Megachurch Minister Remains Under Fire for Allegedly Manufacturing Mass Baptisms

Furtick preachingCHARLOTTE, N.C. – A North Carolina megachurch minister remains under fire for his alleged practice of instructing volunteers to strategically respond to salvation calls in order to bolster baptism numbers.

Steven Furtick leads Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, one of the largest megachurches in the United States, with weekly attendance above 14,000. According to reports, Furtick performed 3,519 baptisms in the first eight months of 2013 alone, and baptized 400 attendees during a ceremony just last month.

In addition to those taking note of the large number of baptisms, Furtick recently drew controversy when Elevation Church published a document entitled Spontaneous Baptisms How To Guide. The nine-page document outlines the baptism policy followed during one of its previous outreach events.

The baptism how-to guide features detailed instructions for volunteers, including directions on how strategically-placed members are to sit in the auditorium and “be the first ones to move” toward the baptism area “when pastor gives the call.”

“Sit in the auditorium and begin moving forward when Pastor Steven says go,” the church document instructs. “Move intentionally through the highest visibility areas and the longest walk.”

Speed and efficiency are important to the baptism process, according to the Elevation Church guide.

“The first people going into the changing rooms have got to be people who move quickly, they must be changed and out on stage in a few minutes,” the document states. “Pick young energetic people, not necessarily those who are there first. Think of the room in terms of a NASCAR pit stop, it has to be a quick in and quick out.”

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According to the baptism guide, volunteers should also be placed in hallways to “create critical mass as people are moving through the hallway toward [the baptism area].”

As allegations of stimulating baptisms have drawn criticism from other Christians, many continue to question the practices of Furtick and Elevation Church. James Duncan, a blogger and professor at Anderson University, accused Furtick of seeding the auditorium with “shills who pretend to be responding to the call.”

“[The volunteers’] high-visibility movement is designed to manipulate others to follow,” Duncan contended in a blog post. “If Furtick was confident in his message and in the efficacy of the Holy Spirit’s call, he shouldn’t need fake converts.”

“For good doctrinal reasons that even Steven Furtick understands, [the church volunteers] never ought to have responded in the first place,” Duncan argued. “Not only are they lying, they are pretending to sinfully partake in the most important sacrament of their church. That’s serious stuff for a pastor and church to be encouraging.”

But in a recent sermon, Furtick publicly addressed the baptism controversy, denying that the baptisms are manufactured. According to the Christian Post, Furtick declared that he is “too scared of God to do something like that.”

“If you want to pick on my house, okay,” Furtick stated. “But it’s a different territory when you start picking on people who made a decision to be baptized for Jesus Christ.”

“To take the fact that we have volunteers that lead the way so people will know where to go and to act as if they were pretending to be baptized and to negate the sincere faith decision of precious people who had one of the most meaningful experiences of their life, that’s just sick!” he stated.

The same day, Furtick performed a reported 400 baptisms in the auditorium.

Reports of Elevation Church’s questionable baptism policy came soon after Warren Cole Smith of WORLD Magazine revealed that Furtick lives in a recently-constructed, $1.7 million mansion.

“People were willing to excuse [Furtick’s] flamboyance and extravagant lifestyle by saying, ‘But, he’s doing such great work,’” Smith told The Huffington Post. “Now, this [baptism] controversy calls into serious question the legitimacy of conversion rates the church has been claiming.”

“This is one of the byproducts of an evangelical movement that favors emotionalism and personal experience over doctrine, theology and biblical teaching,” Smith stated.

Photo: YouTube

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  • Sam

    Same old methods all the mega churches use. But a property worth 1.7 million isnt really that much to be honest. Most basic homes are worth half a million in sydney and thats a pokey little home. Although 1.7 million sounds a lot, I dont think its that bad. I would disagree with this pastor just on the cheap gospel he preaches.

  • Sir Tainly

    …………more revolting than Milli Vanilli, because the fakery was done in God’s name… me.

  • Mabel Frank

    2Th 3:6-12 Brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ we tell you to stay away from any believer who refuses to work. People who refuse to work are not following the teaching that we gave them.

    You yourselves know that you should live like we do. We were not lazy when we were with you.

    We never accepted food from anyone without paying for it. We worked and worked so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We worked night and day.

    We had the right to ask you to help us. But we worked to take care of ourselves so that we would be an example for you to follow.

    When we were with you, we gave you this rule: “Whoever will not work should not be allowed to eat.”
    We hear that some people in your group refuse to work. They are doing nothing except being busy in the lives of others.

    Our instruction to them is to stop bothering others, to start working and earn their own food. It is by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ that we are urging them to do this.

  • Jon Saldivar

    Okay, my initial response was – this dude’s a loser. However, if he is placing “shills” in the audience to encourage greater audience conversion, it does beg the question — what OTHER methods do churches use to draw new converts? It is a fact that people are encouraged to take that bold step if they see others going forward first – does this discredit/discount the work of the Holy Spirit? Not necessarily. Typically churches will employ softer, more worship-ful (or meditative) music to draw new converts forward. Like it or not, admit it or not, this is also manipulation. But again, does it discredit/discount the work of the Holy Spirit? Not necessarily. The pastor may soften his voice and use phrases like, “is there one more?” or “I feel like there’s one more out there, struggling…” “don’t care what anyone else is thinking,” just take that step of faith. Plus, the audience starts to applaud when a new convert responds to an altar call (respectfully, of course). This is all manipulative. I’m not saying it is diabolically manipulative. But it is manipulative. And does it discredit the work of the Holy Spirit? No. So planting “shills” in the audience to come forward at the strategic moment? Manipulation? Yes. Sinister and evil? I’m not so sure.

  • WorldGoneCrazy

    $1.7M mansion on earth means no mansion in Heaven, “Pastor.”

    • Laurie-Ann Curry

      The money he earns from his books, and other personal endeavors, is his to do with as he pleases. Profit from books sold at the church go to the church. The Word does not say we cannot do well financially.

      • WorldGoneCrazy

        “The money he earns from his books, and other personal endeavors, is his to do with as he pleases.” False. It is God’s money, not his. He is to provide for his family, yes, but not be a lover of money, wealth, and things. “No one can serve two masters…” Matthew 6:24. After providing for the needs of his family, he is to use his wealth to support the Church, not the other way around. He is to pursue “righteousness, Godliness, faith, love, patience and meekness.” 1 Timothy 6:11.

        The fact that he (apparently) uses deceptive practices is an indication of the falsehood in his heart. 1.7M mansion?!? Sounds like just another fake prosperity “gospel” preacher to me. It’s a popular delusion these days, but it is nowhere to be found in the Book of Acts or the early authentic Christian church.

        Yes, he can certainly prosper financially – but for God’s Glory, not for his extravagant comfort.

  • Michelle

    This is laughable. It is obvious the writer of this article and those commenting have never taken part in leading large ministry events. Many people getting baptized are new to the church and don’t know what to do. Someone has to be an example and show them where they are supposed to walk, and maybe even block certain areas from the water dripping so others do not slip, etc. It may require several volunteers to help due to the large numbers. When you go to a small church with a baptismal, it is a much different scenario. (Baptizing the handicapped and elderly last may be preferred since it is time efficient.) Let’s get some people saved, how about it? We can only hope to have the problem of having too many to baptize!

  • Oh’ this and any other false teacher will have their reward today, now, as in this life. But oh the price they will pay if they do not repent and turn before they appear before His great white throne!

    • WorldGoneCrazy

      Great words of wisdom, Rick!

  • Stephanie

    This spectacle is just an extreme outgrowth of “decision” rather than repentance. It’s all manufactured to add nickels, numbers, and noses. This ministry built on the sand will eventually collapse.

    • WorldGoneCrazy

      Amen, Stephanie!



    • Lu

      I attended Elevation for years and let’s just say was VERY involved…VERY. So no, not everyone on here is speaking out of ignornance but perhaps discernment. I am. This church is all about Steven Furtick, not God. When you have to stand when he walks in the room, I don’t call that honor. Rather, I believe that’s idolatry. I do believe this “church” is on a dangerous path and I can only pray that those I love that still attend Elevation will one day be moved in their spirit to move on (for their soul and wallet’s sake).

      • WorldGoneCrazy

        Thank you for posting, Lu. Let’s all pray for those well-intentioned worshippers who have been taken in by this (apparently) false “gospel.”

    • WorldGoneCrazy

      Does he have a mansion, Bobbi? If so, why? Is he storing up treasures on this earth? If so, there is where his heart lies. Matthew 6:19-21

  • David Rose

    I accept that it is always easy to criticise, and I’m sure that no one group or individual has a monopoly of truth. However I doubt that the Apostle Paul would recognise this as authentic Christianity. I have been a follower of Jesus 40+ yrs and seen the good the bad and the plain ugly. Forget claims of new visions and moves. If its not clearly not God’s Word avoid it literally, like the plague. It surely is that simple.

  • Just another situation of the immorality within the church.

  • JBP

    pretty sad. but the folks who are allowing themselves to be dragged along in this charade are also in need of looking inwards, not at their neighbors, or a huckster with a great delivery.

    • WorldGoneCrazy

      Well put, JBP. And the folks being brainwashed also need to learn how to turn off their “CAPS LOCK.” 🙂

      • Lu

        Haha, yes! That’s too funny! You’re right though. Those that defend Steven and Elevation are very defensive and definitely use their caps lock a lot. And they are most certainly brainwashed. It is disheartening that so many people can be so easily swayed by one man. It really does make me sad. We need to pray for Steven too.

        • WorldGoneCrazy

          Amen, Lu! Thanks for your courageous postings!