An Answer to a Question, or The Dangers of a Certain False Teacher
***ONCE AGAIN, NAMES WILL BE MENTIONED IN THIS ARTICLE. THIS IS YOUR ONLY WARNING.***
A short time ago, I wrote an article concerning false teachers and to beware certain teachings and those who are guilty of teaching them. I got a question from someone who read that article. This person said, “What is wrong with Steven Furtick? I listen to him all the time and I don’t see any problem with what he preaches.”
It is my intention in this article to answer that question and show what is wrong with what he preaches. Some of what I will be saying here is based on my personal observation, some from Furtick’s own sermons, and some from people who were involved in the ministry at Elevation Church but were asked to leave. (More on that momentarily.) We will explore several aspects of Steven Furtick, including his ministry, doctrine, personality, and music.
When we talk about the ministry of Steven Furtick, we have to start with the fact that he is a graduate of a prominent Southern Baptist seminary. This is not a bad thing since it should have given him a solid foundation in the Bible, hermeneutics, church polity, and theology, among others. In fact, up until just very recently Elevation Church was a church in good standing with the Southern Baptist Convention. It should be interesting to note that it was not the SBC that parted ways with Elevation, but instead the other way around.
So, what are some of the red flag issues I see with this ministry?
First, there is the fact that Furtick has stated, on numerous occasions, that Elevation Church only does evangelism and not any of the deeper things associated with Christianity such as discipleship and counseling. He has stated, “If you need any of that you need to find a different church. We only do evangelism here.”
While evangelism is not bad in ministry, it cannot be the sole purpose of a church’s ministry. To do so is to say to Christ Himself, “I am not going to do that whole great commission thing, You know, that final command that You gave to us. Instead, I’m just going to do what I want.” After all, Jesus told us to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” not make quick converts of all nations and hope someone else comes along and does something to help them along the way.
So, if you are a “pastor” and your “church” only does evangelism, wouldn’t that technically make you an evangelist and the building an outreach center? Just asking for some people who might be curious about such things.
The second red flag I see in Steven Furtick’s ministry is the crowd he has decided to hang out with recently. My parents always told me to choose my friends wisely because you either become who you hang out with, or you turn them into you. In other words, influence means everything when it comes to the people with which we surround ourselves. Either they will influence us to become like them, or we will influence them to become like us.
Looking at the people Furtick has been seen with, it is no surprise that he has become a wreck of a pastor. Being a feature on TBN, Daystar, and other supposedly Christian television networks, Furtick has been in the company of some of the biggest heretics of our day: Joyce Meyer, Bill Johnson, Joel Osteen, and we cannot forget his growing relationship with T.D. Jakes. It is the relationship with Jakes that is most troubling since Furtick looks up to him as a mentor.
Which leads me to my second big issue with Steven Furtick, his doctrine. Since he has become so enamored with T.D. Jakes, Furtick has started falling into the same doctrinal pitfalls that Jakes wallows around in and it is quite telling. It is so bad that Furtick’s doctrine has gone from whatever he may have learned in seminary to now, I would venture to say and probably not be far off, he is full on heretical on many things.
Let’s start with something simple, prosperity doctrine. I know for a lot of people this is not a simple subject to discuss when it comes to being a bad doctrine. However, let’s look at some of the core principles of the prosperity gospel and see if they line up with Biblical Christianity. (Here’s a hint, they don’t.)
First, there is the idea that God wants us to be both healthy and wealthy. God wants us to be in perfect health, never be sick again. If you do get sick it is because you didn’t have enough faith to be healthy. Also, God wants to bless you financially. He wants to give you money through so many different means, directly from others, finding money on the street or in the parking lot, business ideas, people mailing you checks, (I guess today that would be sending you money on CashApp or Venmo?) The list goes on and on with these people.
While this sounds like a great idea on the surface, is it true from a Biblical perspective?
Let’s ask the apostle Paul. How did his life stack up against this “health and wealth” teaching of these so-called preachers?
Philippians 4:10 – 19 (ESV) I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Paul is talking about being content in whatever situation he finds himself. As far as verse nineteen, one of the prosperity gospel’s favorite verses, this verse talks about God providing for the basic needs of the church of Philippi because of their sacrificial giving. Paul is pronouncing a blessing over them for being generous with their provision for his needs while he is out ministering to others. This verse should never be misinterpreted as God pouring out mountains of money and blessing on those who give, although that is the way the prosperity preachers interpret this entire passage.
Why is this troubling when it comes to Steven Furtick? Most everyone he is surrounded by is a prosperity preacher, especially his mentor, T.D. Jakes. Jakes is one of the worst of the worst when it comes to being a subtle prosperity preacher. He may not be as open about it as say, Kenneth Copeland or Jesse Duplantis, but he is right up there with them.
The second, and most egregious and heretical doctrinal error Steven Furtick is getting from his beloved mentor, is that of oneness Pentecostalism, or modalism. Modalism is the idea that God is One and acts in three different ways throughout time. In the past, and up to the time of Jesus, God acted as the Creator, a father-figure over the nation of Israel. Then God came to earth as a man. We call this act of God, Jesus. Jesus did all the things the Bible mentions in the gospels and ascends back into heaven. Then God starts acting as the Holy Spirit during the church age starting at the day of Pentecost and going forward. Sometimes God is Father, sometimes Son, and sometimes Spirit.
However, we know by studying the Bible that this is not true. Yes, God is one in essence. God is one in the overall goal of what is being accomplished. But to say that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are all the same being is quite impossible according to the Bible. Let’s look at just a couple of verses and we can see that this is true.
Matthew 3:13 – 17 (ESV) Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Here we have the baptism of Jesus. If Jesus is the Son of God, or God the Son, and the teachers of modalism are correct, then what descended on Him and Who spoke out of heaven? Let’s look at another verse.
Matthew 28:16 – 20 (ESV) Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
This is the “Great Commission” passage where Jesus sends out the disciples to preach, teach, and make disciples of all nations. Here He says to baptize these new disciples in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If the oneness Pentecostal, like T.D. Jakes, is correct, then how are we supposed to baptize people today? Most of them say in Jesus’ name only. My question is then, what about the command of Jesus concerning the name of the Father and the Holy Spirit? Are we to abandon a command of Jesus to match our misinterpretation of Scripture?
Unfortunately, the answer to that last question has been a resounding, “Yes,” in many cases. Steven Furtick has taught that God has acted in different ways throughout history, showing that he has fallen into the same misinterpretation as his mentor. This is a heresy that the church has fought against since the beginning of the church age. It has always been, and always will be, a lie and a heretical teaching. If Furtick continues teaching in this vein, he will continue leading others down the road of heresy. Just as his mentor has been doing for decades.
The third, and by some degrees the most intriguing, aspect of Steven Furtick I want to explore is his personality. On stage and on the screen, Steven Furtick is a wildly charismatic person. He is a dynamic speaker. He sometimes acts like an overgrown child. He sometimes can be the most caring person in the room. By many accounts this has been his personality even since college. I have heard from people who knew him in college and seminary who said he was the same way then as he is now. I wish that was all there was to the story.
However, I want you all to know that the person he is on stage and on screen is not the person he is behind the scenes. I have a story that I am going to share with you all that I find disturbing every time I think about it. This story was shared with me anonymously through a third party, but I have no reason to doubt its truthfulness because of the person who shared it with me.
A few years ago, a young woman was working at Elevation Church as a secretary. One of the conditions of her, and everyone else’s, employment with the church was that when Furtick entered a room, all the staff in the room were required to stand and applaud until he told them it was okay to get back to whatever they were doing. One day this young woman was on her lunch break in a part of the church. Seeing that she was on her break, she had earbuds in listening to something on her phone. She was not paying attention to what was going on around her, she had her back to the door, and in walked Furtick.
Everyone else who was in the room did what they were supposed to do: stand and applaud. She was too focused on what she was doing to even notice, and she did not stand and applaud. Whether it was Furtick himself, or a member of his entourage, I cannot remember, however, someone noticed that this young woman did not do as she was required to do. That afternoon she was called into her supervisor’s office and released from her job at Elevation Church.
This kind of ego-feeding, self-important, arrogant, conceited, and pompous action is not the way a pastor should behave himself. In fact, this goes against several of the qualifications of a pastor, elder, or overseer.
1Timothy 3:1 – 7 (ESV) The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore, an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
Titus 1:5 – 9 (ESV) This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
The actions displayed by Steven Furtick in the story mentioned above go against everything by which a pastor should be measured. I would go so far as to say that his actions and requirements of his staff border on classic narcissism. In fact, the more I look at his live, the way he acts on stage and on camera, the way people describe him behind the scenes, and this story, as well as studying narcissism, I would say that he needs to seek mental and emotional help before it is too late, and he pushes everyone away from him.
Finally, I want to look at Steven Furtick’s music. Furtick is a lyricist and publisher for Elevation Worship and has penned some of the most popular songs of the past several years. One of their most popular songs is “Do It Again.” The lyrics are ambiguous, at best, as there is no mention of God, only one mention of Jesus in the second verse, and no mention of the Holy Spirit. (Shows that modalism teaching coming through in a big way.) However, there is a lot of mention of an unidentified “You” throughout the song.
The next song I want to look at is a collaboration between Elevation Worship and Maverick City Music. Maverick City Music is problematic for a whole host of reasons, specifically for their extreme worldly behavior especially at the Grammy awards show (backstage) in early 2023 where they are seen drinking alcoholic beverages and hanging out with pop stars from the show. But this is not about Maverick City, it is about Elevation and Steven Furtick. The lyrics of this particular song, “Jireh,” are completely devoid of any reference to God or the Holy Spirit. The only things that come close is the title of the song, the word jireh, is repeated a few times throughout, Jehovah, the amalgamation of YHWH and Adonai, is said once, and El Shaddai, another Old Testament Hebrew name for God is mentioned once. Jesus is mentioned one time near the very end of the song.
For those who are unaware, jireh is not a name for God. It simply means, “to provide, to perceive, to consider, see.” When combined with Jehovah, it comes to mean “The LORD will provide” or “The LORD who provides” in the story of Abraham and Isaac.
When we see these kind of lyrics that have very little Biblical basis and even less God-centered thought, we are reminded of the shallowness of the theology of the church from which they emanate. Remember, this is a church that only does evangelism and not discipleship, so it is no wonder to me that the words coming out in their songs can be so devoid of theological depth and hope for the future. Again, the band likes to associate with other bands that are just as troubling as they are, so none of this comes as any surprise to me and should not be surprising to anyone who is watching what is going on in the world. When churches like Bethel, Hillsong, and Elevation are coming together, we need to be aware of what they are putting in front of us musically, especially since they are all shipwrecked theologically.
Not only are the lyrics for the songs just bad, but the prices to go and see the band and Steven Furtick are outrageous. A quick Internet search puts floor seating prices for the Houston Texas show on October 12, 2023, starting at $74.75 and going up to $1500.00 each. Of course, these are resale tickets so the venue and Furtick have already gotten their money out of the initial sale, but $1500.00 each for a minimum of two seats in front of the stage to see this train-wreck is ridiculous. I have better things to spend money on, like providing for my family, food, and other essentials.
I will say this, in conclusion, about Steven Furtick. He really is a likeable person. Once you get past the theological train-wreck, the outright heresies, the narcissistic personality, the complete lack of understanding of what it means to pastor a church, and the “Jesus is my boyfriend” music, he might be the kind of person you could hang out with. Just don’t expect much of a two-sided conversation.