Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, has been named one of the fastest growing churches in America. Pastored by popular young pastor Steven Furtick, the Elevation empire has expanded to seven campuses in just seven years. Appealing to the younger crowd with a jeans-clad pastor and “relevant” sermons, Elevation Church and Steven Furtick quickly became household names among the seeker-driven and megachurch crowd.
Elevation’s most recent sermon series, “Banner Years,” is part of a campaign seeking to raise funds for yet another campus. This facility, located in Ballantyne near Charlotte, will require $20 million in funds, and is planned to house administrative staff as well as a 1,500 seat auditorium, according to the Charlotte Observer.
The Observer also notes that
Elevation also is considering two sites in Huntersville for a campus there. In all, the projects will cost more than $30 million. Source
Elevation hopes to raise enough funds through the “Banner Years” campaign to be able to pay cash for both the site in Ballantyne as well as the site in Huntersville.
As of Saturday night, and a little more than a week into its “Banner Years” campaign, Elevation had already raised $5 million, most of which will go toward buying the land, spokeswoman Tonia Bendickson said. Source
Steven Furtick claims that these endeavors are not for the benefit of Elevation. Rather, he says that “We are designing a movement for the glory of God.” The Observer further quotes Furtick as saying,
Which means we can’t stop or back down … We want to be available and ready to launch new Elevation locations anytime and anywhere God leads. Source
Some more conservative Christian leaders stand strongly against the multi-campus movement that has become so popular among today’s megachurches. Among others, John MacArthur of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, and Thabiti Anyabwile, member of The Gospel Coalition and Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman, both have spoken against the idea of multisite in the past.
The comments of Steven Furtick above may also cause concern in the minds of those Christians who realize that it is God who builds His church (Matt. 16:18). There is no need for mere man to “design a movement for the glory of God,” for God Himself will cause whatever movement He desires. Nothing designed by man could ever compare to that which God has designed.
Church growth by means of pragmatism and compromise seemingly have become the norm, especially in the visible church in America. Elevation Church is no exception, as even the secular Charlotte Observer remarks that Elevation’s success with the younger generation may be due in part to its “young, jeans-wearing pastor…worship bands and light shows.”
Steven Furtick’s teachings, both his sermons and his books, have been scrutinized and rightly criticized by some in the Christian community. Christian apologist and host of the radio show Fighting for the Faith, Chris Rosebrough, has spoken at length about Furtick’s tendency to insert himself into the biblical text. Rosebrough refers to this as “narcigesis,” a practice that finds one narcissistically preaching about himself when the biblical text instead points elsewhere, namely to Jesus Christ.
Nevertheless, such methods most certainly draw crowds and scratch itching ears (2 Tim. 4:3), as evidenced by the outward success of Elevation Church and others like it. What a difference this is from when our Lord preached, sharing the difficult but glorious truths of the Gospel, the reality of sin and the high cost of discipleship. Jesus did not tickle ears, amuse the goats or pander to felt needs. Thus, upon hearing the Truth, many turned away and ceased to follow Him, choosing instead the way that is wide, but easy (John 6:66).