Updated: Oct 25, 2019
As many of our readers have probably noticed, we haven’t been posting at all lately. Ever since our last post in late July, we’ve taken a break from checking churches over the past few months. As with virtually all other types of work in life, taking a break was necessary.
While Summer comes to an end, I’m about five months pregnant now and beginning my oldest son’s homeschool year for the first grade. Our family has a lot going on right now as we continue our search for a new home in Utah, but two months away was long enough. It’s time to get back to it! And with that, let’s begin our check of C3 Church in Sandy, Utah.
C3 is very similar to other popular and millennial-aimed non-denominational churches in the area, so we decided to check them out. No one requested this church to us. We found them by doing a general search in Salt Lake City for Christian churches. The name sounded like another K2, so honestly, that’s what I’m expecting to see here. Another K2. Let’s hope I’m wrong. And let’s get to it, church checkers.
If you want to review C3’s website for yourself, go here.
The homepage is pretty minimalistic, with only a video slideshow at the top and a menu of options to go from, but even this little amount of information is very telling. The video, for one, is very similar to others in that it highlights the “experience” you’ll get at C3.
Red Flag: The focus on your experience at church signals that this church is more interested in operating like a business with customers than a church working in service to God. It’s about you and what you think of them, not God and what He thinks of them.
At the top of the page it says, “We are a church that is fresh, real, and powerful.”
Red Flag: The words “fresh,” “real,” and “powerful” all remind me of churches like Fresh Life, Real Life Ministries, and the language used by Adventure Church and Calvary Chapel in SLC. All of these churches are very focused on portraying a certain image of themselves to attract more members. These words do attract people, but personally, I think God isn’t interested in attracting people by tickling their ears with these words. Nowhere on the homepage do we see words like “truth,” “Biblical,” or “Jesus Christ.” They’re pulling us in using words that will bring the masses.
Who We Are
There are a few red flags on their “Who We Are” page as well. (emphasis mine)
Red Flag: The statement, “We love people and are passionate about our mission as a church to passionately pursue Christ and purposefully produce Christ followers through our Pathways of Discipleship – CONNECT, DEVELOP, and EMPOWER” suggests that C3 is yet another church that keeps members active and in service to the church by creating what I like to call a Slave Funnel. It always works the same way in virtually every church.
Have all new members sign up for the membership class or a small group where they can learn about the church and “connect” with others. From there, they get “involved” and serving the church, and from there, entice them with “deeper spirituality,” “stronger faith,” “a closer relationship with Christ,” or “empowerment and enlightenment,” by having them sign up for more classes, giving money to the church, more activities, and more work for the church.
The video on the bottom left of this page entitled “Church Culture” is more of the same message. This church is all about getting people involved and serving in their church.
Additionally, it’s all about being part of a social club and having a good time. I’m sorry to burst the Christian culture bubble, but that’s not what church is really supposed to be for. Fellowship with other Christians is a benefit and privilege that comes with being a part of a community or local church, but partying isn't the purpose of the local church as far as I can tell.
Last I checked, church was supposed to be about teaching the Word of God, preaching the Gospel, serving God, and worshiping God. Can you have a good time doing that? Absolutely, but the focus is on serving God in those things, not serving ourselves in making sure it's all about having a good time.
It’s not about controlling the individual lives of other Christians, judging them, or growing some massive clique either. It’s supposed to be about sharing and following Jesus, growing in faith and love toward Him, and serving Him. It’s not about us and our desires as people. That’s Money Serving and People Serving talking, not God Serving.
The next page worth mentioning in the Website Review is their Giving page. As I mentioned in a post on our Facebook Page back on August 21st, this church uses some of the same disgraceful methods to pressure giving as many of the other churches we’ve checked.
For starters, at the top of their Giving page on their website, they quote Malachi 3, which of course, is in the Old Testament.
“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,” Says the LORD of hosts, “ If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,” Says the LORD of hosts; And all nations will call you blessed, For you will be a delightful land,” Says the LORD of hosts.”
This command is part of the Old Covenant and only applies to Israelites that were under the Law at that time. It isn’t relevant to Christians today, since Christ fulfilled the Law on the cross and established a New Covenant of love, written on our hearts. We’re also not Israelites. It simply has nothing to do with the Christian walk.
The videos at the bottom of this page are also concerning. The video on the bottom left by pastor Jurgen is full of even more non-contextual manipulations of Old Testament Scripture and false claims about tithes and offerings. (emphasis mine)
“..If we withhold the tithe on earth, God withholds the windows of heaven…”
He continues by claiming that the tithing isn’t this church’s way of trying to extract something from you, but for you, saying: “God is asking for our tithe so that He can get blessing to you. The tithe is for you...so that you might have an open heaven...so that blessing might flow to you…”
There are a few problems with this claim. First, as already mentioned, it’s a completely Old Covenant understanding of giving, and not a New Covenant understanding, which is based on the Law, not love and grace. And with that, I get the impression that this is not a Gospel preaching church.
Second, it suggests that God cannot bless us unless we tithe. As if God is somehow prevented from blessing us if we don’t give money to our local church. Pardon my french, but that’s pure poppycock. Not only is it again taken from this single non-contextual reading of Malachi 3:10, but nowhere do we see this idea that God is unable to bless those who don’t tithe anywhere else in the Bible. The tithe was for a very specific people group during a very specific time in a very specific place for that specific purpose. It has nothing to do with God’s blessings to Christians today.
Third, it teaches Christians to give selfishly, not sacrificially. Giving in order to get something is not the kind of sacrificial giving we are encouraged to practice all throughout the Bible. Christians don’t give in order to get something in return, and it’s not what Christ taught. We give out of love for God and others, not in order to be repaid in blessings or some other way. God may bless us and reward us for our faithfulness, but He’s not the tooth fairy. Sometimes, and more often than not, we get nothing for our sacrifices. That’s okay, because it’s not why we give in the first place.
At the very end of this video clip, this pastor even admits to testing God, saying: “...when I read about the tithe, I thought ‘man, I’m gonna test God.’ I gotta tell you, 32 years later, I am a ferocious voracious tither because I’ve seen the blessings of God do what no earthly institution can do. That’s what we want for you.”
So it sounds like this pastor operates with the ulterior motive of tithing and giving in order to receive blessings from God.
The video on the bottom right is from pastor Leanne. She actually reads from the New Testament, pulling from Mark 14:3. Unfortunately, she fabricates intentions behind Jesus’ words in this passage to line up with this church’s apparent tithing teachings as well. Intentions that are mentioned nowhere in Scripture.
She says: “...but also, He knew that she needed the harvest of what she was sowing. Jesus did not stop her from giving because He knew that she was giving out of a beautiful, grateful, thankful heart, but also wanted her to get the harvest of what was on the other side of her beautiful, generous giving.”
She then references Malachi 3:10 and uses the same claims that Jurgen did, saying that God will bless us if we tithe.
Money serving, twisting the Bible to pressure giving, and teaching a message of selfish giving are all red flags here. So far, not looking good.
It came as no surprise when this church stonewalled every attempt I made to speak with someone. Whether it was Facebook Messenger, email, or even calling their church office, I couldn’t get anyone to respond to me. So, as usual, let’s see what we can find out on our own in regards to the Questionnaire.
It took a few weeks, but campus pastor Vince Craig with C3 Finally PM-ed me back on Facebook. He suggested I text him, so I did. The conversation that followed only confirmed the initial stonewalling of this church, and I can't say that I was surprised by it. Nonetheless, it must be shared, so here it is.
Me: Hi Vince. This is Sarah Young. You asked me to text you regarding some questions I have about your church?
Vince Craig: Yeah, do you have any?
Me: Yes, several actually. I tried emailing them but I don't think anyone saw them. Here they are: 1. What is your church's official position on tithing? 2. Do you have church membership and are there requirements for someone to become a member of your church? 3. Is your church transparent with its financial information? Can you provide how much they bring in through donations and how that money is distributed? 4. Which denomination does your church align with the most, if any? 5. If a member has a disagreement with the pastor or leadership on a non-essential or other issue, how is it handled? 6. Does your church require that it's members be baptized? 7. How many people do you have on staff, both paid and volunteer? 8. What is the pastor's educational history? 9. How does the church discipline it's members with their sin? 10. How is the pastor compensated? (Income, benefits, bonuses, housing, etc) 11. What is the size of your church and any other space the church owns for meetings and services? Thanks! Vince: Hey Sara, have you been to the church yet? Me: Not in person. I've just listened to sermons online. Vince: I see. I'm happy to answer questions to anyone who is genuinely seeking to find a church home or has questions about the church after they've attended a service with the intention of connecting to God and a church family. However, I don't feel comfortable answering a list of questions like the above. As it feels very impersonal and could unintentionally end up religious, and divisive. I trust you'll understand my heart. Thanks for understanding . Me: I'm asking these questions primarily in a genuine search to help other Christians find a church home. These are questions that many Christians have about their church and I'm asking them to provide them with the information they have trouble finding just by attending services. My intention is not to be religious or divisive, but to find the truth about churches so Christians can know more about the church they seek to attend. I really just want to know the truth and the facts about your church. Does it really matter if it's my church home or not? Vince: I don't doubt your heart, thanks for understanding my position. Me: Yes, I think I do understand.
I understand alright. It sounds like C3 is only willing to answer questions if the questioner is already attending their church, and even if they are, they'll still refuse to answer these questions. Does that seem right to you? Not to me.
Anyway, here's what we're able to find out on our own.
1. What is your church's official position on tithing?
They clearly teach and preach it. Whether they teach it as a requirement or not has yet to be seen, but they very strongly pressure it. We observed this in the Website Review on their Give page, but you can also hear more of their teachings on tithing by listening to their “Blessing Tests” message on the website, and their more recent message entitled “Unlocked,” where pastor Alex Klott reinforces the idea that we should give to receive blessings from God.
Additionally, let’s not forget that preaching tithing is oftentimes very money serving.
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?
We don’t see anything on the church’s website to suggest that they have membership requirements, but this church does have several groups you can join to get “connected” at their church. Whether these groups introduce the church’s requirements in the form of an official membership or not is still unknown. We will find this out after further research in the coming months as we continually check up on this church.
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?
Again, we see nothing to suggest that this church is financially transparent. The fact that they pressure giving so much is a sign that they aren’t transparent at all, as well as the fact that no one will respond to our inquiries. Until we can find out for sure, however, we can’t say one way or the other. They certainly aren’t transparent when it comes to answering our questions.
4. Which denomination does your church align with the most, if any?
While Google search results describe this church as non-denominational, I would argue that there are strong signs of the Prosperity and/or Health & Wealth Movement in this church, as well as Charismatic doctrines in general. It does not come off as very non-denominational in its prevalence of prosperity teachings. It also has ties to the charismatic Hillsong Church through lead pastor Jurgen Matthesius’ attendance of Hillsong College.
5. Is your church's pastor available for other questions or comments regarding the church, its doctrines, etc.?
There is no way to contact the pastors directly via the church’s website, but I was able to find pastor Vince Craig’s Facebook page. I PM-ed him a few days ago and so far haven’t received any response. I will update this post accordingly with his response, or lack thereof. Lead pastor Jurgen Matthesius provides no way of contacting him, even on his Facebook Page.
6. How is your church's doctrinal tolerance? If a member has a disagreement with the pastor or leadership on a non-essential certain doctrine, how is it handled? Does the church change its position on non-essential doctrines fairly often, if at all?
Until I can get someone to speak to me about this at C3, I have no information that tells us anything regarding doctrinal tolerance or how they handle disagreements within the church.
7. Does your church require that its members be baptized? What is your church's official position on baptism?
Once again, no way of knowing this without doing further and perhaps even in-person checking of this church. So far we see nothing to suggest they require baptism, but will update the check as we’re given more information on this topic.
8. Please describe what a typical service and/or meeting looks like in your church.
There is nothing on the church’s website that tells us what a typical service looks like, but based on the information given on their Sundays page, it’s more than likely the typical modern American Christian church service including three to five worship songs followed by a call to tithe or give to the church, announcements, and then the sermon. Until we find out otherwise, I think it’s safe to assume this is how their services go.
9. How many people do you have on staff at your church, both paid and volunteer?
C3 doesn’t provide any of this information on their website. The only staff listed are the campus pastors and lead pastors.
10. What is the pastor's educational history?
According to the San Diego C3 Church website, pastor Jurgen Matthesius attended Hillsong College, which is a training college within Hillsong Church. Campus pastor Vince Craig shows no pastoral education on the website or his Facebook Page.
11. How does the church discipline its members with their sin?
Until we can get one of the pastors to answer this question, or find out for ourselves through more in-person research, we don’t know the answer to this.
12. How is the pastor compensated (income, benefits, bonuses, etc.)?
We will probably never know this. We can make an educated guess at how much money each of these pastors makes based on the number of people that attend, but the point is that no one will tell us. No transparency.
13. What is the size of your church and any other space the church owns for meetings and church services?
C3 Sandy’s Facebook page has nearly 2,000 likes and follows. This means they probably have at least 500 regularly attending members. However, they don’t appear to have their own building yet because they meet in the Jordan Commons Megaplex Theatre on Sundays.
All in all, the few answers we came up with ourselves do nothing to improve matters from the Website Review. While we can’t dock a church for disagreeing with us in matters of non-essential doctrines such as their Charismatic affiliations and prosperity teachings, it’s worth mentioning for the many Christians concerned with this type of teaching and who wish to avoid them.
We weren’t able to find any full worship service videos for the Sandy C3 campus, but the San Diego campus has a worship band called C3 Live. They put out albums and you can listen to their music on their own website here.
I’ve also found their YouTube Channel, where you can listen to a couple of their songs, but you can also watch the Sydney, Australia campuses actual worship services on the C3 Church Oxford Falls YouTube Channel.
While this isn’t going to be the same as the Sandy location’s worship services, we can at least get an idea of how this church does worship more generally speaking based on what we see from these other two campuses.
What we see is no different from what we see in many other modern Christian churches today: An awesome Christian rock show that’s all about emotionalism and experience. For that, we don’t care for this church’s style of worship because it takes away from the glory and worship of God Himself in favor of the glory and worship of our own feelings, emotions, and experiences.
Okay, time for the Sermon review. For this Check, we decided to listen to C3 Sandy’s most recent published sermon by campus pastor Vince Craig, entitled “God in Hollywood; Fifth Dimension.” You can listen along by going here.
Let’s do this!
Is the sermon topical or a verse by verse study through the Bible?
This is a topical sermon, as the title already tells us. The description we’re given on the website is as follows:
“Movies sometimes speak the message of the gospel without even realizing it! In this "God in Hollywood" message from Ps Vine Craig, he uses the epic blockbuster "Interstellar" as a backdrop to illustrate the moments of desperation we all face.”
It seems clear to me based on this description and the title of the sermon that this church is all about keeping people entertained and enjoying their church “experience,” as opposed to keeping the focus on teaching the Word of God itself.
Is it Biblical? How frequently is the Bible used? Is it interpreted in context or twisted to fit the narrative of the sermon?
Is it Biblical? For the most part. It’s hard to answer this question when the Bible is barely used at all, but overall the message itself does seem to be Biblical. I would interject my personal biases here and mention that there are points where the pastor seems to push more Charismatic doctrines, but it’s easy to misunderstand what he means because of how diluted and milky the sermon is. If you agree with Charismatic doctrines you will find this church to be biblical based on this sermon.
How frequently is the Bible used? John 11 is the main and virtually only Scripture mentioned because it’s alluded to in the movie Interstellar, but the pastor doesn’t even ask the congregation to open their Bibles, nor does he read it for us himself. He just summarizes what it’s talking about throughout the sermon without ever actually reading it. So of course, I opened my Bible and turned to John 11. While pastor Vince is playing clips of the movie Interstellar for his congregation, I’m pausing to read the Bible.
Let me say that again.
While the pastor is playing movie clips during his sermon, not having his congregation read the Bible at all...I’m having to re-read John 11 to make sure his one Biblical reference is accurate...since he doesn’t even actually read any of it aloud at all. Halfway through the sermon pastor Vince jokes that someone asked him during one of the movie clips if he was going to preach at all. Everyone laughs and then he says, “I’m getting there,” but in all seriousness, I’m wondering the same thing.
Romans 8:38 is actually read aloud from the Bible near the end of the sermon as a complement to the main message of the sermon, which is that no matter what you’re going through, all things work together for the good of those who love God.
Is the Bible interpreted in context or twisted to fit the narrative of the sermon? It’s definitely taken out of context to fit the narrative of the sermon. While some of the pastor’s ideas and observations seem to line up with the contextual meaning of John 11 regarding how Mary and Martha must have felt when Jesus seemed to be neglecting them and their plea to save Lazarus before he died, the rest neglects the substance of John 11 entirely. The message doesn’t contradict John 11, but nevertheless, it isn’t taught or read contextually.
What’s at the heart of the sermon? The Bible, the gospel, God, Jesus, or something else?
While the point of this sermon series seems to be that we can find Jesus in Hollywood by examining the messages of certain movies, which is all well and good, and then that the backdrop of the movie Interstellar is actually John 11, the heart itself has a different message.
Overall, the heart of the message seems to be “When you’re going through a really hard time and you think God isn’t there...He is.” Or, “He will be,” drawing from the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.
It’s not a bad message. It’s true. It’s just diluted so much and so lacking in Biblical teaching and substance that I’m left wanting...a lot. But not a bad message, nor is it unbiblical technically speaking.
Were you fed the Word of God, or the words of men?
I was fed a lot of movie clips, quotes, and observations from what I agree is an excellent movie, but the Word of God, no.
There was also a lot of yelling and a couple of times even screaming, which was unsettling for someone who doesn’t enjoy that type of sermon, but again, no Word of God here. Appeals to emotions and charismatic speech...but even at the moments when the pastor was delivering what seemed to be a biblical message, it was milk at best. No meat to satisfy your hunger for the Word here, folks.
The fact that this entire sermon was based on John 11 and its relation to the movie Interstellar while the pastor never actually read from John 11 a single time...is also unsettling.
We don’t know enough about this church with hard data to be able to give a confident Grace Scale rating, but based on the little information we do have, we can slide them more towards legalism in just a few areas so far.
Since their website preaches tithing, they use the Old Covenant between God and the Israelites to support it, and they reinforce the teaching through sermons and additional video clips on the website, we have to admit they are at least legalistic in that sense.
While we don’t know if they have an official membership contract, we do know that they strongly encourage members to “connect” in a small group to become involved and active in the church. This hints slightly towards legalism as well.
We can see no signs of political activism or political affiliations on the website or from this church’s sermons, so we put them right in the middle of the Political Scale.
Scandals & Controversies
The only controversy I can see with this church so far is their affiliations with Hillsong Church and the more Charismatic and Prosperity doctrines that apply.
These doctrines are highly controversial within the Christian Church, and while we won’t dock them for disagreeing with us on these issues, it is still a controversy worth mentioning for those Christians who would prefer not to attend a church that holds these views.
All in all, there are very few good things to note about this church and several red flags to be cautious of.
While the sermon was in fact biblical in its overall message, there were still a lot of problems with the sermon, such as the complete lack of time spent in the Word while at the same time several movie clips, quotes, and references were made all throughout.
Stonewalling all of our attempts to speak with anyone from this church is a big red flag, and so is their clear and unbiblical preaching of tithes on their website.
Money serving, putting on a show meant for giving an experience rather than giving God glory and teaching His Word is the main impression I get from this church, and it’s the same impression that too many churches give these days as well.
In the end, we can’t recommend this church. There are simply too many problems and not enough positives to outweigh them. We hope with more research and in-person checking we’ll be able to find some things to prove us wrong and tip the scales, but until then, you know where we stand.