I knew Pastor Steven Furtick was a typical evangelical megachurch pastor, but I had no idea how much he fit the stereotype until now.
Furtick runs Elevation Church in North Carolina, home to upwards of 14,000 on any given weekend. Here’s a clip of him talking to his “haters”:
Anyway, Furtick recently purchased a $1,700,000 home:
Maybe that’s unfair to write. And maybe it’s unfair for local reporters to make a big deal about it. It’s not like he’s using the church’s money to buy his house, right? Just like Pastor Joel Osteen, Furtick says he paid for the house through sales of his popular books.
… I didn’t even build that house with money from the church. I built it with money from my books and I gave money to the church from the books and you start getting real defensive and being like this ain’t right. This ain’t right,” Furtick said.
He’s getting defensive because a local news channel’s coverage of his purchase isn’t very deferential (and you know Furtick is used to people who just comply with his every wish). It turns out, the report says, that there’s a blurred line between Furtick’s personal wealth and his church’s income.
Yes, Furtick gives some money back to the church (and the church benefits from his books), but there’s no doubt that Furtick benefits as well, from the book sales, from future book advances, from exposure, etc.:
… Furtick’s name is not on the deed. Instead, it’s under the name of the Jumper Drive Trust. The trustee: James “Chunks” Corbett, Elevation Church’s executive pastor and Furtick’s right hand man.
Elevation Church paid for full page ads promoting the book, and paid to air sermons featuring the book on TV, including on NBC Charlotte. In a webcast, Furtick also gave away a backpack to a poor child for every sale of his book “Greater.”
Corbett told NBC Charlotte that “the books help the church tremendously” in three ways:
First, Furtick arranges for the publisher to sell the books by the thousands to Elevation Church at his author’s discount. So, Elevation Church makes money on the book, but no one will say how much.
Second, Furtick donates some of his own advance money to Elevation Church. Corbett says Furtick “is very generous,” although he won’t say much Furtick donates.
Third, the publisher pays the church outright to produce slick videos marketing the book, although the church won’t say how much, all of which makes the church sound like a business.
This could all be settled if we just knew a little bit about the church’s finances. How much money do they make off the books? How much does Furtick make for each book sold? What’s Furtick’s salary at the church? Surely someone can shed light on this, no?
Elevation Church has asked volunteers and employees alike to sign a confidentiality agreement, which threatens to sue if volunteers and members disclose church finances.
Wow. That’s Mark-Driscoll-level megalomania.
The people in the church are welcome to throw their money away — to the tune of about $391,299 a week. But, as the report suggests, shouldn’t they at least know where it’s going before they do so?
The church says it takes in $391,299 a week. It also touted its generosity by mentioning that it gave away $2,500,000 last year. Do the math. They took in approximately $20,347,548 but gave away about 12% of it. Where’s the rest of the money going? How much in taxes does the church not have to pay? The public doesn’t know the details.
Also, since Furtick wouldn’t talk to the press, all we have to go off of is what he told his church. And he told his congregation that we should all stop worrying about his new mansion:
“Now me and [my wife] Holly, this year, we’re building a house. We’ve been looking for a piece of land to build a house for our family for a long time. I’m real excited about it, but then I find out, this is crazy, the news is trying to fly this chopper over our house. I’m thinking to myself, first of all, it’s not that great of a house. I’m sure there’s better houses, if you’ve got to fly a chopper over somebody’s house.
Since when has a $1,700,000 house with 7.5 bathrooms and an electric gate ever elicited a reaction of “Meh”?