Currently, the expose of a Charlotte mega church pastor has been taking place. Elevation Church, the largest mega church in Charlotte, is pastored by Steven Furtick, who has become a celebrity in status. The church has been described as "a pop culture-friendly church with an orthodox Christian message". The pastor and his family recently purchased land and had a 16,000 square foot home built in Waxhaw, NC, which cost over 1.7 million dollars. Furtick has been secretive about the house, and it is even built in a somewhat secluded area, with “no trespassing” signs posted around the land. The house has 7.5 bathrooms and an electric gate, and is one of the largest homes in the Charlotte area. The neighborhood hosts other similar estates, and is an area which residents wish to keep quiet and private.
Some people are upset that the pastor would spend that much money on a house - they believe pastors should live in more humble circumstances in order to give the money to the church, missions, etc. Others are upset because at Elevation Church, money is kept secret. No one knows how much the pastor makes, or other things about where money from the church goes. Furtick refuses to give out this information, which differs from non-mega church pastors. Most Christian places of worship are transparent - they give out information on salaries and church budgets willingly. There are some mega churches that are the same, such as Forest Hill, a mega church that posts all the information on their website. Another difference between the two is the people who decide on salary. At non-mega churches, the congregation elects elders or deacons who decide on the salary of the ministers, and the congregation gets a say in the compensation of the pastor. At mega churches like Elevation, there is a board of other mega church pastors - called a “Board of Overseers” - who decide on salaries.
Steven Furtick also authored a book, which is where the money from the house comes from. However, the problem some still have comes from the fact that Furtick has used the church to promote the book in many ways. Money from Elevation has been used to advertise and promote the book, and Furtick has preached many a sermon on it. People are concerned because there is a “lack of transparency” due to the fact that the people who pay Furtick’s salary are not allowed to know what that salary is.
Some are angry, while others have no problem with Furtick, his salary, or his house. Actually, Furtick doesn’t run Elevation; a man named Chunks Corbett does. He is the one responsible for the incorporation of the church in 2005; he also incorporated Corban Properties Southeast in 2007, which is a for-profit company; in 2008, Corbett became a trustee for the Trust that owns Furtick’s house; and in 2009, he incorporated another non-profit. These companies all list the Elevation Matthews church address as their location. The name on the house is not Furtick’s, but a trust owned by Corbett. This, he says, is for Furtick’s protection as a “public figure.”
Elevation began as a Southern Baptist Church plant, starting out of Christ Covenant Church in Shelby, NC. The church began meeting in Providence High School. The church continues to give money to Southern Baptists, as well as other outside ministries, although as a mega church, they do not operate in all the same ways as most Southern Baptist Churches (for instance, the “Board of Overseers” vs. Deacons).
At the beginning of 2012, Elevation Church hosted a 12-day "Holy Ghost, Old-School Revival" called 'Code Orange Revival' to kick off the year. Guest preachers included LifeChurch.tv founder Craig Groeshel, Jentezen Franklin of Free Chapel, Matt Chandler of The Village Church, Christine Caine of the A21 Campaign, Ed Young Jr. of Fellowship Church, Kevin Gerald of Champion's Centre, Stovall Weems of Celebration Church, Perry Noble of NewSpring Church, T. D. Jakes of The Potter’s House, James MacDonald of Harvest Bible Chapel, and a special night of worship with Grammy award winner and worship leader of Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church, Israel Houghton. Many of these speakers are on the Board of Overseers.
Back to finances - some information from Elevation’s 2012 Annual Report:
- over 6,000 decisions made for Christ
- over 100,000 hours of service to city of Charlotte with the mayor (partnership)
- over 1 million dollars to outreach partners - locally, nationally, and globally
- over 1,000 mentors to at risk kids in Charlotte
- raised over 8 million dollars in offerings
“...trusting God with your finances is a great investment into God’s kingdom.” - Larry Hubatka, creative pastor
2012 Finance Statistics
“God continued to bless Elevation Church financially throughout 2012. Through the generosity of the people of Elevation, we saw a 43% increase in our operating giving. That doesn’t include the huge response we had at year end with our Banner Years offering. We work very hard to steward all the blessings God has given us, and we take the task of managing God’s money very seriously. To help ensure a high level of financial accountability, we undergo a yearly voluntary audit by an outside accounting firm" (C. DeWitt Foard and Co., P.A.).
2012 Annual Report
$5,960,717 - 29.1% - *Personnel
$4,850,561 - 23.7% - Expansion/Savings/Debt Reduction
$2,305,678 - 11.3% - Operations
$2,522,767 - 12.3% - Outreach
$1,693,057 - 8.3% Facilities
$1,870,216 - 9.1% - Students | eKidz | eGroups | eTeams
$1,278,113 - 6.2% - Weekends | Events
Total Income Breakdown - $28,587,051
$20,334,193 - Operating
$120,977 - Other
$8,131,881 - Banner Years
This information is what can be found on Elevation’s website, and is the information the church gives out about its’ finances. Other statistics, such as salaries of the staff and ministers, is not available. Employees of Elevation must sign confidentiality agreements and can be sued if they give out this information.
Steven Furtick eventually responded to the news about the story and his house. At first, he had refused to reply, but cited the NBC news reporter in his sermon as a person who was trying to “make the church look bad”, saying, “this ain’t right.” Later, he said that the news had every right to do the story. He said Elevation has promised to be a church of integrity. And while at first Furtick called his house “not that great” and said he was sure there were better houses to be looking at, he later admitted to his congregation that the house is “big” and “beautiful”.
So, what does the Bible say about money and finances? Here are some passages from scripture:
The Bible says not to love money - we should not place our faith and hope on money:
1 Timothy 6:10 - "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."
In 2 Kings 12, Joash was king, and ruled over Jerusalem 40 years. He instructed the priests to use the offerings brought to the temple to repair the damages in the temple, which they did not do. After 23 years, they finally begun repairing the temple, and used the money from the offerings to pay the people doing the work.
There were other items of the temple that money was used for at times:
2 Chronicles 24:14 - "When they had finished, they brought the rest of the money to the king and Jehoiada, and with it were made articles for the Lord’s temple: articles for the service and for the burnt offerings, and also dishes and other objects of gold and silver. As long as Jehoiada lived, burnt offerings were presented continually in the temple of the Lord."
2 Chronicles 34:17 - "They have paid out the money that was in the temple of the Lord and have entrusted it to the supervisors and workers.”
Proverbs 13:11 - "Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow."
Money really is meaningless, like everything else that is not God and the kingdom of Heaven:
Ecclesiastes 5:10 - "Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless."
There are things more valuable than money:
Ecclesiastes 7:12 - "Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: Wisdom preserves those who have it."
Some have compared the promotion of Furtick’s book “Greater” to this scripture:
Matthew 21:12 - [Jesus at the Temple] "Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves."
Jesus sent his 12 disciples out to preach as missionaries:
Mark 6:8 - "These were his instructions: 'Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts.'"
The amount of money given to God is relative:
Mark 12:41-44 - "Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.
"Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, 'Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.'”
The Pharisees loved money. Studying these people in scripture can give a good example of what not to do. Also, God is the judge, and He knows our hearts.
Luke 16:13-15 - “'No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.'
"The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, 'You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.'"
The early church looked similar in some ways, and different in others, than the church today:
Acts 4:32-37 - "All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
"Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means 'son of encouragement'), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet."
Hebrews 13:5 - "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'”
One last scripture - to be a reminder not to be too focused on the problems of the world:
1 Peter 1:24-25 - "For, 'All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.' And this is the word that was preached to you."