My hometown NBC affiliate (WCNC) has been running an exposé on Steven Furtick and the church he pastors, Elevation, which in eight years has grown to a reported 14,000 attenders in several locations which view his sermon remotely.
Though I do not live in the Charlotte area anymore, I have great interest in this story and what is going on with this group because I personally know several who attend. Some used to go to my home church, but have left for various reasons.
This much is clear: Steven Furtick and Elevation are the flavor of the month and the last few years. What he is doing is working inasmuch as people are coming. But then again, that is not the determining factor of success in ministry. Joel Osteen draws his ten thousands as well.
Having listened several times to Furtick’s sermons, and having strong negative opinions about a YouTube video he put out a few years ago titled “Hey Haters” (yeah, I hate the Haters video! Ha!), I pray everyday not only for his repentance, but that the thousands who find satisfaction in the “Elevation Experience” will come out from what I believe to be, to put it mildly and most kindly, a very man-centered Christianity. What Elevation is right now reminds me of the Living Colour song “Cult of Personality.” But you know what? Something else will be cooler in a few years, and then will there be any “Elevators” left?
Below are the two stories that have run on NBC Charlotte, and I have some additional thoughts below.
The first video has to do with some investigative work on the new house Furtick is building. You can read more here.
The second video shows how Furtick’s salary is determined by no one within Elevation Church, but by a cadre of five megachurch pastors, three of whom preached at the (in)famous Code Orange Revival in January 2012. You can read more here.
[UPDATED: Sat, Oct 26, 2013, 9:00am]
A third segment has now aired comparing Furtick to his mentor, a man he openly says had a great impact on his life and the Elevation philosophy, Ed Young. Yes, the same Young who got in bed with his wife on the top of the church.
Some additional thoughts…
1. This reporter is doing what the evangelical community and Baptists particularly (and Southern Baptists even more particularly) should have been doing for years now.
2. I find it curious at best that Corbett’s for-profit business has Elevation as its mailing address.
3. Elevation openly threatens to violate 1 Corinthians 6 by suing anyone who violates their confidentiality agreement. Thankfully, all things are laid bare before Him with whom we have to do (Heb 4:13).
4. There are no elders or deacons, well, other than Furtick and Corbett I guess, who quite frankly seem more like a CEO and COO to me. In other words, no one seems to be serving in the official offices of the church as laid out in the New Testament at many of these locations. It’s an unhealthy and flat out anti-biblical way to be the church.
5. As a pastor and a Christian, I can empathize with anyone who takes offense to this reporting and is suspicious of the media targeting a church. The true church of Christ is most definitely hated by the world (which begs the question, by the way: Is Elevation’s popularity a good thing?). I’m the first to say that church matters ought to stay in the church (although, as noted above, Elevation is quick to let you know they’ll sue you), however, there should also be a healthy degree of transparency for those who invest their lives, much less their dollars, in a ministry. There’s none of that at Elevation.
6. Finally, if you actually listen to Furtick’s teaching, become even vaguely familiar with the church itself, and compare it all with Scripture, there is more than enough reason to be concerned. What you find is that for “Elevators,” it’s more about the experience than the truth. Rarely will you hear about the necessity of repentance or a faith that obeys. And the model and attitude of the ministry seems to disdain by its nature the teaching and implications of Titus 2 (and several other places in Scripture). What, or who, does Elevation exist for? You can make up your mind, but the glory of God would not be my first, second, or third answer.
My plea to those who attend Elevation or listen to Furtick’s sermons or read his books is this – aside from leaving immediately and stopping reading him altogether: Really listen. Really pay attention to what is being said or written. Who is the focus really on? What is really the message being sent? I believe what you’ll find after careful, prayerful examination, in concert with studying the Scriptures, is that the two don’t line up. I am praying for you.