Church Check: The Fellowship in Sandy, Utah

Basic Church Information

Church Name: The Fellowship

Senior/Lead Pastor: Sarah Rudd

Board of Elders/Leadership Staff: See the Church’s Elders & Staff Page

Address: 615 Sego Lily Dr, Sandy, UT 84070

Phone: (801) 572-0211

Email: admin@tf-sandy.org

Website: https://tf-sandy.org/

Social Media Pages:

Online Services: https://tf-sandy.org/messages/


Church Specifics


Denomination: Pentecostal/Charismatic (See Question #4 Below)

Preaching Style: Topical

Worship Style: Pentecostal/Charismatic (See Question #8 Below)

Membership Requirements: Yes

Tithes/Compelled Giving: Yes

Financial Transparency: Partial

Affiliations: Unknown


Red Flags of Abuse and/or High Coercive Control


The only red flag of potential abuse and/or high coercive control I’ve observed with this church so far is the fact that they were unwilling to answer any of my questions for this church report.


Transparency is important when determining whether a church is potentially abusive, exploitative, highly controlling, or trustworthy. However, this doesn’t mean this particular church refuses to answer these questions for individual church members or individual visitors of the church inquiring for their own personal knowledge on these matters.


Check for yourself by asking the leaders of The Fellowship any of our questions you’d like answers to. If they’re unwilling to answer the questions from their own members or attendees, this would be a red flag of spiritual abuse and exploitative behavior.


One other issue that might point to potential secrecy or deception from this church is the fact that when I registered on their website to be an online member, my application was rejected. I filled out the application for registration to the website after my attempt to ask questions was rejected as well.


When registering to be an online member, they ask for a reason for wanting to become an online member of the church’s website. My reason for wanting to register: to read their “Prophetic Blog” and learn more about the church. I wonder if that had something to to with why I was rejected. Being rejected gives me another red flag, but it’s possible it was just an error and unintentional on the church’s part.


Interestingly, when I tried to log on even after I found out that I was rejected for online registration to the site, it allowed me to log in and a member and read the Prophetic Blog anyway.


Also, while I have heard dozens of accounts of abuse from people within more Charismatic churches, this doesn’t mean all Charismatic churches are therefore spiritually or in other ways abusive to people. However, just as with other denominations such as the Southern Baptist Convention, Calvinism, and the United Pentacostal Church, the specific doctrinal views of Charismatic churches can lead to spiritual abuse in that they might require members to exhibit certain signs of the Spirit within them, such as speaking in tongues or healing the sick. This can lead to deception, exploitation, and other forms of spiritual abuse.


Charismatic churches are also prone to teaching the “Health & Wealth” gospel, which claims we are blessed materially, physically, and financially when we tithe or give more money to the church. This is spiritually abusive for exploitative reasons, and I found a post on the church’s Prophetic Blog that suggests they believe this teaching. The post was from a few years ago, so it may be out of date and it's possible that the church doesn’t teach this anymore.



Ultimately, the biggest signs that a church may be abusive is their denial of personal liberty of each Christian in Christ and the elevation of man to places of spiritual authority and power over others. There are several places on this church’s website that emphasize freedom, and the Fellowship also doesn’t restrict leadership positions to men only, or the highly educated. These are positive signs that this isn’t a spiritually abusive church, but if they teach the Health & Wealth Gospel and refuse to answer questions from people, these would be red flags in the other direction.


All of that said, as usual, I encourage anyone attending this church to walk themselves through Dr. Steve Hassan’s BITE Model and Influence Continuum to make sure they aren’t being abused by their church.


Influence-Continuum-2019UPDATED-1200x1038-converted
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Download PDF • 145KB

BITE Model of Authoritarian Control Handout Oct 2 2020
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Download PDF • 124KB

Questionnaire


When I initially contacted The Fellowship by email, they responded quickly. The staff member I spoke with via email said she would take my questions to the church staff’s next meeting and they would decide there whether to answer my questions.


After a few weeks and no response from the church, I followed up to see if they’d decided yet. They had decided to decline to answer my questions. Even after I asked if there were any questions they were willing to answer, while not answering the ones they didn’t feel comfortable with, they ultimately ignored me.


This is the information I could gather from my research into the church. If you have information that we’re missing on The Fellowship, please contact us to help inform your fellow churchgoers in the Sandy, Utah area.


1. What is the church’s official teaching on tithes and offerings?


The post from the Prophet Blog I referenced in the Red Flag section of this report suggests that the church does in fact teach that tithing is a mandate for Christians today. There is nothing else on the website that tells us their position on this issue, but there may be sermons we haven’t heard from the church that do.


We will update this answer after listening to more sermons. If you’ve heard a sermon from this church that teaches tithing or mandated giving to the local church, please reference it in the comments below, or contact us so we can update our answer accordingly.


2. Does your church have official memberships, and if so, what is included in the membership agreement or contract?


This church may have official memberships, but we are unsure. When you go to their website, there is a “Members'' drop-down menu with a member homepage and log-in page. While it’s possible that anyone can register to become an online member on The Fellowship’s website (I tried but was rejected as already mentioned), it may also include becoming a member of the church. There isn’t any more information on the website that answers this question for us.


Since the church declined to answer our questions, we don’t know what official membership in the church entails, if they have one. If you know the answer to this question and have documentation or other forms of proof that the church has official memberships, please contact us so we can include it in our report for local churchgoers.


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?


An anonymous attendee of this church has shared that the church does in fact provide financial information to donors of the church via regular email updates that show how the donor’s money was spent in the church.


Since, however, they were unwilling to share anything with us regarding transparency, or even answer the question, this means they are not transparent with their finances to the universal Church Body or the public. Therefore, we see them as only partially financially transparent.

4. Which denomination does the church align with, if any at all?


While their Facebook and Google descriptions don’t specify their denomination, this is a Pentecostal/Charismatic church. The main and most obvious sign would be their church’s history, on their WHO WE ARE page:


The Fellowship traces its history back to the Azusa Street Revival through the Pentecostal movement in Washington State and the Charismatic movement in Alaska. In the early seventies Abbott Loop Community Chapel in Anchorage began to recognize the “five-fold” gifts (Eph 4:11-12 – apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers) and started establishing new congregations by sending out teams of people to towns and cities across the United States, and even to the nations. In 1977 one of those teams started a congregation in Missoula, Montana. It was from this congregation that in 1983 The Fellowship was founded.”


5. Is the church’s pastor available for questions or comments regarding the church’s doctrines or practices?


There is no email or other contact information for lead pastor Sarah Rudd on the church’s website or anywhere online that I can find. The email address listed on the website goes to someone on the staff, as does the Contact Form. I have one other method of contacting Sarah that I haven’t tried yet, through social media. If she is responsive there, I will update this answer accordingly.


One way to test whether the pastor is available for discussing any questions or concerns you might have is to call the church phone number, contact someone via email/website, or simply approach Sarah on a Sunday and see how open she is to being asked questions.


In my interactions with The Fellowship so far, I’ve only been able to engage with one person on the staff, and she ignored my last email.


6. Is your church tolerant of opposing or differing non-essential doctrinal views, such as eschatology, ecclesiology, soteriology, and others?


This church’s website emphasizes the freedom of Christian believers several times, but it also mentions “Unity.” In many churches, “unity” turns out to mean forced conformity to the views of church leadership, rather than genuine peace regardless of differences. We don’t know how “unity” is meant at the Fellowship, and without more context or knowledge of the church, it’s impossible to know exactly how they handle divergent views on things like eschatology or soteriology.


If you’ve attended or been a member of this church and experienced dealing with doctrinal disagreements, please share in the comments about how that went, or contact me and I can share your story anonymously if you prefer.


7. Does the church require its members to be baptized?


While Pentecostal churches believe a Christian must be baptized by the Holy Spirit in order to be saved, and proof of that baptism is speaking in tongues, whether this church requires water baptism is unknown.


8. Please describe what a typical service or meeting looks like at your church.


We can find this information on the church’s WHAT TO EXPECT page on their website:


“Our services begin with a time of sharing community happenings and then singing. We don’t consider the noise or movement of children to be a distraction in worship; rather, they are an essential part of who we are, and we like that they can participate in their own way. While we worship, you may see people raising their hands, dancing, sitting quietly, singing, clapping, waving banners, kneeling, or even crying. We value freedom and want you to feel free to worship however you’d like.

During the service, people from our community sometimes share stories, dreams, or insights from the Lord with the congregation. This is facilitated by a leader seated at the front of the auditorium. After singing, we take communion together and then someone shares a message (sermon). At the end of the service, designated volunteers gather in the front of the room to pray for anyone who’d like prayer, though just about anyone will be willing to pray with you; all you need to do is ask.

Please wear whatever you’d like. Most of us dress casually—jeans, khakis, whatever. We hope you will experience the peace and presence of God with us, meet others in our church family, and feel comfortable as you join us in worship.”


9. How many people does the church have on staff, both paid and volunteer?


The church’s leadership and staff is listed on their website, but it doesn’t tell us who is paid and who is a volunteer.


10. What is the pastor’s educational background?


Neither the website nor Sarah Rudd’s Facebook page shows any educational information for Pastor Sarah. There is also a statement on the church website on their WHO WE ARE page that suggests an educational background in ministry is irrelevant to this church:


We believe every believer is a priest before God and there are no restrictions on who can minister to God or to His people. We do not believe that certain parts of ministry are reserved for clergy, or for men, or for the educated or for the wealthy.”


11. How does the church discipline its members with sin? Does the church have a discipline policy?


We have found no information to suggest this church has a sin discipline policy of any kind so far.


12. How is the pastor and other paid leadership at the church compensated (income, bonuses, benefits, etc…), what percentage of the church’s total revenue/income goes to salaries, and how is that compensation established (board of elders, church vote, etc…)?


Since the church declined to answer our questions, we don’t know the answer to this. We know Sarah used to work in real estate, but once she was ordained as the pastor back in 2019, she may have quit that job to work as a pastor full time at the Fellowship.


13. What is the size of the congregation and any space or buildings used for church services or meetings?


The Fellowship has over 400 likes and followers on Facebook. Based on our knowledge of membership at other churches compared to their social media following, this means The Fellowship probably has somewhere between 100-200 regular members/attendees.


As for building size, according to the Salt Lake County Assessor, the building has a total floor area of 20,456. I’m assuming this means the building is 20,456 square feet. The market value for the building plus the land (1.84 acres) is over $3 million for the year 2021.


14. What is the pastor’s ministerial work history? Have they been the pastor or on the leadership staff at any other church? Please list their past ministry work and their reasons for leaving those ministries.


Unknown. There is no information on the website or online that gives us this information, but I am listening to a sermon from 2019, during which Sarah is ordained. It’s possible they describe her ministerial work history during this sermon, but it remains to be seen. I will update this answer accordingly once I know more.


Pastor Sarah’s Ordination Sermon: https://tf-sandy.org/speaker/corky-seevinck/


15. How does the church safeguard against any kind of abuse (sexual, emotional, spiritual, etc…)? Has there ever been an incident or conflict within the church involving potential abuse? If so, how was it resolved?


A few factors stick out to me when considering safeguards against abuse in this church.


This church allows women in leadership roles. This factor, whether or not you believe it’s biblical, can help prevent the abuse that is commonly practiced by male pastors/leaders against their female subordinates.


This church also allows children in the primary service. Children attending services with their parents as opposed to going to a children’s service or nursery can help prevent child abuse from church leadership in the confines of a children’s service or nursery, where there are no parents typically, but only the church’s leadership staff.


The emphasis on freedom on the church’s website suggests there is a very low level of control over members’ lives from church leadership. If this is truly the case, then this is another safeguard against abuse within the church.


Since the church declined to answer our questions, this is the only information I can provide for this church. The safeguards I’ve pointed out don't mean there is no potential for abuse at this church, nor does it mean that no one has ever been abused at this church. It’s simply my own observations based on the facts we know about the church so far.