Pastor Steven Furtick is Senior Pastor of Elevation Church here in Charlotte, NC. Many times he has preached things that would be considered, at best, “prosperity” teaching. I have seen that when he does focus on preaching the Gospel it is evangelistic and straight. He has made some blunders saying that theology/doctrine is not something he involves himself in and if someone wants doctrine then they need to go to some other church. How one separates theology from salvation is beyond me but I believe he is beginning to see the discrepancy in that statement. I would chalk things like that up to his youthful beginnings. I witnessed in person, in 2010, Pastor Furtick preach at Vintage 21, a contemporary church in Raleigh, NC. He did a descent job but never used his bible though he did reference scriptures throughout his message. He spoke on faith and how God led him throughout his ministry in Charlotte. I remember two things crossed my mind while hearing Pastor Furtick. First, I remember sensing the faith growth of such a young Pastor. Pastor Furtick expressed how he told his congregation their first Easter service there would be over 2000 people in their service the following Easter. He said after he left that Sunday he went home asking his wife; “what was I thinking?” Second, I sat there thanking God that I was not catapulted into a ministry with the kind of audience Pastor Furtick has. He is 31 and preaches each Sunday to over 10,000 people. When I was 33 I was preaching to 100 people and thank God the church did not have a recording system. There are many things I said in those first years of preaching that I have changed.
I must admit that I have been cautious of Pastor Furtick every since I called Elevation to get information about the way they form their small group ministry. When asking about that particular part of their ministry, I was told by the person they did not have a “membership” roll for their church. Thus, all of these baptisms they record are not baptisms into a local church they are just baptisms. From this conversation I admit that I could not, and still do not, understand how they can take such a position.
I knew that Elevation was a church plant the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC) started, without that much support I understand, but they are affiliated with the BSCNC. It is through their affiliation with the BSCNC that Elevation is affiliated with the SBC. Of course if you look at their website one will not see any place where they are affiliated. However, Pastor Furtick clearly stated they are a Southern Baptist church in Session 1 of Elephant Room II:
“We are a Southern Baptist church. From the perspective of the 31 year old, I’m not playing the youth card. Just maybe to say to my denomination – let’s not be too cavalier to dismiss infrastructures that people have sacrificed to build and we have benefited from. Where is the honor for prices paid in the past? We need to have respect for the pioneers who paved the way. When we decided to affiliate with the Southern baptist Convention, people said we wouldn’t reach anyone. But I had been trained in two Southern baptist schools. We felt a sense of loyalty (not that supersedes loyalty to Christ) that we should stay in the SBC.”
What was amazing about this revelation was that James MacDonald did not know this. He confessed to preaching at Elevation but not realizing the church was a Southern Baptist Church. Which leads to a very simple question. What does a Southern Baptist Church look like? If Elevation can be a Southern Baptist church and people not know it, then it begs to question, why are we spending so much time on discussing a name change?
I have to admit, Pastor Furtick did an excellent job expressing what I would like to hear and see lived out from all younger pastors. One thing I would ask Pastor Furtick is to live his words with a commitment to the Cooperative Program–the chain of sand with the strength of steel. It is the Cooperative Program that is the heart and soul of defining cooperation within our convention.