Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (The Bible Project, leaving Elevation, Bible study supplements, Attend the study?…)

Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question.

I like to take the opportunity in these potpourri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar (at the very bottom of each page) can be a helpful tool!

Or maybe I answered your question already? Check out my article The Mailbag: Top 10 FAQs to see if your question has been answered and to get some helpful resources.


A friend recently recommended your website for guidance with deciphering false teachers. I am wondering what do I do with all the books that I will now be getting rid of. I can’t in my right mind donate them or sell them. Is it enough to recycle them? Should they be trashed or even burned? Thanks in advance for your time and wisdom in this question. Thank you for your site and all the research and resources you have put together. I appreciate you.

How very kind of you to say! It is my absolute pleasure to serve you, and all my readers, in Christ.

I rejoice with you that God is growing you in discernment. Your instinct not to donate or sell these materials is correct. Throwing them out (render them unreadable first) or burning them is the best thing to do. (See section 3 of this article for more – you are not alone!)

(Long time readers- I know you’ve seen me address this question several times, but it is so encouraging to me to hear from women whose eyes have been opened to biblical truth, and I figured it would be encouraging to you, too. I might address this question every time I receive it just for the encouragement factor! :0)


Have you researched The Bible Project?

I have not, but my friend Gabriel Hughes has done a bunch of research on it. The short version is that he doesn’t recommend it. Click here for the long version.


I read your article about leaving Elevation Church. I am interested in hearing more about your experience.

Thank you for asking. I’d love to help you out, but as you can see from the title of the article and other remarks before, after, and in the article, this was a guest post, written by one of my readers who wishes to remain anonymous. I didn’t write it. I’ve never been to Elevation nor laid eyes on Steven Furtick.

If you have a question for the author of the article, I would suggest leaving a comment in the comment box on that article (click “leaving Elevation church” above, and leave your comment there, or she probably won’t see it). I will leave it up to her to check the comments from time to time and reply as she feels appropriate. (Just to save fans of Furtick, Elevation, and false doctrine some time: I will not be publishing your comments.)

Or, seeing as I’ve received several comments and questions about this article, if someone would like to start a “Survivors of Elevation” sort of Facebook group, send me the link. As long as I don’t receive any reports of unbiblical shenanigans, I’ll refer any inquiries I receive to the group.


Do you know if any good resources to study 1 Corinthians? Any good books, sermons, teachings you know about? It’s for my church’s ladies Bible Study. We read from the Bible but always like an extra sound resource.

While I don’t make recommendations for what I call “canned” (book, workbook, DVD, etc.) Bible studies, if you’re already studying straight from the Bible itself it can be helpful to use some good study aids, sermons, etc. as supplements from time to time. Here’s what I’d recommend for 1 Corinthians or any other book of the Bible:

Bible Book Backgrounds: Why You Need Them and Where to Find Them (I would also recommend any of the other materials at these three sites, not just the book backgrounds.)

Study Bibles, Commentaries, Dictionaries, and Bible Study Helps (see #4)

Recordings / transcripts of any previous sermons your own pastor has preached on the passage you’re studying.

Anything John MacArthur / Grace to You has preached, taught, or written on the passage. (Use the search bar)

Anything R.C. Sproul / Ligonier has preached, taught, or written on the passage. (Use the search bar. Also note that this is a Presbyterian ministry, so if you are more in the Baptistic stream, there will be a few perspectives you don’t align with,  but it’s always helpful to hear the other side of the issue from a doctrinally sound source.)

When using these resources (except for the Bible book backgrounds), I would strongly recommend studying the passage yourself first, and then listening to someone else’s sermon, reading someone else’s article, etc. Do the work of digging in by yourself, without being influenced by anybody else’s voice.

Why? A) It’s good discipline. We need to be able to mine the Scriptures and hear God speaking to us through His word for ourselves, without someone else doing the work for us and telling us what the passage means or how it applies. B) It’s such an amazing experience to grasp what God is saying in a particular passage and then turn to other Christians – maybe even Christians who lived hundreds of years ago and thousands of miles away – to whom God revealed the exact same thing by the exact same Holy Spirit. It will help you get a bigger sense of the inspiration of Scripture, the Holy Spirit’s work through His living and active Word, God’s sovereignty, and your connection to, and fellowship with the church catholic (“little ‘c'” / universal).


Regarding the steps listed in “How should I approach my church leaders about a false teacher they’re introducing”: If I talk to the Women’s Ministry Team and they decide to use the wrong teaching regardless, is it best to AVOID the classes or attend and be quiet? Previously, I attended and stayed quiet. I did not like that strategy, but to bow out totally feels uncomfortable as well. Just wondered whether anyone else has this issue. Pretty sure I will bow out next time.

Great question – and yes, it’s an issue for many women, unfortunately.

First, just in case you or another reader might need clarity on this part of the article (in #4a), when I say “approach [the women’s ministry leader] first before going over her head to the elders or pastor. You want to win your sister over to the truth, if possible, not simply force her to change things because a superior tells her she has to,” and “it’s usually best to approach the lower level leader, if any, before going over his head,” I don’t mean to approach only the women’s ministry leader or other lower level leader(s).

If you go to the women’s ministry leader, following the steps in the article, and she ends up saying, “Sorry, but I think you’re wrong and we’re going to do this study anyway,” you don’t stop there. You start over at step 1 with the next person up the chain of command – for example, the elder or associate pastor who handles discipleship/Bible study. You go through all the steps with him. If he gives you the same answer as the women’s ministry leader, you keep going up the chain of command until somebody listens and does what’s biblical or until you get to the top of the chain (in most cases, the pastor), whichever comes first.

If you’ve gotten all the way to the pastor and he, despite the evidence you’ve given him essentially says, “I don’t care. I’m going to allow the women’s ministry to keep using materials by false teachers,” it is then time for you (and your husband, if you’re married) to start considering whether or not you need to move your membership to another, more doctrinally sound church.

Deciding whether or not to attend the “Bible” study class is only necessary if you can’t find a more doctrinally sound church to move to, or if it’s something like, for example, you and your husband prayerfully come to the conclusion that you need to give this church six more months before you decide to leave it.

If you’re in a similar situation to one of those scenarios, I would not recommend attending the study and remaining quiet about the false doctrine being taught. This makes it appear that you either aren’t discerning enough to know there’s false doctrine in the study, or worse, that you either don’t care about the false doctrine being taught, or that you actually agree with it. I think you’ll find my article The Mailbag: Should I attend the “Bible” study to correct false doctrine? to be helpful.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Discernment, False Teachers

Steven Furtick/Elevation/Elevation Music

If you are considering commenting or sending me an e-mail objecting to the fact that I warn against certain teachers, please click here and read this article first. Your objection is most likely answered here. I won’t be publishing comments or answering emails that are answered by this article.

This article is what I call a “clearinghouse article”. It is a collection of articles written by others on the teacher, ministry, or unbiblical trend named below. Either I have not had the time to write a full blown article on it myself, or I felt that the articles listed did a fine job of explaining the biblical issues and there was no need to reinvent the wheel.

Disclaimer: I did not write most of the articles below, and I am not thoroughly familiar with all of the websites used in my clearinghouse articles. I do not endorse anything on these sites that deviates from Scripture or conflicts with my beliefs as outlined in the “Welcome” or “Statement of Faith” tabs in the blue menu bar at the top of this page.

Here are the  biblical criteria I use when deciding whether or not to recommend a teacher, ministry, etc.:

Generally speaking, in order for me to recommend a teacher, speaker, or author, he or she has to meet three criteria:

a) A female teacher cannot currently and unrepentantly preach to or teach men in violation of 1 Timothy 2:12. A male teacher or pastor cannot allow women to carry out this violation of Scripture in his ministry. The pastor or teacher cannot currently and unrepentantly be living in any other sin (for example, cohabiting with her boyfriend or living as a homosexual).

b) The pastor or teacher cannot currently and unrepentantly be partnering with or frequently appearing with false teachers. This is a violation of Scripture.

c) The pastor or teacher cannot currently and unrepentantly be teaching false doctrine.

I recommend against any teacher or ministry who violates one or more of these biblical tenets.

I am not very familiar with most of the teachers I’m asked about (there are so many out there!) and have not had the opportunity to examine their writings or hear them speak, so most of the “quick checking” I do involves items a and b (although in order to partner with false teachers (b) it is reasonable to assume their doctrine is acceptable to the false teacher and that they are not teaching anything that would conflict with the false teacher’s doctrine). Partnering with false teachers and women preaching to men are each sufficient biblical reasons not to follow a pastor, teacher, or author, or use his/her materials.

Just to be clear, “not recommended” is a spectrum. On one end of this spectrum are people like Nancy Leigh DeMoss Wolgemuth and Kay Arthur. These are people I would not label as false teachers because their doctrine is generally sound, but because of some red flags I’m seeing with them, you won’t find me proactively endorsing them or suggesting them as a good resource, either. There are better people you could be listening to. On the other end of the spectrum are people like Joyce Meyer and Rachel Held Evans- complete heretics whose teachings, if believed, might lead you to an eternity in Hell. Most of the teachers I review fall somewhere in the middle of this spectrum (leaning toward the latter).

If you’d like to check out some pastors and teachers I heartily recommend, click the Recommended Bible Teachers tab at the top of this page.


Steven Furtick/Elevation/Elevation Music
Not Recommended

 

Primary issues with Steven Furtick: Twists and mishandles Scripture, considers T.D. Jakes (prosperity gospel, New Apostolic Reformation, modalism, proponent of women “pastors”) his mentor, yokes with numerous false teachers, allows women and false teachers to preach at his “church”

 

From my article The Mailbag: Potpourri (Small groups, Furtick, Slander…):

Reader: Do you have an opinion of Steven Furtick?

My answer: I have many opinions of Steven Furtick (“pastor” of Elevation “Church” in Charlotte, NC), none of them good. He mercilessly twists God’s word, he yokes with false teachers (including T.D. Jakes, Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, Christine Caine and others), and he allows women to preach from his pulpit (Including Lysa TerKeurst. [Elevation is her home church, and] Furtick is her pastor, which is one of the reasons I warn against her.) Additionally, Furtick has been immersed in Word of Faith false doctrine for years, and is now venturing into New Apostolic Reformation false doctrine. For more information, see Fighting for the FaithBerean ResearchBerean Examiner, and Apprising. I’ve also seen a number of YouTube videos from various sources explaining the doctrinal problems and scandals with Furtick (use the YouTube search bar).

 

Theological Issues

Guest Post: Why I Left Elevation Church

It’s Time to Walk Away from Steven Furtick by Cam Hyde

Are T.D. Jakes and Steven Furtick Heretics? by Gabriel Hughes

Steven Furtick at CARM

Something in the Milk Ain’t Clean: Avoid Steven Furtick in 2018! at Truth+Fire

Steven Furtick – False Teacher at SO4J

Theologian Rebukes Pastor Steven Furtick’s Claim That Doubting Bible Is OK, Says ‘Doubt Is Disobedience’ at The Christian Post

Steven Furtick is the Most Dangerous Kind of False Teacher at The Chorus in the Chaos

 

Book Reviews

Unqualified, Not Unworthy at Grace to You (a review of Steven Furtick’s Unqualified)

 

Music

Why Our Church No Longer Plays Bethel or Hillsong Music (or Elevation or Jesus Culture), and Neither Should Yours (multiple videos/articles)

 

Collections of Articles/Episodes

The Steven Furtick Cornucopia of False Teaching, Egomania and Hair Gel (multiple articles) at Messed Up Church

Steven Furtick episodes at Wretched

Steven Furtick episodes at Fighting for the Faith

Elevation episodes at Fighting for the Faith

Steven  Furtick articles at Berean Research

Steven Furtick articles at Berean Examiner

Steven Furtick articles at Apprising Ministries

If you came here looking for a critique of individual Elevation Music songs, that’s not really what this is about. Everything connected to Steven Furtick – Elevation “Church,” Elevation Music (as an entity and all individual songs), Orange/Code Orange events and materials, and all Elevation programs, materials, and events – are all fruit of the poisonous tree of false teacher, Steven Furtick. No, you cannot biblically pick and choose songs from Elevation Music that don’t seem to overtly violate Scripture. The Bible never tells us to “chew up the meat and spit out the bones.” It says:

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. Romans 16:17-18

“Watch out” for false teachers. “Avoid them.” That includes everything about them: all their materials, books, events, music, social media, etc. Would the God who breathed out these words of Scripture be pleased if we ourselves, or our churches, use materials by people who “do not serve our Lord Christ”?

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (“Potty Prayers,” Women as Children’s/Worship Pastors, Solid churches with heretical music, Eternal Security)

Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question. I also like to take the opportunity in these potpourri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar (at the very bottom of each page) can be a helpful tool!

In these potpourri editions of The Mailbag, I’d also like to address the three questions I’m most commonly asked:

“Do you know anything about [Christian pastor/teacher/author] or his/her materials? Is he/she doctrinally sound?”

Try these links: 
Popular False Teachers /
 Recommended Bible Teachers / search bar
Is She a False Teacher? 7 Steps to Figuring It Out on Your Own
(Do keep bringing me names, though. If I get enough questions about a particular teacher, I’ll probably write an article on her.)

“Can you recommend a good women’s Bible study?”

No. Here’s why:
The Mailbag: Can you recommend a good Bible study for women/teens/kids?
The Mailbag: “We need to stop relying on canned studies,” doesn’t mean, “We need to rely on doctrinally sound canned studies.”.

“You shouldn’t be warning against [popular false teacher] for [X,Y,Z] reason!”

Answering the Opposition- Responses to the Most Frequently Raised Discernment Objections


I know this is going to sound silly or troll-like, but I’m serious! I have a habit of praying a quick prayer when thoughts cross my mind, like “God, please help Aunt Pam to feel better from her cold today,” or “Lord, thank You for providing that salary bonus I needed.” Sometimes those same kinds of thoughts and prayers cross my mind when I’m using the bathroom. Is that wrong? Should I wait until I get out of the bathroom to think that little prayer? What about what Deuteronomy 23:14 says about using the bathroom, “that God may not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you”?

I don’t think that’s a silly or troll-like question at all, and I’ll bet there are bunches of Christians out there who do the exact same thing and now, after reading this question, are wondering the exact same thing.

First Thessalonians 5:17 instructs us to “pray without ceasing,” which means our hearts are to be constantly oriented toward prayer even though we’re not consciously praying every moment of the day. (Kind of like your compass’ needle always points north even if it’s just sitting in a drawer not being used.) For most Christians, that means we’re intermittently speaking to God, just like you described, throughout the day as things happen, as random thoughts cross our minds, as we see various things. And this becomes such a habit (a good one!) that it doesn’t occur to us to think about where we are or what we’re doing as we utter those prayers in our hearts. Honestly, I think that mindset of reflexive prayer is pleasing to God, because it embodies what it means to pray without ceasing.

Deuteronomy 23:12-14 is part of the Old Testament ceremonial law regarding, in this particular case, the way Israel was to set up camp. When you give the law a good, thorough reading, you’ll notice that the underlying principle of most of the laws is that Israel is to be set apart and holy – different – from the pagan nations surrounding them. And He gives them laws to this effect that touch every aspect of their lives so that, at every turn, throughout the course of their day, there are little reminders, through the law, to “Be holy for I am holy.” This law is just one more of those little reminders: Don’t act like animals like the pagan nations around you, Israel, and just potty willy nilly in the street or the front yard or wherever you take a notion to. Step it up and keep your camp to a higher standard, because God is with you and you are His people.

The Deuteronomy passage is not about offending God by relieving yourself. God has seen every single time every person on the planet has ever relieved himself/herself, because God is omnipresent. If that were offensive to Him, He would not have designed your body to work that way.

Although I don’t think “bathroom time” should be the only time you pray, I don’t see anything in Scripture indicating that God considers it offensive for you to reflexively pray even though you happen to be in the bathroom at that moment. However, if it offends your sensibilities, wait until you get out of the bathroom and then pray.


Would you read 1 Tim 3 1-7 to read women can’t be “overseers/leaders/official” as in they can’t be “Children pastors” or “Women Pastors” in the church with those actual titles or even as directors? The verses only say men and state guidelines on how to choose. I’ve noticed some red flags in my church with a woman Worship Leader, which I don’t agree with since she sometimes teaches in between songs, but they are also giving women the pastor title, but only for children and women.

If I’m understanding correctly, you’re asking:

  • Is it biblical for women to hold a position of leadership over the women’s ministry or children’s ministry of a church?
  • Is it biblical for a woman to be the worship leader of a church?
  • If so, is it biblical to give those women leaders the title of, for example: “Pastor of Women’s Ministry” or “Children’s Minister”?

Here are the fast and dirty answers. Below are a couple of links where I’ve discussed these issues in more detail.

Assuming the woman is doctrinally sound, has a godly character, her husband (if she’s married) is on board, and she’s otherwise qualified for the job, it’s fine for a woman to lead women or children in the church as long as the position she holds (which will vary from church to church) doesn’t require her to preach to or teach Scripture to men, or hold unbiblical authority over men.

No, it is not biblical for a woman to be the worship leader of a church. This is supposed to be a pastoral position.

No, churches should not give any woman on staff the title of “Pastor” or “Minister”, even if she isn’t violating Scripture in her position. Because Scripture doesn’t permit women to be pastors/ministers it is misleading and confusing, and will probably give people the impression that she is violating Scripture and that that’s OK. Neither should the converse be true – churches should not have women on staff in any capacity that violates Scripture (preaching to/teaching men, holding authority over men) and try to conceal that fact by giving her a title (instead of “pastor” or “minister”) like “facilitator,” “coach,” “associate,” “director,” etc.

Rock Your Role: Jill in the Pulpit

Rock Your Role FAQs (see #16, 21)


We have been searching for a doctrinally sound church in the area we moved to, and unfortunately it has not been easy! The few that we have found still use a Hillsong, Bethel or Elevation music. I usually cross a church off the list quickly if they sing from those artists. But like I said, now I am finding even doctrinally sound churches are throwing some of those songs in. Do you have any insight to this dilemma?

It can be really difficult to find a doctrinally sound church these days. Unfortunately even some churches that are fairly solid use music from these groups. The first thing I would recommend is that you check out the Searching for a new church? tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page, just to make sure you haven’t overlooked any doctrinally sound churches in your area. There are lots of church search engines there and other resources that might help.

My counsel would be to find the most doctrinally sound church you possibly can (following your husband’s leadership, of course, if you’re married, {and assuming, in this particular case, that he’s saved}), attend for a while to get a feel for whether or not it’s a fit for your family, and set up an appointment with the pastor to ask any questions you might have (check out the articles under “What to look for in a church” at the “Searching…” tab for suggestions of questions you may want to ask). (I would recommend the appointment with the pastor regardless of how perfect the church seems.)

If the church uses Bethel, etc. music, this would be the time to gently and lovingly address it with the pastor, but let him know that this is a reason you’re a bit reticent about joining the church so he’ll understand the seriousness of the problem. I would approach the subject giving him the benefit of the doubt that he simply doesn’t know the problems with these groups (the vast majority of pastors are ignorant of things like this – they shouldn’t be, but it is what it is).

If he seems open, you might want to ask if you can send him some information. (You can find links on all three groups at the “Popular False Teachers & Unbiblical Trends” tab. Pick the 2 or 3 most convincing links for each group and send those rather than sending him the link to that tab. For someone who’s ignorant in the area of discernment, opening up that tab would be information overload, and he’ll tune it out.) If he says yes, send the links and then touch base with him again in a couple of weeks to get his reaction.

The only other counsel I would offer you is to remember that no church is perfect, and God may put you into a particular church to help it with those imperfections.

I would now like to take a moment to highlight this reader’s question for pastors and ministers of music. This is yet one more reason it is detrimental to your church to use music from Bethel, Jesus Culture, Hillsong, Elevation, any musician connected these groups, or any other musician who isn’t doctrinally sound (after you have thoroughly vetted him/her/them.) regardless of how biblical the lyrics of any particular song of theirs that you’re using might be. You could potentially be turning away solid, mature, discerning Believers who might otherwise be interested in joining your church. The woman who sent in this question is not the first to ask me something like this – not by a long shot. This issue is increasingly of concern to Christians looking for a solid church.

When a visitor walks into your sanctuary for the first time, your worship service is the “face” of your church to her. What kind of a first impression are you making? When you use music by doctrinally unsound musicians, it does not say, “We’re really a doctrinally sound church – honest! We only use songs from these groups whose lyrics are biblical.”. It says, “This church has leaders who aren’t discerning,” or “If this church uses music by these heretical groups, what other doctrinal problems does it have?”. Why put that stumbling block out there when there is plenty of music available with biblical lyrics written/performed by doctrinally sound musicians?

The Mailbag: False Doctrine in Contemporary Christian Music

Why Our Church No Longer Plays Bethel or Hillsong Music (or Elevation or Jesus Culture), and Neither Should Yours

Hillsong’s Theology of Music and Worship

The Mailbag: Should Christians listen to “Reckless Love”?


Hello there. I read your blog about Priscilla Shirer being a false teacher. Read some parts of your blog. Found your recommended preachers with sound doctrine. I don’t know what denomination you’re in. But I just wanted to ask if you believe if we can lose our salvation?

Hi there! I’m a Reformed Southern Baptist. You can read more about my denomination and my beliefs at the Statement of Faith tab and the Welcome tab (both in the blue menu bar at the top of this page.

No, I do not believe genuinely regenerated Christians can lose their salvation because that’s not what the Bible teaches. I discussed this at length, including the relevant Scriptures, in my article The Mailbag: Can unforgiveness cause you to you lose your salvation?.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Discernment, Sermons

Sermon and Videos: Why Our Church No Longer Plays Bethel or Hillsong Music (or Elevation or Jesus Culture), and Neither Should Yours

 

Want to see what it looks like to have a pastor who loves God, God’s Word, and his sheep more than the applause of men? Give this sermon a listen. Pastor David Henneke, of First Baptist Church, Kingsland, Texas, walks his congregation through the Scriptures dealing with false teachers and false doctrine to explain why FBC will no longer use music associated with Bethel and Hillsong. He also warns them away from several other false teachers.

(This is also a good sermon to listen to if you’re confused about expository vs. topical preaching. This is a good example of a biblical topical sermon.)

(Technical difficulties? When you click the Play button on this video, you may get an error message. However, simply click on the line that says “Watch this video on YouTube,” and you’ll be able to watch. If that doesn’t work, copy and paste this link into your browser bar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7R6AKFlWhI& or go to YouTube and search for “‘Why our church no longer plays Bethel or Hillsong Music’ Pastor explains false teachings”.)

 

 

Justin Peters and Todd Friel discuss the theological problems with Bethel, Jesus Culture, Hillsong, and Elevation music and why your church shouldn’t use their music in this video interview: Why Your Church Shouldn’t Play Bethel and Hillsong Music.

 

 

Is it wrong to sing songs from Bethel if they are theologically correct? In this episode of Redeeming Truth, Pastors Costi Hinn, Dale Thackrah, and Kyle Swanson provide insight into the dangers of supporting ministries like Bethel [and Hillsong, Jesus Culture and Elevation Music], that have a false understanding of who Christ is.

If you are looking for theologically accurate worship music to listen to or sing in your church, we have put together a Spotify worship playlist that you can listen to. Costi has also written an excellent companion article on his blog: Should Your Church Sing Jesus Culture & Bethel Music?

 

I’m not familiar with this blog nor the author of this article (so I don’t endorse anything from either of them that conflicts with my theology) but here’s a great article by minister of music Dan Cogan on this same topic: Why I Don’t Sing the Songs of Hillsong and Jesus Culture.


Additional Resources

The Mailbag: What Is the New Apostolic Reformation?

The Mailbag: Should Christians Listen to Reckless Love?

God’s Not Like, “Whatever, Dude,” About How He’s Approached in Worship

The Mailbag: False Doctrine in Contemporary Christian Music

Hillsong’s Theology of Music and Worship

Discernment, Guest Posts

Guest Post: Why I Left Elevation Church

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


Disclaimer:
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.


NOTES FROM MICHELLE:
¹I AM NOT THOROUGHLY FAMILIAR WITH All OF THESE RESOURCES AND DO NOT ENDORSE ANY OF THEM WHICH DEVIATE FROM SCRIPTURE OR MY THEOLOGY AS OUTLINED IN THE “WELCOME” AND “STATEMENT OF FAITH” TABS AT THE TOP OF THIS PAGE. AS WITH ANY RESOURCE, PLEASE THOROUGHLY VET THE THEOLOGY OF THESE BEFORE USING THEM.
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.