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Charlotte, my fair city, when will you learn?

His name is Steven Furtick, and he's thirty-three years old. He's the senior pastor of Elevation Church, which he literally founded in his Shelby, NC living room. He and several supporters chose Charlotte suburb Matthews, NC, to plant the nascent church. Its first service was held on Feb. 5, 2006.

Today, Elevation has seven campuses in the Charlotte metro area, weekly attendance estimates of 12,000-15,000, and is continuing its growth into Canada. This is Pastor Steven, and this is the church's website.

Actual publicity photo from Steven Furtick's most recent book, "Greater"
One day, Pastor Steven decided to build a house.

The thing about building a 16,000 square foot hacienda on 19 acres near a city the size of Charlotte is, you can only do it on the lowdown for so long. Eventually, somebody is going to notice, and ask, "Who's supersized mansion with extra cheese is that?"

Turns out it's the preacher's new abode. And it's a very very very fine house indeed. From the Charlotte Observer, 10/23/13:

Though Furtick said in a recent sermon that “it’s not that great of a house,” it will be among the biggest in the Charlotte area, featuring 7.5 bathrooms and, according to a building permit, an electric gate.
Jesus loves me, this I know

Tax value on the 19-acre property is $1.6 million, though Chunks Corbett, Elevation’s chief financial officer, pointed out that Furtick paid $325,000 for it – a figure confirmed by Union County tax records.
Your CFO's name is "Chunks?" Nice deal he cut for you there.

All of the above has raised eyebrows in the community re: Furtick's salary as patriarch and grand poo-bah of Elevation Church. Chunks refuses to discuss salaries or financials. His explanation of the estate's funding:

To pay for his property and new house, Furtick took out a loan for some of the cost, but mostly tapped advances he received from his books, Corbett said.
statue of Jesus with hand to face
Since that article ran two days ago, WCNC, investigative reporter Stuart Watson has picked up the story. We'll continue peeling that onion below. But first, I got curious about the books. To sell enough books to finance that, he'd have to be a helluva writer, right? On the level of Christian crossover best-sellers like Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, or the crazy LaHayes. One would think.

Furtick's first tome, Sun Stand Still: What Happens When You Dare Ask God for the Impossible, was released in September 2010 by Evangelical publisher Waterbrook Multnomah. I can't help but mentally sub Santa for God in the subtitle, but let's give it a chance. Intro to Sun Stand Still, from the publisher's site:

This book is not a Snuggie. The words on these pages will not go down like Ambien. I’m not writing to calm or coddle you. With God’s help, I intend to incite a riot in your mind. Trip your breakers and turn out the lights in your favorite hiding places of insecurity and fear. Then flip the switch back on so that God’s truth can illuminate the divine destiny that may have been lying dormant inside you for years. In short, I’m out to activate your audacious faith. To inspire you to ask God for the impossible. And in the process, to reconnect you with your God-sized purpose and potential.
—STEVEN FURTICK, from Sun Stand Still promo photo
Snuggies and Ambien vs. a blinged-out pitchman for the Lord Himself switching breakers and inciting riot in my mind? I'll take Showcase 1, Drew. This may also be the most bizarre instance of product placement in all of Christian literature. Sun Stand Still currently sells for $11.78 new on Amazon and is ranked 10,383 in Books. It's at #36 if you count Books > Christian Books > Christian Living > Faith.

But that's only his first book, and casas such as Steven's don't come cheap. If you expect his next to be bigger, you'd be close. It's actually Greater: Dream Bigger. Start Smaller. Ignite God's Vision for Your Life (2012). Greater isn't quite living up to its name in terms of sales. It ranks #18,002 in books sales on Amazon, and a lofty #52 in the sub-sub-sub Christian Discipleship category.

Furtick's are not blockbuster numbers, nor are they trending north. But enough talk. Let's taste some samples from Greater. Maybe we'll see the goodness of the Lord, and this will all make sense.

“It shouldn't freak you out to realize that God's eyes are on you. Because He doesn't see you through eyes of disapproval or disappointment. His presence is not a sign of condemnation. It's actually an invitation. God is present with you, through His Holy Spirit, because He intends to uproot you from the tyranny of the familiar, shatter the monotonous life you've had. And take you on an adventure.”
God: like the NSA, but cuddlier.
“Stop waiting for what you want, and start working what you have. This can turn your greatest frustration into your greatest potential innovation. If you'll do your part, God will begin to do what only He can do: He'll make your box bigger.”
What if I don't want God to make my box bigger?
“What matters most is not what I think I am or am not. What matters is what my Father sees in me and what He says about me.”
Here we have the prosperity gospel in a nutshell: "I, I, my, me, me." There is nothing about God in this quotation. There is only Skydaddy, who is all about Me. It's no surprise that Steven Furtick has drawn comparisons to godfather of televangelism Jim Bakker. Matthews, NC is less than thirty miles from the site of Heritage USA in Fort Mill, SC, home of the PTL Network (emphasis mine):
By the early 1980s, the Bakkers had built Heritage USA in Fort Mill, South Carolina (south of Charlotte), then the third most successful theme park in the US, and a satellite system to distribute their network 24 hours a day across the country. Contributions requested from viewers were estimated to exceed $1 million a week, with proceeds to go to expanding the theme park and mission of PTL.[5] In justifying his use of the mass media, Bakker responded to inquiries by likening his use of television to Jesus's use of the amphitheater of the time. "I believe that if Jesus were alive today, he would be on TV," Bakker said.

In their success, the Bakkers took conspicuous consumption to an unusual level for a non-profit organization. According to Frances FitzGerald in an April 1987 New Yorker article, "They epitomized the excesses of the 1980s; the greed, the love of glitz, and the shamelessness; which in their case was so pure as to almost amount to a kind of innocence." Detractors often said that PTL stood for Pass The Loot.

PTL's fund raising activities between 1984–1987 underwent scrutiny by The Charlotte Observer newspaper, eventually leading to criminal charges against Jim Bakker.

The Observer has published two follow-ups to the Oct. 23 story quoted above. On Oct. 24, Elevation Church CFO "Chunks" Corbett granted an interview to Stuart Watson. This is apparently an ongoing investigation; in a sermon on Sept. 29, Furtick cited "an investigative reporter" who's been "calling around."
Furtick and his lieutenants refuse to tell the people who pay his salary, the congregation at Elevation Church, just how much he makes.

Read more here:

Stuart Watson adds some meat to Chunks' CV:
There is one man living in the Charlotte area who runs Elevation: Chunks Corbett. If you want to understand Elevation you have to understand his role. As executive pastor, Corbett is at the center of Furtick’s organization. In 2005 he incorporated Elevation Church. In 2007, he incorporated Corban Properties Southeast – a for-profit company. In 2008, he signed on as trustee for the Jumper Drive Trust that owns the Furtick’s home. And in 2009, he incorporated Sun Stand Still Ministries – another non-profit. All four list the same principal address: 11416 East Independence, Suite N, the location of the Matthews church.
The article concludes:
The highest pay here for churches over a thousand members is $231,000 per year. But megachurches like Elevation are in a category all their own. They hire compensation consultants to look at other megachurches. And no one is releasing those numbers.
On October 25, Stuart Watson keeps swinging, tying Furtick to Texas megachurch pastor Ed Young. While not at the helm of Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas, Ed Young has written fourteen books including the New York Times bestseller Sexperiment.
When Young and his wife of Grapevine, Texas, climbed into bed on the roof of their church to encourage couples to have sex every night, Furtick was one of the many pastors to Skype in.

Read more here:

According to the article, Furtick was mentored by Ed Young's and credits Young's C3 Conference in Elevation's growth to megachurch status. The theme of C3 2014 is:
THE MYSTERY CONFERENCE: It's not about who says it, it's what you do with it.
From the home page:
Each year, some of the best minds of the Church - from differing denominations and cultural backgrounds - unite together at C3.

This year is no different! And although our contributing speakers are a mystery, our greatest contributor at C3 is you! Through relational and practical dialogue, you will connect with leaders just like you, who understand where you are, where you want to go, and what it takes to get there!

Cartoon by Tom Tomorrow - Conservative Mystery Date
Not sanctioned for sexperimentation
The article lists a number of similarities between Young and Furtick. No mystery here, emphasis mine.
“It sounds like Furtick is copying almost to the letter what Ed Young is doing here in Dallas,” said Ole Anthony, a church watchdog at the Trinity Foundation in Dallas. “It’s a job to them. It’s a business. It’s a way to make money.

The most important connection between Ed Young and Steven Furtick? Young served on Furtick’s board of overseers, which set Furtick’s salary. WFAA-TV, NBC Charlotte’s sister station in Dallas, Texas, reports that Young gets a housing allowance worth $250,000 dollars a year, tax-free.

Read more here:

Two fifty large, tax-free. And that's just his housing allowance. By the looks of Chez Furtick, the fruit of knowledge didn't fall far from the tree. With a weekly collection take of almost $400,000, the numbers start adding up.

Elevation Church boasts that it gave away $2.5 million to charity in 2012. What happened to the other 17 mil? Only Jesus knows, and He's not talking either.

UPDATE 10/27/13, 14:04EDT:

Stuart Watson published another followup this morning. Last night Pastor Steven told his congregation he was sorry ... for making them have "difficult conversations." And he did it on camera.

Furtick spent about eight minutes before his 5 p.m. Saturday sermon stepping down from the pulpit and addressing the congregation directly, saying he was sorry if the house and surrounding questions caused them, the congregation, to have difficult conversations with co-workers, friends and neighbors.

“Having to have those conversations – that really bothered me. And it made me sad and I am sorry that you had to have those conversations this week,” Furtick said, sitting on the edge of the stage.

Read more here:

He received a standing ovation. Video is here, I couldn't get it to embed


Originally posted to SteelerGrrl on Sun Oct 27, 2013 at 10:15 AM PDT.

Also republished by Street Prophets .

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