Is Levi Lusko a false teacher?

Category 4

Verdict: In addition to proliferating false teachers, Levi Lusko has a demonstrable method of tickling ears with highly formulaic sermons

Preface

Part of how this Discernment ministry operates is taking in reader questions about prevalent teachers. Levi Lusko has received a record number of requests, and due to him leading the field of requests, this investigation into his teachings was undergone. You can make a request here and see our answered verdicts here.

Bio

Levi Lusko is not as forthright about his background as listed on his various websites. But he does have a shady background and a surprising amount of spiritual grooming. Levi Lusko claims to have grown up physically and spiritually at Calvary of Albuquerque, in a very brief blog post reflecting fondly on his church in 2008, around the time he founded Fresh Life. This upbringing would help explain his many ties. His father, Chip Lusko, was an assistant pastor at this church. Calvary Albuquerque was a scandal infested church. It is part of the Calvary Chapel Association, a charismatic emergent church denomination with a large emphasis on radio founded by Chuck Smith.

Up until early 2004, Calvary Albuquerque was formally helmed by Skip Heitzig. Skip Heitzig resigned, yet, despite not being fired, Skip Heitzig took for himself a six figure severance package which included some choice radio equipment, even after Heitzig proved to be a substantial financial drain on the church with his radio ministry. Moreover, Heitzig was permitted oversight over the church after leaving, most likely to ensure his golden parachute. Chip Lusko would work for Skip Heitzig’s radio program despite being paid by Calvary Albuquerque, while participating minimally in church operations. Pete Nelson[1] who was an associate pastor alongside Chip Lusko had a resignation letter.

On January 24, 2006, I discovered that Chip Lusko announced to his department that he would not be around much this year due to the increasing demands with Skip’s ministry needs. This announcement was made with the expectation that CA will continue to pay Chip’s full salary.

This followed an earlier announcement by Chip to his department that came to my attention that Skip’s radio program operations will remain in Albuquerque and continue to be funded by CA indefinitely. This is a departure from the previous plan voted in by the Board in the November 29, 2004 meeting that clearly indicated that these operations and expenses would be systematically weaned off of CA over an agreed period of time.

During this schism, Chip Lusko was firmly camped on team Skip Heitzig who was flagrantly committing financial misconducts. Considering that Levi Lusko reflects fondly on his spiritual upbringing in team Skip Heitzig, we can glean much understanding of Levi Lusko’s ascendency. Levi Lusko is not someone who figured out how to build a megachurch out of nowhere. He has a background that would have given him great insight into a large church’s operations. Furthermore, he began his church with numerous connections in Big Eva. Thus, it should be concluded that to some degree, Levi Lusko was groomed for his current prominence. An interesting deviation is that Fresh Life Church is not a part of the Calvary Chapel Association which could denote friendly disagreement with those who Levi Lusko has otherwise maintained friendly relations with (Skip Heitzig and Greg Laurie). Therefore, there are limitations to the conclusions we can make based on the background of Levi Lusko, and this background, while it merits some warning is not enough to declare someone a false teacher.

Fresh Life Church

Fresh Life Church is a multi-campus megachurch that operates in Montana and some of the surrounding states. Fresh Life Church has a standard faith statement that is biblical and not particularly useful for this assessment. It is worth noting that just because a church has a decent faith statement on their website, does not mean that they teach according to their stated beliefs.

Fresh Life Church is an egalitarian church. In August 2020, they had Lisa Harper give a sermon before the congregation. This is one of their most popular sermons on YouTube.[2] This is also an ongoing pattern, especially with Evangelical celebrities.

Associations With False Teachers

There is no shortage of false teachers Levi Lusko has at one point associated with or continues to associate with. The most profound association is with Steven Furtick. They have preached at each other’s churches, done conferences together and hold a close relationship. Levi Lusko believes himself to be cut from the same cloth as Furtick.

Levi Lusko is somewhat of a hot commodity that is being passed around Big Eva. As a result, he has no shortage of connections both heretical and benign. In addition to Furtick, the shady cast that Lusko associates with has included Mike Todd, Dharius Daniels, Craig Groeschel, John Gray, and Carl Lentz.[3]

There does not appear to be any scruples with whom Levi Lusko will associate. Any Christian celebrity will befriend him from Sadie Robertson to Tim Tebow. This clear lack of discernment is a massive red flag. And it appears to be the biggest concern with Levi Lusko and the issue as to whether he is a false teacher. The implications of this could substantiate a claim that Levi Lusko is fond of sordid gain, that he is in this for the money and celebrity aspect or that Levi Lusko partakes in the same false teachings as his colleagues. At the very least, Levi Lusko is the product of an unhealthy celebrity culture in Evangelicalism, and he industriously propagates this harmful phenomenon to benefit his career.

Teaching

The most apt description of Levi Lusko’s teaching is pop-psychology. Several sermons were surveyed for this assessment including the most viral according to YouTube, provocatively named sermons, and other sermons of interest were used. In “Too Small To Fail” Lusko started off with a few verses in Exodus before becoming a Ted Talk on forming habits.[4] In “The Life You Get Stuck With” which is the most watched sermon on Fresh Life’s channel (preached by Lusko himself), Lusko preaches on Romans 13:12-14.[5] The interesting thing about this sermon is that Levi Lusko explains to his audience that this passage is talking about the stages of salvation, justification, sanctification, and glorification, but says he “does not have time to talk about that.”[6] Instead of talking about that, Levi Lusko gives a motivational speech about the wonders of applying the principle of compound interest in our lives. In his “I Declare War” series which is based off his book by the same title, Levi Lusko uses wolves as an affirmative illustration for spiritual warfare despite the fact that wolves in Scripture signify false teachers. Part 1, “Think Like A Wolf” contains perhaps one quoted passage of Scripture, a proverb used in passing in a motivational speech.[7] This teaching does not even qualify as eisegesis. This sermon seems to be the most syndicated sermon in Levi Lusko’s catalog, as in it is preached at various megachurches cut from the same cloth as his.

Lusko’s most recent viral sermon, “Wash Your Hands,” benefited from the lockdowns due to a seemingly prophetic title. This sermon had very little Scripture but a lot of lecturing on the death of Andrew Garfield.[8] To his credit, he did tie in a lecture about the merits of handwashing to the gospel after forty minutes. Another popular sermon uses Elisha to teach physics.[9] He concludes this sermon with a watered-down version of the Sinner’s Prayer.

In a popular 2021 sermon, Levi Lusko misinterprets Matthew 6, taking away Jesus teaching about hypocrisy, that people pray in public but never in private.[10] He then uses Matthew 6:6 to teach a transactional view of prayer which is not the intended meaning of the passage.

In a sermon on sex, Levi Lusko does not preach from the Bible, instead reading from The Message which is a below average Bible commentary written by Eugene Peterson.[11]

In a survey of Lusko’s more recent sermons, it seems like Levi Lusko does more exegesis than his most popular sermons. However, a recent sermon on Joshua 1 stayed grounded in the text but the focus was on us rather than God.[12] In “You Have A Memory” Lusko reveals how he teaches when he addresses the circumcision that takes place and tells the audience he is going to apply it to your life.[13] Lusko’s teachings are wired for human utility rather than learning about God.

It cannot be said that Levi Lusko does not ever teach on sin However it can reasonably be argued that Lusko equates sin to failure, trauma, adversity, and other shortcomings that are not necessarily sin. In a recent sermon where Lusko preaches on hamartiology, titled “Secondhand Sin” Lusko articulates that win commit the sins our parents commit to the third or fourth generation, not necessarily by choice but by habit, yet he then articulates we can choose a different path.[14] This is at odds with a Reformed or providential view of God, though this note is not a basis for the conclusions drawn in this verdict.[15] However, despite a sermon addressing sin, it was entirely comfortable and nonconfrontational, as the gravity of sin was never articulated.

Conclusion

The biggest distinction in Lusko’s prominence seems to be that he did not achieve any sort of fame from pastoring a church in a major or even mid-size metropolitan. Being under 40 and pastor of a large church, Lusko has no shortage of connections. And while Mike Todd is the next Joel Osteen, it seems that Levi Lusko is being groomed by Big Eva to be the next Steven Furtick or Craig Groeschel.

The background of Levi Lusko does not lend to his credibility as a teacher. However, it does suggest a possibility that he is a Christian that has been instructed poorly. This is the charitable explanation. The reason why this is less likely is that Levi Lusko is highly intelligent. He is keenly aware of what the Bible says. He also demonstrates a clear interest in learning new information. The innocent explanation perhaps has a low view of the Holy Spirit in an inability to avoid obviously heretical connections.

Not only does Levi Lusko appear to come from the emergent church movement, but he has also carried the torch of this movement. Every sermon surveyed,[16] focused more on pop-psychology instead of understanding the meaning of the passage. Generally, his sermons begin with a personal story, then cite a passage, then moves to a pop-psychology teaching on said passage. Perhaps there is a “public service announcement” towards the end or a massive historical or appeal to writers, before a finale which could contain a gospel presentation. In many instances Levi Lusko uses The Message and sometimes The Passion Translation. In instances where he’s preaching on his books, the instruction is on what his book teaches primarily as opposed to the Bible itself.

When listening to Levi Lusko, one will learn more trivial information than anything related to the Bible or Christian teaching. His messages are vaguely religious and catered towards women. Everything in Scripture is a metaphor to something relatable today, with Levi Lusko. And with this level of hermeneutic, a lot of theological liberalism can flow, if not from Levi Lusko himself, then certainly his congregants.

It’s worth one last time to examine the arguments that can be made in the affirmative for Levi Lusko. Despite being egalitarian, he has not yet bent on homosexuality. He is substantially more restrained in his words than comparable teachers such as Steven Furtick, Craig Groeschel, and Mike Todd. Because associations alone do not make someone a false teacher, the best-case scenario is that Levi Lusko is a Christian pastor unwisely subsidizing a heretical industry. The comparison to this is a Christian pastor working with The Gospel Coalition, like Trevin Wax. Levi Lusko’s extensive associations would earn him a Category 2 on their own, but this would not sufficiently prove him to be a false teacher.

But the best-case scenario requires unreasonable doubt. This is a shepherd that allows wolves to preach to his flock regularly. Levi Lusko is a Big Eva product, groomed from a young age to do exactly what he is doing now. He has written multiple books, only to preach entire sermons on said books which should be construed as a sales presentation. This would corroborate accusations of greed, which is a dominant motivator for false teachers.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.

2 Timothy 4:3-4 NASB1995

In addition to proliferating false teachers, Levi Lusko has a demonstrable method of tickling ears with formulaic sermons that see ourselves into Scripture as opposed to seeing God in Scripture. It would therefore be unreasonable to argue that he is not on the same level of danger as those he regularly associates. A Category 4 wolf is therefore the most fitting verdict Levi Lusko.

A call to action

Evangelical Dark Web is an online ministry that fights to maintain the orthodoxy’s and orthopraxy of Evangelical Christianity. We are specifically set up to fight three false gospels in particular: the Social Justice GospelProsperity Gospel, and Popularity Gospel. We also do in depth research to answer reader questions about false teachers. Consider subscribing to support these efforts.


[1] Pete Nelson was on the opposing side of this widely reported power struggle.

[2] Grace Against The Grain | Lisa Harper Aug 16, 2020
https://youtu.be/VF8PnqtH12g

[3] This list is not exhaustive. It is mostly limited to false teachers covered by Evangelical Dark Web prior to the publish of this verdict. A lot of this is evident on his church’s YouTube channels.

[4] Too Small To Fail :: You In Five Years | Pastor Levi Lusko Jan 22, 2018
https://youtu.be/zwiB5YgtqgM

[5] The Life You Get Stuck With :: You In Five Years | Pastor Levi Lusko Jan 8, 2018
https://youtu.be/4xAsolGEpfU

[6] Ibid 6:20

[7] Think Like A Wolf :: I Declare War (Pt. 1) | Pastor Levi Lusko Oct 29, 2018
https://youtu.be/N5XEIGKsG14

[8] Wash Your Hands | Pastor Levi Lusko | Not Quickly Broken, pt. 1 Jan 6, 2020
https://youtu.be/1Xj2zzcobLU

[9] In the Absence of a Crisis :: You In Five Years | Pastor Levi Lusko Jan 15, 2018
https://youtu.be/FTk9Omh3Mgg

[10] Shut Your Door | Pastor Levi Lusko Jan 3, 2021
https://youtu.be/s9PO2OAhubI

[11] Deeper Than Skin | yours, mine & ours | Pastor Levi Lusko Feb 11, 2019
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ku6lDfFaVBI

[12] You Have A New Memory | Pastor Levi Lusko
https://youtu.be/u0Hfr7OyOhg

[13] Ibid 41:30-43:00

[14] Secondhand Sins | Pastor Levi Lusko Mar 14, 2021
https://youtu.be/hM1tBhMxUTs

[15] Soteriology is not considered a basis for labeling someone a false teacher by Evangelical Dark Web along the Calvinism/Arminianism lines.

[16] Note: there were more sermons surveyed than the sermons specifically referenced in the teaching section.

One comment

  1. Ray,

    I live in Montana and have an interest in Lusko but much more in the truth of God’s word! I appreciate your analysis of his teaching and will investigate more of the concerns you brought up.

    I could not help but think to myself as I was reading your post that Levi Lusko himself really needs to read your post!
    I would assume that you have sent your post to him? It would be interesting to hear his comments and it would be in keeping with Matthew 18 if infact you consider him a brother?

    All things for His glory alone!

    Like

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