Steven Furtick of Elevation Church



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  • Steven Furtick of Elevation Church

    A pastor not only leads and exhorts the sheep, they must deal with wolves. Paul warned the leaders at Ephesus about the wolves that would seek to destroy the flock. A pastor must not only preach the truth, he must expose error. This is why they must reprove and rebuke. Paul calls the Ephesian elders to be on the alert against the dangers of false teachers. And, he gives the antidote to false teaching, namely, to stay centered on God and the word of His grace.

    We undeniably live in a day of tolerance where, even in the church, good feelings and emotional thrills take priority over sound doctrine. If you dare to question whether someone’s teaching is biblically orthodox, you will be labeled a “heresy hunter” or, even worse, a “fundamentalist” or "divisive". On the contrary, as Charles Simeon said, “To warn men of their danger is the kindest office of love.” Pastor’s certainly are not loving God’s people if we fail to warn them about specific false teachers or teaching that are a path leading away from life.

    Southern Baptist mega-church in Charlotte, North Carolina Elevation Church leader Steven Furtick continues to grow a popular ministry, expanding at the rate of Joel Osteen's. 17,000 who now show up every weekend at its 13 locations.

    World Magazine wrote an article titled, "The house that Steven built" to point out that the church will likely top $25 million this year in funding. Furtick’s new house will be more than 8,500 square feet of heated space, with nearly that many more feet of porches, pavilions, and garages. It has five bedrooms and seven bathrooms. A local TV station needed a helicopter because the house sits on a 19-acre lot surrounded by gated communities and similarly sized mansions, posted with no trespassing signs: A helicopter is the only way to get close enough to see it. The Charlotte Observer fashion section noted that, “Steven Furtick’s accessories include Robert Wayne leather boots, a Diesel watch, and custom jewelry.” Regular features in the local media earned Furtick the nickname “the peacock of the pulpit.” Doing good in the world while living modestly has long been a hallmark of the Christian world view. Living in a nice house is not sin but the horrible excesses can undermine the message of simplicity and humility. Separated from the world, as aliens if passing through temporarily.

    Crosswalk writes, "Charlotte pastor Steven Furtick and his Elevation Church are making waves this week as more is revealed about Elevation’s odd fixation on their “Lead Pastor” as well as some of the questionable practices of the church, including “spontaneous baptism.” Indeed, many people are sounding the alarm and calling Pastor Furtick a “cult-leader in the making,” though Elevation Church describes him as a visionary they need to unequivocally support." Is what we have yet another seeker sensitive venue with success bent self-help psychology? He is mastering the oratory methods with expression along with stage motion to move the crowd into an emotional frenzy. The messages seem to be leveraged for a person to feel good about themselves and their personal goals, without losing tension with a topical Scripture.

    The info-graphic produced by Elevation Church that includes the following statements:

    - We serve a Lead Pastor who seeks and hears from God.
    - We serve a Lead Pastor we can trust.
    - We serve a Lead Pastor who pours into us spiritually and professionally.
    - We serve a Lead Pastor who goes first.

    Elevation’s Sunday school coloring book that is circulated among their children. The image depicts the Elevation congregation looking up at Furtick in the pulpit. The text reads, “We are united under the visionary,” and “Elevation Church is built on the vision God gave Pastor Steven. We will protect our Unity in Supporting His Vision.” Reformation 21’s Todd Pruitt and Matthew Paul Turner writes, “While the grownups are listening to Pastor Steven preach, the little ones are in Sunday school learning about “unity” under Steven Furtick. It’s the kind of evangelical brainwashing that all of us should be calling out. This should make us angry. Because it’s wrong and because it’s not Christianity.”

    Kevin Meru of International Theological Seminary (ITS) wrote, "Folks, run away from preachers like Furtick.... they are leading believers away from the Narrow Way, away from building house on the Rock (1 Cor. 10:4; Matt 7:24f). Run."

    To spot a false teacher, an elder must know what constitutes sound doctrine and what goes outside permissible limits. He must know which truths are essential to the Christian faith, and which issues allow room for disagreement among true believers. To do this, an elder needs to have some knowledge of the great doctrinal controversies that have been debated and resolved through church councils down through the centuries. The question is, are we qualified and informed to discern the difference between truth and error doctrinally and spiritually? If a person cannot proficiently and with accuracy divide the Word of God, they are not qualified to discern error from truth. Paul slated this as an office for “the mature in the faith.”

    The “word-faith” teachers, who teach that God will align with our ambitions and assure success are clearly heretical. But the point is, elders must have a handle on biblical and theological issues so that they can spot such false teachers and warn the flock of the dangers.

    Paul alludes to the sinfulness of the heretics by calling them “savage wolves” that will not spare the flock. They will speak with worldly wisdom, twisting verses out of context or taking something that is true and stretching it to an unbiblical extreme. Behind their false teaching is a selfish motive, to draw away the disciples after them. They want to gain a following for themselves, while using Jesus as a catalyst. Thus pride is at the root of most church heresy. The false teacher has not humbled his heart before the majesty of God and been undone.

    In 2 Peter 2:1-3, it reads: "...there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words...."

    Many people are calling for the Southern Baptist Convention to take action to address and correct these growing problems at Elevation Church. His message sounds good to the ears and he is easy on the eyes. How can that be a problem? What do you think?

    I really like his statement in the attached video, "I shouldn't surround myself with people that only comfort me but never people that challenge me. For partnerships to remain effective, differences have to remain intact. The dynamic is in their differences. Quit trying to get people to be like you, and begin learning from them what you can, that what you might not be able to see." Good stuff! Straight from Bryan Tracy's life coach program, "Thinking Big: The Keys to Personal Power and Maximum Performance." I guess since I have in my library most the Nightingale-Conan great life coach programs from the 90's, I would recognize success psychology, while others are enamored by the eureka moment Psychoheresy as the Book by Deidre Bobgan and Martin Bobgan published in 1987 called it, invaded the church in the early 80’s and has gained momentum since. For example, Joel Osteen’s ministry is completely hinged on self-help success against the backdrop of Christianity. I really liked Furtick's delivery, it resonates with me, picks me up. Therefore, what do I do with it? A person mature in faith, can remove the bones from the meat and salvage what is of God. Tough subject, varied opinions...

  • #2
    I watched the entire video, and I wasn't particularly alarmed at the message -- other than it seems rather self-directed, e.g., "what I am going to do for God;" and the willingness to make a self-directed decision to change, rather than crediting the power of the Holy Spirit as an agent of change.

    The problem that I see in the video is that Furtick is obviously playing to the crowd. He craves the applause, approbation and the adoration of the people in the seats. (Several times, he chastises the people for being less demonstrative in their reaction to him than he would like.) That's a problem because of the temptation that may arise to "elevate" himself to be on par with God (hello, Luciferian doctrine) and the willingness to compromise the gospel in order to keep seats in the seats.

    The other thing I noticed in this sermon was Furtick's frequent mention of what "God had told him." I don't know whether or not God speaks directly to him, but it is rather suspect that Furtick cites Matthew 8:21 in this sermon -- "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath nowhere to lay His head.” -- and yet he has feathered himself a substantial 8,500 sf nest, as mentioned above.

    Based on this example, the issue seems to be other than the message. The cult-of-personality type of dedication to Furtick's leadership is problematic. You mentioned the coloring book and the "Lead Pastor" info-graphics. Yikes. Those set off warning bells. They should be following GOD, not a human leader. A truly healthy church should be able to continue on, without falling apart, should a pastor leave, go on sabbatical, die suddenly, etc. The church should be GOD-focused, not pastor-focused.

    Is the concern about Furtick founded? In my opinion, it seems to be. But at this point, based on this video, it seems to be in Furtick's acts outside the pulpit rather than in the biblical-correctness of his preaching. In this video, Furtick is not an Osteen, preaching a false prosperity gospel. He talks about counting the cost of discipleship -- it's just a shame that he doesn't seem to be living it:

    "He must increase, but I must decrease. He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all." -- John 3:30, 31


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