Elevation Church keeps an exact count of its thousands of baptisms, all part of its laser like focus on numbers. But those numbers have spiked and dipped from year to year according to a confidential internal report obtained by the NBC Charlotte I-Team – from 289 in 2010 to 2,410 in 2011, from 689 in 2012 to 3,519 for the first eight months of last year.
To get those thousands of baptisms takes a lot of planning. And Elevation produced a document to show other churches how they could do likewise. It’s titled “Spontaneous Baptisms – A How-To Guide” and the church shared it freely on the Sun Stand Still website. But parts of the mass baptism guide have drawn sharp criticism – from other Christians.
Page one shows that the first people instructed to respond to Pastor Steven’s call to baptism were not converts suddenly inspired but Elevation volunteers carefully planted in the crowd. 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.” Duncan blogged about the baptism guide in a post he titled, “How Steven Furtick engineered a miracle.” “Although Furtick says this is a miracle, it’s not a miracle,” Duncan said. “It’s emotional manipulation.”
And that’s what makes Elevation ‘church’ a cult and Furtick a false teacher. Instead of renouncing underhanded manipulative methods, Furtick has wholly embraced them becoming, in doing so, a false teacher and the leader of a cult.
Why a cult? Because those who follow in his footsteps are complicit in his manipulations. And those who serve as ‘plants’ in his so called ‘services’ are little more than pretenders and, accordingly, deceivers. Elevation is also a cult because it exalts the ‘vision’ of its ‘pastor’ to a status which supersedes Scripture itself.
I hope the people attending this cult realize what’s going on and either demand change or get out. And that Furtick repents. Although not being the optimistic sort when it comes to human behavior, I doubt either will happen. Soon enough Furtick will probably be elected President of the SBC… because the SBC cares more about large churches and large numbers than anything else. For the SBC, as for Furtick, only size matters.