There is such a thing as a prestige battle. The Plains Indians used to count coup, for example.
In modern times, computer hackers count coup of sorts. There are all sorts of hackers (and crackers) and they wear white hats, black hats, gray hats, and more. However, we noobs in the unsuspecting public who foolishly rely on mainstream media to tell us who they are, know hackers as the computer genius geeks who slave away in dark basements amid glowing monitors under colorful pseudonyms, breaking into NSA websites and corporations. The white hat crackers do it just to say they could, and to accumulate virtual street cred of their skills and bravery in poking the slumbering corporate or government bear. In other words, counting coup.
Increasingly, there are pastors who count coup, also. Here is the story of one such pastor.
I haven't written a lot about Steven Furtick of Elevation Church in Charlotte NC. It is an emergent church led by a pastor in skinny jeans and casual attitude, and services have a loud band, a lot of smoke and not too much bible. One of those kind of churches. And given the times in which we live, it is growing by leaps and bounds. (2 Timothy 4:3). And given the times in which we live, going to Elevation Church website and clicking on "About Steven" brings you not to another church page describing the pastor, but to a separate website named after himself. And given the times in which we live (2 Peter 2:3) the pastor of this church lives in a 16,000 square foot, $1.7Million dollar home and is under investigation for excessive lifestyle. Of course. (2 Peter 2:3). But not to worry because Elevation church is planning an $86 million dollar expansion according to a leaked internal document, and thus there will be baby Elevation Churches born soon to distract the gullible.
Forget the biblical qualifications for pastor. The above is the resume for today's hip, happenin' pastor.
To add insult to injury, it appears that these kind of pastors have adopted none of Paul or Peter's characteristics but instead go the way of Balaam and Simon the Magician.
Balaam was a pagan prophet who served those who bid the highest. He knew God and he knew of God but Balaam didn't serve God. (Numbers 22).
Simon the Sorcerer was a magician who amazed all the people of Samaria (Acts 8:9) by performing supernatural acts, but when Simon saw Peter do miracles, he falsely converted, and thought he could obtain the Spirit's power by purchasing it. (Acts 8:20-21).
In both these cases, money figures prominently. In the false ministry of a magician and in the false ministry of a false prophet, money was central to the story. Here, John MacArthur recites a devastating list:
"Now the Bible does contain a number of warnings about money. Best summarized perhaps in the statement of the apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 6, verse 10 where he said, "For the love money is the root of all kinds of evil." Our Lord put it tersely when He said you can't serve God and money. Money can definitely be a curse. There's no question about it. For money, Achan brought defeat on the armies of Israel and death on himself. For money, Balaam sinned against God and tried to curse God's people. For money, Delilah betrayed Samson to the Philistines. For money, Gehazi lied to Naaman and Elisha and became a leper. For money, Ananias and Sapphira became the first hypocrites in the early church and died on the spot. For money, Judas sold the Son of God for 30 pieces of silver and damned his own soul. For money, many have been cursed."
It is not a sin to be rich, but the bible is replete with warnings that money corrupts. (Matthew 19:24). The bible is clear that if one desires to be a pastor, one must not be greedy of filthy lucre. (1 Timothy 3:3). It is plain, simple, and clear.
Anyway, Steven Furtick is in a prestige war.
How Steven Furtick engineered a spontaneous miracle
Apparently, according to the above article, Elevation Church emotionally manipulates people into coming forward at the invitation so they can be baptized, by seeding the audience with members who arise and walk down the aisle, playing emotional music, performing as actors instructed not only to be enthusiastic but taught specifically what to do to demonstrate this manufactured enthusiasm, told to tweet and exactly what to tweet (notably not told to pray) and taught other things outlined in the church's "Spontaneous Baptism How-To Guide". That name is not made up. It is the actual name Elevation Church gives this manipulated event kit. The article states,
"For the few that Elevation did baptize, their how-to guide documents exactly how they used emotional manipulation them get people from their seats to the pool. Volunteers were placed throughout the campuses to make sure the baptism candidates maintained the emotional fervor that Furtick had created in the service."
The how-to guide instructs,
" ... 15 people will sit in the worship experience and be the first ones to move when Pastor gives the call.
--Sit in the auditorium and begin moving forward when Pastor Steven says go.
--Move intentionally through the highest visibility areas and the longest walk.
Elevation has seeded its four auditoriums with 60 shills who pretend to be responding to the call. Their high-visibility movement is designed to manipulate others to follow. If Furtick was confident in his message and in the efficacy of the Holy Spirit’s call, he shouldn’t need fake converts.
When they manufacture miracles, and teach how to manufacture a miracle, they are truly a Simon a Magician.
Pastors count coup, shill the Gospel for money, and elevate themselves. It is the times of apostasy, and the hard thing to know is, this isn't even the beginning of the worst of it.
I am saddened by the many who seek an experience at churches such as these, when the real faith is so glorious to behold, wondrous to be a part of, and so bright a hope to look forward to. How empty must a pastor feel in his blackened heart to manufacture baptism experiences from a how-to kit? And to do so in some sort of carnal one-upmanship just for appearances sake? How hopeless must he be when sitting by pale lamplight in dark of night writing these instructions teaching congregants how to be shills? Most tragic is the fact of so many who are engaging in a shallow faith of non-conversion...yet thinking they are saved.
"But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction." (2 Peter 2:1)
As for us, let us rejoice in His goodness and grace.
But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me. (Psalm 13:5-6)
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