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Church Check: The Rising in Draper, Utah



Okay, church checkers. As it goes sometimes, I’ve been slacking with my church checking, but now that the holidays have passed and the new year is on the horizon, it’s time to get back to work.

The Rising is another church that was recommended to us in Draper, Utah by one of our readers. While they appear to be a smaller congregation right now with probably a few hundred regular attendees and no building of their own quite yet, I have no doubt that this church will rise in numbers fairly quickly if they continue down the path they’re currently on.


If you aren’t already familiar with how we check and review churches, that’s not really a good thing. Popularity is one thing. Serving God is another entirely, and very rarely leads to great popularity with the world.

At any rate, let’s get down to business, shall we? Let’s check this church!


Website Review


Church Website: http://therisingutah.com/

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/therisingutah/


A quick skim or surface review of The Rising’s website reveals very little, and even waves a couple of green flags, but as is the case sometimes with these more modern Christian churches, all it takes is a little digging to find the red flags just beneath the surface.

But first, the green flags are worth sharing.


The Homepage

On the homepage of their website, The Rising lays out their mission:


“Our mission is to Love God, Love Others and Be like Jesus!

It begins with Loving God. That is our first and most important priority. We must chase after God with all of our heart, all of our soul, and all of our mind. (Matthew 22:37)

As we grow in our love for God He will enlarge our love for others. When we love others more than ourselves our pride will be stripped away and we will serve sacrificially and without expectation. Our second priority is to Love Others; treating and loving them better than ourselves. (Matthew 22:39)

Everything for the Christian should be about becoming more and more like Jesus! More today than yesterday; in everything we think, say and do! As we look to Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2) daily we will become like Him. That is why our third priority is to Be like Jesus!

Join us in this pursuit of Loving God, Loving Others and Becoming like Jesus!”


I agree with this mission entirely, and I see no red flags here. Something too many Chrisitan churches and Christians forget today is that while sharing the Gospel with others is important, the most important goal of the Christian should always be to love God, love others, and be more like Jesus Himself.


The Give Page


The Give page for this church’s website itself is not a red flag. Although they do have a small image with the words “Tithe and Offering” on it, which to me means they do believe in the preaching of tithing, there are no arguments or pressures for why you need to give, no Scriptural references saying, “See, the Bible says you need to give, so do it,” and virtually nothing else to suggest any kind of pressure to give or tithe.


Even when you click the link to give to the Rising, there are no options for “Tithes.” Just a General Fund and a Building Fund.


But now, already, we can start to see some red flags. The surface skim is already done, and everything that follows is concerning to me.


But that’s enough for the Website Review. While there are a couple more pages worth noting here, we’ll get to them in the Questionnaire.


Questionnaire


The RIsing was yet another church that, unsurprisingly, completely stonewalled our attempts to ask questions. In fact, we initially contacted this church via Facebook Messenger and were told someone would be able to answer our questions at the provided email address. Once we sent our questions, however, there were no answers to be found.

So as usual, let’s see if we can answer some of them ourselves.


1. What is your church's official position on tithing?


Just as we observed in the Website Review, there aren’t many direct references to the law of tithing on this church’s website that we can find, with the exception of the words “Tithe and Offering” on their Give Page.


This to me means that they do believe in teaching the law of tithing, but we’ll have to do more digging in the church’s messages and sermons themselves to find out more.


2. Does your church have an official membership with a membership agreement or contract?


If you go the Rising Church’s website, then click the “I’m New” page, there’s a sub-page entitled “What’s Next?” On this page, we can see that they do have a seminar called “Next” wherein which you learn “...what it means to belong to The Rising…” as a prerequisite for “Ownership” at the church, which is their term for membership at the church.


Scroll down further and it says this about “Ownership”:


“Ownership is about partnering with The Rising. We recommend you attend NEXT to get connected and then Ownership to become a member.”


Based on all of this, I think it’s safe to say that this church does have an official membership agreement and/or contract.


3. Is your church transparent with its financial information? How much does your church bring in through donations and tithing, plus additional income, and how is that money distributed?


I see nothing on the church’s website to suggest that this church is financially transparent. And since our emails were ignored, both by the main email address we were given and the lead pastor’s direct email address, which is listed on the website, I have a feeling we’ll never find out any of this information for sure.


4. Which denomination does your church align with the most, if any?


The Rising Church is actually a part of the CMA, or The Christian & Missionary Alliance. Another church we’ve checked also affiliated with this group was Discovery Christian Community. To learn more about this denomination, go to www.cmaalliance.org.


For a quick recap, however, after some digging the last time we looked into this group we found that they do in fact put some emphasis on teaching and preaching giving to congregates. The Old Testament law of tithing, however, not so much.


5. Is your church's pastor available for other questions or comments regarding the church, its doctrines, etc.?


Well, since our email was entirely ignored by pastor Josh and wouldn’t answer these questions in the first place, I can’t say whether or not he’d answer anyone else’s. Perhaps if you were to walk up to him in person or go about asking your questions in a different way, but I can’t say yes to this based on my own experience.


6. How is your church's doctrinal flexibility and tolerance regarding minor, non-essential doctrines? If a member has a disagreement with the pastor or leadership on a certain doctrine, how is it handled?


Here is another one we don’t have an answer to since the church ignored our questions. This question might be answered if you attend one of their Next or Ownership classes as a part of becoming a new member and learning what it means to “belong to The Rising Church,” but until we can do that, or get someone to speak with us, we don’t know.


7. Does your church require that its members be baptized? What is your church's official position on baptism?


Based on what the church’s website says about Baptism on their “What’s Next?” page, it doesn’t appear that this church actually requires baptism, but they may still make it a prerequisite for membership. We can’t say for sure, but it’s clear that they don’t believe baptism is required for salvation.


8. Please describe what a typical service and/or meeting looks like in your church.


We don’t see any description of what this church’s services are like on their website. We would assume it’s just like most other modern day Christain church services beginning with worship, announcements, and then a sermon, but that is just a guess.


9. How many people do you have on staff at your church, both paid and volunteer?


You can see a list of the church’s leadership and staff here, but as for whether any of these people are paid or volunteer, we don’t know. There may also be a lot of other volunteers not listed on the church’s website at all.


10. What is the pastor's educational history?


There is no educational history or information on lead pastor Joshua Blair either on the church’s website or on Facebook.


11. How does the church discipline its members with their sin?


Another question possibly for the church’s membership classes, but they won’t answer this question to us directly.


12. How is the pastor compensated (income, benefits, bonuses, etc.)?


Wouldn’t you like to know?


While we could make some educated guesses as to how much the pastor of this church makes based on congregation size alone, the important thing to remember here is that the church is not transparent with this information.


13. What is the size of your church and any other space the church owns for meetings and church services?


We can’t know the exact numbers here since the church stonewalled our questions, but based on their Facebook stats, this church probably has a congregation of about 300 people, and while they currently don’t have a building of their own, they are working on collecting as much money from their congregates as possible to build a brand new 7,000 square foot building in South Jordan, Utah. Read all about that here.


All in all, while we were able to learn a few things ourselves, we’re still missing a lot of information. Based on what we do know about The Rising Church in Draper, however, I can’t say things are looking good so far. With a subtle hint that this church preaches tithing on their Give Page and the clear indication that they have a membership class, which probably leads to a membership agreement, legalism and money serving are rearing their ugly heads.


Worship Service


We didn’t physically attend this church’s service in person, and since they don’t have any videos online, on their website, on Facebook, or YouTube, we can’t assess this category for the church check. We will have to wait until attending the church in person to make any comments here.


If you’ve attended a Worship Service at The RIsing Church in Draper, Utah, let us know your thoughts in the comments!


The Sermon


Now to my favorite part of every church check: the sermon.

Sermon: Changes: Week 3 - Stopping

Date: November 17th, 2019

Speaker: Pastor Joshua Blair


Is the sermon topical or verse by verse study through the Bible?


While it appears that The Rising’s Christmas series, The Cast of Christmas, was more in the Word and based on a verse by verse study through the book of Luke, the typical preaching style for this church is topical sermons.


For this sermon review, I decided instead of listening to their most recent sermon available that I’d listen to one much more accurate to how they typically preach to their congregation on Sunday. That called for going back a few weeks.


While it’s nice that many churches change course for the Christmas season and decide to focus more on the actual Bible teachings regarding the birth of Christ, actually reading and teaching the Bible is something that churches should do every Sunday of the year, not just during Christmas.


Is it Biblical? How frequently is the Bible used? Is it interpreted in context or twisted to fit the narrative of the sermon?


The Changes sermon began in week one with what Pastor Joshua calls “three primary obstacles that prevent us from making life-changing, life-lasting changes…”


It sounds like a self-help type of series focused on encouraging Christians to improve themselves through habits and works of the flesh in order to make “life-lasting changes.”

In week 2 of the series, Pastor Joshua explains near the beginning of this sermon that he asked the question, “...Holy Spirit, what are you calling me to start doing in my life?”


He continues to move into the third element of the Changes series by saying, “...the coin is change, and one side is starting something. What do you think the other side might be? Stopping something.”


Is this message Biblical? I don’t think so. So far it’s much too focused on a flesh-focused approach to dealing with our sinful nature, using good habits and outward prescriptions for self-improvement, rather than appealing to the power of the Holy Spirit within us to do the work by His will. If we could combat our sins and our sinful nature by our own will, strength, and effort, why did Jesus have to come and die for us on the cross? Why did He leave us with the Holy Spirit? Why did Jesus have to fulfill the law by His own innocent blood and establish a New Covenant?


This is the problem with so many modern Christian churches today. This self-help and self-improvement themed sermon series that address the outward, superficial symptoms of our flesh does nothing to change the heart and cut to the root of the real problem: our hearts. Only God can change that, and all of our works and all of our efforts to improve ourselves outwardly do nothing to fix the real problem.


Bible Passages Referenced:

Proverbs 4:14-15

James 1:21

2 Samuel 11:1- …

1 Corinthians 15:33

Proverbs 13:20


When Pastor Joshua gets to the main Scripture he will reference for the remainder of the sermon in 2 Samuel 11, he attributes David’s “bad habit” to boredom. He says, “If you read between the lines, I believe emphatically that David is bored.”


I have a serious problem with this interpretation and use of Scripture. First of all, while David certainly may have been bored when he saw Bathsheba bathing and decided to have an affair with her, that wasn’t the actual cause of his behavior. I would think that’s fairly obvious. After all, another man in the same scenario could have been bored and rather than peeping that a bathing woman from the rooftop of his palace, he would have done something entirely different to appease his boredom.


Attributing David’s sin to boredom seems superficial to me, and secondly, twists the real meaning of Scripture in order to fit the narrative that this pastor is pushing: that boredom causes our bad habits. While Pastor Josh does at times mention the context of this passage, he’s not interpreting it or reading it contextually. He’s “reading between the lines” as he says, and trying to use Scripture to fit his sermon series, rather than fitting his sermon to the Word itself.


What’s at the heart of the sermon? What’s the main point and purpose of the message?


The heart of this sermon is really focused on trying to enforce ourselves to behave properly by our own outward efforts, works, and good habits. Attributing the sins of our hearts to bad habits, certain emotions, boredom, and stress, rather than with the real root of our problems: our sinful, human nature. Our own hearts themselves. It’s a superficial self-improvement seminar, not a teaching of the Word, nor an accurate explanation for why we fail in the first place.


Were you fed the Word of God or the words of men?


The Bible was referenced, out of context, several times, in order to push the fleshly self-improvement message being taught in this sermon, but not only is it un-Biblical in nature, attributing our sinful behaviors to superficial problems like stress, boredom, people, emotions, etc...it’s also not a good feeding of the Word at all.


Cherry-picking verses that support the idea that we need to stop certain behaviors, spend time with good people, and so on, is as unnecessary and self-evident to the Christian as anything could possibly be. What’s not evident is how we address these problems within ourselves and how to fix them.


The Christian and Biblical answer is clear: Only God can fix these problems, by fixing our hearts Himself through the power of the Holy Spirit within us. By Christ living within us are we changed, and nothing else. We can’t do anything ourselves to change our hearts. Only God can do it. And no amount of self-imposed good habits through our flesh is going to change the condition of our heart from within. (2 Cor. 5:17; Ezekiel 36:26; Romans 12:2; Psalm 139:23-24; Jeremiah 32:38-40; 2 Cor. 3:18).


Pastor Josh suggests trying really hard, or recruiting outside help from the church, segueing into the all too popular and all too false notion that Christians need other people and the local church in order to be good Christians. That “the Christ-life was never intended to be lived alone.”


So the presence, the job, and the power of the Holy Spirit is being ignored here entirely, replacing Him with our own will, efforts, and friends/church. That’s religion, people. Not a relationship with God. Jesus Christ is our mediator and our path to God, not our church, or our own efforts. This is basic Christian theology, and too many churches replace it with laws, good habits, self-righteousness, and church. That’s just another religion.


While at the very end of the sermon Pastor Josh does mention that “God decides the results,” this is barely mentioned at all and is more of a side note and an afterthought than the real bringer of change. While God is given the acknowledgment He’s due at the very ending and in the prayer, the entire sermon’s message surrounded individuals changing themselves by their own efforts, works, and habits through their flesh, not by the power of the Spirit.


This sermon confused and frustrated me, to say the least.


Political Scale


While it’s fairly possible that this church does have specific political leanings, which would be learned by going to their membership classes, we don’t see any based on the information we currently have on this church. So, as usual, we’ll put them right in the middle of the Political Scale.



Grace Scale


There are a few subtle signs that this church is more legalistic. The legalism within the sermon we reviewed, a few red flags that this church preaches tithing, the fact that they have membership classes, and that they actually refer to their church membership as “ownership” are all red flags of legalism.


Therefore, we have The Rising on the more legalistic side of the Grace Scale. We’ll have to find out more about their views on tithing, whether or not they require baptism for membership, and whether they pressure or require service or activity within the church, to move one way or the other on the scale. Until then, this is where they stand in our view.


Controversies & Scandals


We don’t find any controversies or scandals in this church. Not even a single negative review on Facebook or Google. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist, of course, but besides our typical complaints about churches like this (money serving, legalism, & a lack of transparency), there’s nothing to report here.

Final Rating


We’re missing way too much information to recommend this church, and the information we do have doesn’t give us a good impression so far. We know they have a membership class and official membership called “Ownership,” we know they’re pressuring congregates to pay for a new 7,000 square foot building, and just like too many other churches, we don’t see any transparency with this church either.


The sermon was legalistic in tone and not nearly as in the Word as it could have been given the subject matter.


All of this should make our final rating pretty clear:


Not Recommended


Have you attended The Rising in Draper, UT? What was your experience like? Let us know!