Updated: Apr 12, 2021
Basic Church Information
Church Name: Apologia Church
Senior/Lead Pastor: Jeff Durbin
Board of Elders/Leadership Staff: Jeff Durbin, Luke Pierson, Zack Morgan, and James White
Address: 717 N Stapley Dr, Mesa, AZ, 85203 (Church of the Redeemer)
Phone: (909) 654-5679
Denomination: Baptist, Reformed/Calvinist, Theonomist, & Postmillennialist
Preaching Style: Topical
Membership Requirements: Yes
Tithes/Compelled Giving: Yes
Financial Transparency: No
Affiliations: Cultish (Jeff Durbin), Alpha & Omega Ministries (James White), Apologia Studios, Red Door Ministry, End Abortion Now
Red Flags of Abuse:
There are a few red flags worth noting for Apologia Church:
Jeff Durbin, Apologia’s lead pastor, has been accused of recording church members (and non-members) confessing their sin to him, without their knowledge, and therefore without their permission. The victims have confronted Apologia Church leadership with this abusive behavior, but they have yet to repent or apologize for this behavior. I have yet to find any apologies or admissions of remorse/guilt, or plans for Apologia Church to change the way they practice sin discipline, or what many are calling "hard shepherding" at Apologia Church. There is a petition at change.org to get Apologia Church to repent of this behavior and change its ways. Please consider signing it to help raise awareness of this problem and hold them accountable. The way these recordings have been used to retaliate against members and non-members who confront leadership with concerns of abuse or misbehavior is a huge red flag.
Apologia Church put a video out over a year ago attacking a man named Tim Hurd called "Responding to False Witness". Jeff admits to recording people as a practice of his pastoral care, doesn't apologize, but calls Tim Hurd a liar dozens of times. In his response to Apologia’s accusation on his own YouTube channel, Hurd points out some things regarding the accusations made in Apologia’s video, including how they used an edited clip from one of his videos in order to accuse him of lying. Hear his response here.
When James White joined the leadership at Apologia Church, they made this announcement on their Instagram: (http://thewartburgwatch.com/2018/11/26/church-leaders-can-discipline-anything-they-want-but-you-can-get-out-anytime-you-want/)
A commenter named Bridget understands why this is a clear red flag.
Just recall what John Calvin’s Geneva was actually like. Why would anyone want another Geneva? Put this historical fact together with Apologia's comment and the fact that Apologia Church teaches Theonomy, and you’ve got to ask yourself what these men mean by another "Geneva", what laws from the Bible they would have imposed on society, and if Jeff Durbin really believes women who have abortions should be executed for murder.
4. Next on the Red Flag list would be the altercation that arose as the result of me emailing Durbin and asking him our questions, which we ask every church that we check. Apparently, the questions made him uncomfortable (as he expressed at around 37:40 of a recent podcast episode), but instead of answering my questions or discussing his concerns and discomfort with me directly, he called me a cult member and CAMPUS Church a cult because its pastor, Shawn McCraney, disagrees with him in several points of doctrine.
He only answered my emails once, but not to answer questions, and then ignored the emails I sent him in response and posted an hour-long slander-fest on his church’s YouTube channel about Check My Church and Shawn McCraney. McCraney has responded to this video and I’ve posted a response of my own as well, which you can read here. Don’t take anyone’s word for it, church checkers. Discern for yourselves what is true and whether everyone in this situation is telling the truth.
It is my opinion that based on Jeff’s own words in his podcast where he smears McCraney and Check My Church, that he decided he didn’t want to answer our questions (particularly about money and the secret recording situation), but rather than being direct and honest with me about those issues, he attacked my character and my credibility as a church watchdog organization to help insulate himself and his church from the consequences of the truth coming out. This smokescreen and distraction from the facts and the red flags of abuse are just deflectors and a method of justification and rationalization.
Whether the reports from Pulpit and Pen are true or not, as always, we recommend that anyone attending this church or any church walk themselves through Dr. Steve Hassan’s BITE Model and Undue Influence Continuum to protect themselves from potential abuse and other cult-like treatment.
Since Apologia Church refused to answer our questions, if anyone has the missing information in the Questionnaire, please contact us with documentation and we will update this report accordingly. You may remain anonymous if you prefer to protect your identity.
1. What is your church's official position on tithes and offerings?
There are multiple sources that show us this church preaches tithing.
First, there is a sermon taught by pastor/elder James White on YouTube summarizing some of the Old Covenant Laws that were given to the people of Israel, including the laws of tithing and of eating clean and unclean foods. James White appears to be making the argument that even though these are Old Covenant Laws written for a different group of people and time, they still apply to us. He doesn’t specify how the Christian today is supposed to give or tithe, or how they apply to us exactly. In fact, he’s very cryptic. Nonetheless, the insinuation is there.
We also hear at the beginning of some of Apologia Church’s online sermons that Jeff Durbin encourages Christians to pay their church “tithes and offerings” to their local church before donating to Apologia’s ministries if it isn’t their church home.
Lastly, on the church website we read on the What To Expect page under “What Will the Worship Service Be Like?”: “Giving: If you are our guest, please do not feel obligated to give anything financially – please feel free to give as God leads you in one of the offering containers at the sides or during the offering song.”
This statement suggests that while they don’t obligate “guests” to give financially to the church, they may expect it from their regular attendees or members.
Meats & TIthes Sermon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gnw2Mnaq8J0&t=260s
2. Does your church have official memberships, and if so, does it include a membership agreement or contract?
We know based on screenshots from one of the Pen & Pulpit articles that Apologia Church has official memberships, which come with a contract and a certificate verifying membership. As for the content of the membership agreement itself, we’re still working on obtaining that. We know that based on one screenshot from the P&P article, that part of that membership agreement includes being "faithful unto death." Don't believe me. Read the article for yourself. It's possible they have taken this phrase out of context in order to exaggerate the unreasonableness of this agreement. We won't know for sure until we can see the membership agreement in its entirety.
There is also a page on the church website called Ministry Interest Guidelines outlining the conditions they will subject anyone interested in the ministry to if they wish to be a leader at Apologia Church.
In the Apologia Studios episode about Shawn McCraney and Check My Church, Jeff gives the impression that he was willing to, or did, answer our questions about membership and the church’s governance. At around 37 minutes into the episode, he says:
“... then she starts asking questions about membership stuff...and at first it was like, ‘do you have a copy of your membership manual,’ I’m like, ‘yeah, sure. I guess I wouldn’t mind someone - who cares? Yeah, great. It just sort of says what we believe, and here’s who we are, and here’s our distinctives, and you know that sort of thing. Church government, we’re pastors, elders, and we got deacons, and here’s their responsibilities, and you know, sure, I’ll put that on the internet, no problem'…”
The fact of the matter, however, is that Jeff shared none of this information with me. He never answered my questions and never told me he was willing to share the church’s membership manual or its information. He didn’t say any of this to me, if that’s what he’s claiming happened. Hence, why we have virtually no information on this church's membership requirements.
3. Is your church financially transparent or accountable to either the local church, a third party (such as an auditor), or the universal Church Body/public?
So far we have found nothing to show financial transparency or accountability with Apologia Church. On the Apologia Studios episode, which we’ve referenced throughout this report, at around 37 minutes and 40 seconds, Jeff says while he was willing to answer questions about membership (and yet he didn’t), he was put off by our inquiries about church finances and transparency. He trails off and references the Pulpit & Pen articles that allege Jeff secretly recorded members confessing their sin (but doesn’t directly talk about it), then calls me “lost” and “part of a non-Christian cult.”
This is a clear sign that this church is not financially transparent. Whether I’m “lost” or part of a “non-Christian cult” is irrelevant to whether Apologia Church is financially transparent and accountable. Since they are unwilling to answer the question, they left us to assume they are not.
4. Which denomination does your church align with, if any at all?
Apologia Church is a “Reformed” Baptist Church, which means they teach Calvinism, the TULIP doctrines, and Lordship Salvation, but they also teach Theonomy. We find proof for this in their Doctrines, their Sermons, the many debates James and Jeff have taken part in regarding Calvinism, and the many podcast episodes wherein they defend and argue for these doctrines. Jeff Durbin even recommends that Christians not attending his church find a “Reformed” church to attend. They are very outspoken and clear in their alignment with Calvinism. They are also postmillennialist in their eschatology.
5. Is the church's pastor available for questions or comments regarding the church's doctrines or policies?
While Jeff’s direct email address is not available either on the church’s website or on his social media platforms (although, you can PM him on Facebook; getting a response is unknown), I tracked down his email address through the church after some investigative work (see Basic Church Information). It took nearly two weeks and multiple emails before I received a response from pastor Jeff, but once I did, he quickly rebuffed me. My response to his blunt and uncharitable email has gone ignored, and they answered none of my questions.
6. Is your church tolerant and accepting of differing non-essential doctrinal views, such as differences in eschatology, ecclesiology, and others?
This church is especially clear on their teachings in these areas, through their sermons, and on their podcast episodes. While it’s difficult to gauge the level of intolerance or acceptance without the membership agreement, we know that based on how they’ve treated pastor Shawn McCraney of CAMPUS Church and myself that they are not even interested in having a discussion on our disagreements, or even our potential unity for the sake of peace. They have labeled McCraney as a cult leader because he has historically unorthodox eschatological, ecclesiological, and ontological views, and refuses to engage with him at all.
We also know that they take part actively in debate over these topics and there have been divisions and conflict with other Christians regarding the topics of Theonomy, Calvinism, eschatology, and other non-essential doctrines.
I believe to be a member of this church, it’s safe to assume that you will need to align with a laundry list of theological positions beyond the bare essentials.
7. Does your church require its members to be baptized?
Both Jeff and James have covered the subject of baptism through sermons at Apologia Church. I haven’t heard whether Apologia Church requires baptism for church membership in the church, but have yet to listen to these sermons in their entirety. I will update this answer accordingly.
James White on Baptism, Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=99gmXTt-5Tk
James White on Baptism, Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YPNq2F6EWrQ
Jeff Durbin on Baptism, Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kw9niVtaw_8
Jeff Durbin on Baptism, Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KBVhqCaSkXo
8. Please describe what a typical service and/or meeting looks like at your church.
We can find the description of a typical service at Apologia Church on their website on the What To Expect page.
9. How many people does your church have on staff, both paid and volunteer?
On Apologia Church’s Meet the Team page, they list four pastors/elders but don’t show any volunteers or other staff.
10. What is the pastor's educational background?
Wikipedia lists this as James White’s educational background:
“White graduated with a BA from Grand Canyon University (formerly known as Grand Canyon College) and an MA from Fuller Theological Seminary. He earned ThM, Th.D., and D.Min. degrees from Columbia Evangelical Seminary (formerly Faraston Theological Seminary), an unaccredited online school. In March 2017, White announced that he is working on an accredited Ph.D. at North-West University in Potchefstroom, South Africa in the field of textual criticism.”
Jeff Durbin received his M.Div through Whitefield Theological Seminary, which is an unaccredited Reformed (Calvinist) Seminary in Florida.
11. How does the church discipline its members with sin? Does the church have a discipline policy or official protocol?
We haven’t been able to find this church’s sin discipline policy, but we know they have one. Jeff Durbin gave a sermon called “Should We Practice Church Discipline?”, clearly laying out his case for churches to practice the discipline of sin.
We also know Apologia Church has a sin discipline protocol because of the controversy surrounding Durbin’s habit of secretly recording private confessions of sin to him as a pastor and elder. If the church didn’t have expectations or a policy for disciplining sins, members wouldn’t be confessing sins to church leadership.
12. How is the pastor compensated (income, bonuses, benefits, etc...) and how is that compensation established (Ex: board of elders, church vote, etc..)?
Apologia Church has a board of elders, so it is safe to assume the pastor’s salaries are determined by the board of elders, but we can’t know for sure without verifiable documentation. Churches are not required by law to disclose their salary information or any church financial information to the public and based on our answer to Question #3 regarding financial transparency, it's clear that Apologia Church is not willing to share this information.
13. What is the size of the congregation and any space or buildings used for church services or meetings?
Apologia Church meetings are currently held at the Church of the Redeemer, which suggests the congregation isn’t large enough to provide for a building of their own. While the church has a large social media following, this doesn’t appear to reflect in the physical size of the congregation, but probably has more to do with Jeff Durbin’s online popularity as a street preacher and political activist. Once we have more information, we will update this answer accordingly.
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.
According to his short bio on the church's website and a biography at IMDb, before he started Apologia Church in 2010, the only ministerial work Durbin has done was work as a hospital chaplain, then he started One Christian Ministries before shutting it down and planting Apologia Church. We are continually investigating and researching this information and will update this answer accordingly.
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?
We know that Apologia Church has had its controversies surrounding spiritual abuse, but since they refused to answer our questions, we don’t know how those matters were resolved by the church. We know that so far, Apologia Church leadership has not apologized publicly for its actions in recording church members without their knowledge or consent, and has in fact justified and defended that behavior in their 3-hour Apologia Studios Episode rant against Tim Hurd.
All of this leads me to believe there is no safeguard policy set up to protect members from abuse, at least not from its own leadership. If there is, we hope anyone with information or knowledge regarding this matter will contact us and provide documentation. And as usual, we will update this answer accordingly.
If you have any information on this church and would like to help answer some of our questions, please add your input in the comments section below or speak with Sarah directly through the Contact Page. Your identity will remain confidential unless you give permission for your name to be used in any capacity.
Sarah Leann Young is a lifelong student of the Bible. She is a homeschooler, stay-at-home Mom to three beautiful children, and an avid consumer of Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Mystery Thriller stories. She has a passion for religious debate and defending the Body of Christ against abuse and wolves in sheep’s clothing. Look for her debut book series in early 2021 on the corruption of the American Christian Church.