FINANCIAL QUESTIONS SURROUNDING STEVEN FURTICK AND HIS ELEVATION CHURCH

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Among the issues Apprising Ministries has been tracking for you the past couple of years, during what may one day be known as the New Downgrade No-Controversy, is how even the heretical Word Faith movement continues to head toward acceptance within the mainstream of evangelicalism.

Take for example, Word Faith Heretic Cindy Trimm Receives Award From Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Recently in T.D. Jakes Repents Of Word Faith Heresy And Mythology I reminded you that Elephant Room 2 co-hosts James MacDonald and Mark Driscoll used ER2 to mainstream Word Faith mogul T.D. Jakes.

ER2 would be the catalyst for what seems to me to be a new self-appointed Evangelical Ecumenical Magisterium (EEM) of multi-site megachurch pastors. One of those in the EEM who’s star is quickly rising is prophet-pastor Steven Furtick of Elevation Church (EC) who’s told us: T.D. Jakes Is My Favorite Preacher In The World.

A couple of things that these megachurch pastors in the EEM have in common is that, first of all, multi-site churches aka campuses with e.g. huge video screens are extremely expensive, which explains why they would want to cozy up to T.D. Jakes. For you see, he’s the best blab it and grab it prosperity preacher there is.1

Secondly,  the prophet-pastor megachurch model uses occultic “vision-casting”; this is due to the influence upon them of Leadership Network, who sees to it that the chosen have a book deal. It all begins as the dutiful prophet-pastor first ardently studies the holy writings of the like-minded prophet-pastors who have gone on before him.

Then, filled with his lofty dreams of megachurch church-planting stardom, the prophet-pastor starts meditating upon his hero’s works until finally the delusion arrives. Now the aspiring prophet-pastor has received his extra-biblical “vision,” allegedly from God, as to how it is he’s going to help make “God’s dream” come true.

After that the prophet-pastor goes about selecting his hand-chosen yes men disciples and they accompany him before his followers congregation where prophet-pastor lays down the law casts said vision before this flock. Then it’s up to the “church” to  do whatever it takes to make prophet-pastor’s delusions of grandeur come to pass.

In his epistle A Master Vision Caster’s Question the EEM’s Steven Furtick proclaims that the prophet-pastor is “the chief vision officer” of his little kingdom. Should you be tempted to think I’m overstating all of this, the below is a picture of the monument to Furtick and his vision taken inside his church:

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(source)

Turning specifically to Furtick now, in Steven Furtick Bringin’ On Word Faith And The Pastrixes I introduced you to Furtick’s aggressive hybrid  mythology I call Furtickism. Furtickism is a unique, carefully crafted, combination of Seeker Driven evangelicalism mixed with the softer self-help-style Word Faith prosperity of Joel Osteen.

It’s little wonder then that a half a decade ago we would witness Steven Furtick Calls Joel Osteen A Great Man Of God, which eventually led to Furtick As Televangelist At Lakewood Church (LC). Below is a short clip of Furtick on stage at LC paying his homage to Osteen, who was in attendance:

Now you’re properly positioned on the battlefield to decode the information from the following communique Elevation Church: A different kind of church by Tim Funk and Rick Rothacker, reporters for CharlotteObserver.com who begin their January 25th report:

Every weekend, about 14,000 worshipers attend Elevation Church’s nine locations in and around Charlotte. These Elevators, as they sometimes refer to themselves, give a total of about $400,000 a week to what has become one of America’s fastest-growing churches – in attendance and donations.

Many in Elevation’s far-flung congregation also sign up to be volunteers, to meet in small groups and to bring friends to the Southern Baptist church. But these participants – Elevation prefers that word to “members” – have little say in how the megachurch is run or in how it spends its millions. (source)

It isn’t commonly known, but I showed you a couple of years ago in Women Pastors, Pricilla Shirer, And The Southern Baptist Convention that EC was a 2007 plant of the North Carolina Baptists, the NC state convention for the Southern Baptist Convention:

The original page from which the screen shot was taken has vanished; however, in Steven Furtick multi-million dollar house (a la WF preachers) on Charlotte Religion & Media Examiner author Sarah Simon brings out that:

Elevation began as a Southern Baptist Church plant, starting out of Christ Covenant Church in Shelby, NC. The church began meeting in Providence High School. The church continues to give money to Southern Baptists, as well as other outside ministries, although as a mega church, they do not operate in all the same ways as most Southern Baptist Churches (for instance, the “Board of Overseers” vs. Deacons). (source)

As you can see, Furtick’s EC is part of the Metrolina Baptist Association (SBC):

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(source)

Funk and Rothacker now give us some further details concerning EC’s Board of Overseers when they tell us:

Elevation does have a five-person governing board. But it offers none of these seats to those who actually fill up the church’s theater-like sanctuaries every Saturday and Sunday. Instead, Furtick and four out-of-town megachurch pastors direct the church’s $25 million budget, its ambitious building program, its debt and a host of other matters.

This “board of overseers” also sets the salary and housing allowance for the 33-year-old pastor, using a compensation study of a range of churches that’s conducted by a law firm the church won’t identify. Furtick doesn’t vote on his own compensation, the church says. (source)

The reason it’s important to understand the prophet-pastor model should become clearer as we read the below concerning the flock following Furtick:

But these participants – Elevation prefers that word to “members” – have little say in how the megachurch is run or in how it spends its millions. And except for the church’s chief financial officer and its controller, no one who’s made Elevation their spiritual home has any idea how much money Pastor Steven Furtick makes.

This lack of local oversight by members, and the transparency that traditionally comes with it, sets Elevation apart, say many who study and run houses of worship. (source)

We’re really not surprised because the prophet-pastor is a cult-like figure following the dictates of some inner feelings he has, allegedly from God; church members then function as pawns toward that end. Even so, as you’ll see, this financial setup is not common within the SBC:

“They’d be the only church connected to our association that would have that kind of model,” said Bob Lowman, executive director of the Metrolina Baptist Association in Charlotte. It’s also “not the most typical way megachurches organize,” said Scott Thumma, one of the country’s leading experts on megachurches.

At the great majority of churches – in Charlotte, in the Southern Baptist Convention, even in the cutting-edge world of megachurches – the congregation or elected lay leaders make the final decisions on budgets, debt and salaries. (source)

Steven Furtick’s kingdom is actually set up much like those of the WF prosperity preachers whom he admires; e.g. Prophet-Leader Steven Furtick Descends Down To Word Faith Heretic Rod Parsley, and below is clip of Furtick at Hillsong Conference 2012 gushing praise for Brian Houston and his wife pastrix Bobbie:

Funk and Rothacker also bring out how:

Ministers who lead megachurches of Elevation’s size are paid as much as $500,000 a year, according to the Leadership Network, a think tank that advises large churches. (source)

And finally, we arrive at some critical information giving us not a few reasons for concern:

questions have been raised about whether the board has the independence to provide strong oversight and hold Furtick and his staff accountable.

“I just don’t know how (a board of out-of-town pastors) can understand what’s going on in the church if they’re not there,” said Simeon May, CEO of the National Association of Church Business Administrators, whose member churches tend to belong to denominations.

At least one of the pastors overseeing the church has had close ties with Furtick for years. In the latest issue of the church’s magazine, the Elevation board’s longest-serving member – Perry Noble, pastor of NewSpring Church in Anderson, S.C. – is described as “one of Pastor Steven’s closest friends.”

Other questions about Furtick’s compensation have come to the fore in recent months after reports by the Observer and WCNC-TV that he was building a 16,000-square-foot gated estate on a large wooded lot in the Weddington area of Union County.

The news about Furtick’s luxury home and the way he bought the land – listing a trust, not his name, on the deed and tax records – has for some drawn comparisons to the PTL saga. Once a Charlotte area success story, Jim and Tammy Bakker’s TV ministry turned into a national cautionary tale about what can happen when there’s too-little transparency and oversight.

“I don’t go as far as comparing it to PTL,” said Lowman of the Charlotte-area Southern Baptist group. “But we as Christians have to be wise in the ways we present ourselves if we want to be the best witnesses for Christ.”…

Furtick declined to talk with the Observer about his salary or Elevation’s decision to forgo local boards of deacons and elders. (source)

As you can see below, prophet-pastor Steven Furtick has already issued his official EEM edict “Hey Haters” for those whom he considers critics:

Further reading

Endnotes

  1. Consider James MacDonald: Prosperity Preacher T.D. Jakes “Views On Money” Closer To Scripture Than That Of “Reformed World”.