This church was recommended very highly by one of our readers, so I was looking forward to finding another church we could recommend to churchgoers.
Unfortunately, most churches completely stonewall our attempts to ask questions in the light of a public review. And that includes this one. But we’ll get to all of that later.
Let’s check this church!
Tooele Springs Calvary Chapel isn’t nearly as informative as many other church websites have been, which that can either be a good thing, or a bad thing. Check it out for yourself by going here.
The first thing you see when you go to the TSCC website is “Welcome to Calvary” and then two buttons right below that. “Recent Messages” and “I’m New Here.”
At the very top of every page they have the same statement: Teaching God’s Word Verse by Verse, Book by Book.
Excellent. If that’s true, we have a church that teaches the Word!
Scroll down and we see Pastor’s Corner and a button going to a blog called Exodus Blog, which just leads back to the homepage of the church website. It seems the blog is either not ready for viewing yet, or is no longer available for reading online.
There is a short bio for pastor Chris and below it a button to his full bio, which again, just brings you back to the church’s website.
Below that are three more buttons that don’t appear to be linked to anything. Events, Discipleship, and Serve. Click on them and nothing happens.
At the very bottom of the homepage are the hours of the church’s worship services and their location.
Let’s dig a little deeper and see what we can find out.
If you click the I’m New Here button just below the welcome message at the top of the homepage, you’re taken to a page that describes what new guests can expect at the church. A brief description of what their services are like, what kind of childcare they provide, and their dress code, or rather their lack of a dress code, are all included.
I don’t see any red flags here. It’s all very straightforward, lacking in the slogans and salesly language that many modern Christian churches paste all over their websites.
This can mean one of two things: either this church is a truly good one, or it’s extremely legalistic. Legalistic churches also lack the salesy language of the money serving churches I’ve checked. This doesn’t necessarily make them good churches. It just means they don’t serve the same consumerist and materialistic goals as others.
Click on the About Us page and we have two tabs to choose from: Who Are We and What We Believe.
This is what their Who Are We statement says (emphasis mine):
“Calvary Chapel Tooele Springs has been formed as a fellowship of believers in the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Our supreme desire is to know the Lord Jesus Christ and to be conformed into His image by the power of the Holy Spirit.
It's our mission to equip the saints with a thorough knowledge of the scripture. To create a culture of mature believers who love one another, and fellowship together in breaking of bread. It's our mission to create a culture of believers who pray for our community effectively and fervently.”
Many of the statements here seem universal across all Calvary Chapel churches, namely the emphasis on being “conformed into His image by the power of the Holy Spirit,” which I certainly agree with.
I actually don’t detect any red flags here, unless by creating “a culture of mature believers” they mean to say “legalize believers into submission.” Then we have a problem, but I have no reason to believe that is what they mean at this point. I haven’t seen any other red flags to suggest they’re a legalistic church besides the lack of information on the site plus the pastor’s refusal to answer my questions.
Moving to their What We Believe tab on the About Us page, I see no red flags here either. And that’s basically their entire website with the exception of their online sermons.
So, it’s a thumbs up for the Website Review.
As usual, our questions were stonewalled with this church as with most others. Here, however, we have another situation where we are being condemned for even trying to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. See for yourself.
Pastor Chris’ outrage at the suggestion that there could be wolves within the Body destroying it from the inside out puzzles me. I thought this was common Biblical knowledge within Christianity. At any rate, he apparently thinks God hates me, that I’m disobeying Jesus, and that what I’m suggesting isn’t even possible.
Which means I’ll have to answer the Questionnaire myself. Again.
1. What is your church's official position on tithing?
I couldn’t find anything tithing or giving related on the website with the exception of their giving page which allows people to give to their church. There is no compelling people to give by using the Bible or anything like that, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that this church doesn’t pressure giving or even require it of members. We will just have to check this church in person to find out more on this topic.
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?
This is another issue that will require a closer look to find the answer. There is nothing on the website to suggest that they have a membership class, requirements, or a membership agreement of some kind. At the same time, Calvary Chapel SLC’s website doesn’t indicate anything like this either, and yet they do have a membership class.
We’ll just have to make this church a priority for physical checking once we’re in the area.
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?
Since pastor Chris refused to answer my questions, the answer to the first part of this question appears to be a big fat NO. We won’t know any financial information on this church unless we discover by more in-depth checking that they do in fact disclose this information, and just refuse to disclose it to us.
At the same time, based on a few things we do know, we can make an educated guess about some things. Their Facebook page has over 900 likes and follows. Based on previous estimates that have turned out to be correct, we can assume that this church has somewhere between 200-400 members. Comparing them to Calvary Chapel SLC’s numbers might be the most accurate way to guess their yearly income.
With over 1,000 members at that campus and over $2.5 million in income, we would guess that the Tooele Springs campus brings in, at the very most, $1 million in donations and other income per year. How that is distributed, however, is a whole other question that the pastor apparently will not answer.
4. Which denomination does your church align with the most, if any?
As we’ve already established, this is a Calvary Chapel. While CC doesn’t come off as a typical denomination and rather presents itself as a group or fellowship of churches, there is a statement of faith that they must be in harmony with in addition to several other standards in order to be considered a Calvary Chapel. Either way, it comes off as its own denomination in my opinion.
5. Is your church's pastor available for other questions or comments regarding the church, its doctrines, etc.?
It’s possible that pastor Chris is quite open to answering questions under the right circumstances and in a much less threatening way. Part of me wonders if I could have gotten answers to these questions by being less up front about my intentions with the answers, but another part of me thinks that he could quite possibly be offended by anyone asking some of these questions, regardless of how that information would be used or who was asking.
It should be noted that before I told him what my intentions were, he seemed willing to answer questions over the phone, while admitting that he prefer not to answer via email. This to me comes off as very guarded and insecure.
In the end, I think pastor Chris is probably willing to answer questions regarding doctrine, Christianity in general, and his particular church, as long as it’s under the right circumstances.
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?
Based on what we know about Calvary Chapel, it is safe to assume that all Calvary Chapel churches must align with a statement of faith established by Chuck Smith and the other top dogs at the Calvary Chapel Board of Directors. I think if a Calvary Chapel church or its pastor were to change positions on an issue that doesn’t line up with the Calvary Chapel’s statement of faith, they would probably no longer be allowed to bear the Calvary Chapel name.
As far as handling disagreements and doctrinal disputes within the church itself and between individuals, we won’t know this without further investigation.
7. Does your church require that its members be baptized? What is your church's official position on baptism?
Calvary Chapels do not typically believe in baptismal regeneration. Calvary Chapel SLC does have a baptism class and Calvary Chapel Sevier Valley has no requirements regarding baptism in their church whatsoever, so it’s pretty safe to assume that this church lines up similarly. They don’t mention baptism on their website at all, so I’m guessing while they do baptisms, they must not push it or require it for members in the same way some of the legalistic churches we’ve checked do.
8. Please describe what a typical service and/or meeting looks like in your church.
This is how they describe their services on their website:
“Our Services consist of contemporary Christian worship music. Relevant practical verse by verse Biblical teaching. Fellowship of believers dedicated to loving one another, and prayer.”
9. How many people do you have on staff at your church, both paid and volunteer?
They don’t have any of this information on their website, so unless pastor Chris or someone with Tooele Springs Calvary Chapel decides to share this with us, we don’t know.
10. What is the pastor's educational history?
On the homepage of the website, it says pastor Chris “...attended Bible College at Joshua Springs Calvary Chapel where he received a Bachelor's Degree in Biblical Studies.”
11. How does the church discipline its members with their sin?
We won’t know this either until we investigate this church further since pastor Chris refused to answer the questions.
12. How is the pastor compensated (income, benefits, bonuses, etc.)?
We could probably pretty safely estimate an answer for this based on what we know about other pastors’ income with a similar congregation size, but the important thing to note here is that he refuses to tell us.
13. What is the size of your church and any other space the church owns for meetings and church services?
As we’ve already mentioned, they have over 900 Facebook likes and follows, which probably makes their actual congregation size somewhere around 200-400 members. The size of their building or any other space they own is unknown to us.
All in all, while we have a pretty good idea what some of the answers to the Questionnaire are, the fact remains that pastor Chris outright refused to answer the questions, and even claimed that God hates us for what we’re doing. So due to the stonewalling and the manner in which it was done, we have to give the Questionnaire a thumbs down.
While I did not physically check this church and therefore didn’t get to experience their worship service, I was able to find a short clip of one of their worship services on their Facebook Page here. It’s a few years old and certainly not enough for us to make a sound judgment of the worship service, so we will withhold our assessment in this area until we can physically attend a service.
Pastor Chris was adamant about how abominable our mission is as a church watchdog group. He suggested that there is no such thing as a wolf within the Body, and that to question or investigate the local church for the possibility of such a thing is only to create division and disobedience to God as an attack on the local church.
Obviously, we disagree with his position, but as soon as I saw that one of his sermons from January was in Matthew 24, the very book and chapter that I referenced in one of my messages to him as an example of how Christ tells us there are wolves in sheep's clothing seeking to destroy, well...I just had to make that our sermon to check.
Follow along with us by going to the sermon on their website here.
Let’s get started.
Is the sermon topical or a verse by verse study through the Bible?
As Chris has already made clear, this church does verse by verse studies through the Bible, not topical sermons. This seems to be a universal practice within Calvary Chapel churches, and one that I happen to love. Churches must teach the Word, and this church seems to put an emphasis on doing that.
The Scriptures for this study are Matthew 24:1-15.
Is the sermon Biblical? How frequently is the Bible used, and is it interpreted in context, or cherry picked to support the pastor’s ideas?
It is Biblical for the most part, and the Bible is read frequently throughout the sermon. Chris puts a lot of work into explaining the background context leading up to his reading of the Scriptures as well.
I enjoy Chris’ mention of how we shouldn’t sensationalize Biblical prophecy the way some people do in order to sell books and appeal to people, because that has been something greatly taken advantage of by a lot of pastors and churches. But then almost the entire second half of his sermon is about the rapture, the Second Coming, and the Anti-Christ.
In his defense, this only appears to be because it’s exactly what Matthew 24:1-15 is referring to, and since most Christians believe in the rapture and second coming as a future event (not preterists), it would certainly be perceived as Biblical by most Christians.
Something else to note is that at about 21 minutes into the sermon, he reads verse 4 of chapter 24, which says, “Watch out that no one deceives you,” and then says, “...guess who that includes? Me, you, all of us...”
This directly contradicts what pastor Chris said to me in our Facebook conversation. If he is included in the group of people that Jesus says could possibly deceive us, as he correctly says in the sermon, then his outrage and obstinate attitude to us questioning him seems very strange.
He confuses me further by using a preacher who claimed he knew when Jesus was going to return as an example of how there is lots of deception IN the church leading people astray and ruining their faith. Our discussion on Facebook led me to believe that pastor Chris doesn’t actually believe there is such a thing as wolves within the Body, or deceivers in the local church. He clearly contradicts that idea by addressing that exact topic right here.
If his Biblical assessment of Matthew 24 is truly what he believes, there must be some other reason for why he refused to answer my questions, because it certainly wasn't because he believes there's no such thing as deceivers or wolves within the Church.
What’s at the heart of the sermon? God, the Gospel, the Word, or something else?
Since Matthew 24:1-15 is about Jesus prophesying about end times, that is the main topic of the sermon, but it really is in the Word and what each verse is saying about signs of end times.
If you are a preterist, or someone who doesn’t care for the way many churches focus so much attention on end times and the second coming, this may not be the church for you, because while this sermon was certainly in the Word, it was very much focused on end times being in the future, rather than something that my have already happened as preterists believe.
Were you fed the Word of God, or the words of men?
While I do think the first half of this sermon was a solid feeding of the Word, a lot of the sermon eventually became more focused on projections surrounding a modern end times scenario, the second coming, and the rapture.
All in all, it was Biblical, in the Word, and verse by verse, and even though at the end it focused more on signs of the end times than being in the Word itself, for the most part we can’t deny that this was a good sermon. We’ll give it a thumbs up.
Without knowing whether or not this church has a membership agreement with requirements, to what extent they preach tithing, if at all, or what kind of involvement they take in disciplining sin in their church, we can’t give an accurate Grace Scale rating.
Based on the information we do have, this church appears to be very gracious, but we can’t tip the scale one way or the other until we have more information. So for now, we’ll put them right in the middle.
The same goes for the political scale. We don’t see any signs one way or the other as far as political involvement or activism, so they’re right in the middle here as well.
Scandals & Controversies
I didn’t find any scandals or controversies involving this church, but people should take note of the reaction that pastor Chris had to our attempt to question him. He seems to suggest that deceivers and wolves could never be within the local church, and yet he preaches on this exact thing in the sermon that we checked, proving the opposite is true.
The discussion with pastor Chris itself was unsettling enough for me to mention it here as a controversy. That kind of reaction has really only happened one other time regarding the Questionnaire, and that was with The Mission Church which we checked last month.
It’s not enough for us to necessarily discourage people from attending this church, since we don’t know enough about the church overall to determine that it’s not a good church, but it is enough to suggest that people should be careful here. This kind of reaction to the Questionnaire is a big red flag, and to be honest, was completely unexpected. That makes it all the more concerning.
While there are a few positive aspects to this church, such as the verse by verse sermons, the website, and what appears to be a good worship service from the short clip we’ve seen, there are also some negative things concerning enough to prevent us from recommending this church to our fellow churchgoers.
The angry refusal to answer the Questionnaire, the statement that we are disobeying Jesus, causing division, and are actually hated by God for “sowing seeds of discord” are all very troubling, especially considering it completely contradicts what pastor Chris preaches in his own sermon on Matthew 24.
We cannot, however, allow a personal dislike for how we were treated by pastor Chris to determine our review of his church overall. Since we don’t have enough information regarding membership, baptism, tithing, or sin discipline, we don’t know how legalistic this church is. We also don’t know if this church is in fact transparent with its finances and simply refuses to share them with us due to pastor Chris’ presumptions about our ministry.
As a result of all of this, we cannot neither recommend this church nor discourage it, although there are certainly some red flags to note. Until we can find out more about them, we’re on the fence.