Verdict: Both unqualified and a false teacher
At the request of one of our readers, we have been asked to investigate whether Steven Furtick is a false teacher. On a normal occasion, we do verdicts in the order in which they were received, but an exception is being made because of multiple requests for the same person and the foundation of research performed in the past that lays the foundation to expedite the process of discernment. You can make a request here, and we will honor it. It is a source of joy to be trusted in such a way. Part of what we want to do in our Discernment ministry is to go beyond the low hanging fruits and answer your questions about prominent teachers today.
Why He’s Famous
Steven Furtick is one of the most high-profile pastors in America. His church is third behind Hillsong and Bethel when it comes to contemporary Christian music (CCM) from worship services. He is one of the most popular pastors to scrutinize from a discernment standpoint.
Despite his stance on baptism (see below), Steven Furtick has a Southern Baptist background. After graduating from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Furtick launched Elevation Church in 2006 in partnership with the North American Mission Board. His net worth is estimated around $55 million.
A squeaky clean statement of faith combined with an emphasis on vision and mission statements is what Elevation’s website is about. Elevation began as a Southern Baptist church in Charlotte, North Carolina in 2006. A deviation from the SBC is first seen with the listing of Steven Furtick and his wife Holly as “Pastor” with no plural emphasis. It’s common among celebrity false teachers to have their wives be pastors, but his wife does have sermons she gives on her website. There exist a consistent pattern of deviation that even the Babylon Bee published a satirical article in 2017 about the SBC deploying theology referees to Elevation Church.
The relationship between the Southern Baptist Convention and Elevation Church is a complicated one. It is still listed in the SBC church directory. However, despite its size it is unlisted in Tom Rainer’s SBC500, the 500 largest SBC churches. Wikipedia’s list of megachurches labels Elevation a Southern Baptist church. This list has Elevation Church tied for sixth largest in the country.
Elevation Church also paid most of the cost so that Steven Furtick could live in a custom built $1.7 million house in 2013 dollars. His salary is determined by a board of overseers consisting of other megachurch pastors. This is shady to say the least. It is certainly unbiblical for foreign (to the congregation) pastors to hold Furtick accountable rather than the congregation, but this is what’s known “stupid tax” like how congregants gave to a guy named Creflo Dollar so he could have a jet.
Elevation Church seems to operate in-name-only as a Southern Baptist church. There is precedent for this. In Australia, Hillsong became too big for its denomination that it eventually left its Pentecostal denomination. Perhaps this is Elevation’s trajectory. It doesn’t seem as though Elevation is involved in the SBC, unlike its North Carolinian counterparts. But what is unknown is how much organizations such as the North American Mission Board have been involved with Elevation Church. It is very possible that Elevation Church received favorable treatment compared to other church plants. And so, for this reason Elevation Church still remains in the Southern Baptist Convention.
In 2014, Steven Furtick was exposed for emotionally manipulative tactics documented in a spontaneous baptism manual. The manual describes plants in the audience responding to the call to be baptized to encourage members in the audience to do so. The guide then describes a NASCAR pitstop style changing room. All of this is to take advantage of the emotions of people in the audience and to baptize them while their rationality may be impaired. The systemic encouragement of fake conversions is conduct unbecoming of a true pastor thereby rendering Furtick unqualified to lead a real church.
Association With False Teachers
There is no shortage of false teachers Steven Furtick associates with. A few of the most profound relationships of Steven Furtick are TD Jakes and Craig Groeschel. Though it has been said that TD Jakes is no longer a modalist, Pentecostal Theology (2019) and ChurchWatch (2017) both report that despite these claims, TD Jakes still teaches. Steven Furtick has had several documented interactions with Jakes including his speaking at Elevation. Craig Groeschel on the other hand was an inspiration for Elevation Church.
Other activities include the conference circuit in which Furtick demonstrates no theological scruples.
Despite this worldly success, the man preaches a heretical understanding of the Trinity called modalism. This view of God is unfounded in Scripture. Jesus says he is the bread of life; the light of the world; the gate; the good shepherd; the Resurrection and the life; the way, the truth, and the life; and the true vine. Jesus claims to be God. He does not claim to be the Father nor the Holy Spirit.
The modalist view of the God has been formally declared heresy for hundreds of years. Steven Furtick preaching this view makes him a false teacher alone.
Other Bad Teachings and Heretical Statements
Steven Furtick has been known to say ridiculous things. One sermon, Steven Furtick claimed that God broke the law “for love.” This is heretical, in that God cannot violate his own law, nor can God sin. To assert such is not only wrong, but damnably so.
There is no need to be exhaustive in analyzing the fallacies of Furtick’s sermons, as a compelling case against him has been made. Narcissistic preaching is likely the explanation for why he church is as large as it is.
John MacArthur once said that Steven Furtick was “unqualified.” But the lack of biblical qualification is one of the lesser concerns of Steven Furtick. The man has no deep understanding of Scripture or theology yet seeks to be in position to influence many. The narcissistic preaching and embrace of false gospels and ancient heresies places Steven Furtick in the highest category of false teaching, Category Five. This is to say that his church is not Christian and is furthermore full of false converts with its unethical baptism practices. Steven Furtick is an epitome of what is wrong within the Evangelical church today.
Updated June 2023: Old video urls no longer active, hence removed. Reformatting.
 Babylon Bee does not target a diversity of false teachers, usually opting to stick to the most obvious Joel Osteen. So this is a significant sting towards Elevation and the Southern Baptist Convention
 We use the Wikipedia list because it includes a more exhaustive list of churches than Outreach Magazine.
 Corruption or mismanagement within the North American Mission Board has been well documented for the past decade. The funding for church plants has gone up astronomically while the number of church plants has declined. yet if you were to survey the church plants in your area you might not see any meaningful evidence that these churches are receiving portion it increase in spending that we have seen go to the North American Mission Board. Therefore it would seem and it has been theorized that the North American Mission Board is very partial with its church plants specifically with regards to people it favors.
 A specific note about the year the sources were written is because of comments I’ve received in the past about how in 2012 TD Jakes renounced modalism. The more recent sources suggest otherwise.
 This was the inspiration for Furtick’s book with the title.