Updated: Mar 21, 2021
Basic Church Information
Church Name: Real Life Ministries
Senior/Lead Pastor: Jim Putman
Leadership Staff/Elders: Unknown
Address: 1860 N. Cecil Road Post Falls, ID 83865
Email: https://www.reallifeministries.com/contact-us / email@example.com
Denomination: Non-Denominational / Possibility of Calvinism & Lordship Salvation
Preaching Style: Topical
Membership Requirements: Yes
Tithes/Compelled Giving: Yes - Tithing is actually taught as a command to Christians
Financial Transparency: No (See Questionnaire)
Answered Questions: Yes...Sort of
Affiliations: Celebrate Recovery, Relational Discipleship Network
Other Information: RLM has a Podcast where Jim Putman addresses specific topics regarding women in ministry (this church does not allow women in leadership positions), membership questions, etc. (https://www.reallifeministries.com/podcasts). I will be starting a series of opinion pieces in response to Jim Putman's statements on these issues.
Red Flags of Abuse:
As always, we recommend that anyone attending their church, including Real Life Ministries, walk themselves through Steve Hassan's BITE Model and Undue Influence Continuum to make sure they're not being victimized by their church or ministry. Both documents are available here:
Our initial request for Real Life Ministries to answer our questions was over a year and a half ago. I emailed the contact email from the church's website and reached one of their office employees. After I introduced myself and sent them the list of questions, they looked them over and said 'No.'
This time (8/27/20), I decided to try and get in touch with Pastor Jim Putman himself. He has ignored my email so far, but after realizing he probably won't respond, I took a more creative approach.
While I was able to find many of the answers myself, I popped into RLM's live Facebook service yesterday morning and asked the questions I was missing answers to. What do ya know? They answered them ;).
Update: 1/28/21: I have finally managed to get in touch with Pastor Jim Putman. While I've been distracted discussing other issues with him, I will be asking him about any questions I still don't have answers to and update this report accordingly.
1. What is your church's official position on tithing?
This is what their official Doctrinal Statement on Stewardship and Generosity says (emphasis is mine):
"RLM Doctrinal Statement: STEWARDSHIP & GENEROSITY
We believe our whole lives; our time, talents and treasures are to be given obediently and generously in response to God's grace, mercy and love for us. We believe that giving 10% of our income is defined as a "tithe", the Biblical starting point of giving to the local church (the storehouse). We believe that any giving over 10% is an "offering" of gratitude for the great things God does for us daily and can be directed at the givers discretion to any worthwhile ministry, church or organization. We believe that generosity and stewardship are essential to maturity and the accomplishment of Christ's mission..."
We hear Pastor Jim Putman talking about tithing as a "command" on the Real Life Discipleship Podcast during their November 26, 2019 episode entitled "Ever Wonder Why We Pass The Offering Bucket At Church?"
Also, Old Testament tithing is taught on this page teaching Christians to practice the habit of giving in order to grow spiritually: https://www.reallifeministries.com/page/2145?Item=718
Lastly, on the church's Give page, it states: "...THANK YOU FOR YOUR GENEROSITY AND FAITHFULNESS IN YOUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS AS WE CONTINUE TO REACH THE WORLD FOR JESUS, ONE PERSON AT A TIME."
2. Does your church have official memberships, and if so, does it include a membership agreement or contract?
They do, but it can't be found on the church website. I was, however, able to get a copy, and it's right here:
Additionally, on their Memberships page it says:
“WHAT IS CHURCH MEMBERSHIP?"
"Does it really matter if I’m a member or not?”
“Why do I have to take a class to even become a member?”
“Do I have to sign anything and if so ‘why’?”
"People often ask these questions about our church membership and our membership process.
Many people are skeptical as to why there seems to be so many “hoops” to jump through. We look forward to giving answers to these and many other questions. Our “Joining the Team” 101-Membership Class is the best place to find the answers.
This is where you’ll also find out what we believe and what it means to be a disciple of Christ, and how we come together united as a team here at Real Life Ministries. We will cover the Gospel, RLM Doctrines, The Discipleship Process, and the Leadership Structure of the church. The “Joining the Team” 101-Membership Class is required to become a member of Real Life Ministries, and is the first step in serving here at Real Life."
I have spoken to one of the Pastors at RLM and he's informed me that they recorded their last Membership class. He should be sending me a link to the recording sometime this week, so I will be able to see what that entails as well. Once I take the class, I will update this answer accordingly.
3. Is your church financially transparent or accountable to either the local church, a third party (such as the ECFA), or the universal church/public?
Real Life Ministries is a member of the ECFA (https://www.ecfa.org/MemberProfile.aspx?ID=23345#ScrollTo), but so far we see that transparency for church members is still very limited.
One of the church's Pastors told me they don't have a budget meeting for members because their church is "frankly too big" for that. He did say that if someone wants to know details they can simply ask, but when I asked how the Pastor's salary is set, he didn't know because that information is "above" his "pay grade."
It is ECFA policy for members to provide all financial information to anyone that requests it in writing. I have requested this information from Real Life and was told I must make an in-person appointment to be shown any financial information. This goes against ECFA's standards for financial transparency.
I eventually reached Senior Pastor, Jim Putman with my request for financial information, and after he asked me why I wanted to see them, he has ignored every email from me since my request.
I filled out a Concern Form with ECFA after being ignored by Jim Putman and it took three months for one of ECFA's employees to conclude that my request to RLM for financial transparency fell within one of their exceptions, allowing RLM to NOT be transparent with me.
Therefore, Check My Church no longer finds ECFA to be a legitimate method of showing financial transparency or accountability for a local Christian church, since all a church needs to do is claim someone seeking financial information falls within one of ECFA's exceptions. In conclusion, Real Life Ministries has shown no level of financial transparency to the local church or the universal Body of believers.
4. Which denomination does your church align with, if any at all?
While Real Life Ministries is listed as a non-denominational church, the teachings of Pastor Jim Putman lean heavily towards the doctrine of Lordship Salvation, which is much more common with Calvinists, but it's possible RLM is not Calvinist and still teaches this doctrine. To learn more about Lordship Salvation, here is a video I would recommend:
Putman's teachings regarding "obedience", "working as a team" as well as his emphasis on "accountability" and "disciple-making" is what lead me to believe he is a proponent of this doctrinal position.
5. Is the church's pastor available for questions or comments regarding the church's doctrines or policies?
While Pastor Jim's email address is available on their Podcast page for the Ask Jim Podcast, it's taken several months for me to receive a response.
However, the Post Falls RLM offers a "New Guest Meet & Greet" regularly and shows a picture of Pastor Jim smiling with a church attendee. To sign up for this "Meet and Greet" you must RSVP to someone named Kelly.
It mentions on the Meet & Greet page that you will hear from "staff and volunteers," and someone in the live comment section during the streaming service I attended said that Pastor Jim is there and you get to meet him.
For deeper or more lengthy questions about doctrine or financial transparency, however, someone else suggested I make an appointment to speak with him instead.
6. Is your church tolerant and accepting of differing non-essential doctrinal views, such as differences in eschatology or ecclesiology?
While RLM's Doctrinal Agreement is prefaced with a statement about allowing differing opinions on "minor" things, they do have non-salvation doctrines which they hold a particular view on as a church, and anyone who represents RLM "will reflect that approach." (https://www.reallifeministries.com/who-we-are)
Also, according to their Membership Covenant, you must agree with their Doctrinal Statement (Non-salvation issues included) in order to become a member.
7. Does your church require its members to be baptized?
It appears they do.
8. Please describe what a typical service and/or meeting looks like at your church.
We don't see anything that describes what a typical service looks like at RLM on the church website, but you can watch services online:
I attended this church regularly as a teenager and am familiar with their services, and after the online service I attended, they haven't really changed. It's a very casual environment that begins with worship, then announcements, and the message.
9. How many people do you have on staff at your church, both paid and volunteer?
According to one of the church's pastors, the website used to list this information but it has been taken down. I was told I would be sent this information via email, but never received it.
10. What is your/the pastor's educational background?
Jim's Bio on his personal website tells us that he "holds degrees from Boise State University and Boise Bible College." What those degrees are, we don't know yet. Perhaps I'll be able to get a hold of Pastor Jim and ask him myself.
11. How does the church discipline its members with sin? Does the church have a discipline policy or official protocol?
We don't find anything on the church website regarding a policy sin discipline, but we will update this post once we have attended the membership class or spoken to Pastor Jim.
12. How is the pastor compensated (income, bonuses, benefits, etc...) and how is that compensation established (Ex: board of elders, church vote, etc..)?
While RLM does have a Board of Elders, how the Pastor's salary is set is unknown. Who is on that Board of Elders is unknown, and how many elders there are is also unknown. ECFA has specific guidelines on how Pastor salary should be set, but since RLM is already declining to follow one of their standards regarding financial transparency, we don't know if they are following them in any other regard.
13. What is the size of your congregation and any space or buildings used for church services or meetings?
We found this information on Wikipedia:
"...In 2004, the church built a 68,000-square-foot (6,300 m2) facility, with a multi-purpose 1,700 seat auditorium, also on the same property. Real Life Ministries has purchased an additional 14 acres (57,000 m2) plus a home, for a total of 47 acres (0.19 km2) at the current site. The Church's master plan for the current site included a 3,600 seat main building, a softball field and a youth center..."
We also see that RLM has over 7,000 in weekly attendance.
14. What is the pastor’s ministerial work history? Have they been the pastor of or on the leadership staff at any other church? Please list their past ministry work and their reasons for leaving those ministries.
We can read in Jim's Bio that before he became Senior pastor of Real Life Ministries, he serves as a youth pastor in two small churches. This is the only ministerial work history we can see on Pastor Jim Putman so far.
15. How does the church safeguard against any kind of abuse (sexual, verbal, emotional, spiritual)? Has there ever been an incident or conflict within the church involving potential abuse? If so, how was it resolved?
According to a letter RLM released back in 2010, they do have a system set up to safeguard against potential abuse or misbehavior. It didn't work in preventing abuse toward girls attending the RLM Youth Group in the case of Jordan Vernon, who worked at RLM as a volunteer in tech support back in 2008. Read the full letter from Real Life below to learn exactly what happened and how it was resolved. You can also read the article released by KHQ News here.
I haven't been able to find any kind of apology from the church to the victims for Jordan Vernon's behavior. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have information to show Real Life Ministries' remorse for this unfortunate abuse.