We have another request from a reader! And I have to say, I’m beginning to feel a little relief at some of the churches and pastors that I’m finding in Utah. I was worried for a while that Check My Church was doomed to find nothing but bad churches.
On the contrary, although the majority of our findings have been negative so far, the few good churches we’ve found have been well worth the effort. And Redemption Hill was another nice surprise. We might have back to back Houses of God here, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s check this church out!
About The Church
On the Redemption Hill Church website, you can find out a lot about them, including how they got started. (https://www.redemptionhillutah.com/beliefs)
“In January of 2016, three couples from Risen Life Church in Salt Lake City, UT, began praying every Friday night for God’s Spirit to move afresh in the Saratoga Springs/Eagle Mountain area. In July of the same year, those three couples, along with several others, began meeting with the elders of Risen Life Church to discuss and pray about starting a church in Northern Utah County. On November 13th 2016, Risen Life Church laid hands on, and prayed for this group, and Redemption Hill Church was born.”
Here is what Redemption Hill Church calls its Vision on their website as well:
“We seek to make the love and grace of God known through the relevant, deliberate, proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, to Utah and the world. To this end, we desire to...
KNOW Christ Personally
Before all else, we emphasize the need for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ
GROW in Christ Together
God calls believers to live out their faith in community, honoring God through the teaching of His word, spiritual worship, and serving one another.
GO Share With Others
Since God desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, we believe we are sent into the world to share the gospel. We do this through personal evangelism as well as deliberate church planting.”
The RHC website is fairly thorough and detailed when it comes to their beliefs, including their “church government” as they call it. This is a little unsettling. Typically when a church website provides this much information in this much detail, it’s a sign that they are very legalistic, and a page dedicated solely to Church Government puts up a little red flag for me, but we'll have to complete the check to know for sure whether or not that's the case.
Truth be told, I emailed pastor Steve Pierson with Redemption Hill Church fully expecting to be ignored, or possibly only answered within the next week or two, according to the average response time of other churches that I’ve checked.
Fortunately, I caught him at a good time (for me anyway), and he responded within only a few hours. Now, it’s actually fairly common for pastors and/or churches to respond to my initial probing email this quickly. It’s when I ask my questions that I get the stonewalling.
So I didn’t get my hopes up just yet. I sent him my questions, and prayed for the best. He responded, again, within just a couple of hours. Here were his answers:
1. What is your church's official position on tithing?
“Tithing is a part of a person’s personal worship to God. We believe each one must give as he decides in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion (2 Cor 9:7).”
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?
“We do not have official membership primarily because of the cultural connotation of church membership in our community. However, if you were looking for an equivalency, if a person invested their "time, talent and treasure" at Redemption Hill, then we would consider that this would be their expression of saying we were their "home church."”
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?
“We have an annual business meeting at the beginning of every year where the congregation is invited to attend. We cover the past years budget as well as the upcoming years budget. The summary of that budget is available upon request for any one attending Redemption Hill Church.”
(Psst: I requested a copy of this budget summary for the purposes of this review, and pastor Steve forwarded me to his Admin without hesitation. We expected that I should receive it from his admin within a week. I received it within 24 hours.)
4. Which denomination does your church align with the most, if any?
“We are officially connected with the SBC as well as Calvary Global Network.”
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? 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’m not sure what is meant by "doctrinal flexibility." We hold to what is commonly understood as the "essentials of the historic Christian faith." On these, we don't bend or compromise (The nature of God, justification by grace alone, The bodily resurrection of Christ, etc) When it comes to matters that are non-essential such as eschatology and things of like manner, we don't believe these are worth dividing over and therefore give place for diversity. If there is doctrinal disagreement on essential matters, we are an elder led church and the elders would receive accusations of false teaching and consider such in light of scripture.”
7. Does your church require that its members be baptized? What is your church's official position on baptism?
“We believe Baptism is an act of obedience and a part of a believers worship to God. We do not believe baptism is a requirement for salvation. We don't require it for attendance or service.”
8. Please describe what a typical service and/or meeting looks like in your church.
“We have an interactive adult class that meets before our main service and goes through different books of the bible. Prior to our main service we have refreshments. Our service begins with 30 minutes of music, a five minute meet and greet, and a 40 minute message. Youth meet before the main service.”
9. How many people do you have on staff at your church, both paid and volunteer?
“We have two people on staff that are bi-vocational and receive a stipend. We have 7 others that are volunteers.”
10. What is the pastor's educational history?
“I am currently working towards my MDiv at Gateway seminary.”
11. How does the church discipline its members with their sin?
“According to Matthew 18. If the person has been confronted personally about a perceived offense and they don't stop or don't agree, then the elders would invite them and their accuser to sit and talk to see if the perceived sin is in fact sin (Matthew 18:16, Deut. 19:15-17). If it has been determined to be sin from scripture, then we would encourage repentance and wait for such fruit-all with the heart of restoration. If the person refuses to listen to the elders, then we would "tell it to the church." Depending on the sin and circumstances, that would likely look like a select few in the church who know the person well, approaching them and trying to reason with them. If they didn't listen to "the church" and continued to live in the sin, the elders would remove affirmation that they were a part of the community of believers (though we really don’t know their heart only their actions), and we would change the way we minister to them- going back to ministering the gospel and repentance towards God (Matthew 18:17). The goal is restoration not exclusion, therefore, this process can be a lengthy one where patience is at the center as we wait for God to convict the heart.”
12. How is the pastor compensated (income, benefits, bonuses, etc.)?
“I'm part time bi-vocational and receives a monthly stipend.”
(Psst: I was able to read a summary of personnel expenditures in the information the church admin sent me, but for legal purposes and at the request of pastor Steve, we cannot publish that budget summary here. If you attend RHC, they will give you this budget summary upon request, and based on what we’ve seen so far here, I have no doubt that they will. This is not the same kind of annual financial report that South Mountain Comm. Church gives their people. This is for real, people.)
13. What is the size of your church and any other space the church owns for meetings and church services?
“We currently have between 110-130 adults and between 35-50 kids.”
In conclusion to the Questionnaire, I think we’re looking okay so far.
The financial transparency is clear as day. The pastor responded to my emails quickly, openly, honestly (no stonewalling here), and the answers suggest a level of grace that many churches in Utah simply don’t practice with their congregates.
I’m giving them a thumbs up on the Questionnaire.
The Worship Service
To get an idea of what the worship services are like at Redemption Hill Church, I went to their Facebook Page and found a sermon that included the worship service at the beginning. I’m really glad they included it here, but I wish every church would do this as a part of their online sermons. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the people attending church at home need to worship just as much as those attending at the church’s building.
If you want to see the same worship service I’m referring to, go to their Page and watch it here.
It’s a little bit more of a show than Calvary Chapel Sevier Valley, but it certainly doesn’t go to the same level of materialism and experience-focused performance that many other churches I’ve checked do. It’s a worship team of four people singing and playing guitars. I don’t see any fog, light shows, or any kind of focus on the performers besides their physical presence on the stage alone.
There’s emotionalism in virtually all worship services these days, which I don’t like, but while Redemption Hill’s music style itself definitely touches on that emotionalism, it doesn’t seem very forced or intentional, and the tone overall isn’t drenched in the emotionalism that many other churches in Utah have exhibited, so I can’t be too unhappy with it.
Emotionalism is such a huge turnoff that even a hint of it can give me the wrong impression and turn worship into an emotionally self centered experience rather than a God-centered expression of worship, but since it is just a small hint, I can’t dock them enough to give them a thumbs down here. It’s a thumbs up for the worship service, too.
The sermon I chose to watch is not the same one that I chose to watch the worship service through. I wanted to listen to a more recent representation of the sermons at RHC, so I found one from February 24th entitled “Teaching About Divorce- Matthew 5:31-32.” You can listen to it by going to their Sermons page here.
Is the sermon topical, or a verse by verse study of the Bible?
It appears to be topical, as the sermon is called “Teaching About Divorce,” but the topic is based on the pastor’s verse by verse study through the book of Matthew. So the title and topic are used as a result of the verse by verse study itself, and not the other way around. I can appreciate this approach, since the pastor or church didn’t just decide they wanted to talk about divorce. Rather, they’ve reached a point in Scripture that addresses it, and are talking about it as a result of that.
What is at the heart of the sermon? The Gospel, the Word, God? Or something else?
The topic is divorce based on Matthew 5:31-32, but the pastor prefaces the sermon with the context of the Sermon on the Mount and the point that Jesus is getting across to the religious men of the day. So it is absolutely centered on the Gospel and the grace of God.
At the same time, however, there is a lot of preaching surrounding the topic of divorce itself that is based on the pastor’s personal experiences as a child going through his parents’ divorce. He concludes the anecdote by saying, “That is why God says in Malachi 2:16, ‘I hate it. I hate divorce.’”
I can empathize with his point. Rather than making it about parents who divorce and condemning them for their sin, he invites us to think about it from a child’s perspective. We can see it is a sin because of what it does to people. Because of how it is an act of lovelessness and it hurts everyone involved. It’s not about obeying a law, it’s about recognizing why God has condemned it as sin Himself.
He then summarizes what the sermon will seek to accomplish:
“The question I want to answer this morning is, ‘does God’s Word allow for it?’ Number two, ‘If so, what are the circumstances,’ and number three, ‘If a person is divorced, can they Biblically remarry?’”
Then we go to Matthew 5:31-32 and read what it says. Before explaining the passage itself, pastor Steve again prefaces it by refocusing on the Gospel and reminding us that the only unforgivable sin is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, and every act and every sin in a Christian’s life is forgiven. Christ’s righteousness covers us, and God doesn’t stop loving us when we commit acts of sin in our flesh.
So the sermon is a Biblical look at the topic of divorce within a verse by verse study through the book of Matthew, and at the center is the grace of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
How frequently is the Bible used? Is the sermon Biblical overall? Is it used in context, or cherry picked out of context to support an idea?
The Bible is used frequently. Matthew 5:31-32 is the main Scripture of note, but the pastor also has us look to several other Scriptures in order to better understand what the Bible says about divorce as a whole, as well as the context of divorce in that culture and time. He shows how when the religious men of the day tried to trap Jesus regarding the topic of divorce, Jesus basically schools like them like children by going back to the beginning and our creation as men and women.
The sermon is absolutely Biblical and a contextual look at the issue of divorce within Scripture.
Were you fed the Word of God?
Yes, but I say that somewhat loosely. This sermon was a little more topic-focused than I’m used to and would prefer, but it’s hard to really dock pastor Steve for that when he keeps the topic itself so Biblical and focused on the Gospel overall. So while I would have preferred more time actually reading in the Word itself, the reading that we did do was contextual, he used the Bible as a whole on the topic itself, and when it comes to the topic of divorce I was fed what the Word of God has to say on it.
So on the positive side, the sermon was Biblical, contextual, and although it was topical, it was based on where the church is currently at in their verse by verse study through the book of Matthew.
On the negative side, I don’t like it when pastors focus their sermons on topics regarding specific sinful actions, such as divorce, because it gives an air of legalism and condemnation, rather than preaching grace and the Gospel. The only reason I don’t come down harder on RHC for doing this is because they didn’t necessarily choose the topic. Jesus did, in the Sermon on the Mount, and they’re reading it as a part of their study in Matthew, so what are they going to do, skip over it to avoid hurting people’s feelings? Nah. I can’t be mad about that.
With all things considered, I think it was a good sermon. I may have to listen to more sermons from RHC before I can come to a more certain position on one side or the other though because I am feeling slightly on the fence here.
The Grace Scale
Redemption Hill Church takes special care not emulate the LDS Church in its legalistic practices when it comes to things like membership, tithing, baptism and the like, but the sermon and the website review did give me a hint of legalism, as well as the church’s association with SBC, but otherwise, they are a gracious church in every other way that I have reviewed.
The Political Scale
The RHC website, sermon, and questionnaire don’t reveal anything of a political nature about this church, but being that they are connected to the SBC, I had to nudge them a little to the Right on the Political Scale just because of certain doctrinal stances that the SBC has taken in the political sphere.
Scandals & Controversies
Yeah, I got nothing here. Nothing of scandal or controversy here as far as I can tell.
The Final Rating
There are a lot of things about this church that I like, but just a few things that I would criticize. There is a hint of legalism that we can see on their website on their Our Government page, and I did detect some condemnation and legalism in the sermon itself, even though the pastor takes special care to emphasize the grace of God at both the beginning and the end.
They are also connected with the SBC (Southern Baptist Convention), but since they have no memberships, no tithing requirements, and no baptism requirements for service or attendance, the legalism that is there seems minimal to me at best. This could be similar to what we’ve seen in Calvary Chapel, where pastors and their churches are connected to the denomination but will go their own way in many specific matters. That may be the case here, but I will have to check back with RHC regularly to know for certain myself.
The pastor responded to the Questionnaire quickly, openly, and honestly. They are completely transparent with their finances, and while the sermon was technically topical, it was Biblical and contextual rather than something conjured up to be a self help seminar for tickling ears and making people feel good. On the contrary, the sermon told us the bitter truth, whether we wanted to hear it or not.
All in all, I think Redemption Hill is a Biblical and Gospel preaching church. I have a few reservations and doubts that I will be spending some time working to resolve in the back of my mind, but in the meantime, if you’re looking for a church that preaches the Bible contextually and has zero interest in selling you a product or an experience in exchange for your money, I would definitely recommend this church.