I think of John MacArthur, who has been away from his standard Sunday preaching for much of the summer, although he has returned to the pulpit a few times. In his absence, men like Phil Johnson and Jerry Wragg have stepped in to teach the sheep. The pulpit at Grace Church has been filled by some of the other pastors on staff, or by pastors/professors of The Master's Seminary. In the past, men such as Steve Lawson have graciously undertaken to lead for a Sunday. When John MacArthur is away, the sheep of his flock know that they will still be taught God-honoring, weighty truth. They can know that their pastor loves them enough to ensure that they are diligently and properly fed and led even when he cannot be there to do it personally.
While this is of course a high-profile example, I think one can see my point. Who the pastor asks to "substitute" for him speaks volumes about his own ministry. The sheep should be able to trust their pastor's selection and know that they will be well-cared for in his absence. So what are we to do, then, when a high-profile yet supposedly doctrinally sound and conservative pastor chooses to leave his flock in the care of an immature, Scripture-twisting, celebrity pastor? Well, firstly I pray that there are members of the congregation who are speaking up and secondly, for those of us outside of the congregation, we can pray that this shepherd will not leave his sheep under the watch of a wolf.
I am speaking of Pastor James MacDonald of Harvest Bible Chapel and Walk in the Word. Next weekend, while he is away on vacation, the sheep of his flock will be under the care of "Pastor" Steven Furtick. Many Christians laud MacDonald and avidly listen to his radio show. I suspect that this is why many have remained quiet on this issue. For quite awhile, MacDonald has been "quotable" for conservative Christians, and his recent actions seem to contradict the image that he has carried for so long. But if we are to "name names," then we name names, even if it is someone that we have long trusted who has slowly but surely slid into dangerous territory! I pray that some more influential Christians will pick up on this and call out James MacDonald and ask him to please reconsider this choice that he has made.
Some of MacDonald's recent actions seem to give cause for concern. Not only did he invite Mark Driscoll to teach a "marriage" seminar at Harvest (based upon Driscoll's controversial and, well, icky, sermon series on Song of Solomon. Driscoll in the past has claimed that he was called audibly by God into the ministry, and has also recently come out and called all cessationists "worldly," leading to no small controversy and no shortage of replies), but MacDonald also this past Spring hosted the Elephant Room conference (co-moderating the event with Driscoll). Furtick was one of the "speakers" at that conference and MacDonald ensured that Furtick's book, Sun Stand Still, based upon a Scripture-twisting sermon of the same name, was heartily promoted. (At the end of this post is a review of Furtick's sermon, "Sun Stand Still," by Chris Rosebrough of Pirate Christian Radio). I don't think that I have to go into too much detail here about the seeker-driven nature of Furtick's preaching. What I simply want to do is ask the question, is it wise for MacDonald to invite a man such as Furtick into his "pulpit?" (I use the term "pulpit" loosely, because MacDonald preaches from a wooden podium, and spends most of the sermon walking up and down the aisles).
For example, is it wise to entrust your flock to someone who doesn't even believe that church is for those who are saved?
There are a lot of wrong things that are said in that video, not the least of which was, "If you know Jesus, [...] this church is not for you." Huh? Wait a minute, I thought the church was for Christians! Yet, Furtick is of the ilk that church should be for the "unchurched" so that they can come to know Jesus. The problem with that grows even larger when the Jesus being preached is not the Jesus of the Bible! Furtick claims in the above video that their mission is Luke 19:10, "to seek and to save the lost." Hm. Okay, let's look at that verse. Those words were spoken by Jesus and the full verse reads, "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." Jesus does the seeking and the saving, "Pastor" Steven. Only Jesus can save. It is the church's job to provide a place for those who have been saved to come and to hear the Word of God preached rightly so that they may be fed and so that He may be glorified. Perhaps a better passage for a church to abide by would be John 21:15-19, where Jesus admonishes Peter to "feed my sheep" and to "tend my lambs." You see, the sheep and the lambs in those commands are believers, not the "unchurched." Jesus called Peter to care for His flock, yet Steven Furtick wants to let the sheep starve while he tends to the goats instead.
This clip also reminded me of Bill Hybels speaking at his own Leadership Summit, responding to a poll they had done that indicated that many in his church felt that they were not being fed enough Bible. I would love to post the video here, but the link that I have has disappeared from the Willow Creek Association website (gee, I wonder why?). Hybels' words were as follows, "I'll feed those people. I'll hire some old seminary prof, I'll feed 'em till they barf." Perhaps Furtick sounds like Hybels because they are of exactly the same mind when it comes to church methodology. In fact, Furtick is one of the scheduled featured speakers at Hybels' Global Leadership Summit this week, August 11-12.
That's right, Steven Furtick will be preaching at Harvest Bible Chapel just one day after he speaks at Hybels' event alongside such New Age, Emergent minds as Henry Cloud and Erwin McManus. So tell me, James MacDonald, is this truly a man that you want to endorse? Moreover, is this honestly a man who you want to act as a substitute shepherd for the sheep that have been entrusted to you by God? I'm no seminary graduate, but a simple reading of the Bible reveals what an important and serious calling it is for a man to be a pastor. By selecting Steven Furtick to teach in his church, James MacDonald has demonstrated his lack of reverence for this holy calling.
Let's not forget some of the other aberrant actions of Purpose-Driven "pastor" Furtick. This is a man who has called Joel Osteen a "great man of God."
This is the man responsible for this:
Finally, I want to direct you to Elevation Church's "Code," which can be accessed and read here. In a nutshell, it says that God gave "Pastor" Steven the vision for Elevation Church, and every member must fall in step with that vision. Point #4 of the Code reads, "We Are United Under the Visionary – Elevation is built on the vision God gave Pastor Steven. We will aggressively defend our unity and his vision." Aggressively defend the vision? Too bad there's no language in that code about defending the Gospel! But then, the gospel that is preached at Elevation Church is not a gospel worth defending.
"The Code" of Elevation Church is scarily reminiscent of "The Code" at The Crossing Church in Elk River, Minnesota. If you haven't been following that saga, I invite you to visit Fighting for the Faith and listen to some of the recent episodes (especially the August 1 episode) addressing this "church" that is abusing its members. In fact, in my opinion, it is not an exaggeration to call The Crossing Church a cult, due especially in part to the required extreme allegiance to "Pastor" Eric. If you visit this page, you can click to read "The Code" of The Crossing Church, and you will notice that it reads almost identical to that of Elevation's. This is not an accusation of Furtick, but with such incredible similarities to such an abusive church, one has to begin to question whether this "pastor" is someone to be endorsed.
The fact that this
As promised above, here is Chris Rosebrough's review of Furtick's "Sun Stand Still" sermon:
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
Steven Furtick to Preach at Harvest Bible Chapel
The Elephant Room
The Elephant Room, Follow-up
Harvest, We Have a Problem
MacDonald's Motivational Tweets