CAMPUS Church in Murray, Utah was our very first church check back in February of this year, and we’ve been trying to do a check-up on them for a few weeks now. Finally, we’re getting it done!
Why are we checking CAMPUS Church again?
Well, it took a few months to flesh out the format of our church checks, the graphics for certain categories, and the criteria itself, so CAMPUS will be getting a much more thorough checking this time, and much more updated regarding the criteria and the many other areas we’ve developed and improved over the past several months.
Secondly, after several churches stonewalled us in a row and we did a lot of work to help churchgoers decipher what NOT to look for in a church, I personally became burnt out on the nonsense and facade that I believe most of these churches practice. I needed a break, and while that break ultimately came in the form of a month-long vacation from church checking, coming back to more of the same called for a return to a church that we could trust would actually answer our questions. Again.
Third, there are some people who have a personal animus toward CAMPUS Church and Shawn McCraney for purely non-essential doctrinal and legalistic reasons. One of those haters even tried to write their own “check” of CAMPUS church, making a mockery of what we do here and failing miserably to accurately and fairly check the church at the same time.
I suppose on some level I feel compelled to write another check for CAMPUS in order to show people how checking a church you disagree with doctrinally should really be done.. But also, let’s just face it: I was basically told I wouldn’t be accepted or opened up to by the “Christian” community of Utah as long as I associate with and support CAMPUS Church and Shawn McCraney.
Well, that’s not changing anytime in the near future that I can see, people, so I may as well embrace it. We’ve found so few churches willing to even answer our questions, and writing basically the same thing over and over again is getting tiresome.
Very soon we’ll be upping our checking game by doing more in-person and more in-depth investigation into these churches in order to fill in the blanks that they’ve left for us, but in the meantime, we need an updated church check for CAMPUS to point to, and we need to be fed the Word. Weeks after weeks of watered down milk and sugar coated sermons about God in the movies, In N Out Burger values, and supposedly Gospel-centered sermon series that don’t speak on the Gospel at all...it’s enough already.
Let’s check THIS church again.
CAMPUS Church Website: https://hotm.faith/campuschurch/
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/CAMPUSchurch801/
Due to the fact that Shawn McCraney has several ministry projects, each with their own page on the hotm.faith website, for this check we will only be checking the CAMPUS Church portion, which you’ll find at the link above.
Last time we did a check for CAMPUS, we hadn’t made the Website Review a part of our reviews. So this may tell us a lot more about the church than we were able to share last time.
The first thing we see on the CAMPUS Church website homepage is what could easily be understood as their “Vision” or what they’re all about:
"A FELLOWSHIP OF BELIEVERS!
Deconstructed gatherings where believers subjectively seek God in Spirit and Truth through weekly verse by verse teachings through books of the Bible. All views welcome. Christ Jesus forever upheld."
I love it. I see no red flags here. Nothing about empowering believers, giving an experience that appeals to the flesh, or neglecting the Word. In fact, they tell us right here that they seek God in Spirit and Truth through verse by verse teachings of the Bible. Beautiful. We already know they prioritize the Bible.
Just below this statement there are two links for their latest messages. At CAMPUS, they have the very unique option of choosing to hear their “Milk” message, or their “Meat” message. I’m sure we discussed this in our last check for the church, but for those of you who missed it, this is an excellent feature offered for both Christians somewhat new to the faith, such as ex-Mormons, and much more seasoned Christians who would prefer a much meatier and substantive study of the Bible.
After listening to at least thirty or forty sermons from the other churches in Utah over the past several months, I can tell you from personal experience that the Milk messages at CAMPUS will be way more than what most Christians today are used to. The milk of CAMPUS church is basically the meat of any other Christian church’s Bible study.
But we’ll get to the sermon later. Back to the website.
Below the links to the church’s latest messages, we learn more useful information about this church. They’re definitely not red flags. In fact, they’re the opposite. Let’s call sign of a good church green flags. These are the green flags we see here:
Open Discussions: Feel free to have an opinion. Agree or disagree. We seek God in Spirit and in Truth.
The Word turned to music. Each week we sing Scripture turned to music. The Word alive in song.
Verse by verse teaching. The best way to learn scripture is teaching verse by verse in context.
“Open discussions” shows that this church allows for divergence from their views and teachings. This is very rare in Christian churches today, and needed. And we know this church actually does allow open discussions from hearing the Q&A’s after every Sunday message.
“The Word turned to music” is a kind of worship style that we also don’t see anywhere else, and is needed. It makes our worship more biblical and more focused on Him, rather than us and our emotional or personal experiences.
“Verse by verse teaching.” Again, we agree that this kind of preaching is much more in the Word than topical sermons, and it’s one of the main reasons we recommend CAMPUS. They see the importance of teaching Scripture word for word, verse by verse, and contextually, and they mention it for the second time on their homepage alone here. It’s clear that they mean it.
Scroll down past more videos and clips of church attendees speaking about the church and we find the most helpful information about this church yet (emphasis mine):
"Beginning in 2006 under a couple different names, CAMPUS Gatherings have meet on a weekly basis (Sundays) for one reason – to study the Word of God in a contextual, verse by verse, expository fashion. What makes CAMPUS Gatherings unique are the following foundations:
The pastor/teacher presents information with the understanding that he/she may be incorrect.
As we maintain that the faith is entirely subjective all hearers are free to reject anything the pastor/teacher presents.
Services include prayer, singing Bible verses set to music, sitting in silence, then a teaching from a verse by verse expository teaching of the Word followed by an open Question/Answer/Comment period by the hearers. We close with prayer.
All versions of the Bible are welcome, all people, all views, all lifestyles, all the time.
There are no memberships, no special causes, no collections (or tithes) taken and no professed authority of any kind by the pastor/teacher.
All people are free to live their lives and spend their time and resources as they see fit.
There are no official mid-week services or programs. The Christian life is to be lived in the world with all people.
CAMPUS is an acronym for Christian Anarchists Meeting to Prayerfully Understand Scripture.
Christian anarchy has no relation to secular anarchy. A Christian Anarchist merely affirms that Jesus Christ it their primary source of all things and no person or thing comes between the believer and Christ Jesus.
CAMPUS Gathering are entirely a-political."
This information tells us a lot. The lack of legalism is emphasized, the openness to questions and criticism is stated plainly, the surprising lack of mid-week services or programs is truly unique, and even the mention that CAMPUS Church is a-political isn’t the kind of statement you’ll see on any other church website in America.
This church is truly unique in their website alone. The fact that their services live up to this description can be confusing and frustrating for many Christians, but to me it just appears they’ve made a point to do things differently than the vast majority of Christian churches, at least in America, today, and it’s refreshing, at least to this church checker.
Only more green flags here, guys, so let’s move on.
Scroll down further and we find the plethora of media resources offered by this church, including not only their latest Sunday teachings, but also a massive list of free audiobooks as well. While this church does also have books available for purchase, written by pastor Shawn McCraney, we know that many are given away for free, and many of the print books have been converted into audio and made perma-free by CAMPUS Church.
One thing we do find on CAMPUS Church’s website that is similar to many other church websites is their Donation section. It’s at the very bottom of the CAMPUS Church page, but even though this church does welcome donations on the website, like many others, this in and of itself is not enough to be a red flag.
There are no Scriptures used to pressure, manipulate, or guilt the Christian into giving. Just a simple request for support if you are “so led by the Spirit.”
Overall, we find no red flags on this church’s website, and several green ones. While we only reviewed the CAMPUS Church page and not every single page (which would take a novel to review), you can always check them out for yourself and comment if you think there is anything we should note or be concerned about.
Until that happens, we love CAMPUS Church’s website!
Unlike almost every other church we’ve checked so far, we’re always confident that we won’t be stonewalled with CAMPUS Church. There are very few pastors in Utah willing to answer this list of questions openly and honestly, and in writing, knowing that it could be used against them.
CAMPUS Church, however, has no fear, and they’ve answered our questions once again.
1. What is your church's official position on tithing?
“Tithing is an Old Testament construct given to the children of Israel it has no application to Believers in Christ today. If individuals want to follow this rule and live it it's up to them. We do not teach it as a principal. We do not teach giving or remind people to give - all donations are up to the individual. Our ministry does accept donations.”
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?
“Campus Church.Faith has no memberships. All are free to attend or not. There are zero requirements imposed.”
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?
“Our ministry consists of two weekly church services, two weekly streamed shows, and some product giveaways and sales. We own several content laden websites that offer these presentations to any who want them. Shawn McCraney is the sole producer of 96% of content.
All income is used to pay overhead costs (a building studio, electric, gas, mailings, benevolence) and what remains is used to upgrade equipment, tech improvements and payments for services rendered. The remainder is paid to Shawn on a month by month basis. Shawn is 1) reimbursed for miles/gas first, 2) is then paid a pastors allowance granted by the IRS, and if anything remains he can elect to take a payroll dispersion. In 2018 the total donations to all ministry modes was 74,000. Shawn received 29,000 in payroll and housing combined for the year.”
4. Which denomination does your church align with the most, if any?
5. Is your church's pastor available for other questions or comments regarding the church, its doctrines, etc.?
6. How is your church's doctrinal flexibility and tolerance?
“Doctrine is subjectively determined. All views are permitted while the pastor tries his best to teach what the bible says contextually.”
6b. 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?
“All views are openly received. The pastor will change his views on occasion.”
7. Does your church require that its members be baptized? What is your church's official position on baptism?
“Baptism is an outward indication of an inward Faith the mode and means is all up to the individual and it's not demanded of anybody at any time but is celebrated in if it is so desired.”
8. Please describe what a typical service and/or meeting looks like in your church.
“Same as before.” (read our first check of CAMPUS Church for this answer)
9. How many people do you have on staff at your church, both paid and volunteer?
“Paid three. Volunteer three.”
10. What is the pastor's educational history?
“Self-taught essentially I did attend Brigham Young University in Calvary Chapel School of ministry no degrees worth mentioning.”
11. How does the church discipline its members with their sin?
“Campus Church believes that issues and individual sins is between them and the Holy Spirit.”
12. How is the pastor compensated (income, benefits, bonuses, etc.)?
“I pay for my own cell phones I pay for my own medical insurance I pay for my own dental insurance we do not have any bonuses we do not have any benefits associated with the ministry that goes to the pastor. I've never had a paid vacation by the members of the church. An automobile was donated to the church at one time and I do drive that car daily.”
13. What is the size of your church and any other space the church owns for meetings and church services?
“Campus is physically small with a max of 100 participants in a given week. However, thousands do utilize our content.”
All in all, Shawn/CAMPUS answered all of our questions clearly and without hesitation. This is what true transparency looks like. And not to mention, all green flags that point to a church without legalism, money serving, and in true service to God and the teaching of the Gospel.
October 20th Service: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9P78pAsLkGM
CAMPUS Worship music by Mallory McCraney: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCo-zfEJwrkU1sMTLDIGVMVA
Something else we find with CAMPUS Church that is somewhat unique is that they post their Sunday teachings live every Sunday on their YouTube Channel, which you can find in the first link above. While some churches will post their sermons on their Facebook Page or on their website itself, CAMPUS Church is available on the much broader platform of YouTube.
As a part of their YouTube teachings recorded on Sundays, they include the worship service, which doesn’t focus at all on a show being put on for the congregation or the display of the worshipping itself. All we see is the lyrics to the worship music, and all we hear is the worship music itself.
The worship music is, as they like to put it, simply “the Word of God set to music.” I love this about CAMPUS Church, as so many churches today play worship songs that included unbiblical lyrics and questionable doctrinal implications, CAMPUS simply takes Scripture, word for word, and sets it to music.
This church checker loves that, and finds yet another green flag as the worship service, like everything else about this church, just points to God and the Word. Watch October 20th’s service in the link above to see what I’m talking about.
Sermon: Ephesians 4:1-7 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9P78pAsLkGM)
Date: October 20th, 2019
Speaker: Shawn McCraney
Is the sermon topical or a verse by verse study through the Bible?
This, like all other sermons at CAMPUS Church, is a verse by verse study through Ephesians 4:1-7. As the website has already made clear, and our personal experience at this church can confirm, CAMPUS never does topical sermons.
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?
Shawn McCraney is unique in his eschatology compared to the majority of modern Christians today. While many Christians will disagree with his teachings regarding the Second Coming and whether or not we should interpret these Scriptures literally, applying them to ourselves, or studying them as fulfilled teachings and practices that no longer apply to Christians today. Doctrinally speaking, many will disagree or agree with Shawn’s position, but the question of whether it is in the Bible isn’t even a question. It is. In fact, way more in the Bible than most Christian sermons today.
How frequently is the Bible used?
The Bible is either referenced, discussed, or read directly all throughout the entire sermon.
Is it interpreted in context or twisted to fit the narrative of the sermon?
All of CAMPUS’ Sunday teachings are painfully contextual. And by that I mean Shawn spends a lot of time explaining and teaching about the context of each Scripture he teaches on. He puts a lot of effort into trying to understand Scripture exactly as it should be based on all the laws of hermeneutics. There’s no cherry picking of Scripture here.
All in all, while you might disagree with the conclusions Shawn comes up with in his teachings of certain passages regarding any number of non-essential Christian doctrines, you can’t claim he neglects Scripture, doesn’t teach the Bible, ignores context, or cherry picks. Additionally, the floor is always open to questions at the end of each teaching, allowing anyone and everyone to argue against or question anything Shawn says.
What’s at the heart of the sermon? The Bible, the gospel, God, Jesus, or something else?
Overall I feel the heart of this sermon is the Word itself, and the message that Paul is teaching in Ephesians 4:1-7, which is for Christians to walk “...With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Quite frankly, this is the first sermon we’ve heard in a long time that actually convicted this particular church checker on a very real and deep level.
Are we being lowly and meek, longsuffering and loving in our church checking? I know we certainly try to be, but it’s very easy to argue that our mission here is more divisive and unloving than “endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” I’m sure that many Christians, especially pastors who don’t enjoy being questioned by us, would make this argument against us.
Shawn concurs with this conviction in his own life, stating:
“...this is speaking to me. So I’m brought low in the face of my warring nature, and my brash opinions because of these passages. And I’m convicted, I’m convinced that in my life at least, I have to incorporate lowliness in the face of these differences. Meekness, long-suffering, forbearance of one another in love…”
He continues, “...this doesn’t mean we can’t address deception. But it has to be addressed with that humility of mind…”
So while on the one hand, we want to keep the peace with other Christians and avoid being easily provoked or arrogant, at the same time, we know that we must tell the truth, and we must contend for the faith, and the law that God has written on our hearts. But we must do it with the right heart and the right mind for unity in the Spirit and love toward God and others.
Were you fed the Word of God, or the words of men?
Absolutely the Word of God. Many Christians have become unable to stomach the meatiness of Word-dense sermons such as this one, but these are exactly the kinds of sermons Christians needs to start hearing, in our view, to grow in faith and their understanding of Scripture.
Overall, you can nitpick at certain non-essential doctrinal applications of Shawn’s teachings and throw the baby out with the bathwater if you like, as many have, but it’s our view that the important aspects of this church outweigh any possible doctrinal disagreements you could possibly have with this church’s pastor, especially considering he is open to questions in front of the entire congregation, and has noted that he’s changed positions on several doctrines before as well.
Without memberships, sin discipline, tithing, service or activity pressures, and no pressures to follow any kind of legalistic church policies or standards whatsoever, this is one of the most gracious churches that we know of so far.
CAMPUS Church seems to put great effort into avoiding any kind of political bias whatsoever, even claiming on their website to be “a-political.” For us, this puts them squarely in the neutral zone, right in the middle of the Political Scale.
Scandals & Controversies
As is the norm with this church and its pastor/teacher, Shawn McCraney, controversies abound. Not scandals or controversies suggesting any kind of abuse or misconduct, mind you, but rather completely surrounding non-essential doctrinal disagreements.
Most recently, one of our readers took it upon himself to try and write his own “church check” of CAMPUS Church, mocking our methods and making baseless accusations about individual Christians attending CAMPUS Church, as well as complaining about the fact that CAMPUS is politically uninvolved as if that’s a bad thing. You can read our response to this particular article here.
Another recent controversy surrounding CAMPUS Church is the ongoing criticisms pastor/teacher Shawn McCraney seems to draw from one particular local Utah pastor, Jason Wallace.
These two men have had it out in the past regarding doctrinal problems with the Trinity, Eschatology, and the legalistic practices and policies of Jason Wallace’s particular denomination. If you’re unfamiliar with their disagreements and would like to catch up or understand what they’ve been about, you can watch several videos wherein which these men debate on YouTube.
The reason I bring this up is because Shawn McCraney is going to spend the entire month of November addressing the many accusations and claims that have been made about him and his doctrinal positions, most specifically by Jason Wallace. He’s going to do this on his Tuesday night live streaming show on YouTube, Heart of the Matter. So for anyone curious or interested in what his response is to these many claims about him, tune in for yourself.
Regardless of the non-stop controversy that surrounds Shawn McCraney and his teachings, these are not red flags for us. Non-essential doctrinal disagreements are not cause for concern with us unless they veer into essential doctrines of Christianity, such as doctrines which question the deity of Christ, the oneness and ultimate perfection of God, the truth of Scripture, or the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Just as with our last check of CAMPUS Church in Murray, Utah, we can’t help but recommend this church.
There’s no money serving, no legalism, no neglect of the Word, and in fact a strong focus on the Gospel, and very meaty Bible teaching.
While many might differ with this church’s particular teachings regarding certain doctrines in the areas of eschatology and ecclesiastical polity, you simply can’t claim that this church is materialistic, money serving, legalistic, lacking in transparency, or failing in any of our other five points considered when rating a church. So of course, we recommend them!