When Steven Furtick started Elevation Church in early 2006, he had just 14 members. Fast-forward 7 years, the average attendance is reported as 11,719 people, as the success of Elevation Church has exceeded all expectations. The popularity of the church, along with the associated merchandising and book deals, has allowed Furtick to build the mansion of his dreams in Weddington, North Carolina.
The church has been successful with its finances as well as its attendance, and NBC Charlotte reports that Furtick is spending a lot of that money on a 16,000 square foot house with 7.5 bathrooms that is worth almost $1.4 million, based on building permits and contract value. Throw in the land it sits on, at $325,000, and the total cost is over $1.7 million, which is almost as much as the total the church gave to local outreach in 2012, which they reported as $1,852,789.
The home doesn't have Furtick's name on the deed, and NBC Charlotte reported that Furtick was very unwilling to answer their inquiries about it until he responded in a sermon on September 29th:
“I've been feeling sorry for myself because they tell me there's this news reporter trying to do this story where he wants to make our church look bad,” Furtick said in his sermon. “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."
“It started to mess with me a little bit because I thought this ain't right. 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.
Corbett responded to the article by saying that Furtick is paying for the five-bedroom house with income from his best-selling books, "Greater" and "Sun Stand Still." He told the Charlotte Observer that "it's not tied to the church in any way."
However, others dispute that, including Chris Rosebrough, who runs a protest podcast against "preacher profiteers" called Pirate Christian Radio. He commented, "There's no distinction between Elevation Church and Steven's books. The two get mashed together in a way that creates a real conflict because the job of the pastor is not to preach his book.” The books and the church are intertwined when it comes to branding and financing, as Elevation paid for full page ads promoting the book, as well as for air time for sermons featuring the book, according to NBC Charlotte.
Corbett explained that Furtick's name was not on the deed because “That’s for security and privacy of the family," though Ole Anthony of the Trinity Foundation commented that "The pastor should be the servant of his people. He should be the one that is most transparent. It saddens me to see what the church is becoming."
Elevation Church is now a mega-church which draws in worshippers at an astonishing rate, boasting up to 14,000 congregants on some weekends. They reported their average weekly attendance for 2012 at 11,719 people, collectively contributing an average weekly operating offering of $391,299.
Though Elevation Church says that it under goes a yearly voluntary audit by an outside accounting firm, C. Dewitt Foard and Col, P.A., in the interest of ensuring a "high level of financial accountability," NBC Charlotte reports that volunteers and employees are asked to sign a confidentiality agreement, which threatens to sue if anyone discloses church finances.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misstated the name of the trust on the deed of the home. It has been corrected.
<strong>Luke 6:20-21</strong> Then he looked up at his disciples and said: 'Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 'Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. 'Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
<strong>Luke 4:16-19</strong> When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour.'
<strong>Matthew 25:34-36</strong> Then the king will say to those at his right hand, "Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me."
<strong>Mark 10:21-22</strong> Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
<strong>Mark 12:41-44</strong> He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43 Then he called his disciples and said to them, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44 For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on."
<strong>Luke 14:12-14</strong> He said also to the one who had invited him, "When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."
<strong>Luke 16:19-25</strong> "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man's table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.' But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony.
<strong>Luke 11:39-42</strong> Then the Lord said to him, "Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? So give for alms those things that are within; and see, everything will be clean for you. "But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God
<strong>Luke 12:16-21</strong> Then he told them a parable: "The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, 'What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?' Then he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.' But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God."