Posted in elevation church, plant, shill, steven furtick, toastmasters

How to plant a shill in the audience: Steven Furtick takes a cue from Toastmasters

Huffington Post: Elevation Church’s ‘Spontaneous Baptisms’ Are Planned By Pastor Steven Furtick In Advance
A Southern Baptist megachurch pastor in North Carolina, already under fire for buying a $1.6 million house, is in the spotlight again for “spontaneous baptisms” that turn out to be not nearly so spontaneous. Steven Furtick, 34, routinely draws about 14,000 worshippers to several campuses of Elevation Church in and around Charlotte. The church, launched in 2006, have been listed by Outreach magazine as one of the top 100 fastest-growing churches in the country. Part of that growth has been attributed to Elevation’s flashy baptism ceremonies, particularly as the Southern Baptist Convention grows increasingly concerned about declining baptism rates as a key measure of evangelism and church vitality. But a new report from NBC Charlotte suggests that Elevation’s supposedly spontaneous baptisms are carefully planned ahead of time, with people planted in the congregation to start the walk down the aisle.”

The article goes on to explain the ‘How-To’ of Elevation Church’s ‘spontaneous’ baptism, right down to the percentages of what sized clothes to order to give to the wet baptizees after they come up from the water.

I knew about Furtick’s Elevation Church’s non-spontaneous baptism before. I wrote about Furtick’s deception last November. What hurts is the shame we feel by sharing the name ‘Christian’ with such a one as Mr Furtick, and having that shame exposed to the mocking, unbelieving world. What hurts is the harm done to the name of Jesus, and the unbelievers who turn from our precious Savior in scorn.

I wasn’t saved until I was 43 years old. I lived through the televangelist scandals of the 80s and 90s. Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, Oral Roberts (remember his 900 foot tall Jesus vision?) all were fodder for me to be convinced that Christianity was a crock. The arrival of cable television in the 80s and the rise of money grubbing televangelists beamed into my home didn’t help my attitude. Never having been inside a church, the cable programs and the newspaper headlines were the church. At least they were the face of it, for me.

Someone needs to say this plainly: The faith healers and health-and-wealth preachers who dominate religious television are shameless frauds. Their message is not the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is nothing spiritual or miraculous about their on-stage chicanery. It is all a devious ruse designed to take advantage of desperate people. They are not Godly ministers but greedy impostors who corrupt the Word of God for money’s sake. They are not real pastors who shepherd the flock of God but hirelings whose only design is to fleece the sheep. Their love of money is glaringly obvious in what they say as well as how they live. They claim to possess great spiritual power, but in reality they are rank materialists and enemies of everything holy.John MacArthur

Now we have Furtick deceiving the people, and himself, of course. There’s a reason for these verses:

Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. (1 Timothy 3:7)

But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. (2 Corinthians 4:2)

We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry,” (2 Corinthians 6:3)

Chicanery, greed, and deceit exhibited in these Christians were certainly obstacles for me to come to Christ. Who wants to become a part of a religion where people were always falling from grace, exposed as liars, shown to be deceptive, and say and do ridiculous things all the time? Now, I know that in His sovereign way, He elected me to salvation and the moment was ordained from before the foundation of the world. (Ephesians 1:4). But on the other hand, schemes and wiles such as Mr Furtick’s are a stumbling block.

And the larger issue, now that I’m saved, is shame that the name of Jesus is associated with tricks like Furtick’s and done in church no less.

In researching this post, I came across a How-To from the internationally-known speech-making organization- the Toastmasters. It is called “How to Plant a Shill in the Audience“. It should be noted that at least the Toastmasters admit that planting a shill is a “trick”, “deceptive”, and “sneaky.” They also advise revealing to the audience at the end of the trick that the shill was indeed a plant. It should be noted that the supposed Christian, ‘Pastor’ Furtick, makes no such admission about his shills. Click the image to enlarge. You will see eerily similar language between the Toastmasters how-to for manipulating an audience by using shills during speeches, and Furtick’s manipulation of his audience by using plants during the spontaneous baptisms.

My only comfort in all this is that Jesus is King. He will repay. And I’m looking forward to it. I long for the day when His name will be besmirched in word or deed no more.

There is definitely an art to shill-planting, but it can be a highly useful tool in your bag of speaking tricks. Use it sparingly and wisely. Plan it out carefully and it will serve you well.

Posted in children's ministry, contemporary music, discernment, elevation church, steven furtick

Two examples of satan’s attacks through children’s ministries

But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” (John 5:17)

God and Jesus and the Spirit are always working. We know this. But we forget that satan is always working too.

I’m not equating satan with Jesus, but I’m reminding us that satan is restless, relentless, and remorseless.

Satan prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8).
Satan roams the earth (Job 1:7).
Satan schemes. (2 Corinthians 2:11).
Satan blinds. (2 Corinthians 4:4).
Satan sifts. (Luke 22:31).
Satan deceives. (2 Corinthians 11:3)

I have recently published a review of Rend Collective Experiment‘s music, a contemporary music-worship band. Some contemporary music sung in church as praise music is theologically OK, much of it is not. I’ve been concerned with the appearance of theologically weak adult contemporary music and its rapid embeddedness into worship. I’m also concerned of course with the outright biblically aberrant adult contemporary music.

However, where we think satan has been resisted successfully in one area, he appears in another. Like children’s music.

Thank the Lord we are in a body and working as a unit, each of us operating in the gifts He has given us. I read a very good essay by Tom Chantry this morning about the theology of some children’s music sung in church.

It’s Sunday Morning; Do You Know What Your Children Are Singing?

Here is an excerpt. I recommend reading the full essay at Mr Chantry’s blog

I am no advocate of the full-throttle family-integrated approach, but I have been concerned by what is now the well-established trend of separate worship for kids. Parents accept the idea that children’s ministries do a better job than church of introducing their kids to Jesus. What they fail to ask themselves is just who this “Jesus” is that their kids will meet.

His essay is a good reminder to me that there is no sphere satan will overlook in his attempts to weaken the Bride. He even attacks children! So let us remember that we work too. It is a never-ending work in which we are not to become weary. We’re not only working, but we are in a battle. Keep up your sword! If your arms become weary, let another help you lift them! (Exodus 17:12). We can do it until He comes!

We resist satan. (James 4:7, 1 Peter 5:9)
We humble ourselves. (1 Peter 5:6)
We obey. (Colossians 3:22)
We fight the good fight of the faith. (1 Timothy 6:12)
We wrestle. (Ephesians 6:12).

We stand!

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 

Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. 

To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints…
(Ephesians 6:12-18)

And it might do to take a look at the lyrics of the songs your children are singing in your church. The controversy surrounding Steven Furtick and Elevation Church’s children’s ministry, his cult-like exhortations in his church’s children’s coloring book, is even more evidence that satan will not overlook children’s ministries in order to do his hellish work.

But if we resist the devil, he will flee from us, and the Light of Jesus’s glory will shine so brightly! May all that we do be for Your glory, Jesus, now and forever.

Posted in false teacher, simon the magician, steven furtick

Steven Furtick and Simon the Sorcerer

There is such a thing as a prestige battle. The Plains Indians used to count coup, for example.

“Counting coup refers to the winning of prestige in battle by the Plains Indians of North America. Warriors won prestige by acts of bravery in the face of the enemy, and these acts could be recorded in various ways and retold as stories. Any blow struck against the enemy counted as a coup, but the most prestigious acts included touching an enemy warrior with the hand, bow, or with a coup stick then escaping unharmed. Touching the first enemy to die in battle or touching the enemy’s defensive works also counted as coup. Counting coup could also involve stealing an enemy’s weapons or horses tied up to his lodge in camp. Risk of injury or death was required to count coup.” (Left, “Ledger drawing of a mounted Cheyenne warrior counting coup with lance on a dismounted Crow warrior, 1880s.”)

In modern times, computer hackers count coup of sorts. There are all sorts of hackers (and crackers) and they wear white hats, black hats, gray hats, and more. However, we noobs in the unsuspecting public who foolishly rely on mainstream media to tell us who they are, know hackers as the computer genius geeks who slave away in dark basements amid glowing monitors under colorful pseudonyms, breaking into NSA websites and corporations. The white hat crackers do it just to say they could, and to accumulate virtual street cred of their skills and bravery in poking the slumbering corporate or government bear. In other words, counting coup.

Increasingly, there are pastors who count coup, also. Here is the story of one such pastor.

I haven’t written a lot about Steven Furtick of Elevation Church in Charlotte NC. It is an emergent church led by a pastor in skinny jeans and casual attitude, and services have a loud band, a lot of smoke and not too much bible. One of those kind of churches. And given the times in which we live, it is growing by leaps and bounds. (2 Timothy 4:3). And given the times in which we live, going to Elevation Church website and clicking on “About Steven” brings you not to another church page describing the pastor, but to a separate website named after himself. And given the times in which we live (2 Peter 2:3) the pastor of this church lives in a 16,000 square foot, $1.7Million dollar home and is under investigation for excessive lifestyle. Of course. (2 Peter 2:3). But not to worry because Elevation church is planning an $86 million dollar expansion according to a leaked internal document, and thus there will be baby Elevation Churches born soon to distract the gullible.

Forget the biblical qualifications for pastor. The above is the resume for today’s hip, happenin’ pastor.

To add insult to injury, it appears that these kind of pastors have adopted none of Paul or Peter’s characteristics but instead go the way of Balaam and Simon the Magician.

Balaam was a pagan prophet who served those who bid the highest. He knew God and he knew of God but Balaam didn’t serve God. (Numbers 22).

Simon the Sorcerer was a magician who amazed all the people of Samaria (Acts 8:9) by performing supernatural acts, but when Simon saw Peter do miracles, he falsely converted, and thought he could obtain the Spirit’s power by purchasing it. (Acts 8:20-21).

In both these cases, money figures prominently. In the false ministry of a magician and in the false ministry of a false prophet, money was central to the story. Here, John MacArthur recites a devastating list:

Now the Bible does contain a number of warnings about money. Best summarized perhaps in the statement of the apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 6, verse 10 where he said, “For the love money is the root of all kinds of evil.” Our Lord put it tersely when He said you can’t serve God and money. Money can definitely be a curse. There’s no question about it. For money, Achan brought defeat on the armies of Israel and death on himself. For money, Balaam sinned against God and tried to curse God’s people. For money, Delilah betrayed Samson to the Philistines. For money, Gehazi lied to Naaman and Elisha and became a leper. For money, Ananias and Sapphira became the first hypocrites in the early church and died on the spot. For money, Judas sold the Son of God for 30 pieces of silver and damned his own soul. For money, many have been cursed.

It is not a sin to be rich, but the bible is replete with warnings that money corrupts. (Matthew 19:24). The bible is clear that if one desires to be a pastor, one must not be greedy of filthy lucre. (1 Timothy 3:3). It is plain, simple, and clear.

Anyway, Steven Furtick is in a prestige war.

How Steven Furtick engineered a spontaneous miracle

Apparently, according to the above article, Elevation Church emotionally manipulates people into coming forward at the invitation so they can be baptized, by seeding the audience with members who arise and walk down the aisle, playing emotional music, performing as actors instructed not only to be enthusiastic but taught specifically what to do to demonstrate this manufactured enthusiasm, told to tweet and exactly what to tweet (notably not told to pray) and taught other things outlined in the church’s “Spontaneous Baptism How-To Guide”. That name is not made up. It is the actual name Elevation Church gives this manipulated event kit. The article states,

For the few that Elevation did baptize, their how-to guide documents exactly how they used emotional manipulation them get people from their seats to the pool. Volunteers were placed throughout the campuses to make sure the baptism candidates maintained the emotional fervor that Furtick had created in the service.

The how-to guide instructs,

… 15 people will sit in the worship experience and be the first ones to move when Pastor gives the call.

–Sit in the auditorium and begin moving forward when Pastor Steven says go.
–Move intentionally through the highest visibility areas and the longest walk.

Elevation has seeded its four auditoriums with 60 shills who pretend to be responding to the call. Their high-visibility movement is designed to manipulate others to follow. If Furtick was confident in his message and in the efficacy of the Holy Spirit’s call, he shouldn’t need fake converts.

When they manufacture miracles, and teach how to manufacture a miracle, they are truly a Simon a Magician.

Pastors count coup, shill the Gospel for money, and elevate themselves. It is the times of apostasy, and the hard thing to know is, this isn’t even the beginning of the worst of it.

I am saddened by the many who seek an experience at churches such as these, when the real faith is so glorious to behold, wondrous to be a part of, and so bright a hope to look forward to. How empty must a pastor feel in his blackened heart to manufacture baptism experiences from a how-to kit? And to do so in some sort of carnal one-upmanship just for appearances sake? How hopeless must he be when sitting by pale lamplight in dark of night writing these instructions teaching congregants how to be shills? Most tragic is the fact of so many who are engaging in a shallow faith of non-conversion…yet thinking they are saved.

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.” (2 Peter 2:1)

As for us, let us rejoice in His goodness and grace.

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me. (Psalm 13:5-6)