Furtick, Elevation, and why most of us probably just need to shut up

If you’re from anywhere near Charlotte, then you’re aware that it’s become quite the epicenter of “shocking” news about Elevation Church and its pastor, Steven Furtick.  In fact, it’s become quite trendy to look into every single thing Furtick and Elevation Church have done, are doing, or ever will do, especially if your name is Stuart Watson and you work at WCNC as the lead investigative reporter.  In case you’ve missed out on Watson’s “thorn in the side” reports, you can access most of them on the WCNC website.  The latest one, published yesterday, revealed the methods behind how Elevation managed to baptize a couple thousand people over 2 weekends and seems to imply that there is some kind of corruption behind the scenes that would make innocent baptisms somewhat less innocent.  

Most of it started back in October of 2013 when the news broke of a really big house that Furtick was building, and suddenly social media was filled with defenders and attackers (or, as Elevation loves to call them, haters).  In all honesty, when I read the news about the house, it grieved me deeply and I had wanted to write about it then, but I chose not to because I felt that my approach to the story was skewed because I read about it after spending a long day in the poorest slums of Delhi, India, and so the story of a famous preacher building a house that could hold almost every street kid I had seen that day just didn’t feel good.

But that didn’t warrant a post, especially since I’d love to have a bigger house, too.

Then, Watson aired a story about how Furtick and Elevation were jumping through a bunch of hoops to get his books bought at a discounted rate that could then be sold at retail prices to a congregation big enough to all but ensure 12,000 copies would be sold.  As weird as all of that sounded, I didn’t write about that either, mainly because I’d love to write a book and know that everyone in my church would buy a copy, too.

Of course, it would be a lot less than 12,000 copies.  11,850 less.

But when this story about the baptisms broke, I had to write.  I mean, at some point enough is enough, right?  At some point, someone needs to shed some kind of biblical perspective on all of this silliness, and while I’m not the biggest (or even the best) voice out there to do it, I can’t stay silent anymore.

But what I say may surprise you.

Back in AD 60 or so, the apostle Paul sat under house arrest awaiting trial before Nero.  This was the Nero who later would be suspected on burning Rome on purpose in order to blame Christians just so others would hate the believers more.  Not a nice dude.  In fact, Paul was so aware of Nero’s tendency to persecute and kill followers of Jesus that in the letter he wrote to the Philippians while waiting for his trial, he hoped that – whether he lived or died – he wouldn’t be ashamed for a lack of courage (Philippians 1:20).

But something else was going on while Paul sat waiting to find out his fate.  There were other people preaching the same gospel that Paul preached, only they seemed to be doing it in a very different way than Paul did and with a very different motive than Paul did.  Apparently, Paul had heard about it, and in what could have been the last letter he ever wrote (as far as he knew), he took the time to address the situation.  To paraphrase it, he said some preach with good motives and others with bad, and then he asked a very odd question in Philippians 1:18: “But what does it matter?”  How would you answer that question?  How would I?  Here’s how Paul answered:

The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. (Philippians 1:18)

Of course, we know how Stuart Watson would answer it, but Paul didn’t write to an investigative reporter in the letter to the Philippians.  He wrote to the church.  He wrote to every believer who has jumped on the “burn Elevation to the ground” bandwagon.  I’ve seen enough, and unless we can answer that simple question with the same answer Paul did, we need to forget about Furtick and we need to repent of far more than increased living space and a bump in book sales in order to land on the New York Times Bestseller list.

We need to repent of pride.

Once, Jesus was asked by 2 of his disciples if they could have the best seats in his kingdom (Mark 10:37).  This was right after they told him that they wanted him to do anything they asked him to do.  When I read that, I think of one of Elevation’s core values about acting in audacious faith.  It’s pretty audacious to ask Jesus to sit on his right and left, and when the other 10 disciples found out about it, they got pretty jacked up about it.

Jesus saw an opportunity to teach something about the kingdom, and he took it.  He didn’t throw James and John under the bus for having the courage to ask something that maybe they shouldn’t have asked.  He just told them that their audacious faith was really just an ignorant faith and that they didn’t understand the price that had to be paid to have what they were asking.

But the greater lesson was to the 10 who freaked because they were afraid they might lose the best seats to the 2 who were willing to ask.  He told them about the world’s way of leading and his way.  He talked about letting others go first, about serving and dying.  Of laying our lives down so others could be raised to life.

He called them to repent of the pride that made them try to protect something that wasn’t even theirs.

So often, the loudest critics are the proudest people.  It sounds so good to talk about how Elevation shouldn’t brand themselves over the gospel until we realize that we’re just the 10 disciples who are mad that we didn’t create the brand first.

Not too long ago, I thought The Gathering would be the next Elevation.  I had dreams of Furtick calling me and telling me that I’d done such a good job getting The Gathering started that they would love to incorporate it into the Elevation family as the Albemarle campus.  It wasn’t necessarily a bad dream, and my heart (I thought) was in the right place.  But today – a little over 2 years removed from those thoughts – I couldn’t be happier that God stuck us in a coffee shop instead.  There, hidden in a room that could realistically only hold a hundred people or so, I started to realize how much my dream was, well, about me.

I wanted our little church to grow bigger because it would validate me, not only as a good pastor, but as a great church planter.  I wanted people to come because it’s easier to write a compelling annual report when the bars go up from left to right instead of staying flat (or worse, going down!).  I wanted people to be saved because saved people talk about the fantastic church where they heard about Jesus (and the fantastic preacher who preached there!).

But something happened in the box.  God started to kill me by reminding me why Jesus died.  To bring strangers into the family.  To bring enemies together as one.  To breathe life into dead bones.  Remembering all of that gave our church the solid foundation that we needed before moving into our new location with more space and more seats, and now that there’s less of me, there’s more room for people who desperately need Jesus.

While I’ll probably never meet him and he’ll probably never read this, I’d like to thank Steven Furtick for leading with the kind of bold faith that encouraged a couple thousand people to make a public demonstration of a personal commitment to follow Jesus.  Your passion for preaching Jesus encourages me, and I’m not the judge of your heart.  If given the same circumstances that you find yourself in, would I build a house as big as yours?  Maybe not.  Would I push my new book from the pulpit the same way you (and many, many other megachurch pastors) have?  I’m not sure. “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached.

And as the number of people being baptized would suggest, you seem to be doing a pretty good job of that.

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Paul Jenkins

Paul Jenkins is lead pastor of The Gathering, a community church located in beautiful downtown Albemarle, North Carolina. He's the author of God is My Air Traffic Controller and My Name's Not Lou. Paul is passionate about his wife, his 3 children, running, reading, coaching, leading people who are following Jesus, Swedish Fish and the Carolina Panthers.

74 comments

  • Paul I feel exactly the way you wrote this.I really like Pastor Furtick and the whole Elevation Experience.I have learned a lot from his sermons and feel that he is preaching from his heart.Thanks for the great article on how you feel about this.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting. It’s always hard to know someone’s heart, and I’m so glad we can trust God to judge our – and everyone else’s – motives. Glad you’re growing closer to Christ!

  • Well said Pastor Paul…….it takes a man of humility to be real…….and reality is what we ALL desperately need!!!

  • Thank you for such well-written piece. Pastor Paul. I also attend Elevation. I have attended Catholic, Southern Baptist, Church of Christ, Missionary Baptist, and other Protestant churches. When I first attended Elevation I had already heard a lot of negativity, so I went with a cautious approach. When Pastor Steven told a young man “my sin is no less than your sin.” I knew I had found my church home. He is passionate but he puts the bible into contexts that I can relate to (as can my 11-yr-old). We go to Elevation to praise our Father in heaven…not Pastor Steven. He is just the method God uses to communicate to us.

    • What a great testimony to the grace of God! As pastors, we’d all do well to remember how approachable Jesus was to people who felt unworthy of him.

  • I have visited Elevation twice because i want to support Andy who plays in the worship band. I loved it, it was moving, the Word was preached and the Gospel message was challenging. Elevation is looking for people to choose Holiness and Righteousness as a LIFESTYLE. TO THE MEDIA: Are you living a life of Holiness and Righteousness?
    I love digital presentations, they are very creative. They spend a ton on print materials, they care that you get the message.

  • Well said. Reading your blog brought to mind the time the disciples went to Jesus because there was someone driving out demons in Jesus name. Had to look it up. Mark 9:38-39! I agree with what you wrote because I feel the same way. Thank you for sharing.

  • We live in Spain, far away from Elevation church. We serve as church planters in a community of 22,000 where, statistics say, less than .2% or 44 people, are evangelical believers. We encounter every method of evangelism possible, and yes, at times and ashamedly, we feel jealous and our pride gets in the way. Some have methods that “work” fast and others seem to take a lifetime. Comparison becomes easy. Measuring our “success” with others slips into your mindset before you even realize it. Depression on the slowness of reaching neighbors and friends (again, statistics say it takes 7 years for the average Spaniard to come to a personal relationship with Christ) can invade your thoughts. As I read your article I was reminded where my litmus test needs to be. Not on whether I agree or disagree with someone else’s method. Not whether they agree or disagree with my method. Instead, on Philippians 1:18. Is Christ being preached? If so, then I need to shut up and keep my focus on what God has called ME to do, not anyone else. Thanks for the reminder.

    • The Gathering will be praying for you as you take the gospel to one of the hard to reach places! The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness CANNOT overcome it!

  • Really enjoyed this. What a sound, Biblical perspective.

    I just landed in Guatemala City last night, and jumped in the hotel pool. Gorgeous. And yet, I’ll be heading up into the mountains to minister to people who—though it’s in their own country—have never even waded in a hotel pool.

    To them, I’m bathing in water for fun that’s purer than anything they have to drink. Without the simplicity of grace, and the idea that we look to the fact that Christ is being preached—regardless of the vessel—the local news should be doing a story on me too.

    Perspective changes everything. Thanks for a healthy dose of it. Blessings in all you work.

  • Peter was rebuked by Paul. Jesus identified the Nicolaitans publicly as those he hated; Paul publicly identified Hymenaeus and Alexander as those who had shipwrecked their faith; Paul identified publicly Demas as a deserter; John identified Diotrephes as a talker of wicked nonsense publicly – and these are just the public rebukes that come attached to a specific name.

    False teachers, destructive influences, those who publicly promote error require a public rebuke. Sadly, this began with a secular organization that, while thoroughly pagan, still recognizes the problem here.

  • Thank you for this great read……I attend Elevation Church Fredonia Ext. on a college campus. Lives are and have been changed. Along with that the principles of Elevation church have helped me in the women’s ministry that God gave me to lead. There will always be naysayers. If I had a bigger house…..well it would be more space for Jesus to do His work. As for the books, well Pastor Steven has a great message and it needs to get out….He preaches from these books and all money goes back to the church. Just Saying throwing stones just isn’t a good thing.

  • Brothers – if there was ever a situation that called for discernment, certainly this one qualifies; I’m reminded of C.H. Spurgeon and the Downgrade controversy.

    Furtick has established a 501(c)3 non-profit religious association with no members, no elders, no deacons and no financial accountability beyond 5 hand-picked mega-church leaders who form a board of directors who set his salary; has organized this association around a man-centered “code” that he instructs children to memorize; distributes a coloring book to these kids with pictures of himself and calls for unity around him as a leader; twists and alogorizes the bible to make it about man instead of God; Blasphemes the very name of God – “I AM” – and makes it about who God made me to be…

    and we’re supposed to “shut up” because he’s preaching Christ?

    This man is not preaching the Jesus of the Bible, but a Jesus he has created. He is a false teacher and needs to be exposed as such, not praised for his audacious “faith”.

    • Great comment, Robert. Thanks for sharing. No, we’re not supposed to shut up about false teachers at all. The letter of Philippians was written mostly to combat false teaching, and yet in the same letter Paul included the verses I shared in the post. You’ll also notice the title of the post and that it specifically says that “most of us” need to shut up. That’s because I feel that the majority of the people slicing this church and the pastor to pieces aren’t doing so from the perspective of correction and reconciliation to truth and Jesus (which is VERY biblical), but rather from a place of envy and pride. That’s what I wrote about, not the need to quietly look the other way even if something is unbiblical. And I can assure you – as you already know – that God can take care of a person’s motives and heart a lot better than either one of us can. He’ll sort out the stuff that we can’t see if it needs to be corrected, and if he uses any of us to do that, then my prayer is that our hearts are pure first.

      Again, great conversation and I appreciate your contribution to it!

      • Paul, I think is naive to think that God will just “sort out the stuff we can’t see”. If this were true, we would never have Ted Haggard scenarios. Reality is Furtick is heavily insulated from any criticism or critique. I was heavily involved (small group leader, set up, volunteer, launched a campus) for two years and have never even seen the man in person.
        Furthermore, Furtick gets almost more veneration than the Pope. (We were even asked to change our shoelaces to orange for his appearance on our campus.)
        Elevation is one of the most unhealthy church I have ever experienced. Eph 5:3.
        An individual who understand the dangers of such leadership positions should welcome critique rather than just ad hominem attacks.
        I did the follow up for Elevations Code Orange events and the vast majority of “decisions” we illegitimate.

        • John – thanks for adding such a unique perspective that I definitely don’t have, and you’re right, it would be naive to just hope that God sorts it all out, but if you read that comment then you know that’s not what I said at all, was it? I said that God can sort out the stuff we can’t see (obviously, right, because he deals with the secret motives of my heart and your heart and neither of us can see the other’s heart) and that our hearts need to be as pure as possible if he uses us in the process. I’m really saddened to read of your experiences. You don’t know me, but I can assure you that as a pastor, I am deeply committed to building the local body of Christ that I am leading in a way that points them always to Jesus as the Lead Pastor. He > I.

  • Dear Pastor Paul,

    I want to just as honest as you were in your orginial message, we attend Elevation and struggle with all that goes on there with Pastor Steven and the “Hipe” if you will. We have been there 6 years and our children were younger when we started there. My youngest child will graduate this year, and I don’t know that It’s for my husband and myself, but it was wonderful for my teenage children. Pastor has a way with them, and the music is right up their alley. No one should question what is being done there for the Lord, but the showy stuff and the money on the literature should go. This Church definately has a place for the young and new to the faith Christian. If you are a mature Christian and deep in your faith, you should be attending elsewhere for sure. That is where we are in our decision to leave. But we don’t want to leave for the sake of leaving, we will wait upon the Lord.
    But I want you to know that I hear everything you said and didn’t say. And I wish your church was in Charlotte!

    • Julie – that’s a tough place to be, waiting for the Lord to give you direction, but he will. And I know some great pastors in the CLT area that I’d be happy to connect you with if you’d like. Just shoot me an email (use the button at the top right of the page) and I’ll get you their information.

  • The problem here is just focusing on this one verse. Paul also talks about church leaders should set examples and live lives above reproach. We also have the example of the humble life of Christ. I can point to any number of verses where Paul talks about biblical leadership. What Furtick and others have done is figure out how to monetize the gospel,turn it into a personal money making enterprise.

    • Without a doubt the Bible is full of examples of authentic leadership, and we could both write tons of blog posts about them. I chose to limit the scope of this post to the uproar over one instance. You wrote “what Furtick and others have done is figure out how to monetize the gospel,turn it into a personal money making enterprise.” I’m not taking the position that what you say isn’t actually true. It could be. But that’s EXACTLY what Paul was addressing in the scriptures I shared above. Some “preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely.” So even if what you’re saying is true, Paul’s response (and I’m guessing it should be ours, too, since inspired by the Holy Spirit it was included in the Bible) still applies: “What does it matter? Christ is preached.”

      If there is more going on here than that, God is more than able to bring those things to light, and I’m glad we can trust him to do that. Until then, I’m just trying to respond the same way (a much better) Paul did!

  • Thanks for your wonderful perspective. I think it is important that we not only read this but share this with the body of Christ. We all need to be reminded of the importance of spreading the Gospel and it takes all kinds of methods to reach people… I have never been to Elevation Church but I do occasionally listen to his messages online. Very powerful stuff…. May God continue to keep you and lead the Gathering exactly where he wants it…

  • It seems that I may be out do step with most of your commenters but there a couple of things that occur to me.

    1) you seem to suggest that if we offer a critique of Ps Furtick is wrong at any level.

    2) you suggest that because Elevation church is doing some good things in helping fight homelessness then it excludes them from criticism.

    We hear these kinds of arguments all of the time from well-meaning people who seem to think that keeping the peace is more important than offering a voice to those who may be hurt by the bad actions of churches.

    1) it is often the silence of the church in these circumstances that mean it is left to those outside to reveal the wrong that is done. Don’t blame the media for speaking up when people like you are telling us to be silent. I could reference the many ties the church has remained silence only to be shown how such silence has enabled the wrong to continue.

    2) many organisations do headline philanthropic work to mask the stuff done in secret. Elevation don’t publish any figures to show how their good work is to be seen in the context of all the money they receive. Asking why it is secretive is a good question. Asking why they manipulate the actions of people in their meetings is not erased by their good work in supporting the homeless.

    When I read your blog the words ‘you say peace peace when there is no peace’ kept ringing in my ears. You seem to be suggesting that those of yes who have criticised Elevation/Furtick are wrong to do so as if our voices are causing division and harm to the gospel. I say it is time for prophetic voices to be raised even if they are clothed in uncomfortable sackcloth.

    • Thanks, Alan. Let me try to address your comments. First, this is mostly a post that I wrote about MY struggle to deal with MY responses. Admittedly, pride was in MY heart. The passage in Philippians that I wrote about help set ME free in that struggle.

      I feel like you read into it some stuff that you bring to the conversation. I never mentioned the homeless or the philanthropic work of Elevation in the post. No, that is never a “free pass” to do anything sinful or unbiblical, but I’m pretty sure I never wrote that, either.

      As far as being able to critique Furtick, Elevation or any other leader, I’ve mentioned a couple of times in response to some comments that even Paul did that in the same letter than contains what I wrote about in this post. So yes, it’s ok to do that. My point – for MY life – is that if the day came that I critiqued anyone else, that I would be able to do it with MY heart full of grace and the desire to point them back to truth and Jesus.

      Thanks for the comment and for taking the time to read and respond!

  • When the Bereans held up Paul’s teaching against their Scriptures, he commended them! He did not tell them to repent of their pride. You on the other hand seem to be telling the Bereans to pipe down, shut up and stop doing what we are all biblically commanded to do: call out and mark false teachers.

    • *sarcasm* I’m trying to quiet every critic. That’s why I keep approving critical comments. */sarcasm*

      In all seriousness, I’ve already answered this numerous times in the comments and responses. Be like the Bereans and read them. And then remember that Paul wasn’t addressing the Bereans here (it doesn’t mean what he told the Bereans isn’t important), so is it possible that there was a separate issue at work in the church at Philippi? If so, then the fact that right after these words Paul wrote the most prolific passage ever written on the humility of Jesus could point to pride in the Philippians whom he was writing these words to.

      You are obviously a student of the word, and so you know that the context is huge. The context of Philippians 1:18 points to pride, and I’m so thankful that the apostle Paul beautifully displayed humility in how he handled very controversial preachers in his day.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      • Paul, after comparing many of Furtick ‘ messages and antics to Scripture, I have concluded that he is a very dangerous teacher – a wolf. I don’t think you mentioned why we need to be silent about this. How is warning others being prideful? Was Paul prideful when he did this?

        • I do believe that there is plenty of scriptural precedent for speaking out against the dangers of false prophets/teachers etc, and if you are 100% sure that he is – in your words – a wolf, then you have a responsibility to voice those concerns and warnings. The point of this post was that we would be wise to be free (or as free as we can be) of as much pride as possible when and if we sound those alarms. If we aren’t, then I can assure you that the warnings will be ignored because of the pride attached to it. The fact that Paul wrestled through this in his writing to the Philippians may be EXACTLY why he was the perfect person for speaking out so adamantly in other situations.

  • Thank you Paul. I think you are right that I have brought something to the conversation that I have gathered elsewhere. Sorry.

    I suppose I didn’t read it as a personal reflection because your title suggested that ‘most of us probably need to shut up ‘.

    Thanks once again. Al

    • No worries, Alan. I never expected over 25k people to read this, but if it opens up a conversation that makes the Church stronger and more like Jesus, then that’s a good thing. It only happens through honest dialogue. Thanks for taking part!

  • Paul

    Thank you for this conversation. I just found out about all of this last night as I was spending some time with some friends who attend Elevation. Some were hurt and felt betrayed by the practices that were taken as manipulative and deceitful by seeding the audience with the first emotional responses. Others, like some here felt that the ends justified the means. I think this is a sad part of religion placing doubt in believers as the lady above who was a daughter of a preacher and now wants nothing to do with the church.

    I will say this to start. I have always said that I hope the pastor of Elevation is true. I have seen few places be able to turn so many youth on fire for serving God. I say I hope for their sake so that one day things do not surface that will make them turn away from God because Elevation is their identity of who God is. I say I hope because of the damage that could occur similar to the aftermath of PTL.

    An interesting difference to me between Paul in the book of Philippians and this blog is that Paul was not writing the letter to those who were preaching the message for the wrong reasons. He as not sending them a thank you note. We look at chapter 2 and he is encouraging those believers to “stay away from complaining and arguing 15 so that no one can speak a word of blame against you. You are to live clean, innocent lives as children of God in a dark world full of people who are crooked and stubborn.”

    Paul was saying that he had faith that God would work everything for his good and for the good of the Kingdom. Did he call them “Haters?” Did he say..I am who I am…or I am the chief of all sinners?

    I humbly agree that we need to make sure that our motives are in check and we remove the logs from our own live. Matthew 7 shows us that the intent should be that as we learn to remove our own “logs or boards” that then we will know how to help our brothers and sisters remove the speck from their own eye. It is interesting that in the very same chapter Christ warns of the wolves in sheep’s clothing and that not all who sound religious are godly. So, we are told to look at fruit and if they follow the commands of Christ.

    The two greatest commands…does this report from the news organization reveal those actions?

    Yes, God can use anyone’s actions and work them for His glory. He did so with Pharaoh and hardened his heart so that all would know who God was. God even used Herod, Joseph’s brothers and Judas to bring about His glory. But no one said “Hey, God got glory from this….keep it up!”

    It reminds me of another scripture Paul wrote in Romans 6 (Living):

    1 Well then, shall we keep on sinning so that God can keep on showing us more and more kindness and forgiveness?

    2-3 Of course not! Should we keep on sinning when we don’t have to? For sin’s power over us was broken when we became Christians and were baptized to become a part of Jesus Christ; through his death the power of your sinful nature was shattered. 4 Your old sin-loving nature was buried with him by baptism when he died; and when God the Father, with glorious power, brought him back to life again, you were given his wonderful new life to enjoy….

    12 Do not let sin control your puny body any longer; do not give in to its sinful desires. 13 Do not let any part of your bodies become tools of wickedness, to be used for sinning; but give yourselves completely to God—every part of you—for you are back from death and you want to be tools in the hands of God, to be used for his good purposes. 14 Sin need never again be your master,[b] for now you are no longer tied to the law where sin enslaves you, but you are free under God’s favor and mercy.

    15 Does this mean that now we can go ahead and sin and not worry about it? (For our salvation does not depend on keeping the law but on receiving God’s grace!) Of course not!

    I will admit openly that some areas of my life are still planks, but God is faithful to help point them out to me and clear my vision over time as He is faithful to His Word. I do believe that was you original intent in your walk as you wrote this, but did generalize it to us all as another reader pointed out above as I read through all of these posts as you had requested we do as the Bereans did.

    Thank you for being willing to dialogue and I apologize for my spelling in advance. I appreciate dialogue for truth in love.

    Sincerely

  • What a crock. The ends don’t justify the means. Sorry. Now all you have done is given these “Elevators” a reason to defend a production that claims to be Jesus. It’s a business and you can justify it any way you choose.

    • I agree that the ends don’t justify the means. There are a umber of passages in scripture that say God judges the motives of the heart. But I think Paul was simply writing that he was thankful that message of Jesus and the gospel was strong enough to break through the “white noise” of unwise means in order to save. No matter what anybody thinks of Furtick or Elevation, there are numerous stories of how the gospel – through that place – is changing people.

      (I edited your comment because my kids read my blog, too. Thanks for understanding and for commenting.)

  • Great perspective Paul, I live about 45 minutes south of Elevations Blakney Campus, in Lancaster, SC. I have visited their Saturday services, and while I feel they are a bit too commercial or gimmicky for my specific taste, I only heard Furtick, or his guest Pastors use scripture and gospel in their messages. Preaching truth and not just “feeling good and doing good” sermons.

  • “Most of it started back in October of 2013 ”

    No, it started a LOONG time before that because he’s been a false teacher for as long as I’ve ever heard of him. Which was… 2007? 2006? Something like that. I’m sure it didn’t just happen at that point either. Manipulating people into baptism is not a good thing at all, no matter what the ‘numbers’ say.

    • I was just referring to when the reports started in the local media about his house.

  • Great post.
    It’s refreshing to see this view taken, especially when all of the Christians on Facebook are racing to denounce the church every chance they get. I attend church at their main Blakeney campus, and while I don’t necessarily agree 100% with everything that goes on there, I do realize that the gospel is being preached, and that lives are genuinely being changed.

  • Paul, I would like to humbly challenge your statement “The important thing is that in every way…that Christ is preached”. I realize you are quoting Phil. 1:18, but as I understand your post you are making the point that we, Christians, should be satisfied with Steven Furtick’s actions because at least Christ is being preached. This, in my opinion, is to minimize the issues and to not view the situation through Scripture as a whole.

    We should rejoice, as Paul did, that Christ is being preached. But we should also be concerned about a person’s understanding of the Christian faith before they are baptized and the name they are being baptized into. Much of what we are seeing and experiencing now makes me wonder if Elevation Church is becoming more about serving Steven Furtick and Eleveation Church, and less about being a servant of Christ. For example, Elevation recently published the “Reasons Elevation Church is the Best Place To Work” and at least four of the reasons start with the words, “We serve a Lead Pastor…”.

    One may think that the document is being misunderstood, but Twitter profiles of Elevators (those who attend Elevation Church) also have profile statements like, “Disciple of Christ, wife to Travis, servant of @ElevationChurch and love every minute!!!!” (@briteyes1980). She does say that she is a disciple of Christ. But a servant of Elevation Church? Really? In the last month I have seen people and documents refer to serving Steven Furtick, serving Elevation Church, Steven as the Visionary, and tithing TO elevation church.

    The Apostle Paul did say that the important thing was that Christ is preached, but he also asked the church in Corinith, “Were you baptized into the name of Paul?” (1Cor. 1:13b). And in reference to people following him and Apollo he said, “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” (1Cor. 3:5-6)

    Pastors must want – no, they must insist – that fame and celebrity bypass them and be attached to the One to whom glory belongs. Statements about being a servant of the pastor, or of the church itself, lead me to fear that people are being baptized into the name of Steven. I pray that I am wrong.

    The stakes in this are high. The Lord had John pen letters to the seven churches (Rev. 2:1-3:22). The warnings and rebukes in these letters show that what is taught, the names we baptize into and what is allowed within the church matters to the Lord and He will remove the lampstands of those whom he places judgement on.

    It isn’t sufficient to say that preaching the Lord’s name is enough. In many ways it is only the beginning.

    • Loyle, if I had said “I am a servant AT Elevation Church” would that have made a difference to you? I thought that Christians were not suppose to persecute other Christians. You don’t know anything about me and yet you choose to use me to try and make some type of point.

      I mean if you have a problem with something that Pastor Steven or Elevation Church is doing I think you are going about it the wrong way. Doesn’t the Bible say in Matthew 18 how we are to correct our brothers and sisters in Christ? (15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him what he did without other people hearing it. If he listens to you, you have won your brother back again. 16 But if he will not listen to you, take one or two other people with you. Every word may be remembered by the two or three who heard. 17 If he will not listen to them, tell the trouble to the church. If he does not listen to the church, think of him as a person who is as bad as one who does not know God and a person who gathers taxes.)

      I am greatly saddened that you, and others, have chosen to attack me and others at Elevation Church. I am sure if you got to know us you would not feel the same way. We do not follow Pastor Steven because we look at him as though he is God, we follow him as though God has given him words to speak life into us through Pastor Steven. We have respect for him and the sacrifices that he made to reach the lost, not only here in Charlotte but all over the world.

      I am sorry if you have been hurt any anyway by Elevation. Hopefully one day you can let your heart forgive and grow in love because what you are doing right now does not show the love of Christ. It just shows non-Christians that we Christians can’t even get a long so why would they want to be apart of something so wonderful as the love of Christ.

      I serve Christ and currently Elevation Church is the vehicle I use to do that.

      • Heather,

        My use of your twitter headline has hurt you in a way that I never intended. For that I truly apologize and ask your forgiveness.

        My brother hasn’t sinned against me so that isn’t the point of my post. I have no personal ax to grind with Steven, or any elevator. In fact, I know several people at Elevation quite well, including some of the staff. It is through interactions with these folks, as well as first hand experiences, that I can say that there are strong indications that Elevation may be going in a direction that is not healthy and that Elevators afford Steven an amount of reverence which is unhealthy.

        From experience I know that people are asked not to speak to Steven unless they are spoken to and when he visits other churches the staff at those churches are required to stand when he enters the room they are in. Add to this the language about serving him, the house, the coloring book, etc, etc. and well, we should all be concerned that the line between a healthy Christian church and a group of people devoted to following the teachings a one man is becoming less clear.

        Do I wish I could address this in a forum of church elders and leaders at Elevation? I do, but that option doesn’t exist. One man, not a group of Elders leads Elevation Church. If this were a publicly held corporation the shareholders would have more say in the situation, but in reality no one, except Steven, has any say. Should it be that a corporation has better accountability mechanisms than a local representation of the Bride of Christ?

        And to say (not you, but others) that Christians, like myself, who are not officially part of Elevation church should not be concerned with these matters is to greatly misunderstand the ecclesiastical dynamic at work. I also shows that Elevation is trying to insulate itself from accountability.

        Churches and pastors that operate in a way directly influences the traditions, beliefs and practices of our faith can not also demand that outsiders stay out of the discussion. Who is an outsider when Steven is on TBN, sermons are broadcast across the web, people are invited to join worship services from home and social media is used to market the church and the views of its pastor? Gone are the days when the only Christians with a vested interested in a church are the ones who attend a service within the four walls of the church.

        I am sure that I have over-responded to your comments, but in doing so I hope that you can see that my concerns are not meant to persecute or to harm in any way. I know there are Christ loving and God fearing people at Elevation. I know that you are loved by Christ. And my hope is that you and the Christian community at large will take heed of the warning signs and seek the Lord in how to resolve the issues.

        Yours in Christ.

        • An awesome, humble response. Thanks, Loyle. My prayer is that many conversations happen along these lines, and that the end result is that we see JESUS clearly, because JESUS is the head of HIS church.

    • Loyle: yep. Check out this delightful little specimen they’re using on the kids: http://matthewpaulturner.com/2014/02/19/this-is-what-stevenfurtick-is-teaching-the-kiddos/

      “The Pastor’s Vision” has nothing to do with the New Testament Church. The pastor really isn’t necessarily even a prominent personality in the New Testament Church. He’s definitely not the guy everyone thinks of when they hear that church’s name. When your pastor is identifying his local church as Purveyors of My Vision, you have serious megalomania problem on your hands.

      But then, we should probably just shut up.

      • Thanks for the comment, Nate. It’s great to have you in on the conversation. I would agree with you that it’s become way too easy to build a church on a pastor’s personality and name, but I think you’re doing the Bible a disservice by downplaying the role of the pastor in scripture just because we’ve screwed it up in the contemporary church. A simple read of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 reveals the importance of this role. The fact that Paul would include pastor as one of the 5 ministries mentioned in Ephesians 4:11-12 (or 4 if you hyphenate pastor and teacher as some do) puts even more emphasis on the position.

        And I can’t tell you when you need to shut up, but I can tell you that if you’re allowing cultural errors to dictate how you read scripture, it might be wise to weigh your words well before you do speak.

        • Importance, yes. I would never deny the importance of the pastoral ministry.

          Centrality, no. The very fact that there are five offices/ministries is instructive of what I’m saying. The pastoral role is one of many, not the prime moving executive of the local church, around whose name and face the whole church is identified (leaving the other four ministries forgotten or de-emphasized). This is what it’s like in almost all of contemporary Western Christianity, not just Elevation. People like Furtick have just magnified the error that we’ve all inherited, having been given a particularly charismatic presence, and then implemented it with the hammer of “everyone who disagrees with me is a religious hater.” Boy,

          Most importantly for me, is the issue of “vison.” the Pastor of a church does not supply a local church’s vision, and their job is to then get behind it. The church does not serve the pastor and his vision. The pastor serves the church. The vision is supplied by the story of God/the Gospel. The people of God then rally behind King Jesus and reflect his mission/vision into the world the way that they’re able/called. It might be nice to have a pastor who can distill or re-capitulate that vision correctly for the watching world, but that a non-NT add-on. What definitely isn’t the case is that “Pastor Steven’s Vision” is the goal of his church.

          Totally agree with your last line.

          • Thanks for the response, Nate. I read the word “prominent” and replied to that. I agree totally that the pastor is one of many gifts to the church, and the ego of that one office still bows to Jesus. If not, there are many other much more important issues. And for the record, I hate the term hater and the phrase “haters are gonna hate” because it too easily dismisses possible corrective voices. My point – again, stated as clearly as I know how in case it didn’t come through well in the original blog post – is that correction is better received when the one giving it is emptied of pride. The main focus of that sentence is me and my heart. Let the chips fall where they may for everyone else who reads this post.

    • Thanks for posting such a well thought out response (except, of course, for playing semantics with someone who said that they serve at Elevation, that was ridiculous). I’d say that you didn’t fully understand my post because what I was saying is that I would like MY heart to be emptied of ANY pride before addressing some of the other issues that you raised in your response.

      Are there issues at Elevation? Sure, because there are people there and people have sin, pride, etc in their hearts. Even Steven Furtick. But it’s silly to say things like “Paul didn’t mean what he wrote to the Philippians because he wrote something different to the Corinthians.” Really? Different churches today have different issues just like they did back then, and one of the themes in Philippians is being like Jesus in our willing humility toward each other. That’s the context of the passage I quoted, and it doesn’t carry any less weight because there were different issues to address in Corinth or whatever other churches to which Paul wrote.

      I do have reservations about some of what I see/hear/read about things at Elevation, but if/when I feel the need to address those, I’d like to be in a place of humility that will allow my words to be heard.

      That’s the point of this one, very specific post.

  • Wow….I’ve enjoyed reading the generally civil discussion. I’m not an Elevator but I have children and close friends who have been radically impacted in a positive way by the ministry of Elevation Church. As a follower of Christ for 35+ years I put great value in the body of Christ walking in the light of sound doctrine as well as in the light of His overwhelming grace. I’m curious regarding the claims of “false teacher”…..I’ve heard a number of S. Furtick’s sermons and, even had I the spiritual gift of criticism, haven’t heard anything yet that has inspired me to dial up the DP, the NSA or even the IRS. Now if I were God for the Day I would probably toss the Elevation pastor a few suggestions regarding housing and clothing allowance but I’m not God (good news) and I’m figuring God and Steven Furtick will have to sort out all the crapola of his life without my assistance. A final thought-while I’m part of a unique and large church with members from over 45 nations, I place extreme value in “community” and am certain I would love hanging out with the brethren in an Albemarle coffee shop.

  • Totally off the Furtick subject. But this bugged me.
    You write: Back in AD 60 or so, the apostle Paul sat under house arrest awaiting trial before Nero. This was the Nero who later would be suspected on burning Rome on purpose in order to blame Christians just so others would hate the believers more. Not a nice dude.
    I teach and I’ve done some research on Nero. AD64 a fire destroys much of Rome. Legend says Nero had the fire started in order to build a biggger and better Rome. Nero didn’t blame the Christians just so others would hate the believers more. He blamed them because he needed a skapegoat. And cruel persecution of Christians began. Nero has some Christians fed to wild animals for entertainment and used them as human torches. Secular historian, Tacitus, writes about the persecution, “Their death was made a matter of sport; they were covered in wild beasts’ skins and torn to pieces by dogs or were fastened to crosses and set on fire in order to serve as torches…” Nero was a bad guy. He was a homicidal maniac killing anyone he thought opposed him. Nero commits suicide in AD68 at the age of 31.
    Just making sure you are straight on your history. Legend and historical writings have the order as: Nero burns Rome. Blames Christians to get out of it. Persecution of Christians begins.

    • Not that there wasn’t some persecution going on. For the most part however, the Romans were pretty tolerant of the Christians. It wasn’t until after Nero blamed the Christians for the fire that the persecution went to a widespread horrible level.

    • Thanks for clarifying that, Carolyn. I’m aware of the history of Nemo and the timeline of when the letter was written and when the burning of Rome took place. That’s why I wrote “this is the Nero who LATER would be suspected…”

      My guess is that Nero didn’t switch from a super nice ruler to a maniacal tormentor of Christians overnight, but that rather he probably already had a reputation for not dealing fairly with believers. Something like that had to be true or else Paul wouldn’t have sounded so expectant of possible death in the early part of the letter.

  • Just wondering Paul or any of the rest of you Elevation/Furtick apologists… you wouldn’t happen to have ambitions akin to Furtick’s, would you? If given the chance, would you use the thousands of a big church and its celebrity status to rake in the bucks and build yourself a mcMansion too? I’m guessing you all probably would. Maybe that’s why you can’t see the light, nor can you see the darkness in the mega-entertainment-churchianity that is Elevetion and so many other places like it…
    You’re well-intentioned but a lot of you are dupes. You’ve bought (and paid for) a company line (and yes Elevation and many like them are businesses…they exist for profit making and celebrity making (for the few at the top) and not much more. The Jesus lingo barely covers your nakedness… Someday you all will be shocked at the way God hates your american big bucks, big building, big show churchianity and all of its pagan money worship and man worship and feel-goodism worship. Your ‘offerings’ of rock-show worship, marketing manipulations, hoarding capital, ‘programs’ and estate building stink in His nostrils.
    And finally, pastor paul – some helpful advice. First the picture at the top of all of this – It doesn’t help you look like a pastor – you look like an entertainer – Are those neon light bars back there? Are you a nightclub mc?
    Maybe that’s what you really are, considering your butchered, proof-texted, out-of-context treatment of Scripture in defense of Furtick…

    Wake up folks. Stop giving these people money (BTW, NT does not teach 10% tithing…) and better yet, stop going to these so-called ‘churches’ that make you feel good, tickle your ears and snatch money from your purse while you’re not looking.

    • I’ve tried to make an effort to reply to as many of the comments as I can, and especially the ones offering an opposing view, because that’s how we have conversations that can help us all grow.

      And then there was yours. Very hard to respond to your comment because it appears that you’re just spewing and not contributing. First, I am not an apologist for Elevation or Furtick and so there’s no “company line” for me to follow. Would I build a house like his? Did you even READ THIS POST? I answered that question for you, so your assumption about what I’d do is a waste of time. Why guess about what I answered?

      I’m amazed that you looked at my one inch profile picture and made so many assumptions about me, but that’s me holding a mic and preaching at our church. Behind me is a graphic of the series we were doing at the time. The larger picture at the top of this post is Steven Furtick preaching at Elevation, but if you didn’t know that then your post is even harder to take seriously.

      And all of that begs the question to your comment about looking like a pastor. What does a pastor look like anyway? Have you forgotten how many religious people missed Jesus because he didn’t look the part? What an odd comment that was.

      And finally, the accusation that I butchered the passage that I wrote about. Now that’s something I’d really love to talk with you about some more, because I want to be the best I can be at accurately handling God’s word. Why don’t you (and anyone else who wants to) come to The Gathering this Sunday (March 2) and see what we’re all about? We’ll provide the pizza after the service and we can sit and talk through how you think we should have handled the passage. Just use the email link above to shoot me an email and let me know how much pizza we should have ready for you!

      • I did read your post and I see your point. You aren’t quite the apologist I suspected (but still more than I would be – ie you give Furtick much more credit than I could, via some verses from Scripture) Finally, I wrongly and too quickly mistook the article img for you when it was really Furtick. (which reflects badly on him, not you) I apologize for that and I see that your ministry and situation is different and I bless you for that. I was too quick to judge and assume. Please forgive me.
        Keep it up and please don’t become like Elevation/Furtick. (I can’t give them a pass like you can – I don’t care how much Jesus/Bible they talk or how many baptisms they do…it’s disciples enduring that really matter – not a baptismal count)

        And thanks for the pizza offer but I live too far way – not possible. Blessings.

  • I don’t agree. I think that the conversions manufactured by the fancy music and emotional experience are not likely to be lasting, and I think that Furtick’s actions drive people nationally away from Christ. When a pastor is on national news for buying a mansion, it is not a good thing.

    • Hey David. I don’t necessarily disagree with anything you said, but that wasn’t really the point of my post. It was more that until we can speak correction without pride or malice in our hearts, maybe most of us should shut up about it.

      I truly believe that God will use men and women to speak correction into ANY pastor or leader (or any follower of Jesus no matter what the position) who is in error or sin, but those men and women would do well to empty themselves of as much pride as they possibly can first. It helps the person being corrected actually hear the truth instead of just hearing a jerk tell them the truth.

      • I understand the part of getting as much pride and malice out of our hearts…we should always be doing that… but when do we know we’ve reached that point and are able to ever speak the truth to corruption or bad theology or less-than-the-best? Could we ever get to the right ‘state’ of perfection in order to ever challenge anything that we feel is not God’s best? I’ve heard this tact before and it always comes across as a way to silence the messenger or prophet… ie “you shouldn’t be saying anything because you’re not perfect either…” Sorry but it doesn’t work with me and isn’t going to shut me up either. Good thing Luther or other reformers didn’t take that approach before confronting the institutions of their day. Growth and progress would never happen if we all waited around till we and others felt good-enough or even cleansed enough to ever confront wrong. (Maybe this sounds like a jerk, but IMO the american evangelical church is as, or more corrupt than the catholic church was in Luther’s day and Furtick/Elevation et al represent the height of that corruption and it needs to be confronted by religious and secular people alike and not given a pass.)

        • You bring up a very valid point, and if we all had to wait until we’re perfect before speaking truth about anything, the world would be a much quieter place. I think that just points all the more to the need more grace and humility while speaking truth. Perhaps a good practical question would be to ask ourselves if the motive of our actions is to reconcile a person/church/situation back to Jesus. That’s the ministry that Paul said we’ve been given (2 Corinthians 5) and it’s what Jesus was sent to do. Hopefully all the critics speaking out against Elevation, Furtick and ___________ (fill in the blank with whatever the mega church of the week is) are doing it out of sincere love for a brother and hope to see a reconciliation back to truth. Your guess is as good as mine about everyone else, but I’m gonna make absolutely sure that I give the Holy Spirit permission to search my heart before I allow myself to speak with my mouth. My guess is that you’ll do the same. The ultimate goal of ANY discipline or rebuke in the church is ALWAYS to reconcile people to Jesus.

          As far as the American church being confronted, I agree, and I think God will use lots of avenues to do that. Could God be using Stuart Watson right now to try and correct things at Elevation? Of course. But the world will never be held to the same standard that we are as brothers and sisters in Christ. Watson doesn’t have to deal with pride or motives, but I do, and so do you. That’s the point of this post.

  • I forgot that Paul told the Galatians that forcing circumcision as a prerequisite for salvation, while wrong, was ok because, “At least the gospel is being preached.”

    And he told the Corinthians that commending that son to have sex with his mother, while wrong, was ok because, “At least the gospel is being preached.”

    Wait… No. He didn’t say that. Stop being ridiculous.

    • You’re right, Gil, he didn’t say that in those letters, because both of the examples you used were dealing with sin. Now you’re being ridiculous to try to prove a point that could be discussed instead of done like a drive-by.

      In the passage above, he was dealing with style and selfish motives, which Furtick and Elevation have been attacked about from the beginning of the church by believers who may or may not have had the purest motives in what they were saying. Paul’s response (the Paul that matters a whole lot more than me) to preachers with impure motives was that at least the gospel was being preached.

      If or when there is sin to be dealt with, my response would be to deal with that sin scripturally, and even then I’ll be glad that the gospel had been preached and that the faithful God we serve was able to use wrong (even sinful) motives to save some.

      Thanks for sharing such powerful examples of how seriously God sees sin in the church. It just reminds me even more how much he hates pride in any of us and how much I need to allow him to search MY heart and reveal anything in ME that could keep MY voice from being heard when speaking truth.

      • Paul. No reasonable Christian is upset about the gospel being preached. No one is contending that the gospel declared by Furtick or at Elevation [or anywhere] is ever a bad thing. This is a completely separate topic from the REAL issue at hand. You’re creating a diversion. I totally understand why…it’s the only tenable position left.

        This situation is simple: Are there positive things that Furtick should be praised for? Sure. Now that that’s out of the way… are there some concerns that should be addressed? YES.

        Is it also concerning that instead of meeting the unsettling news head on with transparency and humility that the online “spin machine” [and their helpers] is now pointing the finger at others, telling them why they probably should just “shut up”? Yes I think so.

        I think it’s fair to let everyone decide for themselves who is being ridiculous and who is not.

        • For the most part, there is blood in the water at Elevation and the sharks are out. I know that’s not how you would describe it, or even how I would describe it, but so many on the outside of the church see it that way, and HOW we say what we say to one another has so much to do with that.

          Will there be a time in the future that I might end up writing something about the other issues at hand? Probably. But discounting a lot of what was in this post because you think I’m telling you to shut up doesn’t help. Maybe I should have gone with “an why most of us probably just need to shut up until we’ve allowed Jesus to remind us of the pride in our own hearts and allowed him to prepare us to speak” but I thought that was a bit wordy and I felt like a lot of that was inherent in the post.

          Hopefully, you’ve done that hard soul work and are prepared to speak out with the goal of reconciliation of a church and a pastor. Fantastic! Go for it! I would never be one to silence that.

          I love your last line, so we’ll just let it go at that. Thanks for the pushback and for helping me clarify my thoughts.

  • Great post. Thanks for sharing your perspective and for the great conversation. I’ve been struggling with this one…I mean really wrestling with what is being said, and then I read the instructions that everybody is talking about. At first, I didn’t feel any better having been one of the people who was baptized two summers ago. But then I read it closely…the way that one needs to before passing judgement, and then I was blessed with a memory. It appears that the issue is not in the intention, but in how it was presented in written form. Really read what is being described: a team that is on hand to make sure that people know what to do and where to go…and to be loved in the process. I remember being in the front left part of the auditorium when I stood up. My first instinct was to sit back down, then to worry about what my wife and kids were going to do without me for the next couple of minutes. I had every cell in my body telling me to not do this, but God was clearly in control of my next steps. One of these mystery 15, a very kind lady in her mid-fifties wearing a blue “Follow” t-shirt, a name tag and a “you can do it” smile grabbed my hand and showed me where to go. She was not in plain clothes, tricking me to think that I was not the only one, hopping into the water to see if I would follow. She was asked to be present in the room for people like me, easily identifiable, able to get to all who needed help and encouraging, but also understanding at one point when I almost turned around. Without this context, I am sure that it looks bad on paper, but I have left many details out of instructions for others that sent people around the city of Raleigh for 1.5 hours trying to find the wrong exit. Wanted to share this perspective with you from a state of peace after seeing what people are getting so excited about…and for reasons of syntax brevity. If you are curious, then come on out the next time the challenge is given and you can see for yourself. They were in full effect last night…as helpful and in plain sight as ever (-:

    • Thanks for adding your perspective, Justin, and congratulations on following through with such an important step in your walk with Jesus. God knew just who to send your way at just the right moment! Our God is awesome.

  • Paul. This will be a bit of an unpopular respond I believe because it seems the vast amount of comments are supporting your opinion. I would ask two questions or maybe they are comments more than questions. What do you think Paul is saying in first Phil 1? And how in the world does that justify bad decisions from church leadership? I can be glad many folks were baptized. How does that justify terrible decisions elsewhere? I’m sorry, but lets not call something for what its not. Secondly, if we want to use the NT as a reference there is an easier argument to made that Elevation really isn’t even a church (I saw you were using some 1 Timothy stuff above). Last I check they were certainly not ran by a plurality of elected elders (as one small example). Anyway, in our effort to “not judge” as a trendy part of feel good pop Christianity we have neglected to call harmful, manipulative theology just that… bad, and manipulative theology.

    • Thanks for the comment, Jon. As far as your first question is concerned, I think what I wrote explains quite a bit of what Paul was saying in Philippians 1. It doesn’t justify bad decisions, but it does reveal that the gospel message is more powerful than even preachers with wrong motives. And in response to the second question (is Elevation even a church) I could only say that if we’re using leadership by a plurality of elders as the standard to determine which churches are the “real” churches, then you’re going to rule out a lot of legitimate local bodies who don’t govern their churches with an eldership model (my church isn’t one of those, but I know a lot of “real” churches who don’t have elders).

      I’m working on a follow up post to this one that should be ready to go next week that will address some of the issues this one raised about how to judge, should we judge, etc.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and respond!

      • Thanks Paul, I obviously read your blog and really felt that the interpretation of the 1 Phil passage you are using as some type of Furktick justification was a long stretch. I have read the same type of logic to justify Benny Hin, and Joel Osteen. Its an easy to digest proof text that sounds good, much like Steven’s preaching. My point is lets not call “what is bad – good”. Manipulative, un-checked, celebrity centered theology is quite harmful to the church. And arguably a different gospel. The NT is clear there are marks to what a healthy church is and isn’t. A local cong ran by an outside group of other celebrity pastors, that decide the pastors salary (that is kept from the local congregation) is not only awfully wrong, its almost laughable. Its not legitimate and no serious consideration of ecclesiology would even consider such model. Much less some “church code” that centers around the pastors personal vision.

        So do a “judge” Steven, absolutely! Not on the basis of his relationship to Christ, but on the basis of he’s actions and leadership to Christ’s Church. His suspect prosperity light theology has called for a real critique of what is he communicating.

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