On Sunday, I took two of my children with me to rescue the lost from a “Worship Experience” of Elevation “Church” at one of the nine locations in North Carolina. Two greeters approached us at the doors who gave my children “ekidz” slap bracelets and began asking me questions. I told them about how we are traveling across the country sharing the gospel and gave them both copies of the Church of Tares DVD, which contains many clips and critiques of their leader “Pastor” Steven Furtick.
The loud techno music outside and activity in the lobby was overwhelming to my six-year-old son who asked if we could leave soon. This was definitely not like any “church” he had seen. An Elevation usher also approached me in the lobby and asked me several questions. Eventually I told him I believed Elevation Church was unbiblical and urged him to watch our video which he accepted.
After the “Worship Experience” was dismissed, my children and I headed outside to hopefully reach some people on their way out. The moment I handed out a single business size card about how Elevation is unbiblical, an older Elevation security volunteer came out and asked me not to hand out any material. This was reminiscent of our recent visit to Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In fact, Elevation Church is not a true church, Steven Furtick is not a true pastor, and the “Worship Experience” is not true worship. I will elaborate on my concerns about Elevation below.
Elevation Church is a business, not a church. Steven Furtick said, “If you know Jesus, I’m sorry to break it to you, this church is not for you.” This is one of the foundational flaws within the megachurch methodology. While their model of church is intended for unbelievers, the New Testament church is “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12). There is no such thing as “Church for the unchurched.” You cannot do church for the unchurched because the unchurched are not part of the Body of Christ. The gathering of the Church is not for the lost. By definition, the Church is not for them.
In the book of Acts, the church sent evangelists out into the world rather than changing the church gathering into a service to entertain the Romans. But Elevation pragmatically adopts rock concert music and dancing for entertainment in the sanctuary. Just a few of these ungodly examples include:
- Elevation Church Code Orange Underground Dance
- Elevation Church Blakeney – Praise Party 2014 Opener
- Elevation Blakeney Opening Night- Pastor Steven Shredding it “I love rock and roll”
Perhaps one of the most glaring problems with Furtick is his multi-million dollar mansion. WCNC of Charlotte reported that, “Steven Furtick is spending a lot of that money on a 16,000 square foot house in Weddington. It has 7 ½ bathrooms, according to building permits, which put the contract value of the house alone just shy of $1.4 million. The land cost another $325,000, for a total cost of more than $1.7 million.” Certainly this is not what Jesus had in mind when He spoke about losing one’s life for the sake of the Gospel, forsaking all to follow Him and taking up the cross. Jesus said, “But woe to you who are rich, For you have received your consolation” (Luke 6:24).
How did Steven become a multi-millionaire? Steven Furtick’s pulpit is often surrounded with ads for his books. Leaders like Furtick have used their non-profit pulpits to make a profit from their books. This is clearly in violation of the teachings of Jesus against making His Father’s house “a house of merchandise” (John 2:14-16). In the article Selling Books From the Pulpit, I explained how Steven Furtick’s promotional efforts reveal his unethical tricks to get his book on the New York Times bestseller list.
But Steven’s salary is confidential. Moreover, a confidentiality agreement must be signed by employees and anyone who wishes to “volunteer” at Elevation Church which legally binds the volunteer to a non-disclosure agreement of “confidential information” such as the Church’s research, technical data and financial information. The volunteer acknowledges that any breach of the covenant on their part will entitle the church to pursue any and all legal remedies against them. Do you really want to volunteer for a church that threatens you from the get go?
The Apostle Paul rebuked the Corinthians for behavior such as this: “Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge? I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers! Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated? No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren! Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? (1 Corinthians 6:1-9).
As a business, Elevation Church “unapologetically” confesses that they are “all about the numbers.” Part of the Elevation Code says: “We are all about the numbers. Tracking metrics measures effectiveness. We unapologetically set goals and measure progress through all available quantitative means.” In an Elevation Church commercial called “Improve Church Giving By Motivating Your Congregation to Give,” the participants identify themselves as numbers.
Below is another clip of Furtick in Should Church Be All About the Numbers? He speaks of the “Worship Experience” and also shouts, “YES! YES! IT’S ALL ABOUT THE NUMBERS!”
Elevation wants to add you to their numbers, unless you are a 12-year-old boy named Jackson with cerebral palsy. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14), but this special needs child was removed from Elevation Church for disrupting the service.
The term “Worship Experience” signifies the anti-doctrinal position of Elevation. Subjective experience is elevated above objective truth. Speaking at a C3 Conference, Furtick said:
We don’t teach from Books of the Bible because it gets in the way of evangelism. We don’t offer different kinds of Bible studies because it gets in the way of evangelism. We don’t teach doctrine because it gets in the way of evangelism.
If you want to be fed God’s word or have the Bible explained to you then you are a fat lazy Christian and you need to shut up and get to work or you need to leave this church because we ONLY do evangelism.
Notice how Futick is pitting doctrine against evangelism. But discipleship is equally important to Jesus as evangelism. In the Great Commission Jesus said, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:19-20). Obviously Jesus did not pit evangelism against teaching and discipleship. Jesus also said, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).
The Scriptures exhort a bishop to be “holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers” (Titus 1:9). Paul wrote, “But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). Also, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2). However, Furtick is clearly anti-doctrinal. Watch the video Discernment Guilt Trip? – Bereans Not Welcome below:
Steven Furtick is a leader, not a pastor. In the article Celebrity Pastor is Not a Biblical Church Office, I explained how the Seeker-Driven churches such as Elevation have redefined the role of pastor to the role of leader. There is the children’s coloring book that Elevation Church reportedly uses in its Sunday school classes. One page on “Unity” features a smiling Steven Furtick with the caption: “We are united under the visionary. Elevation Church is built on the vision God gave Pastor Steven. We will protect our unity in supporting his vision.”
Rather than memorizing Scripture, this “code” becomes the creed. In the video, Furtick explains the code to the youth and encourages them to memorize it. Similarly, this Elevation video below presents the Code as follows: “We are united under one vision: Elevation is built upon the vision God gave pastor Steven. We will aggressively defend our unity and that vision.”
Therefore, to challenge Furtick is to challenge God. The proud and arrogant Furtick has labeled any critics of his church as “haters.” “Hey, Haters, I hate to break this to you,” Furtick says in a video called Hey Haters!, “but your day is done.” I guess that includes me.
But Jesus said, “Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.” (Mark 10:42-44). Church leaders are to take their cue from Jesus as a servant: “But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves.” (Luke 22:26). But Furtick is a leader, not a pastor, who “lords over” (1 Peter 5:1-3), “has dominion over your faith” (2 Corinthians 1:24), and “who loves to have the preeminence” (3 John 1:9). The church growth model of leadership at Elevation is unbiblical and worldly.
The Elevation staff is no less controlling and paranoid than their leader Steven Furtick. A man in the Elevation parking lot wished me a Happy New Year, so I stopped to get to know him and speak with him about the Scriptures. As I was later sharing some of my concerns with him about Elevation, I noticed he was looking over my shoulder. I turned around to see three Elevation security volunteers had surrounded me from behind. Even though I had not distributed any more materials since I received the initial warning, they told me I was no longer welcome at Elevation because I had approached people with our discs. I clarified that all of those who took the DVDs from me were Elevation volunteers who actually approached me, not the other way around. Nonetheless, in the presence of my two children and this man I had just met, they told me that Elevation owned the entire parking lot (therefore I was trespassing) and I needed to leave or else. So I asked, “Or else you will call the police?” Then one of the Elevation security men flashed his police badge and identified himself as a police officer. I could sense their intimidation was frightening my children now.
On the way to our vehicle at the back of the parking lot, the last man I was speaking with caught up to us and asked if he could have a copy of the DVD which the security volunteers mentioned. Even though the policeman and security volunteers were still watching us depart from the other end of the parking lot, I gave him the DVD and the card. We hope this man will forsake the “Worship Experience” of Elevation because “those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). My worship experience at Elevation was rooted in praising God and rejoicing in being cast out of their facility and suffering shame for the sake of Christ.