Discernment, Guest Posts

Guest Post: Why I Left Elevation Church

UPDATE 2020: Folks, I’m not sure how to make it any clearer than I already have – by labeling this a “Guest Post,” referring to the “author” in the third person, bylining the article as “Name Withheld,” and asking those with comments for the author to leave them in the comments section – that I didn’t write this, but let me try one more time. I, Michelle Lesley, DID NOT write this article. I have never set foot on an Elevation campus. The article was written by another person who wishes to remain anonymous. If you email me about this article, your email will not reach the woman who wrote it. That’s why I’ve asked you to leave your comments below in the comments section. I appreciate your supportive response to the article, but it’s only fair to you and to the author that everyone is clear on who wrote it.

If your theology pretty much matches up with mine (as outlined in the “Welcome” and “Statement of Faith” tabs) and you’d like to contribute a guest post, drop me an e-mail at MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com, and let’s chat about it.

Why I Left Elevation Church
by Name Withheld

The author’s statements about her tenure at Elevation and
what particular Elevation pastors or staff said and did should be
taken as her own personal experience and not as irrefutable fact.

As you pull up to the parking lot, you are first greeted by someone directing parking traffic decked out in all orange. In the parking lot, there is a sea of Elevation Church bumper stickers plastered on everyone’s cars. You walk up to church, and you’re then greeted by volunteer after volunteer persuading you to join their eGroup or to join a volunteer team. It almost feels like you’re walking in the shopping mall and on every side of you there are sales people bombarding you trying to get you to buy their perfumes and colognes. After you dodge them all, you’re then surrounded by all sorts of people — local people, people who traveled from a few hours away, or people who flew in from out of country to attend this particular church. As you wait in line, you see to your left a merchandise table

You finally enter the auditorium of the church, and you’re ushered into your seat, or to what it may feel like, forced into your seat. “All the way down! Move all the way down, do not leave any empty chairs!” the usher tells you, because there can’t be any gaps where you sit for camera purposes. Suddenly, the lights dim and there’s a countdown on a giant screen letting you know when church will start. If you were new to the church, it would feel like you’re at a New Years Eve party. People all around you are excited and they start to stand up and clap and dance before the countdown even finishes. The person to your right is inserting the ear plugs that the church offers as you walk into the auditorium to help with the unbearably loud noise during worship. The lights come back on and the worship team comes on stage; there’s laser lights and fog machines and for a second, you think you’re at a concert. 

After some sort of high-quality, overly produced videos, the pastor then comes on stage. He first takes about five to ten minutes trying to gauge the crowd and then work the crowd to get them pumped up for whatever he is about to butcher, oh sorry, I mean preach. He puts up 1-3 Bible verses on the screen for everyone to follow along and then amazingly enough, spends about an hour and a half convincing the crowd that his Bible twisting is true. “The reason why you’re not being blessed by God, is because you don’t have enough faith!” he tells the crowd, some of whom are wealthy, and some of whom are living paycheck to paycheck, while he is on the stage dressed from head to toe in all Gucci.

After church ends, it’s an unbelievable ordeal to exit. You’re pushed and shoved, and people are stepping on your feet as you try to find your way out of the auditorium. Oh, and you’ll most definitely spend about ten to fifteen minutes sitting in your car in the parking lot trying to leave. You pull out of the church parking lot, and congratulations, you survived a visit to Elevation.


I was part of Elevation Church for about six years. At the time, I thought it was the greatest church on Earth and if anyone spoke negative about it, I thought they were just bitter. It felt like I was in a relationship with Elevation Church. With any relationship, in the beginning, it was puppy love and you just always want to be around them 24/7 so you volunteer extra hours and join everything that they have and buy all of their t-shirts and CDs. Then the relationship slowly became the overly attached partner that you so desperately needed to break up with, but didn’t know how to.

I eventually became the lead photographer at one of Elevation’s campuses and even was on the photography team for their live album recording, Here As In Heaven, at the Spectrum Center Arena (formerly known as the Time Warner Cable Arena). I led a team of about forty people. The majority of them were older than me so it was challenging at times to be a leader figure when my team were twice my age. I pretty much lived at church, between meetings and special events they had going on, I was always working. And when you’re around a church for that long, you see and hear a lot of things. 

I overheard the campus pastor telling potential new staff that they had to take a bullet for the church if it ever came to that point. I heard some staff getting fired when they were asked if they were “team Elevation” to which the staff member said, “I’m team Jesus.” So they were fired for not “bleeding orange.” 

Before Steven Furtick gets on stage, the photography team at the campus that he is at immediately has to upload photos of what the crowd looks like that day so he can see how big or how small his crowd is.

Eventually, I decided to quit after what I was witnessing didn’t feel like a church to me. On top of that, I was absolutely exhausted every time I got home and was starting to lose passion for photography. 

And boy oh boy, the day I told my supervisor that I was quitting was not fun. I lost all of my friends. And I’m not being dramatic when I say that I lost all my friends. Everyone I worked with and thought were my friends shunned me and ignored all my text messages and blocked me on social media. I was a total outcast. It was a pretty lonely year. I’m not going to lie. It was rough. 

I kept praying to God to give me discernment and to open up my eyes if I’m doing something wrong, to bring clarity. And God sure did answer my prayer, in a major way. 

About four months ago, my mom came into my room to where I was and all excited she tells me, “Guess who I heard on the radio?!”. I shrug my shoulders and say, “Who?” She says, “Costi Hinn, Benny Hinn’s nephew! He was saying how everything that Benny Hinn says and does, as well as other false teachers is fake, he was essentially exposing him.” My mom and I were pretty big Benny Hinn fans. When I was younger and lived in Florida, we went to his crusade and we managed to get floor seats because we thought the closer we got to Benny Hinn, the closer we got to a healing or a miracle. I was absolutely shocked when she told me. So the millennial in me started to look him up on Twitter and I found a tweet he posted about Bethel Church in Redding, California. I was intrigued, because I was accepted to Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM) but I ended up getting scammed seven thousand dollars that someone was supposed to give me and then I couldn’t go. Naturally, I was frustrated but I prayed to God to show me why I couldn’t go. This felt like an answered prayer. I replied to Costi’s tweet about Bethel and about two minutes later he replied to me, he gave me his email and out of the kindness of his heart, sent me his two books for free as well as an email full of information. I’m still trying to process all of it.

When I read Costi’s book, God, Greed, And The (Prosperity) Gospel, I read it so quick because I couldn’t put it down. It was three in the morning when I did finally finish it. I put the book down and just kept saying, “Wow.” I’ve been a Christian since I was three years old, and it felt like everything that I knew was one giant lie.

After that, I began to research more people and found so many good pastors and teachers that have shed a ton of light and information for me. Between what type of worship music you should and shouldn’t listen to, the type of church that you should attend, pastors you should stay away from, even down to the translation of the Bible that is good and which ones are bad. 

So what does my life look like now after I left Elevation? Well, I’m still in process mode. I keep doing my research and make sure that what I’m doing is biblically correct. I got rid of any books from false teachers that I had, got a different translation of the Bible, and deleted my old worship music playlist that was full of Elevation Worship, Hillsong Worship, and Bethel Music. I continue to pray for God to reveal to me what is the truth and little by little, I get new information.

This has most definitely been a journey of rediscovering Jesus, the true Jesus. It’s deconstructing everything that I was taught from false teachers and filling myself up with the true Gospel. And I am so grateful for God revealing to me the truth about Bethel Church before I got filled with even more deception by attending their school.

I share my story of leaving Elevation, because I want to help others who are being deceived by false teachers, like I once was, to be brought out so they can understand the true Gospel. I’ve seen – firsthand – false doctrine damage people so deep that they leave Christianity completely. When church becomes more about entertainment and theatrics, you have to ask yourself if it’s even a church. If you talk to anyone who goes to Elevation Church, you can tell that the focus is not centered on God, because the conversation always points to Steven Furtick and on his performance, not the actual word of God. 

I fully realize that not everyone is going to agree with me on this, especially those who I went with to Elevation Church. I love the people I worked with at Elevation Church, and it is because I love them that I am writing this because I want them to be brought out of deception. This has been no easy task, but it makes it all worth it to obey Christ.

Because good theology and sound doctrine matters.

Linked below¹ are resources that have helped me on this journey of finding the truth. I am forever grateful for their knowledge and for pouring into me and sharing with me the true Gospel.

An incredible documentary that shows how important it is to spread the true Gospel and how dangerous the word of faith movement is: American Gospel

Books by John MacArthur that have helped me: Strange Fire and Charismatic Chaos

Books by Costi Hinn that have helped me: God, Greed, And The (Prosperity) Gospel and Defining Deception

A Bible chart that breaks down different translations of the Bible.

How to find a good church near you: 9Marks

Video from Fighting For The Faith (Chris Rosebrough) on Steven Furtick from Elevation Church: Steven Furtick and The Danger of a Dream

Other helpful people to watch on YouTube:

Melissa Dougherty

Doreen Virtue

Mike Winger

Justin Peters and his Website.

Lindsay Davis who was an ex-Bethel student (BSSM) sharing her testimony: Ex Bethel Student Tells All: Lindsay Davis Testimony from Melissa Dougherty and Doreen Virtue

And Michelle Lesley who was kind enough to give me an opportunity to share my story.

The author of this guest post wished to remain anonymous. She is a resident of North Carolina and a former member of Elevation Church.

If you have a question for the author of this article, please comment below. I will leave it up to her to check the comments from time to time and reply as she feels appropriate.

²See also the Searching for a new church? tab at the top of this page, which includes not only the 9Marks church search engine but many others, and additional resources, as well.

52 thoughts on “Guest Post: Why I Left Elevation Church”

  1. Thank you for sharing. I have been warning people here in NC for years. His message is so subtle that it’s hard for some to discern the error and I end up appearing to rain on their parade and being too critical. He preaches a man centered gospel and purposely advises people NOT to read the Bible. The women’s Bible study I am leading now has a few ladies who are very upset if anything is spoken against this church. Thank you for your willingness to speak out. God bless you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m sharing this!

      I am not surprised, he’s a wolf pretending to be a sheep. Very scary that Lysa Terkurst is a member of this church. I wonder how many other well known Christians are apart of his false teaching ring.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Would you share a link or reference where I can find Furtick saying his followers shouldn’t read the Bible? I had the misfortune of visiting last year for Inside Elevation and I felt like I was in hell…the noise was unbelievable. But my pastors love this guy and every new Elevation Worship song ends up on our song list.


      1. I haven’t heard anything like that and have been watching him online for a few years he has really brought me to God and changed my life but I think for myself and I do my research and reading as well, he is unorthodox to a point because he gives people relatable content, but it has helped me and I thank God for that. God actually drew me to his channel, I grew up in church and hadn’t been in many years I was at work one Sunday and was really feeling the pull to get back into church, but I worked all the time, so I got to thinking there had to be an online church where I could watch sermons, so I prayed and asked God to help me find the right one, and I found many but was drawn to the link for elevation. I watched a sermon and felt God working through him in everyone I watched, even if he’s not perfectly teaching, he tells you all the time he is still a work in progress, God is working through him, I am grateful God led me to him and helped me and brought me closer to him now for the first time in my life I have completely surrendered myself to God and finally have a relationship with him, and Elevation helped me get to that point. Though shalt not judge…. just saying…


      2. Hi Tonya- Normally I wouldn’t publish a comment like this, but if there’s any chance I might be able to reach you with the truth, I want to try. Regardless of what you think or how you feel, God did not “draw” you to Steven Furtick or Elevation. That is your heart deceiving you, because Steven Furtick is a false teacher. If you have ever studied what the Bible says about false teachers you know it says we are to have nothing to do with them.

        Because God does not act in ways that contradict His written Word, we can know definitively that He did not lead you to Furtick/Elevation, and He is not “using” Furtick/Elevation in any positive, godly, biblical way. The only way God is using Furtick/Elevation is to judge and further harden the hearts of people who want their itching ears scratched.

        I’d like to offer you some help, if I may. If you truly want to know Christ and his Word, live in obedience to Scripture, and grow in holiness, I would urge you to make use of these resources:

        1. Read and seriously consider all of the verses and information I’ve linked above.

        2. Read #3 here.

        3. Take some time to follow 2 Corinthians 13:5‘s admonition to prayerfully examine yourself, honestly before God, using Scripture to discover whether or not you’re actually a Believer. John 10 is abundantly clear that people who are truly Christ’s sheep (genuinely regenerated Believers) will not follow the voice of a stranger (false teachers). If you need some help examining yourself against Scripture to see whether or not you’re truly saved, I would encourage you to use my study of the book of 1 John: Am I Really Saved?.

        4. Steven Furtick does not preach the biblical gospel, so make sure you understand what the biblical gospel is – what you have to believe and do in order to be saved – by spending some time reviewing the biblical gospel here. You can’t just believe whatever you like and actually be saved.

        5. Find a good, doctrinally sound church you can attend in your area. Joining with, and physically attending church is not optional for Believers. If you’re not sure where to start looking or what to look for in a good church, start here. If your work schedule is still an issue, begin praying that God will make a way for you to be able to go to church. Talk to your boss about rearranging your schedule. Look for a new job that doesn’t require you to work on Sundays. Do whatever you have to do – church is that important.

        6. While you’re searching for a new church, if you want to listen to the truth of the Bible from a good, doctrinally sound pastor, check out any of the men at the Recommended Bible Teachers tab (in the blue menu bar at the top of this page). I would suggest starting off with John MacArthur, Steve Lawson, or Gabriel Hughes.

        If you need help with any of this or have any questions about moving away from Furtick/Elevation/false doctrine and toward sound doctrine, I’d be more than happy to help, but, as it says above the comment box, I will not publish any argumentative comments or any further comments defending/supporting Furtick/Elevation since he is a false teacher.

        Liked by 1 person

    3. Glad you’re FREE!!! Puts a different perspective on the scripture… what the Son has set free is free indeed!! Stay free and stay Bold to telling the truth.


  2. I teared up reading this. Because I understand. I’m an older woman and for two years was misled by a church just like this. I am now in a Bible believing church, seek God, and study doctrine and theology— but I still struggle with my own sin and the false doctrine I followed.–and the loss of friends. My own sin is to blame. But God is a.good and I am far, far happier now no matter the struggle.

    I pray for this sister and pay she finds a good Bible based church and continues to pursue God.

    And I thank God for women like you Michelle who fight for truth in this age of deception , may He protect and guide you.

    May more sisters have their eyes opened, and the scales fall from their eyes.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for your comment! And I praise God for this post! My family and I had to leave our church recently due to a false doctrine being used (the Enneagram). We spoke with the elder board, and they refused to acknowledge what the bible had to say about such teachings. I am continually discovering more and more corruption in the Modern Church. It’s both shocking and disturbing! There are so many lukewarm Christians! Scripture is very clear how our Lord and Savior feels about lukewarm Christianity. My family and I are praying earnestly for a spiritual awakening in the Church. In this year, 2020, I believe God is calling on His children to open their eyes to the truth. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the year 2020 can be compared to 20/20 vision.


  3. Thank you for sharing your story. Happily, there are many of us who can share similar stories of how the grace of God delivered us out of various false religious systems. And yes there is a price to be paid in strained or even severed relationships with those who remain behind, but the joy that is found in the simple truth of the unfettered gospel is worth it. Blessings to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hello Michelle,

    I appreciate your honesty and convictions about your time at Elevation. I live in the Charlotte area and was wondering if you would like to attend my church?

    I did attend Bible college at Toccoa Falls college. I do hold a conservative and doctrinally sound view of the Gospel and not try to interpret what I think it says. My church is Independent Baptist, not that I care for denominations, but it’s definitely sound and a fantastic privilege to grow as a believer.

    Feel free to reach out to me: pkyang7@gmail.com
    My church is Hope Baptist Church
    101 Old Stallings Road
    Stallings, NC


    1. Hi there- Thank you so much for your very kind offer. I actually did not write this article. It is a guest post from one of my readers. I live in Louisiana, so it would be a little bit too much of a commute for me. :0)


      1. Hahaha… I saw later it was a guest post. I was like, “Oppsss…” well, Lord willing maybe I’ll find that person who left Elevation here in Charlotte.


  5. I’ve been praying for the people being wholesale deceived at Elevation for years, since I found out my family swallowed the kool aid. I looked into them to see what it was about and was met with straight up Bible twisting deception. I know it wasn’t my own prayers specifically, but reading this is wonderful. God can do all things, He can and will save His people from deception.
    Thank you for publishing.


  6. You said that you lost alot of friends!But know this….THEY WERE NOT REAL FRIENDS!Real friends would stick closer than a brother…and the friends that Christ gives you…you will never lose!


  7. Michelle, thank you for allowing her to speak her thoughts on this. I used to go to Elevation too, and experienced a similar situation, and would like to connect with the writer of this story, if possible. And if she would be open to it.


  8. Wow, did I need to read this today. My family is in the process of searching for a new church, after we realized the one we were in for 9 years was not doctrinally sound. I am dealing with some pretty tough feelings right now. I really feel like I let my kids down by not realizing we were in the wrong place. Thankfully, after praying for more wisdom, God was able to get through to us. I just wanted to add, we did visit an Elevation Church, and it is as you described. We have family that attends, and loves Steven. I pray that God will open their eyes to see the truth. Thank you for sharing your experience.


    1. Jennifer- I praise God with you that He opened your eyes and brought you out! If you need any help finding a new church, there are lots of good resources (church search engines, what to look for in a solid church, etc.) at the “Searching for a new church?” tab at the top of this page.


  9. I grew up in a Baptist home and I have been to Elevation a few times. I do have some pro’s and con’s to the Church. I do love the worship music and actually stopped going to Church for a VERY long time. I discovered the worship music and now love it and have started going back to Church actually. Now visiting the Church is different. I don’t understand why they have to have a fog machine and colored lights? I have been to the one in Winston a few times and have felt pushed to join an e group. When you walk in yes you are bombarded like a sales team is approaching you. I have stopped going for different reasons. I am also not 100% sold on Pastor Stevens sermons. Does anyone recommend a Church in Winston Salem on here?


    1. Hi Corissa- This might sound a little weird, but I’m glad you’re not totally comfortable at Elevation. I would encourage you to read John 10 and prayerfully consider that, if you’re truly a Believer, your discomfort is most likely the Holy Spirit leading you away from Elevation to seek out a biblical, doctrinally sound church (which Elevation is not – for more info on that, click on the “Popular False Teachers & Unbiblical Trends” tab at the top of this page and scroll down to the section on Steven Furtick and Elevation).

      For help finding a good solid church in your area, click on the “Searching for a new church?” tab at the top of this page. There are lots of church search engines you can check out, and please also take some time to carefully examine the resources in the “What to look for in a church” section of that page.

      A good, Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church is so important to the life of the Believer. I hope this info helps. (Let me know if you need further help. :0))


    2. Woodland Baptist Church with Pastor Tim Gammons is an awesome church in Winston Salem. You won’t be disappointed. If I didn’t live and hour away my family and I would call that our home church!


  10. I want to thank the writer of this post for sharing this testimony. I am praying for you. I realize this was written in October so I hope you are growing in your newfound and true knowledge of the Lord.


  11. Thank you for being so brave and writing this. I am currently attending a church that is part of the ARC family for 5 years. I have been feeling a pull on my heart to pursue a different church and this helped me come to the truth I needed. God bless you for bringing his truth to light.


    1. Becca- I praise God for the work God is doing in your life. If you need help getting started finding a new church, go to the blue menu bar at the top of the page and click on “Searching for a new church?”. Lots of great resources there. :0)


  12. Thank you for sharing. I never attended the church in person but online and was in egroups with them. It all started to rub me the wrong way and while I do think Steven has recently started pointing more toward Jesus in his message, I never know If he is for real or not. Glad I found this old post so I know I’m not alone in questioning things.


  13. I am saddened to read this and even more sad because I know, firsthand, that it is true. A member of our family worked for Elevation for two years as a worship leader, and it was mostly a nightmare. The author’s experiences about the cult-like atmosphere are 100 percent true. To even be on the worship teams, you MUST look and sound a certain way. (Campus pastors are often young, handsome guys with fake tans and mostly shaved heads who have barely been saved a year or so and have zero seminary training, but they look good and have beautiful wives and children so they get the job.) The battery of tests/interviews potential employees are put through is mind-blowing. I’m talking about things like the Wonderlic test, which is an intelligence test given to potential NFL players. Apparently, you have to have a certain IQ to be deemed worthy of working for Elevation. There are constant “fitness” and “health” challenges among the employees. Different teams at different campuses compete against each other to see who can lose the most weight or exercise the most. Lavish prizes are given to the winners. Employees sign agreements not to be in places alone with members of the opposite sex and not to “speak ill” against Steven Furtick or others in leadership. Furtick has a personal stylist who purchases his clothing and dresses him. His hair is cut every Saturday so he looks good on camera. He has people who are constantly on “style watch” for him so he can snag shoes worth thousands of dollars as soon as they’re released. Massage therapists come to the Elevation offices on a regular basis for Furtick and other employees. He lives in a fortress and is always accompanied by bodyguards who are in each church service and proudly “guard” his wife, Holly.

    If you express any disagreement or discomfort with anyone in leadership, you are asked to leave. “If Steven Furtick isn’t good enough for you, then you shouldn’t be here.” “If you can’t buy in to the ‘Elevation Way”, then this isn’t the place for you.” Employees are worked to the bone for little pay and/or appreciation. It’s all about appearances and how things look. There is little to no regard for one’s feelings or personal struggles.They aren’t allowed. And if your struggle happens to reflect poorly on the church, you’re done. When our family member left, they were removed from group chats and texts within minutes of resigning. Some people who they had been very close to will not speak to them. They’ve lost friendships they thought were real with people they thought were Christians. I’m actually surprised that people haven’t wondered more about the goings-on at Elevation after London Gatch and Mack Brock left suddenly in 2017. There have got to be more things going on behind the scenes. I’m just waiting for a “tell all”. Sadly, Elevation is not thought of highly in the Charlotte area,which means that God and His church are also barely tolerated.


      1. Hi there- You’ve submitted several comments for approval which promote false doctrine. As you may have noticed, there’s a statement above the comment box that says, in part, “I do not publish comments which promote false doctrine.” I just wanted to save you some time and let you know that I will not be publishing any of your comments in that vein.

        I highly recommend that you read this, repent, and believe the true biblical gospel, which you are not getting at Elevation or from Steven Furtick. If you do, and in the future you’d like to post a doctrinally sound comment, you’ll be most welcome. Until such time, please cease and desist.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. What a glorious and beautiful God we have!! He is SO FAITHFUL to bring those who are TRULY seeking Him out of the darkness and into His marvelous light!! The highest praise to HIM!!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Hi, been looking into this recently. Im from the uk so furtick is just one of those names you hear. I think though most modern churches are similar in this way, lights, sounds, overzealous ‘welcome’ teams, etc. A bit manufactured. It is sad. But equally ive been to dry, doctrinally sound churches with no youth and a slowly dying congregation. I tjink moder churches fall victim yo their oqn success and gradually move towards more emphasis on image. Its sad and just something to watch out for and even pray for people like Steven. Don’t under estimate the power of intercession. No one is untouchable.
    I have listened to a bunch of Steves talks and have actually enjoyed and we have been blessed by what we (me and my wife) have heard. I think God can use people in different seasons and ive not heard him say anything specifically theologically incorrect so far. Although no one is perfect.
    I think one issue is mixing pastors with teachers, they are not always the same. If teaching is missing, details get missed. Pastors have leadership abilities but not always good teaching. Ideally we would have both. It is hard and im sorry to hear of these accounts. Sadly churches always struggle to create good cultures. I don’t think people have quite got the gist of that well yet.


  16. The person who left Elevation didn’t clearly say if they were shunned for quitting the photo team or the the church. It’s very common to be ostracized for leaving a cultish religious group but not for leaving a position. Ear plugs, light show, fog machine ect… how worldly! The pure word of God, true praise and worship that brings the Lord’s presence is what we need and long for.


    1. I do believe things can be used inappropriately e. g. Light shows. Ive been to a couple of uk churches that create a showy atmosphere which i disagree with. However, we also need to remember that lights, fog machines, HD screens can be used to glorify God too. It depends on the heart and purpose in using them. Afterall, they all belong to God. He invented yhe various laws of physics that allowed them to be created. He madr many wonderful and glorious things in nature/the universe that can astound his creation. Natural fog, the Northern lights etc. So i don’t think they are intrinsically wrong in themselves. Like all of our gifts and abilities, we can use them to glorify God or ourselves/our ministries. God looks at the heart.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There’s a big difference between natural fog and lights, and fog and lights produced by machines that are controlled by men. The latter are intended to trigger an emotional response that won’t be likely tied to worshiping God. They will be tied to a physical event that happened at church that can’t be replicated anywhere else (other than a concert or movie). In true worship we let theology and his Word (truths about God) fill our minds so that our minds will be conformed to Christ (sanctification). It isn’t devoid of emotion, but worship is primarily driven by the mind. Fog machines and laser lights are nothing but a distraction. Besides, how could you know if they are being used with “the right heart”? Doesn’t the “heart intent” seem tho be off when those kinds of tactics are generally only used in a concert like atmosphere where there is little regard for God’s true Word and sound doctrine? Worship and church isn’t entertainment so we can feel good. They are about submitting our lives to God and growing in holiness. The bible says it itself is sufficient to that end. Seeker- and experience-driven churches don’t believe in the sufficiency of scripture, and that is why they add all these distractions to begin with. That is the core issue.


  17. Here’s the top clue that you’re in a business and not a church: there are leaders. When you ‘lead a team of photographers’ or of anything else; you’ve stepped outside scripture.
    We have but one leader: our Lord. We are all servants…or the older word ‘ministers’. We all have various gifts and we all contribute in the way we are gifted. We serve. We are all ministers of the gospel in different ways. Paul has the full kit on this in 1 Corinthians 12:12 and following.
    In the church as we minister in our various relationships we might organise ministry groups, or convene a mission activity, or serve an outreach team, or support a discipleship group or coordinate a service: get those words: organise, convene, support, serve, coordinate. We are mutually part of the church; not spectators at a show.


    1. David- While I agree with much of what you’re saying, am I understanding you correctly to say that the concept of leadership – even leadership by doctrinally sound pastors and elders – is unbiblical? Because that’s just not true, starting with Hebrews 13:17:

      Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

      Maybe I’m just misunderstanding you?


      1. Hi Michelle ~. I saw the link to 9marks ~ I clicked on my area (NC) and it listed a church (Summit) that has been a huge red flag for me- 501c3 church and took the PPP loan- huge connections to the deep state control! I am just desperately trying to find a “safe” church but with this one listed I am not sure If I can trust the list! Thank you


      2. Hi Susan- I have been watching the trajectory of 9 Marks and have been disappointed at the direction they seem to be heading. I try very hard to extend grace and the benefit of the doubt to ministries that have had a solid reputation for many years when they first appear to be slipping, hoping that they will correct their course. However, if 9 Marks continues down this road, I will remove their church search engine from the list.

        I believe that most of the churches listed with 9 Marks have probably been listed with them since the days when their reputation was stellar, and are probably playing the same “wait and see” position as I am. I am all too familiar with JD Greear and Summit and would not recommend them as they seem to be following in 9 Marks’ footsteps. I would recommend you try the Founders search engine and the Masters’ Seminary search engine along with some of the others.

        Do keep in mind that no church is perfect, and you may have to go with the most doctrinally sound one you can find in your area even if it has a flaw or two (God may put you in that church so you can help bring about change), or you may need to look into church planting.


  18. I saw my first Elevation broadcast last week and wasn’t that impressed. Aside from it being just another hip service with a casual style that are a dime a dozen these days and frankly becoming a tiresome trend, he is just another motivational speaker. But not wanting to judge on one experience, I listened to a few more services this week and one thing that stood out is the amount of time he spends talking about himself and praising his own sermons (if you must call them that). Combine that with his association with Joel Osteen, TBN, and other questionable characters and you’ll get right to the core of the man he really is and wants to be. So I don’t really care how well versed he is in Scripture; it’s hollow to me because it is just skillfully interwoven into his narcissism.


  19. Yep all that is very accurate. I grew up in Charlotte at a great church but was not yet following Jesus. In high school Elevation started and it was “cool” to go there, meet up with friends from other schools, it was the hip “Christian” thing to do. As a high schooler in 2009, I was asked by Elevation staff to sit in the “Mosh-Pit” section (a section on the front row) of the auditorium and asked to jump around during worship (so that the cameras could see young people really into the worship). I went off to college in a different city thinking, man there’s no other churches for me, and continued to watch online rather than get involved in a local church in my new college town. After college, moved back to Charlotte, jumped right back in to Elevation. I was now the age and demographic where Elevation REALLY targets you to get involved in 15 different ways (22 year old white guy). I was asked to lead an E-Group even though I didn’t feel led to, I was serving on one volunteer team every other weekend at one campus, then serving on a different volunteer team at a different campus on my off-weekends. I’d show up at 7am, we’d have “volunteer-rallies” where the campus pastor hypes up all the 20-something year old volunteers, barely attend the sermon, go home at 1pm pretty exhausted. One time I was volunteering at a campus at a weeknight event that Steven Furtick was going to come IN-PERSON to (major deal to elevation people because they never ever meet him in person). I volunteered in the parking lot at the high school where the event was. The Elevation staff was acting like the President was about to pull up to the parking lot. Saying stuff like “he’s 5-minutes out” as they pace the parking lot to make sure he can have a flawless entrance (as if getting out of a car and walking into a school is difficult). He finally pulls up in a brand new suburban with a driver (he never drives) and is ushered in to a back door (as if paparazzi was waiting for him). After the event, hundreds of people line up to meet him (that was the big reason of this event, he was coming to a campus that he never preaches at in person, so they were going to let people meet him for a few seconds each). I help clean up after the event, as 2-3 hours pass of people waiting for their 30 seconds to meet him and get a picture (now they can tell their friends & family that they ACTUALLY HAVE met their Pastor when they’re questioned about it). When there’s a few people left in line, my volunteer-leader encourages me to get in line to meet him (it’s like 10pm and I just want to go home). He sort of forces me to even though I don’t really want to. I awkwardly stand there in line and it’s my turn and I just tell him how long I’ve been attending the church (the longer, the more “loyal” you are), get an awkward picture with him, and leave thinking there is a lot wrong with this church and how everyone idolizes him.
    ANYWAYS, I’m 29 now and left Elevation 4 years ago and my eyes have been opened to SO much that’s wrong with that church. I don’t think it’s ALL wrong, but there’s A LOT wrong. Some genuine followers of Jesus go there… Why? I’m not sure. I think Steven loves Jesus and wants people to find Jesus, but he has gotten extremely caught up in status and comfort and popularity.


    1. Wow. That is really eye-opening, and it sounds like more work for a man than worship of God. I’m glad He got you out of there. Have you been able to find a good, solid doctrinally sound church to join?


    2. Hi, thanks for this. I think a lot has to do with influences from our general culture and what has been created as part of a church culture. Whether he intended that type of idolising early is not for me to say, but it sounds like he certainly hasn’t done enough to curb it. People can equally idolise any preacher, whether in obvious ways like this or in the heart even with more conservative preachers/teachers like Lucado, Grudem, Piper etc. It was written about in scripture with the issue of ‘I follow Apollos, I follow Paul’ issue’. We still have it today. Perhs Steven has been caught up too much in his own success, or, people have put him there and he has run with it ‘Don’t drive Steve, I’ll do it for you’. We can also see the rarity principle at play, what becomes rare we give great value to. Gold, Diamonds, contact with the pastor. Its one of our human nature’s many flaws. I do think that churches like Elevation to the best of my knowledge, the problem lies more with church culture. Everything mentioned BILLEM16 in your post is a culture issue.Sadly, it has become more accepted in larger churches. I always believe pastors need to be available to meet as we are all members of one body. But on the other side, when a pastor becomes so well known, they have to deal people’s idolising of them so perhaps withdraw as a coping mechanism??


  20. I can attest to all that Billem16 says. In addition to our family member (who was a worship leader as I commented above), our son was involved in the youth leadership at Elevation. He was often asked to sit in the front (they reserve seats for certain people) to jump around and worship and because he had “the look” they wanted to convey. Meaning, he’s a good looking kid, who dressed very trendy, etc. The youth leadership was a giant mess of egos, arrogance, and only about the numbers they could report back. Once, when my son had signed up to serve at a youth event, he was told if he didn’t bring 5 friends (people who hadn’t previously been to Elevation), he couldn’t come. Seriously. This is how they operate.


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