An Example of How Not to Preach From Steven Furtick


Steven Furtick is a 28 year old pastor at Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC.   Check this clip out and tell us what you think of his preaching.

A Misunderstanding of Doctrine

 I can sympathize with his frustration regarding all head and no heart Christians.  I understand the issue he is trying to address.  But Pastor Steven has led his flock to bad grass.  Underlying his message is a fundamental misunderstanding: It appears he thinks sound doctrine and sound living cannot co-exist, and if they do, it’s a shaky relationship.

You Can’t Preach Jesus Without Preaching Doctrine

Notice his sarcastic remarks regarding justification by faith in Galatians, propitiation from sin and the doctrines of grace of John Calvin.  I agree with him if he’s saying we are not to follow the teachings of man but the teachings of Christ.  I couldn’t agree more.  But what should first be understand is this: the doctrines of grace are not the idea of John Calvin; it’s the idea and theology of Paul.  Without the doctrines of grace there is no gospel.  Propitiation is the gospel.  Without grace and a proper understanding of that grace there is nothing to preach.  Doctrine is what drives evangelism.  Doctrine produces sound living.  It is the engine which pulls the train, the rudder which steers the ship from dangerous waters.  If people in his church have lost a vision for evangelism, loving the saints and preaching the gospel, then it’s possible they have never heard sound teaching.  You cannot have right living apart from right teaching.  If there is a disconnect, the fault lies with the preacher, not the sheep.  If sheep are not responding to sound doctrine, the course of action is not to move away from sound doctrine but to correct people’s misunderstanding of that doctrine

Pharisees weren’t Pharisees because they knew sound doctrine; they were condemned for knowing the wrong doctrine.

The aim of preaching is the salvation of souls, and the glory of God is our chief object.  We aim at it by clear statements of gospel doctrine, never shrinking from declaring the whole council of God. If the conversion of souls and the glory of God is our aim, then assuredly we should attend to the truths that most prominently speak to that end, which includes sound doctrine.

Conviction Vs. Condemnation

There is a large chasm between conviction and condemnation, and it would serve a young preacher well to know the difference. Condemnation beats the sheep; conviction lovingly disciplines the sheep. Condemnations leaves the saints with no hope and only fear of judgment; conviction leads them to the cross in repentance and godly sorrow, producing a harvest of righteousness and peace. In condemnation, the preacher is the judge ruthlessly giving a verdict to a people he cares not; in conviction, a preacher weeps over his flock that has gone astray. Condemnation curses; conviction pleads.  He’s angry.  And anger never produces a harvest of righteousness.

I started to count how many times he said “you”, but stopped after 50. Also notice how his finger is pointed at the people all the time. If his finger should go any where . . . it should go in the text.

Use of Humor in Preaching

His joke about taking his anger out on his wife is just childish. That type of “humor” does not serve the text nor the flock. He has ultimately dishonored his wife, the Bride of Christ and the gospel of Jesus Christ.  He has not served to adorn the gospel.

Don’t Imitate Other Preachers; Be Your Own Man

Who is he trying to be, anyway? A bad imitation of Mark Driscoll?  At least be original.  Spurgeon says one of the worst things you can do is fall into a foolish imitation of an admired preacher.  Be yourself in your presentation of the eternal truth.

In all honesty, I never want to preach a sermon the way this young man did. May we learn now so that we may have less to repent of later.

What would some of you Paul’s say to this young man?

What do you Timothy’s think?

Preach the Word

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17 Responses to “An Example of How Not to Preach From Steven Furtick”

  1. A Good Example of a Bad Example « Gravitas Says:

    […] Read the whole thing. […]

  2. Dorian Says:

    Yes, we all know that propitiation and justification are just for pot bellied lazy Christians. Thank Goodness I am not like those awful Pharisees.

  3. Dorian Says:

    It’s kind of ironic that he mocks “justification” and “propitiation,” words that are actually in the Bible, and then uses “kingdom multiplication” to describe his own ministry, a word that is never in the Bible.

  4. Carey McPherson Says:

    Good point, Dorian.

    I hadn’t noticed that.

  5. Bryce Says:

    That video actually kind of depresses me. I am tired of the either/or false dichotomy. Either we can worry about doctrine OR we can go out and do the work of an evangelist. In this scenario, can’t we have our cake and eat it too?

    I like Greg Harris’ analogy where he said that we need to put the fire in the fireplace, and while I know that he wasn’t exactly addressing this particular issue, I feel like his analogy fits perfectly with this doctrine vs service false dichotomy.

  6. Andrew King Says:

    he doesn’t really mock the words, he mocks certain types of people and how they are using them.

    he has a good point that we should not just be hearers of the word, but doers.

  7. Bryce Says:

    He has a point that people need to be hearers but not doers, but his delivery of that truth is so bad that nobody will see it. He does mock the doctrines by saying that his church isn’t for Christians and that they won’t get any of those doctrines because they aren’t relevant.

    The craziest thing he said is that his Church exists for the sole reason of reaching other people. That certainly is a part of it, but what about taking care of the people of God?

  8. Trevor Maitland Says:

    time for a little truth-telling:

    i was somewhat convicted by what he said about being a pot-bellied Christian who doesn’t want to go do anything but just wants to eat and eat and eat from the church, and never give back.

    paige and i have been Christians for 3 years now. we’ve tithed maybe $500 in those three years. we’ve wasted probably fifteen times that.

    number of people i’ve seen come to Jesus (not necessarily because of me): 4.
    number of CHRISTIANS i’ve criticized/ridiculed: countless.

    do i know the doctrines of grace? abso-freakin’-lutely! do i know Christ and Him crucified (especially in the way i put others ahead of myself?) not nearly enough.

    this guy is preaching to a culture (young, Southern, educated) which knows Christianity backwards and forwards…they just don’t do anything about it. so i understand why he’s frustrated and why he is saying much of what he is saying.

    now for a little more truth telling:

    furtick has the audacity to say “if you know Jesus, this church ain’t for you” in the above video clip.

    now he’s run his mouth too much, and sounds like an idiot. not to mention his wonderful treatment of the doctrines of grace and other such fine biblical teaching.

    this is a classic example of what we’ve been talking about on this blog for a while now: young men need some tempering and seasoning before they go diving off into the “head pastor” pool. yeah, we have energy. yeah, we’re way cooler than 50-year old guys. and yeah, we make a bunch of stupid mistakes which they just don’t make anymore.

    so mr. furtick, i would encourage you to continue making disciples, and baptizing them in the name of Jesus, but FOR CHRIST’S SAKE, don’t forget to TEACH THEM all that He has commanded us!

  9. Chris Blackstone Says:

    The brief snippets aboe also seem to imply that it’s completely the work of the people to seek and save. That attitude of “I have to do the work to see people saved” completely removes God and the Holy Spirit’s work from the equation. Would it not be better to talk about living a life that genuinly interacts with non-Christians in a way that makes a gospel-centered life attractive? It’s a short road from I have to do the saving” to “I am my own God”

    And why not put those doctrine and theology loving people to work training other members of the congregation so that they will be better equipped to share their faith and more fully able to teach and lead others?

    I also sometimes have a hard time with pastors who take such a hard line on people who do not “give back” to the church. People go through seasons of life where it is difficult to fully engage with a body of believers – we need to remember that. It also would be very easy in a congregation of 3500 like Elevation church to be anonymous. Efforts to “shrink” a church through small groups and church plants is the way to make it easier for people to “give back” because they see themselves as offering something unique and particular to the group.

  10. Matthew Cunningham Says:

    Good points Trev. I appreciate your honesty regarding feeling “pot-bellied,” you know I can resonate with that.

    I want to bring a few more nuances to this comment, “if you know Jesus, this church ain’t for you.”

    Furtick seems to be saying that the purpose of his church is evangelism. That is pretty backwards. The church is for building up the body for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4). We don’t have the right to redefine the purpose of the church. Church prepares us to do that work of the ministry, the church doesn’t do the ministry for us.

    Evangelism should primarily being down outside the walls of the weekly meeting, in our homes, workplaces, cars, front yards, bus stops, etc.

    I think Trev hits it, the guy is passionate and wants to see people get saved, but he could use a few more years of tempering and mentoring.

  11. Gabriel Stice Says:

    I really feel like this is a good principle traveling through the wrong person. My educated guess is that he has too much of a say in what goes on at Elevation. I checked out the website and like a lot of things that the Church is doing. They have an effective ministry in getting people to come to faith. It seems they lack a little on the growth/sanctification side of things. Those Christians will have tough growing processes. I think the principle is that Christians take in too much theory and don’t do enough practice. I will admit it is true in my life and the people around me. Sins of omission, or when we don’t do what we should are so common for us. In Bible College we all struggle with this at least at a few points in our tenure. I don’t think this guys irresponsible preaching is necessarily because of his age though. He could become a little more calloused in the next 10 years and be a foolish 38 year old preacher. It seems that the problem is there aren’t enough accountable people around him. No I’m guessing a lot but it’s not hard to imagine the symptoms of this foolishly sinful sermon. The issue hits at home majorly for myself. I’m 20 and I preach. I am not ashamed of preaching at 20. 20 year olds can be vessels for God’s truth. We’re just simply more risky. I’m 20 and I can honestly say I preach more responsibly than this 28 year old with a wife. I have never held the pulpit hostage and had a captive audience listening. Every preacher is tempted to preach his philosophy and not the Word of God at one time or another. But it is the people I surround myself with that allows me to use my gifts in ministry to serve the redeemed and the lost with the loving truth of the gospel and God’s word. Rebukes are welcome and will be discerned.

  12. Trev A Says:

    I have a few thoughts here:

    1. The sermon seems to have a good point. One of the things we frequently are praying for in our church is that people will do something with their great doctrine. The church at Ephesus had great doctrine, but Jesus said in Rev 2 that he was about to remove its lampstand (so that the church would not exist) because it had lost its first love.

    2.However, regaining the first love requires remembrance, and remembrance requires knowledge, and knowledge requires God’s Word. So if one is to make the point that we should be more active in our faith, that’s good, but ground it in Scripture.

    3. The pastor gives somewhat conflicting purpose statements. At 3:25-3;32 he says the purpose is to bring people to Christ and then train them so that they can reach others. But you cannot train someone in a way that is honoring to God without God’s Word being taught. He gives another purpose statement for the church at 4:25 “it’s the mission of Elevation Church” referring to the statement “to seek and save the lost.” This is a different statement than the one at 3:25.

    4. The theory of a church must under gird its practice. Otherwise someone will ask: Why do it this way? Let’s do it this way. And no one will have any basis on whether to say “Yeah that’s a good idea” or “No, that’s not what we’re about.”

    5.With that in mind, what better basis for our practice than the Word of God? How will we have a proper practice in our Church if we do not first have a proper understanding of the Word of God in our leaders? And the purpose of the church, that is, when believers meet together, is not primarily to evangelize the lost, but to evangelize the found. Or does he think that those who were saved do not need the gospel?

    6. I accept that some have a familiarity with the things the Bible teaches in the “Bible belt.” However I will contend that the answer is not less doctrine, but more doctrine. All failings in practice are a failings in doctrine. The moment I stop trusting God to provide for the future, I become a practical Open Theist. For the hours I sit wasting away in front of the television instead of doing something for the kingdom, I become a practical materialist, whose god is his stomach.

    7. For this reason it is the pastors job to motivate the flock with the Word of God. He has to live in the Word of God, to see it as living and active so that it will effect him. Then when he speaks, he will do so in a way that effects the believers. He has to challenge them to let the Word effect their lives throughout the week. He must provide light and heat. The light is the truth and the heat is the passion fueled by the truth and stoked by the Spirit. To have one without the other is to be an ineffective preacher.

    8. Do we no longer believe in the Spirit? Is it now the pastor’s job to change lives in his own eloquence or with his knowledge of human psychology or his humanistic driven social programs? Is that what we conclude when we don’t see the devotion to the kingdom in others that we would like? Is it now all of a sudden our responsibility to grow the church using our own tactics, as if God isn’t doing a good enough job? No. It is still our responsibility to preach the Word, in season and out of season.

    Paul says, “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all His energy that He powerfully works in me.”

  13. brian pick Says:

    “Furtick seems to be saying that the purpose of his church is evangelism. That is pretty backwards. The church is for building up the body for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4). We don’t have the right to redefine the purpose of the church. Church prepares us to do that work of the ministry, the church doesn’t do the ministry for us.”

    What about Matthew 28?

  14. elesquivel Says:

    I loved this video.
    Furtick is a great preacher.

  15. Josh Cooke Says:

    The majority of you make me quite angry.
    Once you have planted a Church and seen it grow to over 6000 people and have over 12000 at your Easter service within four and a half years, then you have the right to comment. Until then I wouldn’t bother.

    Gabriel Stice… You clearly don’t know anything about Pastor Furtick if you think he doesn’t have any accountability around him.

  16. Good Insect Lights Says:

    Well, we can hope. It might not happen, but that would be a great choice for president.

  17. lori carpenter Says:

    I agree wholeheartedly, Josh Cooke. My family and I have attended Elevation since the first service at Levine Senior Center in Matthews. My brother went to and graduated from Southeastern Theological Seminary, has been ordained, worked in the church, and now teaches at a Christian school. He has also attended Elevation since the beginning and leads small groups there. We attended meet the pastor where we learned about the senior pastors he had set about him to be accountable to. He is a wonderful, Bible teaching pastor. Most of the people commenting here should focus more on the advancement of God’s kingdom than trying to tear down and scrutinize ordained ministers who are busy doing just that.

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