Elevation Church – The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Sitting in a restaurant in Charleston, North Carolina, we were delighted to meet a group of four men, who included a young man from the UK, who was working for a church called “Elevation” in Charlotte.  Cool name, cool Church – I knew that it was one of the fastest growing mega churches in the USA, and had heard a little of its pastor, the dynamic Stephen Furtick.   It was interesting and revealing to hear about their work. Since then I have occasionally listened to a sermon, read articles and heard news programes, and watched as this Southern Baptist church has grown to a reported 20,000 plus.

The Good – Contrary to expectations I am not one of those Calvinist ministers who automatically discounts any church which grows beyond a couple of hundred, as being a mega fake, doctrinally incorrect, pseudo church. If I were like that I would have to discount the Church at Pentecost!   I think it is a good thing that a church grows within a decade from a hundred to 20,000 people and I would love that to happen in Dundee, or Edinburgh.

Some might expect be to be critical of the ‘entertainment’ Hillsong style worship and the whole professional stage go that goes along with it.   But again, whilst it is not my style, I don’t see why it can’t be done well, reverently and to the glory of God.

And if the thousands of baptisms represent thousands of people coming to Christ, how could one not rejoice? So I hoped and prayed that this would not become another crash and burn mega church story.

The Bad – Sadly, whilst every church has ‘the bad’, because we are all sinners and therefore infect any structure or organization we are part of, there are sometimes churches that go much further and wander away to the extent that one can hardly call them a church at all.   I don’t know enough about Elevation to make that kind of judgment, but there are warning signs.

Firstly in the teaching.   Yes, some of it is biblical and Furtick is a good communicator, amusing, connected etc.…but a great deal appears to pay only passing lip service to the Bible. This following sermon was full of what can only be called psychobabble.

Someone made a sermon jam of it which I posted on my FB page – and all of us, who were not of a charismatic background, really had no idea what he was saying.  In fact it was so bad most people assumed it was just mockers cutting and pasting to make it look ridiculous – yet it turns out that this was Elevation Churches own video and it was ‘liked’ by Furtick!

My main problem about the teaching is that it seems to be so man/woman centred. Outwith a Southern US culture it makes no sense – and I’m not sure that for many of my Southern friends it makes any sense either.   It’s not the unadulterated Word of God for our generation.  It is the Bible watered down by a mixture of Waltonesque homespun wisdom, pop psychology, stand up comedy and an unhealthy doze of ‘how to’ missiology. “Purpose doesn’t have a parking spot’ is no substitute for “many are the plans in a mans heart but it is the Lords purpose that prevails”. It is no improvement on, or explanation of, the Word of God.

The trouble is that these churches are so massive and wealthy that they can afford to send their pastors all over the world, exporting their dodgy theology and even dodgier ecclesiology.  I have a suspicion that much of the health and wealth teaching which is plaguing much of the church in Africa, Asia and South America is primarily an export from the US, with perhaps a little help from Europe, (all in the name of ‘spreading the gospel’).  It’s mainly a forlorn appeal but can we say to the mega churches – please stop it! Can you forget ‘your’ ministries, your programs, and your ‘visions’ and instead seek to follow Christ’s? Despite the blurb you are not ‘changing the world’. You are just exporting your own.  I know in theory you agree with ‘He must increase, I must decrease’ – as do I.   But can’t we all recognize how difficult we find that? Where is the ‘blessed self-forgetfulness’?

Then there is the whole question of what the church is about.   In the sermon above Stephen lets out a wee quip at the beginning when responding to some criticism – ‘go start your own church’.   I find this very revealing.   It demonstrates a mindset that says ‘this is MY church’. The prominence of the pastor on the website, the ‘Stephen Furtick ministries’ page, the common self-referrals and endless self-promotion of books/resources etc.   (At this point I am of course aware of the same danger for myself and it certainly does act as a warning to me! – point taken).   The truth is whether it is a mega church pastor in the US, or a small church pastor in Scotland, it is not OUR church, it is HIS.

I don’t know enough to say anything about the worship, church structure and other ministries of the church, so I won’t. But if the theology and ecclesiology is off, then alarm bells start ringing. In case theology and ecclesiology sounds almost too technical and dull…just remember we are talking about who is God, and what is his church? There is nothing more basic than these.

One other thing is that success can get to one’s head. ‘See what mine own hands have wrought’. Elevation Church were accused of getting ‘volunteers’ to come forward during the ‘spontaneous’ baptism services, in order to encourage others to get up out of their seats. That is grotesque manipulation and a parody of the Gospel. Do we really believe that the Holy Spirit is incapable of working, without us chiding things along?

The Ugly – 

 As so often in the church, sex, money and power are the real problems for many because they are the idols of our hearts.  I’m sure with a church of such a size these issues are found amongst some, and appropriate discipline and loving correction are needed.

However the issue that really gets to me is the money one.   Stephen Furtick is his own brand and it seems it is a brand that sells well and pays well.   The news clip above catalogues the controversy about his $1.8 million new build house caused. His church takes in $500,000 per week…certainly it has given $10 million over a decade to other causes, but for a congregation which is taking in over $26 million a year, that is hardly sacrificial giving.   When asked why he marketed his book (or to be more accurate why the church paid thousands to market his book), he was unapologetic, if he didn’t believe the message he wouldn’t market it. Again as an author who is tempted to mention or quote from my couple of books in every sermon, I sympathise.  But we must not quote our own books in sermons – as far as possible! Can I suggest an alternative standard? If we believe that the message in our books is from God, and we feel it so strongly, then we don’t really need to promote it, do we? I think about it this way – would I rather sell a million copies of my books with little fruit, or sell a few hundred of each and yet have those few hundred profoundly affect and change the lives of many? From an economic standpoint, that’s a no brainer. From a spiritual standpoint it’s an even bigger (and opposite) no-brainer!

And lets talk about finance. Because Elevation Church certainly don’t want to. They make their workers and volunteers sign a confidentiality arrangement that they will not disclose anything about the finances of the church, or they will be sued.  No-one can find out what Pastor Stephen is paid, although it is decided by a committee of out of town pastors/advisors (who are probably on the same arrangement). Lets put it this way- if you are buying a $1.8 million home you ain’t exactly of the ‘take no purse’ school of ministry!

Now of course the labourer is worthy of his hire, and it is not a sin to be rich. However I don’t think it is wise or correct to take the givings of the Lord’s people to make oneself a millionaire – actually that is sinful.   Furtick though is unapologetic..he boasted in a sermon “all the proceeds go to feed hungry children..mine!”. Doubtless it was intended as a joke – but I don’t think taking a salary of millions more than is necessary to live, work and provide for one’s family, is a joke – especially when there are hungry children, and many hungry for the Word, who do not receive it because of lack of money.

Conclusion:   And now I wait. ‘Its not loving’, ‘judgemental’, ‘take the beam out of your own eye’, ‘it ain’t wrong to be rich’, ‘you’re just jealous’, hypocrite’. ‘all Christians are the same’ etc.   I know the drill. I can write the e-mails. And they ain’t all wrong.

But there is one criticism that I want to deal with in finishing. ‘Its wrong to mock and you should try to win them over without mockery’. I don’t agree that it’s always wrong to mock (otherwise Elijah, Paul and Jesus were wrong), and indeed sometimes mockery has its place. But in this instance let me assure you I am not mocking. There is nothing that makes me believe in God and the Gospel more than the church in all its beauty, and there is nothing makes me doubt more than the church in all its ugliness. I’m afraid that the influence of the US mega churches such as Elevation is felt throughout the world. And whilst there are some who have a tremendously positive influence, I suspect that the majority do more harm than good. The trouble is that because they have the money, the media and the power, they are able to have an influence far beyond their spiritual authority and gifts.   So for me this is not about petty jealousies, nor anti-Americanisms, nor cheap shots at other people’s foibles in order to make me feel better. It is about the honour and glory of our triune God. I love the gospel, and I love the Lords people from whatever background, and I want to see Christ glorified throughout the world. So when I see money, resources and people being diverted into what appear to be personal vanity projects, branding and corporate ‘Christianity’, I weep, am angry and cry out to the Lord. Have mercy! Have mercy! Will you not come and revive us? Marantha!

PS.  Can we in the UK stop copying these kind of churches?  We only do pale imitations of what is not great anyway!  And it is culturally not relevant to us at all!

PPS.  If you want an alternative from another megachurch pastor, then listen to this from Matt Chandler preached at Elevation (I think it was not actually posted at the time because it upset people – but I may be wrong).  It is wonderful stuff – Matt and Tim Keller are two mega church US pastors who I listen to every week!

And this from a Scottish leader of an American megachurch – wonderful stuff again –


34 thoughts on “Elevation Church – The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

    1. Haters will hate… This is a classic example of 1 Timothy 5:13
      New International Version
      Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also busybodies who talk nonsense, saying things they ought not to.

      Yea not Steve but the ones who bash or become “busy bodies” against him. It has that effect on people to go from 14 to 20,000 so go sit underneath the ministry until you can see what he sees.

      For all who oppose success in serving Jesus Christ!!!

      1. Really? It all depends how you measure success! Is this success?

        http://religionnews.com/2016/05/11/why-pastor-steven-furtick-skirts-scandalous-questions/

        I’m afraid your post is a classic example of taking a bible verse out of context and using it, whether ignorantly or deliberately to defend sin.

        Its not that difficult to grow large congregations which teach heresy – if you think size is an indication of faithfulness then why are you not a Muslim, a Mormon or a Moonie?!

  1. Hi there,

    Excellent post! Last summer I had the privilege to attend and worship at an Acts 29 church plant in Shepherds Bush, and I pray that God would plant more churches like it across the UK. It was a fantastic balance of biblical theology and Christ centered worship.

    PS I’m a huge Chandler fan over here. I live maybe two hours from the Village and have visited twice. They do things right.

  2. Excellent post David. There’s clearly no transparency or accountability at Elevation Church! It’s a sad fact that this nonsense is already here in Scotland supported by the new breed of self appointed apostles and prophets. Rather than ignoring these churches and individuals Scotland’s born again believers need to stand up and contend for the faith. When people are being led astray genuine believers must stand up challenge and expose. Your comment about ‘owning’ churches is actually ban on the mark. I know of individuals who actually talk openly about ‘having a church’!!!
    For me there is no doubt that some of Scotland’s independent churches and ministries, need to be investigated re their finances…..question is who does it?

    1. “For me there is no doubt that some of Scotland’s independent churches and ministries, need to be investigated re their finances…..question is who does it?”

      If they’re charities (and I suspect many of them will be) then they’re monitored by OSCR, and will have to submit yearly, independently audited, accounts. I’m not sure that things work in quite the same way in the US.

  3. Stephen Furtick – I just listened (lots of fast-forwarding) to a talk he gave at the New Spring church titled “Sun Stand Still” (which I think relates to one of his books). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3BN1lStbIw

    What talent, what ability, what fantastic communication skills, what self-belief, what a tragedy!

    He spoke for an hour without notes and held his audience completely in the palm of his hand – he is a brilliant orator using all the tricks of the trade. We even had the background high pitched sentimental organ music towards the end as he told the (with a tear in his eye) the sad story of his dad, especially when he turned up to hear his son preach for 24 hours to mark the publication of his latest book. (What a great sales pitch – why don’t you try it next time David – I will even make the trip to Dundee to hear you).

    He picked out three words from Joshua 10, 12 (Sun stand still) and turned them into a doctrine, and he peppered his performance with occasional biblical quotes to back it up. The entire message was based around how God can meet all MY needs. I would be tempted to add, “Because you’re worth it”!

    If I was a young Christian I know I could have easily been swept along with this stuff – it seems such an attractive message, and he is such an attractive man. But, thank God, I have been able to study the bible for 50 years and, although I acknowledge that I have probably only scratched the surface of the riches of His grace, I do not recognise Furtick’s message as balanced and biblical. IMHO he totally manipulated the emotions of his audience and used the scriptures in an inappropriate way. His message contained enough “truth” to make it seem plausible, but at heart it was man-centered.

    Just a couple of verses from Ezekiel (which I am currently reading), the context being God restoring his people: –
    “Then you will remember your evil ways and your wicked deeds, and you will loathe yourselves for your sins and detestable practices. I want you to know that I am not doing this for your sake, declares the Sovereign Lord”. (Ezek. 38, 31-32). Hardly the same as Furtick’s message!

    What a waste of a fantastic talent. How easily the lure of money and outward success can lead a good man astray, and sadly take with him many people. (2Tim. 4, 3-4).

    I suspect it will all end in tears.

  4. I follow the goings-on of the mega church – para church – neocalvinist movement (call it what you will) in the USA and am frequently astounded by their antics. So I was pleased to see the topic addressed here, particularly as there is another story breaking about Mr Furtick in North Carolina even as I write this. However, I was somewhat alarmed by the endorsement of Matt Chandler as a good example of how the gospel should be preached and lived. Earlier this year his church was embroiled in a scandal over their handling of a child sexual abuse case. You can find the details here.
    http://thewartburgwatch.com/?s=Matt+chandler&x=0&y=0
    And if you want to learn of the dangers of this movement I would recommend that you read “The New Calvinists: Changing The Gospel” by E S Williams.

    1. I kind of dreaded this type of response. Matt Chandler is an excellent example of how the gospel should be preached – I can’t comment on his lifestyle because I don’t know it – do you? If not why do you feel in a position to judge? As for the ‘scandal’ – yes I was aware of it. But I find it astonishing that you cite it here – in a massive church (and smaller churches) there are bound to be people who are sex abusers – and the church will not always handle that well. The great thing about the Village Church is that they recognised that they had not handled it well and apologised. Name me one church that has handled everything well. As for ES Williams book – yes I have heard of it and read several reviews -Im afraid I won’t be spending the £30 on a book which just seems to want to attack and tar everyone with the same brush. I’m afraid I have had more than enough of this kind of depressing legalism and self-righteousness pride…(and before you jump in – yes I admit I can all too easily be the same)…..

  5. At the risk of “over-blogging” (I don’t want to be a bore), have you seen this – just the introduction.

    I d not think there is any man alive – especially a young man – who could cope with this degree of adulation and not have his head explode with pride. Do they not see the danger of this? Matt. 23,12!

    Sadly The Lord will deal with him, and it will be very painful for him and his family.

    Think Nebuchadnezzar – Daniel 4, 28-33.

    Lord have mercy.

  6. Sorry David, we must be talking about different books. The one I mentioned is a paperback and cost £3.50.
    As for your other points, Matt Chandler’s church eventually acted only after a number of Christian magazines and websites had highlighted their initial inaction. The point I made about Matt Chandler himself is that it took the pressure from outside his church to galvanise him into doing something. My own view is that he didn’t handle it particularly well even when forced to act.
    As for his preaching, we will disagree.
    There is no legalism or self-righteous pride in anything I said. More a worry that this kind of thing will take deeper root here. (I always smile when you deploy the “tu quoque” argument and even, on this occasion, “ego quoque”
    For what it’s worth, I fully support your stand in almost everything else.
    Regards

    1. Not on Amazon it ain’t! I’m afraid that you are talking about something you do not really know about – and picking on one particular church – why? The point you made about Matt Chandler was that he does not live as a Christian (how can you know that? what evidence do you have for that?). IN terms of his preaching we do disagree. I have no idea if you are particularly legalistic or not – but the type of comments you were making, most certainly are. Lumping every mega church together is not a healthy thing to do. Would you add John Piper, Tim Keller and Alaister Begg to your bonfire? Ironically tu quoque was what you were using about Chandler (as well as ad hom).

  7. David, once again you are making assertions that do not stand scrutiny. I made no comment on how Matt Chandler lives as a Christian. For you to say that I did makes you guilty of the thing you wrongly accuse me of and it is quite reprehensible.
    It is sometimes quite difficult to know how to answer you because of the way in which you misrepresent what is being said. I was not picking on one church: you offered Matt Chandler as an example of how mega churches get it right and I was replying to that by urging caution. You then go to the other extreme and say that I am lumping every mega church together. I wasn’t doing that either which a plain reading of the text will confirm. I fail to see where the legalism is in any of my comments. And I wasn’t using any of the debating society tricks of tu quoque and ad hominem in anything that I said.

    I have read only one or two books by John Piper and Timothy Keller and don’t really know much about them. I know of Alistair Begg from his Hamilton Baptist days but not much else. So it would be a bit premature to throw them on a bonfire – another example of your sly prose which was unwarranted.

    Finally, I just checked my Amazon app and what do you know, the book I mentioned is still for sale at £3.50 and there are 8 copies left.

    1. ‘I made no comment on how Matt Chandler lives as a Christian”….you did…you declared “I was somewhat alarmed by the endorsement of Matt Chandler as a good example of how the gospel should be preached and lived.“. I have not misrepresented what you said. I am happy though if you wish to withdraw your initial comments.

      Your other comments were directly applied to the Megachurch movement – “I follow the goings-on of the mega church – para church – neocalvinist movement (call it what you will) in the USA and am frequently astounded by their antics.” Again I am glad that you were not criticising the whole mega church movement (although I am sure you will understand why your initial post can be read that way)….which megachurches are you happy with?

      The Amazon website only has E S Williams book on sale as £30:08….!

      1. David, you use your blog to write some really encouraging and courageous articles for which I’m very grateful. Sadly, however, there are also times when you use it to bully, abuse and browbeat. Your replies to G White were disgraceful and totally unwarranted, particularly in light of the respectful way he/she raised a perfectly justifiable concern. Your lack of apology (at very least regarding your amazon remarks) has only served to highlight the arrogance and childishness that you displayed in your replies.

        The biggest threat to the church comes not from fundamentalist atheists or those of another religion, it comes from within. False teachers and those who allow the Word of God to be compromised are like a cancer in the church; some who preach flat out heresy are like the aggressive cancer and are easy to spot quickly but others who compromise a bit here and turn a blind eye there are akin to the slow growing tumour that’s often not picked up until great damage is done. You rightly speak out against the Scott McKenna’s of this world but you seem to have a blind spot where certain pastors are concerned. It’s not the first time that you’ve responded aggressively when a pastor that you hold in such high regard is questioned. No pastor should be above reproach, there should be no ‘untouchables’ in the church; even Peter was rebuked by Paul when it was necessary.

        I would urge you to reread the comments by G White and your own responses to them before prayerfully replying. Perhaps then a mature and open discussion could then take place.

      2. Angela,

        Thanks for this. Its always good to get correction! Truth in love…

        I’m not sure though why I should apologise for my Amazon remarks? I simply stated that the book on my Amazon feed was priced at £30 and I was not going to pay that. It was not an accusation, nor an attack. It is still priced as such on my Amazon feed….thankfully someone pointed me to another link which I have now used to buy the book for a couple of pounds on Kindle. What is there to apologise for? Why is that ‘disgraceful and totally unwarranted?

        ON the other hand you seem to be very quick to hand out your tongue lashing ‘arrogance and childishness’. Name calling really doesn’t constitute argument does it? G White had stated that Matt Chandler was not a good example of teaching or living and then went on to pass on gossip about a particular discipline case in the Village Church. I challenged that because I regard these as serious charges and not to made lightly against a Christian brother. I think putting Chandler in the same category as Furtick is ‘disgraceful and totally unwarranted’ and thus simply ask G White to justify that. So far there has been no evidence given for assertion. I am intrigued as to why you think my challenge to the claim is disgraceful and totally unwarranted, but you don’t think the claim itself is?

        I agree that the greatest threat to the church comes from false teaching…as you will know if you read this blog. But like John Flavel I regard as a pretty close second the threat of disunity in the body of Christ – not least that caused by those who go around unjustly and wrongly accusing others of false teaching. White’s equation of Chandler with Furtick being one such example, your comparison of Matt Chandler with Scott McKenna being another. It is also grossly unfair (and dishonest) for you to misrepresent my position as making some pastors ‘untouchable’. That would indeed be ridiculous, but it is not my position and it is therefore wrong of you to argue as though it were. There are doubtless many things wrong with Chandler (he’s a Baptist for a start!) – as there are with me.

        I have reread the comments by G White…and my own responses. And this is my prayerful response (after sleeping on it!) …I hope this mature and open enough for you!

        And now I have to go and read his recommended book – I hope its not as bad as the reviews suggest!

      3. David, you seem so eager to fire off your stock answers and insults that it sometimes appears that you haven’t properly read the comments first. I’m sorry, but I didn’t state that I had written to you in love, though I did try very hard to temper my comment to you. To be really honest, I find it very difficult to muster up any Christian love for you when you respond to people in this way, though I do recognise that this is something I need God’s help with and forgiveness for.

        You state, “Name calling really doesn’t constitute argument does it?” – and yet you have no problem with calling me dishonest. That’s hypocrisy, and no, that doesn’t constitute name calling.

        “I hope this is mature and open enough for you!” I think you’ve just answered your own question; how very sad.

        Finally, you make the extremely serious accusation that I have caused disunity in the body of Christ by calling Matt Chandler a false teacher and by comparing him with Scott McKenna; both accusations are totally false and completely unacceptable. I stated that the danger comes from false teachers AND from those who allow the word of God to be compromised by turning a blind eye. My point was that it’s not only out and out heretics, such as McKenna, who are a danger to the church. I didn’t even mention Chandler in my comment, let alone call him a false teacher (and have never done so). However, Chandler did choose to turn a blind eye to the unbiblical teaching and behaviour of Mark Driscoll, as did Piper and Keller. Despite the considerable influence that they all had, they chose instead to publically endorse him. Chandler only eventually took action as the wheels were about to fall off the Mars Hill bus and, sadly, only when great damage had already been done to the body of Christ. As I trust that you would not deliberately bear false witness against me, can I ask that, in future, you read any comment very carefully before making such serious accusations?

      4. Angela,

        I did read your comments. I don’t do stock answers. ‘Truth in love’ is the biblical standard…I didn’t claim that you had claimed such…I just assumed that that was what you are doing. If your love is put off by answers you don’t like, then like the BeeJees I need to ask ‘how deep is your love?”!

        yes it was dishonest of you to misrepresent my position as some pastors are untouchable. Given that is neither what I wrote, nor what I think.

        Given that you were speaking in the context of my remarks about Chandler, your comments were clearly a warning about him and a warning that his teaching was like a slow growing cancer. If you were not speaking about Chandler then why write it here?

        And if you do wish to engage here, I would find it helpful if you answered my questions and stick to the point – otherwise such threads just become a string of accusations. Why do you think I should apologise for my Amazon remarks (which were simply that I could only find it on my Amazon feed at £30)? Why do you think that that was disgraceful etc but G Whites bracketing of Furtick with Chandler was not?

        Oh and sorry about the ironic and sarky remark about being mature enough for you! You were right…that was not very mature….

  8. Well, given that many years ago I encouraged one of our young people to complete his studies at Spurgeon’s College and accept an internship at First Dallas Baptist, it would have to be that one. 😀

    1. So First Dallas Baptist is an acceptable mega church but the Village church isn’t? Could you tell me the difference? Has First Dallas never handled any controversy or discipline case wrong? Are you happy with its $130 million campus rebuilding campaign? Why would you equate Chandler with Furtick, but First is ok?

      Can I assume that you are now withdrawing the remark about Matt Chandler not being a good example of how the gospel should be preached and lived?

  9. David, you try very hard to always get the last word and I knew that the question you asked was loaded. If I had said that I wasn’t happy with any mega church, that would have been a fault as well. Having said that I followed the mega church scene in the USA I was aware of what was going on in Dallas and in other places too. I replied tongue in cheek and it’s unfortunate my smiley emo didn’t indicate that. But again I explained why I chose Dallas. The young man concerned served for many years as a missionary in South America before returning to the USA to head up the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. So it wasn’t all bad.
    Your other remarks continue to be provocative, misleading and snide and I won’t grace them with a reply, other than to say that I have no need to retract any of my remarks, for the reasons already explained to you.

    1. G White – I am really sorry to read your last reply. Its a nasty wee trick to try and shut someone up by complaining that they always try and have the last word – if they reply then of course you are proved right and can feel self-justified. Thank you for your answer re the mega church – your reason for mentioning Dallas Baptist Church favourably is because you know a young man who did some good mission work. I’m sure you realise that that also would doubtless apply to people from The Village and even Furticks church.

      Its also a nasty wee trick to complain of someone remarks as being provocative, misleading and snide. Its just name calling which again results in self-justification and does not really contribute to any discussion. Its only your perception and I would deny it. Why not just simply deal with the facts, and leave the name calling aside?

      1) You came on my blog page and accused Matt Chandler of not being a good example of how the gospel should be preached and lived. You equate him with the false teaching of Furtick and Elevation Church. You also muddied the waters by dropping in a juicy wee bit of gossip about a child sex abuse scandal. This is way more than ‘urging caution’, as you later suggested.

      2) I challenge you to provide some evidence for that statement – and question whether you were just against mega churches per se.

      3) You respond by providing no evidence – and say that you are not against mega churches. Citing Dallas Baptist because you knew a young man who went there.

      4) Your last post just uses ad hom and tries to dodge justifying your original statement about Chandler by attacking me and what I have said, whilst giving not one concrete example.

      This is what I mean by legalism in my original post. Someone feels free to go on the internet – post serious accusations and then refuse to substantiate them. It is a serious breach of the ninth commandment to defame someone in this manner. I will always call that out, and I refuse to be intimidated or bullied by those who just cry foul or moan about not being nice. If that is the last word then so be it. But anyone who writes on my blog and brings such serious accusations is going to have to provide evidence, and you will be challenged. If you don’t like it, too bad. You can either keep silent, go of to somewhere else who will accept your gossip, or repent….obviously I would prefer the latter! Anyone at least you have persuaded me to read the book – I hope it is not a waste of good time!

  10. G White – this is the mega church you are setting up as an example – in opposition to Matt Chandler? The church that is spending $130 million on redoing its downtown campus? As it happens I was sent this video by someone who was praising it….it is more like a political rally (complete with clapping) than a Christian sermon – the misuse of Scripture about ‘borders’ is bad enough – but the approving citation of Donald Trump ‘Is it time to start bombing the you know what out of ISIS’ (that is a biblical response)’ was appalling. – complete with standing ovation. And the notion that radical Islam is going to defeat the gospel is just as daft. https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=vvjMUrPUfC4&app=desktop

    By the way I got your recommended book. Even though it was only a couple of pounds I regret wasting the money. It is an appalling rant already – and I’ve only read the first couple of chapters. Tim Keller as an anti-Christian preacher is nonsense….it is the kind of irrational ranting legalism that I was mentioning at the beginning….very very sad that you endorse it!

  11. Dear David,
    I’ve only just seen the comments you wrote yesterday, Sunday, and again today. I will reply to them briefly.

    As a preliminary observation, there is no name calling. Your remarks were and continue to be misrepresentative, deceitful and sly. And that is not only my perception if you look at the comments above.

    1) I did not come on to your blog and say that Matt Chandler was not a good example of how the gospel should be lived. You said he was a great example, I urged caution and pointed to a recent event where he and his church had attracted adverse publicity because of how they handled a particular incident. Nevertheless, you continued to misrepresent what I had said, and you continue to do so, even after prayerfully sleeping on it.

    You then accused me of muddying the waters by dropping in a bit of “juicy gossip”. The incident referred to was a very serious matter and Christian publications in th USA documented the church’s mishandling of it, which was why I had urged caution. It was neither “juicy” nor “gossip”.

    2) There are inherent dangers in mega churches which some of your other contributors have highlighted. You are aware of them as you demonstrated when writing about Mr Furtick. So issuing a challenge to either support them or decry them is meaningless. Some are good, some are bad. A point you also mentioned.

    3) There is no point 3) other than it is a demonstration of your setting up a straw man in the hope you will have something to argue against.

    4) Wrong on all counts. This is another attempt to pick a fight with another straw man.

    I would ask you to withdraw your remarks about “legalism….posting serious allegations….refusing to substantiate them…” if you are in any way suggesting that I am such a person. The remarks immediately following that statement seem to suggest that you are and illustrate the way in which you denigrate those with whom you disagree. You accuse them of ad hominem remarks while making ad hominem remarks about them: you accuse them of defamation but feel at liberty to defame them. You call them out or call them to repentance but see no need to repent yourself. It is quite shocking.

    In your second post you again make the false claim that I set Dallas against Chandler. Simply not true. I repeat again that I am aware of the failings of the mega church system and celebrity pastors. As for Southern Baptists liking Donald Trump, it’s almost as bad as you liking Scottish Nationalism. (Note the attempted injection of humour!). Your reference to Isis was, in my opinion, ill-judged given recent events.

    Finally that book! You had already given your opinion about it before you had read it so you are being consistent at least. All I would say is that there was no irrational, ranting, preaching anywhere in it. To be sure he writes from a certain perspective, as you do, but he presented his case quite calmly using documented and verifiable evidence. He has misgivings about Neo-Calvinism and he gave his reasons for those misgivings. He did not say Timothy Keller is an anti-Christian preacher. He did say that some of his views reflected the old style Liberation Theology and Social Gospel, confusion over eternal punishment and other things. He concludes that “he is far from the principles of the reformed faith in many ways” and explains why he thinks that. I found helpful most of what he said and disagreed with a few things. Please don’t feel sad that someone disagrees with you. It happens.

    1. 1) ‘There is no name calling’ – followed by ‘misrepresentative, deceitful and sly’ – go figure!

      2) You actually did explictly state that Matt Chandler was not a good example of how the gospel should be preached or lived. ” I was somewhat alarmed by the endorsement of Matt Chandler as a good example of how the gospel should be preached and lived.”

      3) Yes – you did engage in gossip – writing about a child sex scandal without context….you may not see it as such. But to me that is clear what it is.

      4) Yes – my point about the megachurches was that they were not per se bad. I wonder if you thought the same and you told me that in order to come across as thinking that you mentioned one which you thought was ok/good. I note you don’t answer my questions about Dallas Baptist Church. Do you still endorse it?

      5) Yes the legalism one still stands. Sadly so. Your reply was typical of the kind of legalistic posts which I regularly get sent. Your endorsement of Williams book which I have now read is indicative of that. Williams has more than ‘misgivings’ about neo-Calvinism (as he calls it – to call Piper, Keller and the Proclamation Trust ‘neo-Calvinists’ is just silly). I might write a review later but the book is dreadful – “Mark Driscoll and Tim Keller, for example, are frequently careless and irreverent in the way they use Scripture.” Really…? Give me one example of Keller’s irreverence? “Whatever its founding intentions, we conclude that the Proclamation Trust is now a compromised organisation committed to the flawed teachings and practices of New Calvinism. It can only harm true Gospel work, and promote worldliness in the churches.” And if you want classic legalism try this “Truly converted young believers have an inborn instinct to turn away from their previous worldly music and dress styles. New Calvinism quenches that desire, and true dedication to a distinctive Christian life.”

      Whether you are a legalist or not I don’t know. But you came on to my blog and posted something which is typical of the new legalists and endorsed a book which attacks gospel preachers such as Keller, Piper and the Proc Trust. If the cap fits….on the other hand if it doesn’t then I accept your apology!

  12. This is a really long post that deals almost exclusively, unfortunately, with secondary issues (church size, communications gifts, ‘me’ focus, salary, wealth, size of house, and more) and thereby obscures the central and clarifying point of Furtick’s ministry. John MacArthur was able to summarize Furtick as a minister with one word: unqualified. Furtick preaches a different gospel. He is a ministry collaborator with TDJakes’ health and wealth and modalist ministry, he collaborates with Joel Osteen’s humanistic ministry and with Brian Huston’s new wave prophecy ministry. Googling information about his ministry will provide a number of discussions of his content.

    The digressive discussion of church trappings in some ways diminishes the toxic nature of this actual ministry content — its danger isn’t in size or wealth or me focus, it is in the false gospel it promotes — he is not qualified to preach. The southern baptist convention of which he has been a part has distanced themselves from his ministry in the past year.

    Whether this ministry attracted 2 or 2 million is irrelevant — the ministry is identified simply by its content as false and shunned.

    More here: https://mrayton.wordpress.com/tag/john-macarthur/

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