[10/6/02 – Modified 8/29/08]

Jon Courson has been appreciated over the years by many people who are my friends and whom I respect. I believe that he preaches the real Jesus and the true Gospel, for which I rejoice. I also believe that his ministry and church organization is a reasonable example with which to examine important issues together. So…

May I raise some questions and concerns?

Consider listening to Jon Courson’s teaching at Applegate below:

03-26-06 Jon Courson A Word From Jon
Jeremiah 31:33


What are Jon Courson’s views of the “Seeker Friendly” movement? The Emergent Church Movement? Contemplative Spirituality?

What is Jon Courson’s view of the Word of God?

Should a room in a church building be called a “Sanctuary”?

“I need a place like this… where… I’m not simply being preached at…. or even talked to, as important as preaching can be and sharing is so helpful for me, but… I need a place where I can really say Lord I’m here to talk to you and to hear from you and to express my gratitude to you Lord. So we do that around here. Every morning at 6 o’clock the doors are open. At 6:30 worship begins.” Jon Courson

Should a disciple of Jesus be taught to depend on a “Pastor” to learn what the Bible says?

Is this the proper view of the Word of God?

03-26-06 Jon Courson A Word From Jon
Jeremiah 31:33

“…He will write His will upon your heart. That’s the New Covenant, folks.”

“Too many of us don’t understand that very well. Our Trinity, is God, the Father, God the Son, and God, the Holy Bible.”

“We don’t know what it means to live in the Spirit or walk by the Spirit. We make the New Testament books the new law. We’re under the law. We read and we say ok it says this so I better do that. It says this so I better not do the other. And we put ourselves under the law. And we wonder why we’re not thrilled about our walk or excited about our faith.”

“It’s because we just traded the Old Testament for the New Testament books. The Trinity is not God, the Father, God, the Son, and God, the Holy Bible. The Trinity is God, the Father, God, the Son, and God, the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God will guide you. He will write His will, Jeremiah 31, upon the table of your heart.”

“And that’s why the early church was so on fire. They were spirit-filled and spirit-led. They didn’t have the Bible. But, they knew what it meant to be guided by the Spirit. When the Spirit said, “Go there, turn off that, come this way”, they would do it. They would obey the promptings of the Spirit within their hearts and their life was exciting. And their effect, they turned the world upside down. In forty years time there was not a place in the known world where the Gospel wasn’t preached and heard. 40 years. 40 years. What have we done in forty years, folks? Because they obeyed the Spirit.”

“Well then, what’s the Bible for. Why do we have bible, why do we for 30 years here at Applegate go from cover to cover, chapter by chapter, book by book, verse by verse. Because… I’m to walk by the spirit. But is that impression on my heart or that thought in my mind, is that really Him? Or is that too much pizza that I had yesterday and it’s caused my mind to do crazy things. You see. How do I know?”

“Here’s the key. I do what what’s written on my heart. If it is in harmony; if it’s confirmed by the word, see that’s why I’ve got to be a man of the book I’ve got to. Not so I can find rules to follow or regulations to keep. It’s so that I’m going to obey what’s on my heart moment by moment, day by day… and I’m going to know that its really him because my mind has been soaked in the word year after year, time after time, going through this book, over and over, so that when this thought comes into my mind or that impression’s on my heart I will know that is the Lord.”

It is true that we should walk in the Spirit and we should not turn the New Testament into living under the law… but is Jon Courson’s teaching on these topics Biblical teaching?

Is this really what it means to walk in the Spirit?

Is this really what it means to trust and obey Jesus ?

Is this really what the New Covenant means?

Is this the proper view of the word of God?

There are many things I consider problems in this particular teaching of Jon’s which I focused on because it seems to be representative of a lot that Jon Courson stands for.

One item of concern: I believe it is wrong to try to separate our Triune God from the Word of God as if they could be responded to in opposition to each other. Jon uses a device that I have heard elsewhere: “Too many of us don’t understand that very well. Our Trinity, is God, the Father, God the Son, and God, the Holy Bible.” He uses that device to ridicule people who he believes have turned the New Testament into a new law.

As a friend recently stated, faithfulness to the Bible is not legalism. Worshiping the true Trinity cannot be separated from rightly dividing the Word of God.

Please consider how Jon Courson then applies this view of the word to his view of walking in the Spirit.

Hear this in context:

03-26-06 Jon Courson A Word From Jon
Jeremiah 31:33

Examine if these things that Jon teaches are really the Biblical way to understand these things.

The Coursons

In an article in a Medford, Oregon newspaper, the reporter writes:

“The Rev. Jon Courson, the evangelical pastor who built the Applegate Christian Fellowship into the biggest church in Southern Oregon, will leave his post to become a pastor with the 25,000-member Calvary Church in Costa Mesa, Calif. Courson’s surprise move was announced at evening services Wednesday, along with the naming of his son, Peter John Courson, 25, as pastor of the Applegate ministry. The younger Courson has been an assistant pastor there for almost two years. The elder Courson, 49, will work as right-hand pastor to his longtime mentor, the Rev. Chuck Smith, leader of the huge Southern California congregation with satellite television and radio broadcasts reaching all over the world, said Peter Courson…The Costa Mesa church is the “mother church” of several thousand smaller Calvary Chapels, including Applegate Fellowship, all over North America…Starting from scratch, [Jon] built the Applegate Christian Fellowship into a sizable following of 5,000 to 7,000 attendees each week, the largest in Southern Oregon, Peter Courson said…His son was chosen to replace him “without any question” by the 150-man assembly of deacons and elders, said Bob Thornley, 46, one of Applegate’s pastors…The congregation was both sad and happy about Jon Courson’s leaving, said his son, ‘because it’s time to share him with the whole church and the whole body of Christ.'” (“Applegate Fellowship pastor takes new post” By John Darling for the Mail Tribune, July 19th, 2002)

Jon Courson, the father, explains in “A Special Message From Pastor Jon“, on the ACF website: 

For these past 25 years, the Lord has given me the greatest privilege I could ever imagine, that being able to serve such an incredible, wonderful, Jesus-loving, congregation like you. You have blessed me more than words can express. Just thinking about your kindness towards me and my family, your friendship, your generosity, your prayers, and patience with me brings a lump in my throat and puts a smile on my face!

“And now, as I go to serve with Pastor Chuck Smith in Costa Mesa, California, please know you all will always be on my heart and in my prayers. With my son Peter-John stepping up and stepping in, I know that the Applegate Fellowship is in for a whole new season of fresh fruit-fullness and even greater growth in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus . . . for He always takes us from “glory to an even greater glory, by the Spirit of the Lord.”

Back to the Top

Should an assembly of believers be ruled by a Dynasty of Royalty? By a figurehead leader?

Should a fellowship be run as if it were a family business? A business franchise? 

To what degree is any megachurch run in this way?

Update 4/12/07:

Since about February 2007, Peter-John is no longer on staff at Applegate but has now become the “Teaching Pastor” at Calvary Chapel Capo Beach, California. This is the church that Chuck Smith, jr. was the pastor of until recently. I pray that our Lord Jesus would bless him and his family, his extended family including his Dad, and that there would be fruit from their ministries in spite of the concerns I raise on this web page.

Three Coursons

Update 7/29/06: There are now three “Teaching Pastors” at Applegate Christian Fellowship, according to their web site. Jon Courson is now back at Applegate. The other two listed as Teaching Pastors are Jon’s two sons: Peter John and Ben Courson. Seth Gilbert, listed as the Worship Pastor, is Jon’s son-in-law according to a southern Oregon newspaper article in the Mail Tribune.

Update 7/29/06 From Wikipedia Article

“In 2002, Courson accepted a request to join his longtime mentor and friend Chuck Smith at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa in California. In 2005, Courson moved on to teach at a pastor training school in Carmen Serdan, Mexico for young men.

“In March of 2006 Jon left Carmen Serdan to move back to southern Oregon to join his son Peter-John Courson pastoring at Applegate Christian Fellowship. He also continues to teach the pastor training school which was relocated to the Mountaintop Retreat Center, which is a part of the ministry of Applegate Christian Fellowship. Along with this move came the transition away from the standard Senior Pastor role at Applegate for Peter-John, his eldest son. Applegate now has three Teaching Pastors, Jon, Peter-John, and Jon’s youngest son, Ben.”

Jon Courson and the Eucharist

The following is quoted from the Lighthouse Trails site (posted here 8/15/08).

An example of this [Evangelical acceptance of mysticism and the Eucharist] is the 2005 Calvary Chapel pastors conference when Pastor Jon Courson presented communion in a Eucharistic-style, suggesting that communion is more than a remembrance. One pastor who was there, told us that about 80 of the pastors got up and walked out when this happened. The pastor said some of these stood on the sidewalk outside, pointing at the building and crying out, “Heresy.”

Evangelical Christians Combine Contemplative Mysticism with Catholic Eucharist


Next is an email to me from a friend, and then from B.T. to the friend.

8/17/08 (posted here 8/18/08)


I saw the latest Lighthouse Trails post about the Emerging Church. I think they have a tendency to be lazy in their research… and now I believe they are making another false claim about Jon’s view of communion. I’ve been listening to Jon for about 8 years and I’ve never heard him teach
anything like what their claiming. When I wrote them about posting something on hearsay they responded they heard the message themselves and they talked to Chuck Smith Sr.. When asked about the message they can’t even tell me what message it was but that I should contact CC and
ask them to hear it. In other words, they can’t or won’t provide any proof of their claim. I wrote B.T. of searchlightradio.com and joncourson.com about this claim and below is his response which seems to lineup clearly with everything I’ve heard him teach.


Pastor Jon does not believe in the Catholic view of communion (transubstantiation), but he does feel that many people and churches do not give communion appropriate worth. For many, communion is a simple ritual
that is done on an infrequent basis. Jesus did not say that
communion is an optional ritual, but an important part of our experience with Him. There is a mystery about communion that we don’t fully understand, but we do know
that it was important enough that Jesus desired us to experience it regularly. If we neglect this communion with our Lord and do not give it proper worth, Paul tells us that there will be repercussions in that we will be weak and sick. Pastor Jon has often said that communion is an opportunity to be born again, again. That is, to once again consider
the awesomeness and reality of Jesus and what He did for us. The same kind of miraculous peace and faith and forgiveness that we experienced when we were first born again can be re-experienced often in communion.

This rumor about Jon’s view of communion got started about the time of the Pastor’s Conference, but it is not true that about 80 pastors got up and walked out. And it is not true that he presented a Catholic style of communion there.

Thanks for asking us directly about this issue. I have been in
communication with the people at lighthousetrailsresearch.com, but for some reason that
have not changed their website.

God bless you.


Lighthouse Trails, based on their eye-witness account(s), stand by their story of the above Pastor’s Conference. 8/27/08