We have another request from a reader, church checkers. While I hadn’t heard of this church until it was recommended to me, after checking it, I look forward to visiting this one once I’m down in Utah permanently.
Let’s check these guys out.
When you go to Discovery Christian Community’s website at http://www.discoverychristian.org/, you see almost everything you could possibly wonder about this church right away. Almost.
While they have a slideshow of current activities at the top, scroll down a little and you see a gallery of everything we’ll be looking at over the course of this check.
Scroll down even further and you see a section with the heading “New Here”. That’s us! Then a “What To Expect” description, which says:
This is what you can expect to happen every Sunday at 10:30 am:
Warm and caring Church
Fun and safe Children’s programs
These statements all appeal the to the selfishness that most people have when looking for a church. They assume that what I’m looking for is encouragement, inspiration, etc...what I was looking for was more something about Jesus, or the Bible, or God. This is a little red flag. It suggests that they’re more interested in appealing to people, rather than to the truth of God.
Scroll down more and you can read their Vision:
“At Discovery, we exist to help you know and love Jesus, provide a community where you can grow spiritually, and empower you to make a difference in the world through serving others.
We refer to it as “discover Christ, Community, Mission”.”
This is better than their What To Expect statement. I don’t see any red flags here.
At the bottom of the homepage we can see the church’s online sermons. We’ll get to those for the sermon portion of the check. For now, let’s explore the website a little more.
If you go to their Missions page, it lists a few other ministries that they support with their own funds, two of which are affiliated with the Christian & Missionary Alliance. This organization will be a big source of information regarding Discovery Christian Community, especially since they wouldn’t answer our Questionnaire, but once again, we’ll save that for another portion of the check.
In the Our Beliefs & Family page, we learn a lot.
First, and once again, their affiliation with a denomination called the Christian & Missionary Alliance. And below that, their statement of faith, or as some like to call it, their doctrinal statement.
One thing we notice about Discovery here is that they believe in Healing. Their statement of faith says:
“HEALING: Provision is made in the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ for the healing of the mortal body. Prayer for the sick and anointing with oil are taught in the Scriptures and are privileges for the Church in this present age.”
CMC does not share this view, and as we explained in our last check with Living Faith Discipleship Community, if it becomes a point of focus, it could prevent us from recommending them. We don’t rate churches poorly for minor doctrinal disagreements, but if those minors are made majors by the church, we have to speak against it.
All in all, there are a few small red flags on the website concerning doctrine, an affiliation with a denomination we’re unfamiliar with, and a What To Expect statement that suggests appealing to the masses rather than upholding Christ Himself. The only one that we can confidently say is an issue is the What To Expect statement though.
Therefore, the website review is a thumbs up.
As anyone who keeps up with The Wall already knows, we were stonewalled by this church. If you’re curious about the details on this, you can read our post on stonewalling churches, or just read the full conversation below.
So as you can see, no matter how much I explain to these churches and their pastors that I’m more than willing to speak on the phone, meet up in person, or whatever it is that they’re wanting from me, they refuse to answer our questions in writing, and in many cases, entirely.
Once again, we’re answering the questions ourselves.
1. What is your church's official position on tithing?
While Discovery’s church website does not mention tithing at all, nor does their Giving page make any mention of their doctrinal positions regarding giving, stewardship, or tithing, I learned a lot by going to the CMA (Christian & Missionary Alliance) website (their denominational affiliation).
Long story short, if Discovery aligns with the CMA, to which they donate 10% their own funds, so I’m guessing that they do, then they absolutely believe in some form of mandatory, or at least strongly encouraged/pressured giving to the church.
Read CMA’s Stewardship and The Kingdom of God PDF and you’ll have flashbacks to SMCC’s Giving Ebook, which is about the same length as this one. The same theological gymnastics are used to convince the reader that they absolutely must give money to their church, or suffer some sort of eternal consequences.
Some statements of concern in CMA’s Stewardship PDF:
“We Will Be Held Accountable for Our Stewardship...The judgment for poor stewardship will not result in the loss of salvation, but there will still be loss: “If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames” (1 Corinthians 3:14,15). To put it bluntly, He will be saved, but with the smell of smoke all over him.”
The twisting and misinterpreting of 1 Corinthians 3:14 here is used to basically tell Christians that they must give money to their church, or be punished eternally somehow.
Then there are some interesting explanations given for why some Christians resist being told how to handle their own money, which is between them and God, but has somehow been made the business of brick and mortar churches:
“Why are Christians resistant to the issues of stewardship? Why do we not live as Jesus taught us to live? Two possible answers to these questions are hard-heartedness (we know what God says, and we don't care) and ignorance (we don't know because we haven't been taught). Certainly these are issues that need to be addressed, but could it be we are overlooking another possible cause? In our Western sophistication we have often neglected the influence of the spirit-realm.”
Without wasting too much time in refuting these accusations toward Christians who do not or cannot give, I will say just say this: modern day Christian churches have become mighty good at manipulating us into giving them money.
This is disgraceful and manipulative language. A 40-page publication dedicated to pressuring Christians into giving up more money to their church using threats of punishment from God, Hell-smoke, and insulting accusations like if a Christian isn’t giving to their church they must not care about Jesus’ teachings, is actually doing what it accuses Christians who don’t practice “good stewardship” of doing: SERVING MONEY.
I could spend all day on this, but let’s not. We have a lot more to get through. Just read the PDF for yourself if you’re curious. If Discovery agrees with this publication from CMA as their affiliation with them would suggest, we have a big problem here.
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?
I don’t see anything on their website that suggests this, so without them answering this question themselves or further in-person research (which I assure you, I will do eventually), we don’t know the answer to this.
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?
According to what pastor John said to me in our Facebook conversation, they are financially transparent with their church. This is what he said:
“Btw we are very open with our church about our finances, posting them publicly in our building.”
I will have to meander in there and see if this is true for myself, but if anyone out there would like to check this for us, feel free.
4. Which denomination does your church align with the most, if any?
Their Our Beliefs & Family pages says this:
“Discovery Christian Community is part of the Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA), a Christ-centered, Acts 1:8, global family.”
As we noted earlier, one of the distinctive doctrines of this denomination is Healing. Besides the added emphasis on Stewardship, which is one of the Core Values of the CMA, I see no other distinctives worth noting about this denomination.
5. Is your church's pastor available for other questions or comments regarding the church, its doctrines, etc.?
Not in writing, according to what I was told:
“...You’re very welcome to come to Discovery! We’d be happy to meet you in person and talk with you about the concerns you have with the modern church. We have concerns too, but prefer to talk about these in person rather than written correspondence…”
6. How is your church's doctrinal flexibility and tolerance? 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?
I imagine this church handles doctrinal differences the same way most others have said they do. If it’s on the essentials of Christianity, or the doctrines that they are affiliated with denominationally, they probably do not deviate, but if it’s anything else, they may practice liberty.
Until someone answers this, we don’t know either way for sure.
7. Does your church require that its members be baptized? What is your church's official position on baptism?
While there is a section on Discovery’s website which explains and encourages baptism, I see nothing on the site that suggests one must be baptized in order to be a member of their church. This is their statement from the website:
“Jesus commanded us, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:18), and “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16).
Jesus set the example for us to follow in being baptized (Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11, and Luke 3:21-23), which the Apostles and early church continued afterwards, baptizing all who believe (Acts 2:38-41; 8:37-38; 10:48).
Baptism is an outward, physical demonstration of the inward, spiritual reality of salvation that has taken place in a believer’s life. The immersion in water (the Greek word “baptize” literally means “to immerse, douse or saturate”) symbolizes the sin that has been washed away (Acts 22:16), the believer’s union with Christ in His death and resurrection (Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:12) and thus their initiation into the global body of Christ (Galatians 3:26-28).
At Discovery, we regularly celebrate baptisms, which are one of the highlights of church life!”
8. Please describe what a typical service and/or meeting looks like in your church.
From their What To Expect page on the website:
“It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’ve been: you’re welcome here at Discovery!There is no dress code, so just wear whatever you want.
Our worship services begin punctually at 10:30 am and last about 75—90 minutes. There are greeters at the door to welcome you and answer any questions you may have.
We worship God through prayer, song, Bible study and fellowship.
We have a great praise band that mostly sings contemporary, upbeat worship songs.The message is focused on studying the Bible and learning how to apply God’s truth to our lives.
We often testify of what God is doing in our lives and offer an invitation to follow Jesus….
...Feel free to stay afterwards, grab a coffee in our Coffee House, and let us get to know you, or come up to the front to receive prayer.”
9. How many people do you have on staff at your church, both paid and volunteer?
The website doesn’t tell us this. Under Leadership & Staff it only shows pastor John Doss.
10. What is the pastor's educational history?
On the Leadership & Staff page, it refers to pastor John as “Rev John Doss, MDiv,” so he has a Master of Divinity degree, but we don’t know where he earned it.
11. How does the church discipline its members with their sin?
Their website doesn’t tell us, but after some digging on the CMA website, I was able to spot a few documents that address this topic. Unfortunately for some reason, the format prevents me from opening them on my computer.
I’ve emailed a somewhat local CMA church (not Discovery obviously) to see if they could provide me with one of these documents. If and when I get a response, I’ll be sure to update the check with this information.
12. How is the pastor compensated (income, benefits, bonuses, etc.)?
This information obviously isn’t going to be displayed on the church’s website, but since pastor John did mention that they’re not hiding anything and share their financial information publicly in their building, we’ll have to pop in one day and see if it includes the pastor’s compensation.
Any volunteers want to check this for us? :)
13. What is the size of your church and any other space the church owns for meetings and church services?
A little over 250 people have liked and followed Discovery Christian Community’s Facebook page. Based on our previously accurate estimates, this means Discovery probably has somewhere between 50-100 members.
As for building size or other property/space owned by the church, we don’t know this without them answering it themselves.
The Worship Service
I wasn’t able to find any recordings or videos of Discovery’s worship service online, so I will have to abstain from rating the worship service until we can physically attend a service.
The sermon we’re checking for Discovery Christian Community is from April 28th, which on their website has been entitled “Propitiation.” You can listen to this sermon on their website at the bottom of the homepage here.
Is this a topical sermon or a verse by verse study in the Bible?
This is a topical sermon about propitiation. Typically I have a very negative view of topical sermons because they tend to avoid the Bible and focus more on messages that tickle ears, egos, and worldly desires.
However, the topic of this sermon is propitiation, and that is an entirely Biblically focused topic, so I’m not going to dismiss this sermon due to being topical. It’s quite possible that it will be completely Biblical, in the Word, and focused on the Gospel, as the topic itself suggests.
Is it Biblical? How frequently is the Bible referenced? Are the references used in context or cherry picked to support a topic?
And it is absolutely Biblical. The Bible is referenced at least several times throughout the sermon, and while the verses are read in a cherry picked fashion in order to support the topic, I don’t believe they are being used out of context or misinterpreted to conform to the pastor’s ideas. If you read each Scripture he references, it’s clear that he is not twisting their meaning to meet his liking.
Scriptures referenced in the sermon:
The Book of Romans
1 John 4:10
1 Thess. 5:9
I may have missed a few, because quite frankly he referenced a lot and I could have missed one or two, but this has to be most of them, if not all.
What is at the heart of the sermon? God, the Word, the Gospel, Jesus, or something else?
The perfect holiness, grace, love, and wrath of God. The beauty of the Gospel through Jesus Christ’s propitiation for our sins. Correcting the misconceptions that we have about the wrath of God through a Biblical understanding of it, and the good news of Christ’s propitiation for our sins.
I’ve written some notes on the sermon itself below not only because this is a sermon worthy of taking notes, but also because I think it would be beneficial to readers to actually understand the things pastor John is speaking on.
4 Misconceptions about the wrath of God:
1. The idea that the wrath of God is archaic, old, or outdated/no longer relevant. This is not the Biblical truth. God has wrath.
2. When we think of a person who is wrathful, we think of someone who is angry. Does God have an anger problem? Making God into a man is wrong. It’s not an irrational outburst of passion, it’s perfect hatred for everything that is evil.
3. Some people think that if God is angry, we have to do something in order to satisfy His anger against this world. God provides the way. We don’t.
4. God’s wrath somehow contradicts His love and grace. It doesn’t. God’s wrath and grace meet each other perfectly at the cross and are unified as one.
What is the benefit of Jesus for our propitiation:
1. In the past, your sins were forgiven, and you were justified.
2. Right now, because our sins have been forgiven and declared righteous, we have access to the presence of God.
3. In the future, when we die, there is no fear of wrath or condemnation, but we will spend eternity with God because of the blood of Christ.
Were you fed the Word of God, or the words of men?
While the sermon itself wasn’t as deeply in the Word itself as I am used to, I was not being fed the words of men. This was a solid serving of the milk of the Word. The Bible was referenced more times than I could count, and legitimately, not twisting the Biblical meaning of texts in order to support a topic.
The message was purely Biblical, and focused entirely on its topic of propitiation, and the Biblical truth regarding Christ’s propitiation for our sins.
In conclusion to the sermon, pastor John is very easy to listen to. His sermon is very well written and preached. The only possible negative I can note about the sermon is that it is topical rather than a verse by verse study, but this doesn’t mean Discovery never has verse by verse studies. Just that this particular sermon was a topical one.
Lastly, the positives far outweigh that one, tiny little negative. I would have to be crazy not to give the sermon a strong thumbs up.
We won’t be able to accurately determine how legalistic or gracious this church is without more information regarding their membership requirements, if there are any. I don’t see any indication that they have such a thing on the website, but Calvary Chapel SLC doesn’t show this information on their site either, and as we just found out from pastor Terry in his Questionnaire, they do have a membership class.
Additionally, if Discovery lines up with its own denominational affiliate, Christian & Missionary Alliance, regarding stewardship, then it’s very likely that they either pass the plate, preach some form of tithing, or pressure members to financially support the church in one way or another.
It doesn’t appear that they require baptism for membership or attendance, but once again, we’re left to wonder all of these things due to a lack of information from the church itself, as they refused to answer our questions in writing.
Perhaps once we’re able to physically attend Discovery and speak with pastor John about these things, or find out from one of their members somehow, we will be able to more accurately rate them in this area. Until then, the only thing we can dock them for confidently is for affiliating with CMA, who pressure giving to the church in the same 40-page ebook manner that SMCC does.
For now, we’ll put them at 50/50.
I could not find anything of a political nature either on the church’s website or on their denomination affiliate’s website, so we’ll put them right in the middle of the political scale.
Scandals & Controversy
The only controversy I find with Discovery Christian Community is their affiliation with Christian & Missionary Alliance, which so far has shown to be a very money serving denomination. The only doctrine of note is on healing, but it doesn’t seem to take up a lot of what the church focuses on overall, so it is indeed minor.
I think if pastor John or someone from Discovery had answered our Questionnaire, this could be another church worth recommending to people, but since they didn’t, and we’re still missing a lot of information on a few very important issues, it’s impossible to know for sure what we’re dealing with here.
For all of these reasons, I will definitely be making this church a priority for physical attendance and further investigation upon moving to Utah. But enough rambling. To the final rating.
If we were checking the sermon alone, possibly with the website added on as well, I would recommend this church. If they had answered our Questionnaire and we’d found them to be as gracious as they seem based on the sermon and the website, I would recommend this church. If we ever do find out whether the financial information they have posted in their church is as transparent and full as pastor John has suggested, we could recommend this church.
Unfortunately, we’re just missing too much information to do any of that. All because they refused to answer our questions in writing. But I can’t bring myself to not recommend them either. The sermon preached the Gospel and taught the Word. The website, while containing one little red flag that seems to aim at people pleasing, was otherwise a thumbs up.
We will just have to do further research on this church and hope that the information we find in the meantime will help us come down more clearly one way or the other. Until then, we’re on the fence!