it took a week to get a response regarding the Questionnaire, and it wasn't a positive experience.
I tried to give them the benefit of the doubt by wondering if maybe they are just understaffed or hadn’t seen the email or any of the messages, but when I checked my message to the church on Facebook, someone had in fact seen the message. Both of them.
So, after several attempts and no answer, I was ready to give up, and try finding the answers to as many questions that I could myself.
Then, Hallelujah, I got a response. Sadly, it wasn’t the one I was looking for.
The first part of the conversation (my first two messages) were sent a few days before they actually responded. What followed was basically, “If you can’t find what you’re looking for on our website, you need to join the church, and if you can’t find what you’re looking for by joining the church, that’s too bad.”
I was baffled by this kind of response from a church, but it’s only been my second church checking experience, and I’m sure it won’t be the last time my questions are ignored. If you would like to see the original conversation via Facebook Messenger, email me and I'll send you a copy. For some reason Wix Blog isn't allowing me to paste the print screen or even attach a pdf, so I'll have to add the images later when I can figure out how.
Regardless, this doesn’t bode well for the review. And I’m forced to come up with answers to the Questionnaire as best I can without their support. Fortunately, I was able to snag a member and find out more from them on a few key issues.
1. What is your church's official position on tithing?
From their website, this is their position on tithing. I have put several words in bold to emphasize some key phrases for you to note.
“A tithe—which just means “tenth”—is defined as the first 10% of a person’s income that is to be given back to the local church. Tithing is a principle that is taught throughout the entire Bible. When we tithe, we are expressing worship in a tangible way by putting God first in our lives. Bringing our tithes is an opportunity for us to give God our thanks, show God we trust Him, and fight against greed in our hearts...all while allowing us to be a part of the most important work in life that is spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ!”
There are a few problems with this statement. First, they falsely claim that tithing is taught throughout the entire Bible. This is incorrect. Tithing is only taught and commanded by the law in the Old Testament as a part of the Old Covenant. It is briefly mentioned in the New Testament a couple of times, but not as law or as a commandment to Christians. Churches like to take the New Testament mentions of old law as a way to use them on their congregation to enforce rules and laws, but it simply isn’t right.
With Christ, God’s grace, and the New Covenant which is written on our hearts as Christians, there is simply no tithing law. There is no command for Christians to give tithing to their church. Period.
Secondly, while it isn’t necessarily bad to express our worship by giving money to a good church (it’s good if you can and really want to!), they word this statement in such a way as to say that when you pay tithes you’re actually “putting God first” in your life. It seems as if they are saying if you don’t pay tithing to their church, you are not putting God first in your life. I’m betting this sly little guilt trip of a statement has convinced many Christians to give money they needed for much more important things in their life instead to their extremely successful church.
Third, they mention how we should fight greed in our hearts by paying tithes. This assumes that people are in a position to be greedy in the first place. Many Christians struggle financially, living on a paycheck to paycheck basis (trust me, I know), and simply cannot afford another bill. To call these Christians who don’t have the money to give anything greedy is another guilt trip.
Lastly, it's really rich to call people who don't have the money to give to the church greedy while you refuse to disclose how much money you're profiting off of the rest of your congregation.
Who is really the greedy one? The Christian making barely enough to pay their bills, or the pastor profiting hundreds of thousands of dollars a year by himself? *shrug* Just saying, guys.
So, tithes? Thumbs down.
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?
I couldn’t find anything in the way of answer to this on the church’s website, but I do have a family member who attends the church, so I asked her to see if she knew the answer. Luckily, she did.
According to what she’s told me, One Place does not have any such thing, although they do have their Base Camp courses that people can attend to find out more about the church, what they believe, and according to their website, “dive into what it looks like to follow Jesus, connect to the church, discover your purpose and then make a difference with your life.”
3. What is your church's official position on the doctrine of salvation? Through grace, works, both?
Also, through digging through the website, I found their answer.
“Salvation is God’s free gift to us but we must accept it. We can never make up for our sin by self–improvement or good works. Only by trusting in Jesus Christ as God’s offer of forgiveness can anyone be saved from sin’s penalty. When we turn from our self–ruled life and turn to Jesus in faith we are saved. Eternal life begins the moment one receives Jesus Christ into his life by faith.”
This is the typical, grace-centered answer that most non-denominational Christian churches will give when asked about grace and works, which does align with the Bible, and CMC basically agrees with it. Too bad they preach tithing, or they would have a much higher Grace rating.
4. 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?
Since my questions were ignored by One Place and obviously they don’t have this information on their website, I could not get an answer to this question, which says a lot more than any answer could have shown.
They are apparently not transparent with their church’s financial information, and don’t want people to know how much money they are making or how it’s distributed. They definitely don’t want people knowing how much anyone is profiting, and that is more telling than the honest answer could have been.
6. Is your church's pastor available for other questions or comments regarding the church, its doctrines, etc.?
7. 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 couldn’t find an answer to this question on the website either, and based on the sermons I attended, rarely does anyone disagree with or challenge the pastor’s doctrinal positions. My family member who attends the church confirmed that she’s never experienced any type of disagreement with the pastor or controversy regarding the church’s teachings. So, there’s really no way to know how it would be handled if someone did in fact have a disagreement with the church.
Have you attended One Place and disagreed with one of their doctrines? Did you attempt to bring it up to the Pastor or other leadership at the church? What happened? Were your questions heard, considered, and answered? Or was it more like the way my questions were treated: with complete disregard?
8. Does your church require that its members be baptized? What is your church's official position on baptism?
Once again I had to ask my family member about this one, since the website says nothing about their position on baptism, but she confirmed that they do not require baptism, nor do they pressure members to get one in order to be considered a member of their church.
9. How many people do you have on staff at your church, both paid and volunteer?
There is nothing on their website that shows their staff with the exception of Pastor Pace and his wife Sarah, and definitely nothing about how many are paid or volunteer.
10. What is the pastor's educational history?
According to Pastor Pace’s Facebook Page, his education is as follows:
Studied Theology/Biblical Studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Studied Biblical & Theological Studies at Union University
11. How does the church discipline its members with their sin?
This church, like many, actually appears to be fairly gracious with its members in regards to sin, but as I’m checking more and more churches just like this, I’m discovering more and more churches are a lot more legalistic than they let on. Although these questions were ignored by the staff of One Place Church, my family member confirmed that she has never experienced any type of disciplining of a churchgoer’s sins by the church.
12. How is the pastor compensated (income, benefits, bonuses, etc.)?
Wouldn’t you like to know? I know I would! Too bad.
What frustrates me is that churches have the nerve to demand money from its flock but feel no responsibility to disclose how that money is being spent and distributed throughout the church.
13. What is the size of your church and any other space the church owns for meetings and church services?
When I visited One Place, it didn’t appear to be quite mega church size, and I’m pretty sure they’d just bought the building after using the C’da Regal Theater for a while. However, that still doesn’t tell me how much their building is or if they own any other space for whatever purpose.
It also doesn't tell me how many people they have attending their services on any given Sunday.
The size of the church doesn’t necessarily make it good or bad. It’s just another way to observe how much money a church may be bringing it, and paying, in order to sustain itself.
All in all, I can’t give a thumbs up for the Questionnaire, because they didn’t answer it. I was only able to find answers to a few of the questions on my own, and only one issue ended up being satisfactory in the end: the issue of salvation by grace alone.
2. The Worship Service
When I attended the Christmas Eve service, they played a lot of classic Christmas songs such as Joy to the World and Silent Night, which I actually quite enjoyed. They were well performed, but as I’ve mentioned before, a good worship service doesn’t necessarily mean an entertaining show.
Besides the Christmas songs, it seemed some of the other worship songs performed (by their impressive band) were written specifically for the sermon’s topic, which was Christmas Wonder.
The topically written song did not feel like a worship song to me, and had a lot more to do with this elusive term “Christmas Wonder” than actually worshiping God. It also definitely appeared to be more of a show or concert than a worship service.
In the end, I can’t give their worship service much of a thumbs up either, since it was way more focused around the topic of the sermon series and the appearance of the “show” rather than worshiping God in all His glory.
3. The Sermon
The sermon I’ll be commenting on is the one I physically attended on Christmas Eve. If you’d like to see the same service I’m referencing, you can watch it here, or find it on their website archive at oneplacechurch.com.
It doesn’t show in the video, but before Pastor Pace began his sermon, he preached tithing, claiming, “Tithing is a commandment of God taught in the Bible.” This only confirmed what we learned on their website about their views on tithing. Not good.
Now to the sermon. The entire Topical sermon was inspired by Pastor Pace’s daughter going to the orthodontist with her Elf on the Shelf toys and playing with them with gloves to avoid ridding them of their “magic.”
The orthodontist thought she was adorable and decided to post a picture of her on their Facebook or Instagram Page and put “#childlikewonder" next to the picture.
He said, “Christmas is full of wonder. Jesus always wants us to have Christmas wonder.”
I’m not sure where in the Bible Christ teaches us to have “Christmas wonder,” nor what that even really means, but okay. He continues:
“What do you wonder when you’re alone? What do you wonder when no one else is talking to you? What goes through your mind? What do you wonder?”
At this point, I was wondering if we were ever going to open the Bible. Ouch, I know. But it's true. The Bible doesn't even open until the very end of the sermon, and only for a brief moment.
He does talk about Jesus for a few minutes and how we never have to wonder where we stand with Him because He came to the world for us. The message is kind of vague and confusing at times, so I didn’t quite understand what he was trying to say overall, but he did mention Jesus. He also seemed to be trying to make the point that there is nothing we could do to make Jesus stop loving us, or stop making intercession for us. It sounded like a message of grace, but it seemed very unclear at times.
Then he started talking more about parenting and people and a cool idea for an app he came up with for parents and kids to find other kids they can hang out with...because Jesus came from an arranged marriage. It’s all connected, somehow? Well, I didn’t think any of that really mattered. I was just waiting to get back in the Word.
“Mary was probably a teenager, like 13 or 14 years old,” he said. “And I wonder what Mary wondered about Joseph.” He talks about their marriage, the mystery and “wonder” behind all of that, and on and on and on…but again, nothing relevant to the Word.
“God is okay with our wonder. He wants us to wonder.”
Pastor Pace goes on to talk a little bit about the 400 years of silence from God before Christ came and then says, “Jesus came to a world in sin. He made a way where there seemed to be no way.”
The point here is that the sermon only briefly and very vaguely touches on anything actually Biblical, and when it does, it’s only to cherry pick certain scenarios or words in the Bible in order to support the message that the pastor has set out to present, which for this week was “Christmas Wonder."
Personal anecdotes, a dramatic and intense speech, humorous charisma, but no real studying of the Word itself.
Sorry, One Place, but I have to give a thumbs down for the sermon, too. The number one thing a church is supposed to do is feed the flock the Word of God. Only one single verse was mentioned in this entire sermon, and only because it had the word “wonder” in it.
Topical sermons should be abandoned by Christian churches completely. Verse by verse studying of the Bible is the best way to get into the Word of God. Please read our blog post on this topic for more info here.
4. Grace Scale
If it wasn’t for the tithing, they’d be a lot more gracious of a church since they appear to be fairly gracious in every other manner I can think of. Unfortunately, being that they do preach it as a commandment of God and actively pressure people to give money to the church, I couldn’t do that in good conscience.
Any pressure to obey the law of the Old Covenant in order to be a good, faithful Christian or member of a church is antithetical to Christ and His work on the cross for us. Therefore, we put One Place a little further toward the legalistic side of the scale, for the tithing alone.
5. Political Scale
While it doesn’t appear that One Place is particularly political during the services or in general, there was one statement on their website that caught my eye:
“We unite our culture to reach our community. We believe diversity is our strength, so whatever your background, age or culture, we are excited about welcoming you into our church family!”
Now, I’m not saying I necessarily disagree with this statement or have a problem with it, because I don’t, but the whole “Diversity is our strength” mantra is something that is very commonly used on the political left as a slogan for multiculturalism.
In my book, that’s something of a political statement. It’s not much, but it’s enough to put them slightly left of center on the Political Scale.
6. History, Scandals, & Controversies
One Place appears to be a fairly new church, and therefore has plenty of closet space for some skeletons, but they don’t have any right now.
I did, however, manage to find one questionable interaction between Pastor Pace and some street preachers on YouTube. Pastor Pace appeared annoyed at the men, and avoided being on video too much, but apparently these street preachers had a serious problem with the way Pace had been conducting his church business. Giving free ice cream to attendees in order to attract them to his church.
Update: I found out from a One Place Member that these street preachers were actually protesters from Westboro Baptist. That definitely changes things!
Take a look-see for yourself:
It should be mentioned also that One Place does seem to take very seriously the common problem of sexual abuse and child abuse in many churches worldwide, and therefore only allows church employees with background checks to watch the children in their Sunday School services.
The Questionnaire was completely ignored.
The worship service I attended at Once Place was entertaining, but it was more of a well executed concert than a worship service. It was more about their topical sermon series, their band and their performers than worshiping God.
The sermon was not Biblically based, it was Topical, and it was inspired by something that has nothing to do with God, Jesus, or the Word of God. It was a well written, well performed speech that probably brought some emotion and good feelings out of people, but I was not fed the Word of God.
We go to church to hear, study, and absorb the Word of God. To worship God. It’s about God and His Word. Not us.
We love One Place for its focus on grace in most areas, but its teachings on tithing very clearly contradicts that grace. And the lack of financial transparency they've shown only further confirms that they have something to hide.
If One Place stopped preaching tithes, stopped worrying so much about the physical, material appearance of their church and started doing verse by verse teaching of the Bible during its sermons, I would give them an enthusiastic House of God verdict.
Until they do that, however, based on the facts we’ve presented here, we can't recommend this church.
Disagree with our verdict? Have you had an experience at Once Place that contradicts this one, or confirms it? Tells us what you think!