Alpine Bible Church in Lehi, Utah was requested by one of our readers. Initially, they were scheduled to be checked back in June, but a lack of response from the pastor and other distractions forced us to delay it. Now that we’re back in the saddle, it’s time to catch up on our backlog.
Thankfully, even if Alpine continues to ignore our questions, they have a very informative website. We can learn a lot about this church, what they believe, and what their practices are just by digging into their website a little.
So, let’s get this show on the road!
You can go to Alpine Bible Church’s website here to see what I’m referring to yourself. To start, as always, we’ll look at the homepage.
Minimalistic in design, there are a few key sources of information on this church provided right on the homepage. At the very top is a video of their latest sermon. Below that is a short video of pastor Nathaniel welcoming you to Alpine Bible Church (no red flags), and what appears to be their vision statement below that:
“As a community, we firmly believe in Jesus and the power of His word. As a church, we love Jesus, love people, and love our city. As believers, we are passionate about helping people develop a personal relationship with Jesus and having their lives changed through His love and eternal grace.”
Further down they have a button for new visitors to help them learn what to expect when attending Alpine Bible Church, what to wear, where to go, etc…on this welcome page, we do see one red flag. Go here to see what I’m talking about.
Red Flag: The very first sentence on this page gives me pause. (emphasis mine)
“Every service at Alpine Bible Church is comprised of two primary elements: inspiring worship and a life-changing message.”
“Inspiring” and “life-changing” are words that I think are being used here to attract people, and the attraction offered is a church service that’s going to serve you. The self absorbed “church is supposed to be for and about me” mentality that most churchgoers have these days is unfortunate. Churches encourage, enable, and even create it too by using language like this and creating an atmosphere that’s consumer friendly rather than all about God.
They do, however, follow up that first statement with one that seems to contradict it, in my mind at least. (emphasis mine)
“Our atmosphere is relaxed and our focus is on Jesus.”
Okay...let’s not get hasty, maybe I’m being nitpicky with language. Let’s move on and see what else we can learn about this church.
Blog Post: The Sabbath
The only other page on the website worth looking into more is their blog. I love churches that have blogs because it provides so much insight into how a church teaches and operates. You can learn so much about a church with just a few minutes of reading, whereas with many churches you’re forced to attend for months before you figure even a fraction of that information out on your own.
And this church’s blog is not lacking either. They appear to post at least once a month and sometimes even multiple times a month. In 2018 their posts were few and far between, but 2019 and the years before 2018 are jam packed with posts to help you understand what this church is all about.
I don’t want to make this check any longer than it needs to be, so for now I’ll just focus on one relevant post. Their post on the Sabbath is very revealing if you know what to look for. You can read it here.
Since this is a fairly short blog post I think I can analyze it thoroughly by just summarizing my thoughts and pointing out a few key red flag statements that are made. (emphasis mine)
Red Flag #1: “It is impossible to live as Christ calls us to live by separating ourselves from others. Jesus made us to glorify him in community.”
This statement is very similar to what we hear from many other churches. Fresh Life Church emphasizes that you need your “posse” in the sermon The Power of Your Posse. South Mountain Community Church says, “winning alone isn’t really winning” and have said very similar statements to this one as well. So many other churches use claims and statements like this to pressure and insist that Christians must go to church, but it’s just not true.
Sometimes being alone is necessary for some people to live at all. People with social anxiety problems struggle to even go to work every day, let alone to church. As mentioned later in this very same post it’s also impossible for people who are sick or are terribly persecuted where they live to gather with other believers.
I would argue that it’s not only possible to live as Christ calls us to in solitude, but it may even draw us closer to Him in some cases. Richard Wurmbrand, the Romanian pastor who was imprisoned, tortured, and put in solitary confinement for over a decade during the reign of Communism, claimed to have heard the voice of God Himself in prayer. He was given a gift from God that most of us may never know in our lifetimes. Hear more about it here.
Persecuted Christians all throughout history have been forced to live their life for Christ alone, and they served God and loved Him just the same as if they’d been able to attend a local church. If the Church is the believers and not the building, then not going to the building doesn’t prevent you from “going to church.”
Christ is in each of us, and while meeting together with other believers, having fellowship, and encouraging one another for the common purpose of glorifying God, serving Him, and learning His Word is all wonderful and certainly important, it’s not required. It’s a privilege, not a necessity. A gift, not an obligation.
Additionally, how important is attending the local churches that exist today anyway? Really? Is it really more Christ-like to attend a church that serves money, popularity, and other idols above God? Is it really essential to our faith and our walk with Christ to attend a church that returns us to a yoke of slavery, preaches the Law and not the Gospel, or is spiritually abusive to its congregation?
It’s impossible to live as Christ calls us to live by separating ourselves from Him, but not connecting with other believers no more blocks our path to Him than it did to Richard Wurmbrand or any other Christian in world history that was forced into loneliness. Nothing can stand between us and Him. Nothing. He is our mediator and all Christians have Him within themselves.
Anyone with Christ within them can live as He calls them to, whether it be in their local church around other believers, out in their community around anyone and everyone else, or in solitary confinement with only the prison guards and yourself to minister to. God is not confined to our local church buildings.
Okay, tangent over. Let’s move on.
Red Flag #2: “A gift is intended to be given away. When we neglect His church #1 we make light of what Jesus created by giving His life, #2 we neglect our opportunity to glorify God, and #3 we fail to permit God’s people to encourage one another.”
Failing to attend a local church (especially the terrible excuses for churches we see almost everywhere today) does not neglect His church. As we’ve already established and as all Christians know, His Church is the people, not the buildings. We’re not neglecting the Church by failing to attend a local church building, especially one that actually does neglect His church by serving money rather than God.
The first point in this statement that “we make light of what Jesus created by giving His life” comes off as very guilt trippy (is that a word?) and harsh. Not going to a local church does not mean that an individual Christian does not honor and serve Christ in their heart.
Not attending a local church does not neglect “our opportunity to glorify God” because you don’t need to attend a local church in order to glorify God. Literally anything the Christian does to glorify God, glorifies God, whether it be at church, at home, at work, or anywhere.
You don’t need to go to a local church in order to “permit God’s people to encourage one another.” Just as with the previous point, you can encourage God’s people anywhere. The local church is only one place for this, and you not going to one doesn’t “fail to permit” anyone from doing anything. Talk about guilt tripping.
Red Flag #3: “The Sabbath itself is not what is sacred but rather our desire in the Sabbath is what is sacred. We need to make it a priority to connect with God as a group of followers.”
This last red flag is mostly noted because it confuses me. On one hand, the writer points out that the Sabbath was never a Christian practice in the first place as a teaching of the Law, but then they make statements like this, which seem to suggest that we SHOULD observe the Sabbath. But...the Sabbath is Saturday, not Sunday, so what exactly does this writer mean?
Overall, while the writer of this post seems to understand that Christians are not obligated to observe the Sabbath as it is an Old Covenant observation, and they end it on a note of grace and Gospel preaching, the tone in the beginning is puzzling to me, contradicting that message of freedom and grace by guilting the Christian and pressuring them through the red flag statements we discussed above.
There aren’t many other posts on this church’s blog as concerning as this one, but I haven’t had the time to read them all. We will certainly make that one of our goals as we continue checking in on this church as time goes on.
Something else important to note is that with over a hundred posts on this church’s blog, I can’t find anything on giving, stewardship, tithing, or money at all. The website also doesn’t even have a Give page, with only a button for donations at the very bottom of the screen.
However, I did find a few red flags regarding money on their Facebook Page. One of those red flags you'll find in the Questionnaire answers, and the other is here:
Financial Peace University by Dave Ramsey is offered in a lot of churches these days. We consider it a red flag because one of Ramsey's selling points to churches is that in helping members get their finances together and preaching tithing to them, they will be able to give more to the church.
So all in all, while the website and Facebook Page do have a few red flags, there are also things we see that make us think this might still be a church worth looking into further.
I'm still on the fence, but let’s see what else we can learn about this church.
After multiple attempts to email pastor Nathaniel at Alpine Bible Church, and then an eventual last ditch effort to contact someone by PM-ing the church’s Facebook Page, it’s official: they’ve stonewalled us.
So, let’s see how many of these questions we can answer ourselves.
1. What is your church's official position on tithing?
After reviewing ABC’s website and Facebook Page, there are a few signs that they preach tithing.
First, on their Facebook Page. On September 26th they posted what they’re calling the $100 Challenge in an effort to get the congregation to pay for a new building project.
Second, on their website. It’s small, but at least worth noting. While they do very little to pressure or even ask for donations on the website, having only a button at the bottom of the screen to donate, they do give the option to donate towards a “tithe/offering” once you click on that button. It also shows that they use “tithe.ly” at the bottom of the screen, which is an organization that seems to operate similarly to PushPay.
I scoured as many sermons as I could on Alpine Bible Church’s website in search for red flags of tithe preaching and money serving, but found very little, and nothing worth mentioning. I must give credit where credit is due. This church does not spend its sermons pressuring giving or talking about money.
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 don’t see anything on their website that suggests they have official memberships, a membership class, or a list of requirements for members of the church. We will have to do further and more in-depth checking of this church to make sure, but so far it appears the answer to this is no.
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?
Since our attempts to ask questions were stonewalled, we don’t know the answer to this. They aren’t transparent enough to answer our questions, and therefore I’m led to wonder if they’re the same in regards to their finances, but they may very well be transparent with their own congregation. We’ll have to do further research to find out more on this as well.
4. Which denomination does your church align with the most, if any?
On their About page, it describes ABC as a non-denominational church. I don’t see anything to suggest any affiliations otherwise.
5. Is your church's pastor available for other questions or comments regarding the church, its doctrines, etc.?
Pastor Nathaniel lists his email address on the church website, as well as his phone number. I get the impression that he does in fact make himself available for questions and other causes to contact him, but every attempt I’ve made has been ignored, with the exception of the one response I got on ABC’s Facebook page.
6. How is your church's doctrinal tolerance regarding non-essential doctrines? 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 non-essential doctrines fairly often, if at all?
This is unknown as well. We will have to do further research to find out more on this topic.
7. Does your church require that its members be baptized? What is your church's official position on baptism?
I see no signs that this church requires its members to be baptized. While they seem to encourage joining their connection groups (although not nearly as much as previous churches), they don’t seem to pressure things like baptism, tithing, or membership, the same way that most other churches we’ve checked lately do.
8. Please describe what a typical service and/or meeting looks like in your church.
On their About page, you can read this about their Sunday services:
“All experiences at Alpine Bible Church are comprised of two primary elements: inspiring worship and a life-changing message. Our atmosphere is relaxed and our focus is on Jesus. Wear whatever makes you feel comfortable and join us for a service.”
You can then go to their “Welcome” page and read more about what to expect at their Sunday services, such as what to wear, when the service starts, where to take your children, etc...
9. How many people do you have on staff at your church, both paid and volunteer?
They have a list of their church staff on their website here, but as usual, there’s no way to know who is paid and who is a volunteer, or if they have even more people volunteering that just haven’t been listed as staff on the website.
10. What is the pastor's educational history?
The website says this about Nathaniel’s educational history:
“Nathaniel Wall and his wife Stacy have lived in Utah for over a decade. They are originally from Huntington, West Virginia where they both attended Marshall University. Knowing God was leading them into ministry, they also received further training in Bible College.”
We also see on Pastor Nathaniel’s Facebook Page that he attended Appalachian Bible College in West Virginia.
11. How does the church discipline its members with their sin?
Another answer that we’ll have to find out on our own with further research. We won’t know this until we’re able to speak with someone at the church and get an answer, or see it played out in the church.
12. How is the pastor compensated (income, benefits, bonuses, etc.)?
Since ABC declined to answer our Questionnaire and there’s nothing on the website, Facebook Page, or anywhere else online that we’re aware of that divulges this information, we don’t know. On average, however, pastors in the United States typically earn $100,000 a year per 1,000 members of their church.
13. What is the size of your church and any other space the church owns for meetings and church services?
While it does appear that Alpine has their own building, the size is unknown to us. We can see on their Facebook Page that they have over 700 likes and follows, which means their regular attendance is probably somewhere between 200-300 people.
All in all, while the only answer we found to be legitimately concerning was the hint of tithe preaching, since ABC stonewalled our Questionnaire altogether, there’s still a lot we don’t know about this church, and still a lot that could sway our review of this church one way or the other.
We’ll definitely have to do more in-depth checking of this church in order to make for a more full and accurate review. Until then, I’m feeling a little on the fence here.
I wasn’t able to find any online samples of this church’s worship services, nor was I able to physically attend the church and experience one for myself. I did find a short clip on their Facebook Page advertising a worship night, which you can watch here.
Until we can find more and get a real feel for how this church does its worship services, we have no review or opinion to give here.
And now, for the sermon!
We’re listening to ABC’s most recent sermon from 9/29/19, called “The Beginning…” Follow the link provided to listen to this sermon for yourself, and even read the transcript provided below the sermon video on the same page.
Is the sermon topical or a verse by verse study through the Bible?
The sermon has a title (The Beginning…) which makes it appear topical, but actually Pastor Nathaniel seems to work through his sermons in a more verse by verse fashion.
It’s been a while since we’ve come across a church that actually forms their sermon around the Bible, rather than the Bible around their sermon.
Is it Biblical? How frequently is the Bible used? Is it interpreted in context or twisted to fit the narrative of the sermon?
It’s absolutely Biblical. The Bible is used frequently throughout the sermon, read, and taught contextually. There’s no twisting to fit a narrative here because the sermon is formed around the Word, rather than the Bible being cherry picked and twisted to fit a specific topic or idea, which is what too many Christian churches do today.
Not this church. Hallelujah.
Bible passages referenced in this sermon:
Genesis 1 (Main passage of the sermon)
What’s at the heart of the sermon? The Bible, the gospel, God, Jesus, or something else?
The heart that I got from this sermon was the love God has for us and the value that we have by being created in His image. Everything else He created from nothing, but us, He created from the dust of the Earth and by breathing His own breath into us.
As many times as I’ve read Genesis 1, I’ve never actually thought about this fact. We are the only thing that God created with His own breath. His own image. Everything else was created from nothing, but we’re different. We’re spiritual beings.
This really does speak volumes of our value to God and our value as beings. The heart is truly for God, the Word, and our relationship to God through His creation of us. I truly felt the love of God in this sermon, and it was beautiful.
At the very end of the sermon, we get to hear the Gospel preached. The decision to read Genesis 1 and call this sermon series Kingdom Come suddenly makes perfect sense. The heart of this sermon is made clear to everyone by the last few minutes when Pastor Nathaniel finishes the sermon off with this statement:
“And you see this, this story. You think about your life. God’s intentions for the Hebrew slave is to give their soul the opportunity to rejoice in their identity before the Lord. And just as that story was true for them. God’s story for you is for your soul to rejoice in the beautiful creation that God has designed for you in Him. That in making all things he will remake all things new for you. Two chapters in. Two chapters in the Bible, and it is amazing that God’s kingdom would come for you and for me.”
It could be the pregnancy hormones talking now, but I couldn’t help but be touched by this.
Were you fed the Word of God, or the words of men?
This has been the most Word-dense (is that a word?) sermon I’ve heard from a church besides my own in a long time. I was absolutely fed the Word of God, and all of Pastor Nathaniel’s commentary was based on the Word itself. There was no veering off topic or revealing some ulterior motive to the sermon anywhere. It was all in the Word, and I loved it.
There’s still a lot we don’t know about this church since our Questionnaire was stonewalled, but the little bit that we have found does hint towards legalism slightly. We’ve also found things to suggest this is a gracious church as well, however.
The sermons I’ve overviewed come off as gracious in tone, but there are also hints of legalism in some of the blog posts. Just like with the rest of this check, I’m feeling very on this fence about this church in almost every category. Until we can find out more information, I’m thinking that’s where I’ll stay.
There is one sign that this church leans to the Right politically, at least on one issue that has become very political over the years: abortion. There is one sermon from January of this year entitled The Sanctity of Life. Due to this, we put Alpine Bible Church slightly to the Right on the Political Scale.
Scandals & Controversies
I wasn’t able to find any controversy or scandal involving Alpine Bible Church in Lehi. The only controversy I can mention here is the fact that they’ve declined to answer our Questionnaire, leaving too many questions unanswered and unknowns to be able to give a full and accurate review.
We did find one Google review that makes us curious. Of course, we can't say that this review is accurate or that this person didn't have a unique experience compared to most, but it exists nonetheless.
It’s fairly possible that after further research we come to find that this church may in fact have membership requirements, baptism requirements, and tithing requirements for their congregation. We just don’t know yet. For me, this is an uncomfortable level of uncertainty, and remains a controversy in my mind until I can resolve the questions that remain.
While we did find a few red flags on the website and Facebook Page, it’s clear that there are too many unknowns to make a final rating one way or the other for this church. The few things we do know about them puts us on the fence.
While there are hints and signs of problems on the internet, the sermon was completely in the Word, Biblical, contextual, and had a heart for God. Even though there are virtually no signs of money serving on the website and in the sermon, there are still a couple of small hints that this church still preaches tithing on their Facebook Page.
While I’d love to recommend a church with sermons like this, but until I know more, I’m stuck on the fence. We will just have to continue checking in on this church and doing more in-depth research to find the answers we need to go one way or the other.