Yesterday’s craziness surrounding the coloring sheet from Steven Furtick’s Elevation Church shouldn’t over shadow the other news connected with Elevation – namely how they manipulate people into “spontaneous” baptisms.
This second controversy is, in my opinion, far more dangerous. I’ll quote from the article by WCNC Charlotte because they state well the problems with Elevation’s Spontaneous Baptism Resource Kit.
The guide instructs, “Fifteen people will sit in the worship experience and be the first ones to move when Pastor gives the call. Move intentionally through the highest visibility areas and the longest walk.”
“They had people in the crowd stand up who never intended to be baptized,” said James Duncan, a communications professor at Anderson University and critic of Furtick. “They were shilling for Steven and the intent was these shills stand up and everybody else follows.”
Stuart Watson, the author of the article, continues:
More stage instructions tell volunteers to go to staging rooms outfitted with towels, pre-printed t-shirts, sports bras, boxers, makeup remover, hair-dryers and flip-flops. Volunteers are instructed to “pick young energetic people” to go on stage first to be baptized and “not necessarily those who are there first.”
“Think of the room in terms of a NASCAR pit stop,” the guide reads. “Quick in and quick out.”
It takes “30 to 45 seconds” to baptize each person as church photographers snap photos.
More volunteers are told, “You are looking for one or two great stories in your group. When you ID those individuals, place a ‘black wrist band’ on them so that the video crew can interview them….”
The guide then tells the “media team” to be “mining great stories and pushing them up to the video crew.”
An additional disturbing detail comes at the end of the article:
Elevation Pastor Steven Furtick asked me for a face-to-face, off-the-record meeting with me to ask me not to run this report. I spent an hour on the telephone and two more hours in person discussing my reporting, his church and his concerns.
Pastor Steven said I have been unfair and this report in particular would hurt Elevation Church members.
Does Furtick think that he is free from the consequences of his and his church’s scandalous behavior? What right does he have to attempt to shift blame onto the news agency for reporting what his own church has freely and publicly published?
Let’s be clear – Furtick, along with any one else involved in created and pushing forward these events, hurt the members of Elevation church.
The repercussions of this kind of manipulative, pre-packaged faux-Christianity are clear. In no certain order:
- The central rite of Christianity, baptism, is undermined entirely. Historically, no outward event is of more significance to the Christian faith. Here Elevation and its leaders have reduced it to a canned production, not substantially different from a flash-mob dance performance.
- The credibility of the Christian faith and the idea of conversion becomes more laughable and seemingly hollow to a world already plenty skeptical about such things.
- Other ministries, more legitimate in their efforts to faithfully discharge the gospel call, are cast in a shadow by these big-budget, high-production hucksters while precious resources that could be legitimately used to help people are sucked into the black hole of manipulative pseudo-ministries like the ones taking place at Elevation.
I am confident that a good and sovereign God will have, from the perspective of eternity, called men and women to a saving faith in Himself at these Elevation engineered events.
Make no mistake, that will only come to pass because His overwhelmingly powerful grace will do good to lost men and women even in the midst of the worst conditions.
This reality – that people are likely actually converted – in no way overshadows that in the highest degree of likelihood the majority of those involved as “converts” will have been deceived and thus, humanly speaking, hardened to the gospel.
Furthermore, any legitimate conversions arising from these highly engineered productions does not mean that the productions are justified. This is a stain on the public reputation of the church and, through it, Christ.
May God grant Steven Furtick and the people at Elevation responsible for this abusive behavior repentance. May He also grant that those who have been manipulated to see through the facade of Elevation’s misconduct to the beauty of Christ in the authentic gospel.
Even so, come Lord Jesus.
Pajama Pages (Linked to Above): How Steven Furtick engineered a spontaneous miracle
Patheos: Steven Futick and the ‘Disneyfication’ of Baptism
Zwinglius Redivivus - Elevation ‘Church’ – Just Another Cult and Furtick is Just Another False Teacher
Truth Matters Blog: Mass Baptisms, Invitations, and Southern Baptists