Updated: Aug 14, 2019
This church was a request from a reader. It took us an exceptionally long time to complete this check. Not because it was a time consuming church to check. In fact, it didn't take long at all, and since they answered our Questionnaire without so much as a single argument, it was easy to check as well. Unfortunately, following The Mission Church and a slew of hate mail made for finishing this one painfully long.
But I'll stop whining now. Onto the Check.
Living Faith Discipleship Community in Ogden doesn’t have a very informative website, but since they answered the questionnaire and have quite a bit of video footage on Facebook, as well as blog posts available for observation, I don’t think the lack of information on the website will be a problem.
With that being said, let’s assess what little there is to check on the website.
When you go to the church’s website, which you can find here, the first thing you’ll notice is a pop-up announcement for a guest speaker, Emmanuel Sackey. This might be the most helpful piece of information I’ve found on LFDC’s entire website.
Emmanuel Sackey is a pastor from Ghana, Africa, and on their Facebook Page, they say this in the event details (emphasis mine):
“Apostle Sackey from Ghana, Africa will be with us. Join us for the ministry of this man of God. Expect the Holy Spirit release of prophecy and miracles! You will be blessed.”
Also on this particular event, there is a picture of Emmanuel Sackey resting his hand on someone’s head and everyone appears to be praying around them. I was unable to find a lot of information about Emmanuel Sackey himself online, but I did find a sermon of his on YouTube if you’re curious.
At the beginning of the video, Emmanuel begins by talking about “enforcing your promises” by taking personal responsibility for God’s will in your life by allowing God to flow through you and bring His promises for your life to fruition. The rest of the sermon seems to continue in that same message.
After finding out everything I could regarding Sackey and listening to his message on YouTube, I am given the impression that he preaches modern day divine healing, miracles, and prophecies, and that's a little concerning.
While we don’t agree with or believe in doctrines like modern day divine healing or modern day prophecies, we are not judging churches by minor doctrinal differentiations such as this, unless it presented within the church as more than a minor doctrinal distinctive. If this is all this church focuses on while the majors (God, Jesus, The Word) take a backseat, this could be a big problem.
Until we find out for sure, we will refrain from making that judgment.
So, let’s move on.
On the homepage of the website itself, you see the statement: Hear and Do Ministry. Restoring Hope. Building Faith. Empowering the Body.
It’s nothing out of the ordinary as far as church slogans go, but it does raise some red flags since it lacks in mentioning God, Jesus, the Bible, or the Gospel entirely. It seems much more focused on people, rather than God.
Churches with little to no information on their website are a mystery. It’s hard to check them accurately, and based on how my other checks of churches with little website information have gone, it’s a red flag in and of itself.
This church, however, unlike most others, has a blog on its website. It appears that the associate pastor, Jesse Smout, is the one who does the writing. This may provide us some helpful information.
Reading the blog, unfortunately, doesn’t reveal much about this church either. On one hand, I detect a hint of legalism in their post entitled “Traits of an Effective Overseer,” but then that red flag goes back down when I read the post “The Modern Day Pharisee.”
In fact, I learned a few things in reading it. I will have to spend more time reading all of associate pastor Jesse Smout’s blog posts in order to get a better idea of this church’s policies and practices, but for now, being that the website itself is not informative one way or another, besides the upcoming guest Emmanuel Sackey, I’m on the fence with the Website Review.
Associate pastor Jesse Smout was very quick in responding to my inquiries. When my initial contact through the church’s website didn’t seem to go through, I PM’ed the church on their Facebook Page, where Jesse gave me his personal email.
I wasn’t going to get my hopes up until after I sent the questions and received a response, but that didn’t take long either. After sending my questions over, Jesse replied, without excuse or stonewalling in the least:
“Thank you for reaching out to me. I will be happy to send these to our Pastor and answer these for you - but it may take us a couple of days to get them back to you. We apologize for any inconvenience, and thank you for your patience.”
After about a week I decided to follow up with them. I was expecting to either be ignored or given an excuse for why they weren’t going to answer me, but to my surprise, they were ready to send me the answers, and they did. Here they are!
1. What is your church’s official position on tithing?
“We believe tithing is a representation of a Christian’s heart. We do not reprimand
anyone who doesn’t tithe – we believe, that the Old Covenant Law of 10% (first-fruits) is
a minimum. The Early Church of Acts gave 100% and shared everything in common –
so for us to say, “Do not give,” seems counter-intuitive. Rather, we encourage giving and
let our members know that 10% was an Old Covenant minimum and we, as New
Covenant believers ought to give out of the sincerity of our hearts and listening to God
for His will in our giving. Christ rebukes the pharisees, not because they tithe, but
because they tithe and do not practice justice, mercy, and faithfulness. “You should have
practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”
Scriptures to reference: Malachi 3:8-11, Luke, 11:42, Matthew 23:23, 2 Corinthians 9:7,
2 Corinthians 8:12, Acts 2-4, Mark 12:42-44, 2 Corinthians 8:1-15”
I have to disagree with a lot of Jesse's statements here. There is no minimum for Christian giving, and since they reference 2 Cor. 9:7, it should be noted that this passage actually says that our giving is NOT to be made under compulsion. That includes compulsion from a local church. While overall this church might be less legalistic in its enforcement of tithing, I have to disagree with them for even suggesting that it is still applicable to Christians today.
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?
“No. We’re not really fond of the idea of membership. We are a church family and do not
necessarily consider people members. Those who are part of the church family are
those who are a consistent, regular part of the ministry. Membership cards are available
for those who feel a need to fill one out. However, the pastor does not look to those for
membership but rather considers those who have made a home in this church, a part of
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? What do your profit on average?
“Yes, we are transparent. All information is readily accessible and available for those who consistently attend the church. Profit? That’s funny. We are not a business. We use all resources for the furthering of the kingdom and pour into God’s people and His house. God’s church is not a place for profit but a place to sow into the kingdom.”
I kind of love this answer. Making a profit in a church IS funny. While I was looking for him to give me the financial information itself, as I’ve said before, as long as churches are being transparent with their own congregation, that’s what we’re looking for. We don't know just how transparent this supposed transparency actually is though, so it's hard to know one way or the other if that is actually the case here.
4. Which denomination does your church align with the most, if any?
“None necessarily - We are inter-denominational. If we had to choose a group, it would
be Full-Gospel, Spirit-Filled denominations.”
5. Is your church’s pastor available for other questions or comments regarding the church, its doctrines, etc.?
“Yes, but we would ask that a phone call and appointment is made.”
6. 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?
“If it is not related to salvation or core doctrinal beliefs, we do not address it, unless it is
something that would lead others astray and the person is intentionally doing so. If we
believe it will affect their salvation, we would have a personalized, individual 1-to-1 with
that particular person. We do not change doctrines. The Bible does not change.”
7. Does your church require that its members be baptized? What is your church’s official
position on baptism?
“No. We believe when you come to know Christ, the first (natural) step is to become
baptized to identify with the body as a public declaration of one’s faith. We encourage
baptism and provide opportunities for the church to be baptized. However, it is
completely up to the congregation when and if they want to be baptized. Mt. 28:18-19.”
Another excellent response: “Completely up to the congregation when and if they want to be baptized.”
8. Please describe what a typical service and/or meeting looks like in your church.
“Our slogan is “Hear & Do,” (James 1:22-25) which represents how we believe each
gathering of saints should look like. We aim to hear God’s will and do it. Every time we
meet. On average, a majority of our members come to an hour prayer service (this is
before service, technically) and then we have worship, opportunities for prophetic words, main word/teaching/preaching, and altar time where we make leaders available to pray for the attendees. Time, duration, and order are led by the Spirit entirely.”
This sounds like a very unique service.
9. How many people do you have on staff at your church, both paid and volunteer?
“Our body is small, we have no one on staff that is paid. Everyone in leadership is a
10. What is the pastor’s educational history?
“Our Pastor has a Master’s Degree in Theology from Liberty University.”
11. How does the church discipline its members with their sin?
“Is this a stronghold or abiding sin? Is this affecting the body? Is the person parading their sin? Is the person repentant and struggling to overcome? Is the person in leadership? Has the person been told or understand the Biblical view on their sin? These questions need to be answered first. We do not believe in condemning people but helping them find freedom in Christ Jesus. We are all in process of maturing and transforming from glory to glory. It is an individual process. Our desire is to see every person in our church walking in victory and overcoming sin in their lives. We will do our best to help them every step of the way.”
12. How is the pastor compensated (income, benefits, bonuses, etc.)?
“This varies based upon the needs of the church. If the church is in a place to
compensate the pastor, then a housing allowance is given. In lean financial season the
compensation is cut or reduced. 1 Tim. 5:18”
13. What is the size of your church and any other space the church owns for meetings and church services?
“40-50 people weekly. We are in a 3,000 square foot building in Ogden, UT.”
In conclusion to the Questionnaire, while a few of the answers raise a little red flag for me, due to the overall willingness to answer the questions and most of the answers being in line with our criteria, it’s a thumbs up!
While I didn’t physically attend the worship service at Living Faith Discipleship Community, I was able to find a few short clips of some of their worship music on their Facebook Page. Still, it isn’t enough to give a fair and accurate assessment of what the worship service is like. So until we can physically attend one ourselves, we will refrain from making a rating here.
The sermon we listened to is from April 28th, which you can watch here.
Is the sermon topical or a verse by verse study through the Bible?
All of this church’s sermons are only available to watch on their Facebook Page. Some of them have topical titles, but many of them don’t.
Pastor Rachel says that they will be in Mark 11:22-24, so it appears to be a verse by verse study, but once she really gets into the sermon, it’s much more of a topical sermon, wherein which Mark 11:22-24 is just the main Scripture of note.
Is the sermon Biblical? How frequently is the Bible used, and is it read in context, or cherry picked to support the pastor’s ideas?
It doesn’t seem that Biblical at all. She only uses the Bible a couple of times (Mark 11:22-24 & a quick reference to Hebrews), and it wasn’t read in context, but seems to have been cherry picked to support this church’s distinctive doctrines about faith healing, modern day miracles, and speaking in tongues, which they apparently believe in.
What’s at the heart of the message? Is it God, the Bible, The Gospel, or something else?
The heart of the message was mostly about faith healing, and how if you put your faith in God, and speak that faith out loud, whatever ails you will be healed. The pastor made several comments that startled and perplexed me as a Christian.
Things like, “if you’re going to the doctor two times or more a year then you need to have faith in God.” If you lose faith, the devil will give you “symptoms.” You have to “hold onto” your faith so that you can “hold onto your healing.” If you have faith, “good things will happen in your life.”
Things like miracles and healing won’t happen in your life unless you “speak your faith,” which I’m assuming means confessing your faith out loud. She puts a lot of emphasis on this throughout the sermon, as if we can be healed by some kind of magical prayer incantation of “speaking our faith”. At least that’s how it comes across to me.
None of this, by the way, was supported by any Scriptural references, with the exception of the one Scripture she used in the entire sermon, Mark 11:22-24. But it was taken out of context and misinterpreted to support the pastor’s ideas. She interprets it literally, but does nothing to show the congregation how or why it should be interpreted literally in her view.
The heart was not Jesus, or the Bible, or the Gospel, or even God really, at all. In fact, I don’t think I heard Jesus’ name even mentioned within the entire sermon, except for at the very beginning when it came up in the single verse that was read in the entire sermon. The Gospel wasn’t mentioned at all.
Were you fed the Word of God, or the words of men?
The words of men, almost entirely. She read one single Scripture passage but then basically avoided the Bible for the rest of the sermon, speaking primarily in anecdotes and personal opinions, rather than from the Word itself.
I was fed a passionate and intense speech about faith healing, but not the Word of God.
So in conclusion to the sermon, I can’t say it was Biblical, based in the Word, feeding the Word, or Christ-centered at all. There were a lot of personal projections, anecdotes, opinions, intense shouting and passionate references to modern day miracles and healing, and because of all this, I can’t recommend any Christian attend a sermon at this church. It’s a thumbs down for the sermon.
With the suggestions that Christians should pay a minimum of 10% as a starting point, I have to dock them for a little bit of legalism here. Everything else, including membership policies, baptism requirements, and discipline of sin, on the other hand, appear to be very gracious.
I couldn't find any signs of political activity or affiliations on their website or in the sermon, so we've put them right in the middle of the political scale as neutral.
Scandals & Controversies
There are a lot of controversial doctrines to note for this church, and truth be told, I didn’t quite realize just how into those doctrines they are until listening to the sermon. It took me almost by surprise.
Since their website reveals little to nothing about them, and associate pastor Jesse didn’t mention any of these doctrinal positions in the Questionnaire, specifically regarding the question about denominational affiliations, how was I to know?
The faith healing movement is one of great controversy within Christianity, and I can’t say it’s not for good reason. Personally, I’ve never believed in faith healing or modern day miracles in the same sense that these people apparently do.
If this church was bigger or appeared to pressure giving or tithing more from its congregates, I would be tempted to call them out for outright scamming people. Alas, they’re very small, and I can see why. These views are highly unpopular, and rightly so.
They should make these views more apparent on their website for potential attendees, but my guess is there’s a reason that they don’t do that already. I know if my church supported and pushed these views, I wouldn’t want people to know about it.
This was a big letdown. I had my suspicions when I looked into Emmanuel Sackey a little bit, but he didn’t reveal nearly as much as pastor Rachel did in her own sermon. Since the Questionnaire was answered and no other big red flags were waving at me before the sermon check, I actually thought this church might have turned out to be okay.
On the contrary, we definitely cannot recommend this church. The sermon did not feed the Word, did not preach the Gospel, and only glorified God for His ability to heal and work miracles for people. What a sad ending to such a hopeful beginning.