The Mission Church Full Check

Updated: May 1, 2019



The Mission Church in South Jordan is another request from a few of our readers. It’s also the home church of one of our most outspoken critics, Aaron Shafovaloff.


So let’s not waste any time here, people. Let’s check this church!


Website Review


The first thing you see when you go to The Mission Church’s website in big bold letters is “Truth Matters.”


Amen. But, this is already a red flag. “Huh,” you say? “Don’t be ridiculous, Sarah,” you think? “Of course the truth matters! How can that be a red flag?”


Here’s how.


In many of the money serving, materialistic and churches that push emotionalism, love is what matters. Love, no matter what. Peace at any price. Even if it means neglecting the truth. Telling the truth can hurt people's’ feelings. So truth takes a back seat in favor of this sort of people pleasing “we must accept and love everything” mentality. It’s what puts butts in the seats.


Legalistic churches, on the other hand, will go in the other direction and focus entirely on truth, no matter what. Truth in spite of it coming off as very unloving. Truth, at the neglect of loving others. They like to nitpick at the most minor of Biblical passages and attack each other until they’re blue in the face, all in the name of truth, while they completely forget about God’s command to love.


What neither of these groups of people seem to understand is that when you make truth more important than love or love more important than truth, both truth and love are actually sacrificed in the end. Loving lies are not truly loving. And hateful “truth” is sometimes not even based on the truth at all. Being right is what becomes the priority, rather than truth itself.


The big bold “Truth Matters” here tells me that this church is probably more legalistic than materialistic, if they land in either of those camps. I can certainly vouch for this personally after the few interactions I’ve had with Aaron, but we’ll get to that later. Let’s review the rest of the website.


If you scroll down on the home page a little, you see this message from pastor Ritch Sandford:


“You were designed to love and worship God more than anything else. Without this, you will never find lasting joy. That’s why, at The Mission Church, we exist to glorify God, strengthen believers and reach the lost.”


The only thing that raises a red flag for me here is the “strengthen believers” statement. I wonder what that looks like at The Mission Church. I don’t know. At Capital Church, leading people to be Christ-centered means holding them to a Spiritual Continuum and making sure they’re performing a laundry list of works. I wonder if they have similar standards for their members at this church.


You can watch a video from pastor Ritch as well on the homepage, wherein he basically reaffirms everything that is stated on the homepage itself.


Scroll down even further and they describe what their sermons are like:


“EXPOSITORY PREACHING

It is our uncompromising conviction that we must submit to God’s Word in everything that it teaches. That’s why we preach through books of the Bible verse by verse. Our Sunday sermons are designed to help you understand God’s Word—no matter how familiar you are with it—so that you may learn to love Him more.”


I’m glad to have finally found another church that does verse by verse sermons through the Bible. Unfortunately, I’m afraid the legalism I’m about to find here will outweigh that single positive aspect by a landslide.


Also on the website, this church puts a special emphasis on reaching the LDS community. They hope to plant 1,000 Christian churches in Utah in the next 50 years. A commendable and admirable mission, but what good will those 1,000 churches be if they’re just as legalistic and antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ as Mormonism is? I don’t know.


I see they add more to their statement of faith than simple doctrinal positions as well. They have a “Christian Conduct” statement, and an entire “Convictions” tab where they explain their views on homosexuality, marriage, and gender roles too.


Most churches teach that homosexuality is a sin, some make a statement on marriage policies in the church out of legal necessity, but few go so far as to make statements about gender roles as a part of their church’s actual expectation of people.


“...God designed men and women for gender-specific roles in the church and in the home. In the church, women are encouraged to serve in many different ways according to how they have been gifted by God, while the role of pastor/elder is specific to men. In the home, the woman is commanded to help, respect, and submit to her husband, and the man is commanded to provide for, protect, and shepherd his wife and children. In this way, both men and women fulfill distinct yet equally important roles that “complement” one another.


“Today, many movements in American culture seek to deny that God has created men and women to be different. At the Mission Church we firmly reject this cultural perspective, and believe that God alone determines the gender of each person, and that men and women embracing their God-given sexual identity and respective gender roles is critical for human flourishing.”


Personally, I’m not a feminist, and even though I agree with and believe in these ideals and values, there’s something very off-putting about seeing a statement like this on a church’s website.


It’s like when the government tells me I have to wear my seat-belt or they’ll give me a ticket. I already wear my seat-belt because I don’t want to fly through my car’s windshield face first if I get into an accident, but being told that I have to or I’ll be punished seems like an infringement on my rights and freedoms as an individual. I get the same vibes from a statement like this one about gender roles coming from a church.


I’m a homemaker and a conservative leaning woman who takes pride in submitting to my husband as the head of our household. But as soon as you tell me I have no choice in the matter, and I have to submit to him, or I’ll be rejected by my church in some way...well that’s not really the place of the church, is it? That’s between me and my husband, not me and my church. Me and God, not me and the church.


Also on their website, and on the same tab as their statements on homosexuality, marriage, and gender roles, is a statement about reformed theology, or in other words, Calvinism:


“Through His Word, God teaches us that He is limitless, unchangeable and perfect…and that He is the only fully independent and Sovereign being that exists. Unlike God, we are NOT sovereign…but fully dependent upon Him, and not only for life, but for salvation!


The Bible teaches us that we are all sinners who have fallen short of God’s perfect standard (Romans 3:23), that our sins have caused a separation between us and God (Isaiah 59:2), that we are all spiritually dead in our sins and transgressions (Ephesians 2:1), and that apart from God we could not even cry out to Him for help (John 6:44)!


The Apostle Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

This means that God has worked out our salvation in such a way where He gets ALL The GLORY, and we get His free gift of unmerited grace!”


They have an entire page dedicated to sharing the Gospel, just like Adventure Church, Calvary Chapel Sevier Valley and a few other churches that we’ve already checked. So, that’s good.


Unfortunately, in the end, there are just too many red flags of legalism to ignore here. The Christian Conduct as a part of the statement of faith, the entire tab on convictions regarding gender roles and a woman’s place, and last but not least, the teaching of Calvinism. It all points to legalism, and because of that we have to give the Website Review a thumbs down.


Questionnaire


This was perhaps the most blunt and overall unpleasant stonewalling experience I’ve ever had with a church. Ever.


Not only were both of my email addresses blocked from being able to email pastor Ritch’s address entirely (which I confirmed by having Joe email him, and it went through), but when I tried to speak with someone on their Facebook Page, the conversation that ensued kind of blew me away.




So take note, Church Checkers. It doesn’t matter if we believe in and accept the Trinity, or agree with anything else that they hold to be important. We are guilty by association. Since we approve of or support a church that The Mission Church doesn’t, they refuse to even acknowledge us.


What ever happened to giving everyone an answer for the hope that lies within you? Or pursuing peace with all people? Or speaking the truth in love...or just...LOVE?


I waited a few days and tried to find another way to reach pastor Ritch however, since he is the lead pastor and I prefer to speak with him directly before making a final assessment. I wasn’t able to find Ritch on Facebook, and the email Joe sent has gone ignored, but I did find his wife Laura, who appears to run The Mission Church’s Facebook Page.


So, I messaged her. She responded, and then appears to have blocked me, before I could even respond.




After this happened, I decided that I wasn’t happy leaving the discussion this way. I decided to write up a response and send it through The Mission Church’s Facebook page. Here is how the conversation went. It's long, but necessary I think.










I sent that last message at about 8:40 AM today, it was seen at around 9:11 AM, and as of 8:00 PM the same day, I have yet to receive a response.


So, needless to say, I didn’t get my answers to the Questionnaire. Let’s try to answer it ourselves.

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


While I couldn’t find an official statement on tithing, I did find their Membership agreement, and in order to be a member, you must give money to the church:


“I will faithfully participate with this church in regular worship, prayer, study, fellowship, and the ordinances of baptism and communion. I will contribute cheerfully and regularly to the financial needs of this church for the expenses of ministry, the relief of the poor, and the spread of the gospel through all nations. I will joyfully serve this church where there may be need.”


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?


Yep, they do. And some of them, to be blunt, are ridiculous. Read them for yourself here, but allow me to point out some specifics that are particularly troubling. (emphasis mine)


“I will seek the preservation of marriage and will submit to biblical regulations regarding marriage, divorce and remarriage. I will seek to provide for my family and order my household according to Biblical standards. I will train myself and my family in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, seeking to develop Christian character, knowledge, and skills.”


I will submit to and participate in church discipline as taught in Scripture. I will be slow to judge and eager to forgive. If I am offended in connection with a disciplinary matter, I will seek resolution within the local church.”


These aren’t just red flags now. This is a swarm of red army ants invading your picnic, dear Christians. Get up and shake them off before they bury themselves into your skin.


This is the preaching of the Law right here. Period. Here’s your Law, now follow it, or you can’t be a member of our church.


I have seen some pretty legalistic churches, my friends, but this one takes the cake. Putting regulations regarding marriage, divorce, remarriage, ordering your household and raising your children borders on an LDS level of legalism.


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?


Based on the response I got, the answer to this appears to be a big fat no.


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


They preach Calvinism, but as far as any other denominational affiliations goes, I do not see any on the website.


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


Not for us I guess. And if you wish to ask questions or make comments yourselves, make sure you abide by their strict and narrow doctrinal dogmas and standards, or they may shun you as well. Also make sure to note that you hate Shawn McCraney and Check My Church.


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?


This is what their membership agreement states (emphasis mine):


“I agree with the Statement of Faith which this church believes to be an accurate summary of biblical truth. I will work toward doctrinal unity with a humble and teachable spirit. Where there is disagreement or a lack of understanding regarding doctrinal convictions, I assume the liberty to ask questions and engage in edifying discussion. I will submit to the elders who have been appointed to serve this church, using Scripture as our final authority.


So, you can ask questions, but if you don’t agree with their doctrinal positions and/or submit to the elders of the church, you can’t even be a member of their church.


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


They do. Their membership agreement states: (emphasis mine)


“Membership at this church must be preceded by a credible profession of faith, baptism, and a personal meeting with one of our elders.”


Not sure what a credible profession of faith would be according to this church, but it sounds like you’ll have to do some convincing! And a personal meeting with one of their elders? Is it like those infamous interrogations that the Mormons have to sit through? Good Lord.


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


The closest thing to a description of their services comes from their homepage on the website:

“No matter your background, we invite you to join us this Sunday for music, kids programs and teaching from God’s Word…”


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


Their website does not tell us this. It only lists 4 members of leadership, which are pastor Ritch, Aaron S., Benjamin Jensen, and Bradley Campbell. All of these men except for Bradley are also listed as elders.


10. What is the pastor's educational history?


I could not find this information on the website anywhere.


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


According to them, according to the Bible, but what that actually looks like in such a legalistic church as this, I don’t know. They do practice discipline though, as it states in their membership agreement:


“I will submit to and participate in church discipline as taught in Scripture. I will be slow to judge and eager to forgive. If I am offended in connection with a disciplinary matter, I will seek resolution within the local church.”


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


Since all members are required to support the church financially, that’s how. How much that ends up being, we don’t know.


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


On Facebook, The Mission Church has between 400-500 likes and follows. Based on what we know from previous Checks, this probably means they have somewhere between 100-200 members. The size of their building and other space that they own, however, is completely unknown to us.


In conclusion to the Questionnaire, it’s a pretty clear thumbs down. They refused to answer the questions, citing non-salvation doctrinal dogma, and the answers we were able to find on our own only further confirm our suspicions that this church is legalistic to the core.


Worship Service


We weren’t able to find any video of The Mission Church’s worship services. Until we can physically attend, we will refrain from rating this portion of the Check.


Sermon


The sermon we’re checking today is from their most recent posted sermon on their website, which is from April 7th. It’s part 3 of their Armor of God series, which appears to be part of a bigger series, their verse by verse study through the book of Ephesians.


You can watch it too by going here.


Is it topical or verse by verse?


While they’ve entitled it as a sermon series, as some other churches are doing these days, it is only in reference to what they’re currently studying in their verse by verse study.


Is it Biblical? How frequently is the Bible used? Is it read in context, or cherry picked?


It is Biblical, the Bible is used frequently, and from what I can tell, is read in context.

Ephesians 6:16-20 are the main Scriptures read in this sermon as they study the Bible verse by verse, and that’s in reference to the “armor of God” as they’ve so entitled the series. Other supporting Scriptures for this study that were used include:


John 20:29

Hebrews 4:12

1 Thess. 5:17

Romans 8:26

Romans 7:21-24


I could have missed some of the references he made, because he did use a lot, but these were the ones I caught.


What’s at the heart of the message?


The heart of the message is exactly what Ephesians 6:16-20 says. It’s all about the different pieces of armor we put on as God’s Body. Specifically, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God, and then lastly, the importance of prayer.


The pastor does a good job of staying focused on the Word and not inserting his own ideas, and since it is a verse by verse study, the heart of the message remains focused in the Word.

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


Absolutely the Word of God. I wish this wasn’t such a legalistic church and that I hadn’t had such a negative experience with those working in the church, or I would certainly have another positive review to give.


As far as the sermon goes, in the end, it’s definitely a thumbs up here. There’s no denying that pastor Ritch teaches the Word based on this sermon.


Grace Scale


I don’t want to be too harsh here, because they do preach salvation by grace through faith. On the other hand, so does every other Christian church. Their actions and practices preach otherwise, just as the actions and practices of every other legalistic church.


They have a membership agreement that goes beyond even essential Christian doctrine and into minor and unnecessary lifestyle practice requirements, parenting standards, and even gender role statements.


They require baptism for church membership, as well as financial support/tithing.


Church discipline and an expectation of submission to the church’s positions on even minor doctrines appear to be part of their membership agreement as well.


I think the only thing making this church non-legalistic is their doctrinal position on salvation, but even that can be questioned to an extent since they are Calvinists and believe in limited atonement. So as we’ve said before, actions speak louder than words, and they’re acting as though Jesus died for nothing.


I’ll give them 10%, since that is what we’ve given other legalistic churches with similar practices.




Political Scale


Definitely more on the right. Their statements on gender issues, sexuality, etc, are all easily politically interpreted as a more conservative view. Other than this, I see no political statements or signs of political activism.



Scandals & Controversies


I wasn’t able to find any scandals within The Mission Church itself, but there is plenty of controversy to note. Not regarding the church as a whole. Only with associate pastor and elder Aaron Shafovaloff and the discussion I had with the pastor’s wife, Laura.


I had a discussion with Aaron a few weeks ago about whether or not Communion is required for salvation. According to what he said in that discussion, I am on a path to Hell because I am currently only attending church online and am not taking Communion with a local brick and mortar church community.


This is the ugly truth about Legalism. Legalists are able to make virtually anything and everything a salvation issue by taking Jesus’ statements out of context and applying them literally to us today as laws in themselves, making anyone who fails to comply with the legalist’s interpretation of those statements in disobedience to Christ, and therefore on a path to Hell, regardless of whether or not one is believer in Jesus Christ.


This ignores entirely the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the message of the cross. It ignores the grace of God, the fulfillment of the law, and the entire point of Jesus’ ministry on Earth. It returns us to the Old Covenant under the Law, and it is not the Gospel.


There is a scandal within the Christian Church today, and it’s the infiltration of ideologies that seek to erase the Good News.


Final Rating


There are two positive things to note about The Mission Church in South Jordan, Utah. 1 - They don’t appear to be materialistic. I will be able to decipher this much better once I’m able to physically attend and see for myself what kind of environment they have set up, but from what I’ve seen so far, there is no consumerism to note. 2 - They preach the Word in their Sunday sermons.

The negatives - they are legalistic, and didn’t only stonewall my attempts to question their practices and policies, but rejected me as a Christian altogether for supporting a church and pastor that they don’t agree with on minor doctrinal issues.


My interactions with them were extremely unpleasant, and I never did even get to speak with the pastor at all, so I’m left to wonder why. The only other churches where the lead pastor would not speak to me no matter how much I tried to reach him were other very legalistic churches.


All of this, regardless of the good things that there are to consider, and there are a few good things, bring me to the conclusion that this is a legalistic church. We cannot recommend them.



Been to The Mission church? Agree or disagree with our rating? Let us know! Comment below.

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