Church Check: Calvary Chapel of Salt Lake City, Utah

Updated: May 9, 2019


**Update 4/27/19 - Pastor Terry Long has sent us his answers to the Questionnaire. We've taken Calvary Chapel SLC down from the Wall and will update this post accordingly.**


The Quick Check


Summary

In Calvary Chapel of Salt Lake City we see a lot of good things, especially compared to most other churches that we’ve checked, including the preaching of the Word.


The problem is that they still find themselves trapped in the same financial dilemmas that all churches find themselves eventually when growing in numbers becomes the priority. While they don’t loudly and blatantly advertise that they preach tithing on their website, they do still pass the plate and use several other means to bring money into the church such as their thrift store, deli, and other businesses. Not to mention the Giving Kiosk they've set up for people to pay off their building.


You will be fed the Word here most definitely, but at the same time, the numerous means by which this church makes money could be concerning to many Christians.


The Grace Scale


See Full Explanation Below

The Political Scale


See Full Explanation Below

The Verdict:

I actually like Calvary Chapel for the most part, but I just can’t stomach the lack of financial transparency. This is a first for us, but for this Check, I’m on the fence.


You’ll get the Word here, the Gospel is preached and God is glorified, but there’s no denying the presence of a few more legalistic practices as well as the financial doubts.


Due to the few but serious issues we find here, and while they still teach the Word and preach the Gospel, we're on the fence.




The Full Check


When my husband and I decided to start going to church several years ago as a new couple, Calvary Chapel in Salt Lake City was the first one we tried.


When it comes down to it, Pastor Terry Long does feed his congregation the Word, and that’s very important, but on the other hand he appears stuck in a place that forces him to seek ways to financially sustain his church. And that’s where most of our problems with Calvary Chapel come in.

Let’s get into it, people. We gotta Check these guys out.


About The Church


On their website, there’s an entire page dedicated to Calvary Chapel newcomers where they describe what they’re all about, what you can expect at their church, and what kind of ministries and groups they have to offer you and your family.


http://www.calvaryslc.org/whoweare/newtocalvary


Here’s what they say about what you can expect at their church:


All of the services at Calvary center on teaching the Bible, fellowship, worship, and prayer.

Because we study God's word, you can expect to be spoken to by the Lord.

Because we fellowship, you can expect to be encouraged by God's people.

Because we worship, you can expect to sense the presence of the Lord.

Because we pray, you can expect God to be at work in your life.

In our worship services, Pastor Terry Long teaches from the Scofield Study Bible - NKJV


The only thing I find troublesome here is where they say “because we worship, you can expect to sense the presence of the Lord.”


Worship is not about us and our feelings, although worshiping God does bring a certain experience. If I don’t experience the presence of the Lord during my worship, that’s okay. That’s not what worship is for. Worship is for worshiping God, not receiving some kind of experience or feeling for ourselves.


But anyway, onto the Check.


The Questionnaire


I’ve actually emailed with Pastor Terry Long before in the past. It was prompted by my complaining about his church publicly on Shawn McCraney’s Tuesday night show, Heart of the Matter a couple years ago.


In retrospect, it would have been better to go directly to Terry rather than bash him like that in public, especially without giving him a chance to answer my questions first. It was an error on my part, and in bad taste.


This time, I hope to approach this in a much better way. I emailed him with my questionnaire just as I’ve done with every other church that I’ve checked so far. And waited for a week. Then I emailed him again, but quickly decided Facebook would be a better way to try and catch him than email, and PM-ed him there.


This is how the conversation went:


Me: Hi, Pastor Terry. I sent you an email but didn't know if you've had a chance to take a look at it yet. Anyway, if you could check back with me and let me know if those questions can be answered, I'd greatly appreciate it. Thanks!


Terry: Hi Sarah, I will look at it when I can. I am heading out of the state after this morning service and it's a crazy busy time right now. Best way to see what we are about is simply watch the services we live our lives out front. God bless you.


Me: I understand. If you could just get to it whenever you have time, that would be great. I will also watch the services, but would love to get more information for a more in-depth and helpful review for churchgoers. Thanks Terry.


To my last message, I got no response.


I don’t doubt that Pastor Terry is very busy. All Pastors are typically very busy. My problem is that answering these questions is not a priority to him, or most pastors in general it seems.


So, just like the others who have refused to answer the questionnaire, I’ll do my best to find the answers to these questions myself, so you don’t have to.


**Update 4/27/19 - It has been a couple of months, but Terry has finally sent me his answers, and I've updated the Questionnaire accordingly below.**


1. What is your church's official position on tithing?


"We do pass the plate giving people an opportunity to give to the work of God at Calvary Salt lake. We do not manipulate nor put any pressure on anyone to give. We do believe that giving all that we are and have to God is an aspect of following Jesus. He will guide us where to give and how much to give. I do believe that giving 10% is an excellent place to start, but again that is between the person and God. I have no idea who gives what at our church, I do know that lights are still on and we can keep the doors open, so there are those giving."


While we can agree with this statement for the most part, we have found that Calvary Chapel does actually put pressure on people to give. They have a Giving Kiosk in their church to encourage/pressure people to help pay off their building. Here are some pictures that were taken at Calvary Chapel SLC recently by our friend Patrick James Leyerle.


If this isn't pressuring to give, I don't know what is.





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?


"No, we have one requirement for anyone coming to Calvary is that they behave themselves; that is all. If they want to serve in a ministry at the church then we have an interviewing process, this is necessary to keep the church healthy and our kids safe.   We do have a membership class this is relatively new to us, but it has been a good process for people to understand what we are about and where we have come from as a church. It helps me as a pastor to get to know new people and for them to get to know my wife and me."


I'm not sure what pastor Terry considers to be "behaving," but if there is a membership class, there must be a membership agreement. We will have to dig further to see if we can provide one for the curious churchgoers.


3. What is your church's official position on the doctrine of salvation? Through grace, works, both?


I found this answer on their What We Believe page of their website.


“We believe that all men are sinners by nature and choice and, therefore, are under condemnation. We believe through the Holy Spirit, God regenerates those who repent of their sins and confess Jesus Christ as Lord.”


Okay, this sounds gracious to me. Terry said this in his answer as well:


"Good what you have."


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?


Until Terry responds to my questionnaire, the answer appears to be no.


**Update: 2/22/19**


After more digging, I discovered more about Calvary Chapel's finances. On their website on the Giving Page, you see two different seals of certification.


First, on the left, is ECFA (Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability). One might look at this and assume, "Oh, good. They're being held accountable by someone and they've been certified in compliance with their standards of accountability. That's all I need to know."


But click on the link that leads you to "read more" about this accountability and you learn a few key things. 1. They brought in $1.6 million in donations in 2017 (they haven't updated this for 2018) which is the same that South Mountain in Draper brought in last year in donations. 2. They also made almost $900,000 in revenue through other means, which puts their total over $2.5 million. 3. It tells us nothing about how that money is distributed or how much goes to the salaries of the staff and the pastor. So basically, all this tells us is how much money they bring in, which is good, but in order for people to actually be held accountable and to be transparent, we need to know more than this.


See it for yourself here: http://www.ecfa.org/MemberProfile.aspx?ID=22391.


Second, on the right, is the GuideStar seal.


I signed up for a free membership with GuideStar to gain access to this information, but you can too if you really want to see it for yourself. Just go here, get your own account, and read this information for yourself.


Calvary Chapel hasn't updated their information with GuideStar since 2013, and the amount of information they've given them is no different from what we already know through the ECFA. Less, actually.


Additionally, there's a whole list of Operations information missing. Regarding Board Practices, it says:


"GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section, which enables organizations and donors to transparently share information about essential board leadership practices."


What does Calvary Chapel transparently share about their board leadership practices?


Nothing. Absolutely nothing.


It lists Terry Long as the Board Chair, but then in every category following, which include things like Ethics and Transparency, it reads Not Applicable.


So, now we know that Calvary Chapel brings in over $2.5 million in revenue, but we have no idea how that is distributed or spent on maintaining the church.


**Update: 4/27/19**


"We are part of ECFA we also have at least one outside audit every year to make sure we are doing the best practices for how Gods money is spent. We do have a bookstore/deli at the church. This has always been to help people get excellent resource for their bible study and support the family that is racing from work to get to church the deli helps feed their families. The bookstore and deli has never broken even until just recently, we had to make some significant changes to fix the financial problems at the store. It is now at break-even praise God. The bookstore gives away hundreds of bibles a month and it quick to help anyone out that is in genuine need. We also have a thrift store that is separate from the church, it provides jobs to a lot of people, and we used it to support many ministries."


The bookstore and deli both charge money for their items, so I'm not sure how this really helps people. All of these affiliated businesses charge money for their products and services. I've been to churches where they didn't charge money for a single thing in the building (CAMPUS Church). Food, coffee, books, etc...all free.


5. Which denomination does your church align with the most, if any?


Calvary Chapel is really its own denomination. Additionally, their What We Believe page on their website used to state this:


Final Authority for Matters of Belief and Conduct

The statement of faith does not exhaust the extent of our beliefs. The Bible itself, as the inspired and infallible Word of God that speaks with final authority concerning truth, morality, and the proper conduct of mankind, is the sole and final source of all that we believe. For purposes of Calvary Chapel Salt Lake's faith, doctrine, practice, policy, and discipline, Calvary Chapel Salt Lake's Board of Directors are the final interpretive authority on the Bible's meaning and application.


*Update 4/27/19** Terry saw this answer and had this to say:

"I will need to see where you got this. I don’t like this wording at all. The Board of Directors is NOT the final interpretive authority of the bibles meaning and application. We will fix that statement. Thanks for pointing that out. We are in fellowship with Calvary Chapel Association and Calvary Global network."


The statement at the bottom of the What We Believe page now says this:

Final Authority for Matters of Belief and Conduct

The statement of faith does not exhaust the extent of our beliefs. The Bible itself, as the inspired and infallible Word of God that speaks with final authority concerning truth, morality, and the proper conduct of mankind, is the sole and final source of all that we believe.


I'm very grateful that Terry had this statement adjusted the way he did. I know it was something that actually troubled a lot of Christians I know personally upon reading it.


6. Is your church's pastor available for other questions or comments regarding the church, its doctrines, etc.?


The last time I expressed concerns with his church, Terry was very responsive and open to answering all of my questions, but this time, I was basically snubbed...until recently.


**Update: 4/27/19**


"Yes but I will not get pulled into a argument about doctrine."


I'm not sure what this means exactly. Does he refuse to discuss doctrine at all, or specific controversial doctrines?


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?


"We have a lot of people and friends that have a different view on church doctrine. If you have two people that agree on every topic you have one person that is not thinking; in other words, I love people that will disagree, Agreeably.  I won't get pulled into an argument, that does not help. We don’t change doctrine on the main issues of Christianity, such as being born again by the spirit of God, Jesus is the Messiah, the son of God and his sacrifice on the cross saves us, etc.   On the non-issues we are always learning and growing, and yes I have and probably will again change my views on some things and when I do I talk to the church about it."


8. Does your church require that its members be baptized? What is your church's official position on baptism?


It does not appear that they believe baptism is required for salvation. Nothing on the site suggests that, although they do have a class you must take at their church before they will baptize you. You can read their brochure on baptism on their website at the bottom of the New to Calvary page.


Terry says this about it:


"We do have a class on baptism to let people know about what it is all about. A person does not need to be baptized to be saved or attend our church, but every believer should be baptized."

9. Please describe what a typical service and/or meeting looks like in your church.


I found a pretty well written description of what a typical Calvary Chapel service looks like here: https://www.thoughtco.com/calvary-chapel-beliefs-and-practices-699982:


“Worship services are not standardized in Calvary Chapels, but typically include praise and worship at the beginning, a greeting, the message, and a time for prayer. Most Calvary Chapels use contemporary music, but many retain traditional hymns with organ and piano. Again, casual attire is the norm, but some church members prefer to wear suits and neckties, or dresses. A "come as you are" approach allows for a variety of clothing styles, from very relaxed to dressy. Fellowship is encouraged before and after services. Some churches are in stand-alone buildings, but others are in renovated stores. A large lobby, cafe, grill, and bookstore often serve as informal mingling places.”


10. How many people do you have on staff at your church, both paid and volunteer?


"We have I think about 15 that are on staff part time and full time and lots of volunteers I have no idea how many, lots of them. It’s a family."


11. What is the pastor's educational history?


"I am a lifelong student, I graduated from Trinity life bible college a life time ago, also graduated from Liberty University online school, and Calvary west Covina bible college again a long time ago. I am a student that keeps learning. I am always taking some classes I am taking some right now from Logos Bible software mobile education. Always learning never the scholar."


12. How does the church discipline its members with their sin?


"We are here to help people follow Jesus the only time we have had to ‘discipline’ anyone is when they are hurting the church or causing a scene at the church. Everyone is welcome if they behave." 

Again with the word "behave." I still don't know what he means by this because he doesn't provide any solid information on how the church handles anything. It's a little concerning.


13. How is the pastor compensated (income, benefits, bonuses, etc.)?


Something tells me we’ll never get an answer to this, and not just from Calvary Chapel. It’s important for churchgoers to know they have a right to this information though. Churches need to be financially transparent and accountable to the Word of God with the money they are given in the name of God. If they can’t do that, they at least have the common decency to stop asking people for money.


**Update 2/22/19**


Now, based on what we know of the revenue that Calvary Chapel brings in, and what we know about how much the average pastor of a church CCSLC's size makes yearly, we can safely assume that pastor Terry Long makes at least $150k a year.


**Update 4/27/19**


"The way we set everyone compensation at the church is the guidelines established by the ECFA and Leadership network. They put out a yearly manual on what the average church across America is paying its staff. Every employee including every pastor at Calvary is making what the standard it for the job position. No one is making over or under the standard."


This still doesn't quite answer the question, since we don't know what the guidelines the ECFA has established, but we will look into this more and see if we can find out for ourselves. I've contacted the ECFA and will update this post with their response.


**Update 5/8/19**


After speaking with Dan at the ECFA, I have clarified something that I think is important.


The ECFA actually has no compensation level guidelines. Based on Terry's answers above, that was the impression I had: That the ECFA has established compensation levels for each church position. According to them, they don't. Read the email I received from Dan Busby with the ECFA for yourself:


So, we don't have the survey information that Terry is referring to, and while the ECFA might have some surveys on file that could be implied, we still don't know which ones he's referring to, and the only guidelines they establish do not actually determine compensations levels, just the process that is used to make them.


14. What is the size of your church and any other space the church owns for meetings and church services?


**Updated: 2/22/19**


Based on what we know about SMCC's donation revenue in comparison to Calvary Chapel's, we can assume it's somewhere close to the same number of members/attendees, which is somewhere between 1-2,000 people.


Terry confirmed:


"The size of our church I think is about 2-3 billion, those that attend Calvary salt lake are about between 1-2000 as you state that is close I would guess."


*Updated 4/27/19*


Now that Terry has answered the questionnaire, and many if not most of his answers are exactly what we're looking for, the only issue that remains is financial transparency.


While Calvary Chapel appears to make more of an effort than most to appear transparent financially, our initial observations regarding this still stand, as Terry merely pointed us to the EFCA without giving us any information on their finances at all. And as we found before, the EFCA doesn't tell us very much.


I can no longer give the questionnaire a thumbs down since Terry did answer it and most of his answers were in line with our views here, but due to financial transparency alone, I have to at least stay on the fence here.


The Worship Service


I can’t give them a thumbs up or down on the worship service yet because I haven’t actually attended a worship service of theirs in years. Until I can physically attend the worship service I should refrain from making any judgment here, but I will say from memory that it isn’t much better than most other churches these days as far as turning the worship of God into a big show.


It may have gotten better or worse since I attended several years ago, however, so I will just wait until I can make a more confident position in this area. Perhaps by the time Pastor Terry answers my questions, I’ll be in a position to attend the worship service.


The Sermon


Now, for an area where we can actually get some answers!


The sermon I decided to watch is from Sunday, January 6th. You can watch it to see what I’m talking about on their website too, here: https://www.calvaryslc.org/sundays/message/253-sermon-1-06-19-11am/watch


Unfortunately, it’s not a typical sermon for Calvary Chapel but rather more of a “catch up” for them, but by the time I realized this probably wasn’t the best example of a Calvary Chapel sermon, I’d already spent too much time checking this church to go back and watch another one.


Perhaps when I get to Salt Lake in the next few months I’ll attend an actual service and use a better example, but for now, we’ll stick with what we got.


Is the sermon topical, or a verse by verse study of the Bible?


Typically verse by verse. Thank you, Jesus. I love it when a pastor actually reads the Bible.


In this sermon, however, Pastor Terry explains how they’re beginning their study through the New Testament again after getting sidetracked on a letter that Paul wrote during a study through Acts a while back. To me, this means they really do get into the Word and they focus on it, rather than one topical series made up by people. Good!


Unfortunately, it also means since this is a “catch up” sermon, it will be more of an overview or review of previous studies and sermons than a verse by verse study as Pastor Terry usually does.

For the sake of the check, we will say it is verse by verse, since that is what they typically do.


What was the focus of the sermon? God, The Word, The Gospel, or you?


The Word, God, and the Gospel. It’s pretty cut and dry really. There’s no questioning that the focus here is in fact on the Bible, and whatever the Bible is talking about. Of course the pastor occasionally inserts his views or personal interpretation of a passage, but the focus is on the content of the Word.


Was the Word of God being taught, or was it more about the words of men?


Pastor Terry is basically walking us through everything he’s covered in the Bible over the past five years, before they were sidetracked by that letter written by Paul. And everything they covered is the chronological history of the Bible, starting from creation of the world and man all the way up until the Gospel of Christ. It was literally a review of everything they’ve covered in the Word of God.


Once Terry finishes up his summary of their study in the Old Testament and gets into the New, he zeroes in on why the Bible consists of the books we have rather than other books that people have campaigned to get into the Bible in the past. He’s giving answers to questions many Christians and non-Christians have had about the legitimacy of the Gospels.


Was the Gospel being preached, or was it the Law?


The Gospel, absolutely. Literally. He’s talking about the Gospel itself. No law here.


He even gets into the difference between the synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John, which is mostly unique compared to the synoptics. He quickly explains the context of each book of the Gospels, the purpose of each book, information about the authors, etc…


The point is, there is no preaching of the law at all. It is a historical overview of the Gospels, their context, purpose, and how they all point to the life and purpose of Jesus Christ.


Was God being glorified, or something else?


It could be argued that the Bible itself is being glorified, rather than God, but many would see that as appreciating the Bible to the glory of God.


All in all, it was very educational, focused on the Word, dedicated to the Gospel of Christ, and centered around God. So it's a thumbs up for the sermon.


The Grace Scale


While Calvary Chapel clearly preaches grace, there are several practices within the church that feel more legalistic to me.


They have a class for new members to take. Whether it’s required or whether new members have to sign a doctrinal agreement or not, we don’t know. But the class’ existence itself appears legalistic to me.


They also have a class for you to take before they will baptize you. This is actually required in order for you to be baptized in their church.


So while they certainly preach grace and don’t push tithing as much as many other churches do, I have to put Calvary Chapel closer to the Legalistic side of the Grace Scale than they would probably like to be. Outwardly they show grace, while inwardly, there are just a few practices that make us wonder in the end.




The Political Scale


While politics don’t seem apparent at all during worship services or at the sermons, nor does Pastor Terry Long’s Facebook page indicate his political beliefs either way, many Christians might interpret a few of the church’s doctrinal positions on gender, sexuality and marriage as political. And since abortion is a largely political issue, their statement regarding that issue to be political as well.


This is why we put Calvary Chapel slightly to the right on the Political Scale.




Scandals, History, & Controversies


There haven’t been any scandals at this Calvary Chapel as far as I can tell, but there has been some controversy between Pastor Terry Long and the Pastor of CAMPUS Church, Shawn McCraney over the years, mainly concerning doctrinal differences, tithing, and legalistic church practices that Calvary Chapel pushes which Shawn McCraney openly criticizes.


These are, however, the same controversies that have occurred between Shawn McCraney and the many other Christian churches in the Salt Lake area.


There is also a video of Pastor Terry Long on YouTube supposedly making Satanic hand signals, but it’s more of a joke than a serious scandal or controversy, and I must say that personally, I can’t believe someone put this much time and effort into making themselves look this ridiculous. Here’s the clip though, for anyone who needs a good laugh.



Conclusion


There is no question that Calvary Chapel preaches the Word of God. They preach the Gospel, their services are focused on glorifying God, and that’s all wonderful, but inwardly, there are a few other issues we have to wonder about.


While pastor Terry did eventually answer the Questionnaire, and in many areas, much to our satisfaction, the question of financial transparency remains, and some of the answers are still a bit vague for our liking.


This church is still a little bit too legalistic with its Baptism class, Membership class, and plate passing for us to fully get behind as well.


Terry claims the deli barely breaks even and it's costed the church money to keep it going, but if that's the case, why even have it at all? Are deli's really necessary for God serving churches in the first place?


Staying true to the Word of God is very important, and even though Calvary Chapel preaches the Word of God and remains focused on the Gospel, I can’t fully commit to a completely positive review. Especially now that even after Terry has answered the Questionnaire, we still know as much about their financial data that we did before.


I’m on the fence here, guys.


Do you attend Calvary Chapel? Agree or disagree with our Check? Let us know! Join the discussion and give us your own review by becoming a member and do your own Checking.

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