When Even Christian Publications Suggest That a Celebrity Pastor Is Acting Shady, That Can’t Be a Good Sign

Steven Furtick, the pastor of Elevation Church in North Carolina, has been under fire recently because of church’s shady finances.

In short, the church takes in tens of millions of dollars every year (tax-free, of course), pays Furtick an undisclosed salary decided by a “Board of Overseers” consisting of his celebrity pastor friends, and never bothers to tell the congregation where exactly all their money is going. (All volunteers and employees of the church have to sign a confidentiality agreement promising never to reveal the church’s finances.)

Whatever Furtick’s making, though, it’s gotta be pretty sweet considering he just bought a $1,700,000 home:

When a local news team started running stories about the church’s lack of transparency and Furtick’s own extravagant lifestyle, he responded by playing dumb, saying “it’s not that great of a house” and he didn’t understand why a helicopter was flying over it.

Well, there’s a good reason for that:

The station needed a helicopter because the house sits on a 19-acre lot surrounded by gated communities and similarly sized mansions, posted with no trespassing signs: A helicopter is the only way to get close enough to see it.

Furtick says the money he makes comes from sales of his bestselling books and his speaking fees, not from the church members. But there’s a problem with that statement, too:

Furtick’s claim that his multimillion-dollar mansion is paid for by book and speaking fees and not his church salary is plausible, but impossible to verify. Even if true, it raises ethical questions. Should Furtick keep money from books sold in the church’s bookstore, promoted in sermon series from the church’s pulpit, and promoted by the church’s television broadcasts?

Those last two passages, by the way, come from World Magazine, a Christian publication.

I have to say it’s refreshing to see a publication like that taking a critical look at one of its own celebrities. If the practice of hiding the pastor’s salary from even his own congregation is ever going to change, it’ll be because other Christians demand it, not because people like me voice our skepticism.

In the meantime, here’s a video of Furtick taking on his haters:

That guy’s apparently worth millions. (So how are you feeling about your life choices lately?)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Lee Miller

    I am always amazed that adults can voluntarily sit in churches and listen to people like this. I wouldn’t buy a washing machine from him at Sears. And I sure as hell wouldn’t give him a penny of my money.

    • Rationalist1

      It’s very, very troubling that people fall for that.

  • Nankay

    Why did I click on the video?? Why? Why!!??

    • Rationalist1

      Two and a half minutes one can never unlive.

    • God’s Starship

      Because you wanted to see a textbook model of a man projecting his flaws.

    • lmern

      I didn’t watch the video until I read your comment and my morbid curiosity got the better of me. Now the same question is echoing in my brain. WHYY??!?!

    • trj

      Come on. Surely it can’t be that bad.

      • trj

        Oh God, why did I watch that!!!?

    • McAtheist

      lol…………..I suffered for 24 seconds. Had to shut it off>

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Street punk. Does he carry concealed? Is this the beginning of an American Ayodhya?

    In that video, it is impossible to discern if he is ranting against atheists who disbelieve, or Christians who are critical and skeptical of his financial practices.

    • James

      Both. Because Christians who are critical and skeptical of his financial practices obviously must be atheists.

    • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

      It’s word salad. Trying to find meaning or prupose is a video like this is like trying to find Waldo in a Jackson Pollock painting.

    • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com/ Captain Cassidy

      Oh Richard, you say that like there’s some kind of distinction in his mind between those two groups. I don’t think he differentiates at all between ‘em. Christians who are critical of him might as well be atheists, just as all non-Christians might as well be atheists. They all pose a real danger to someone who has built an empire on the backs of the vulnerable, and the results of their scrutiny are the same.

  • Rain

    Wow, that video. He is one hammy actor.

  • Rain

    Judging from the video… he’ll get busted for something one of these days. Too dumb to not get busted for something.

  • Matthew Haller

    Thanks for covering, Hemant. The tactic of portraying people who report about their behavior as “haters” or “slanderers” is a common strategy of religious leaders who are motivated by economic gain, or worse, to manipulate helpless & vulnerable sheep. My limited ability to hold these people accountable has been very frustrating to me lately.

    • Rain

      Yeah Jesus had some choice words for haters and slanderers. Also for those who just plain disagreed with him. Not to mention completely innocent people that didn’t do anything at all. OH WAIT HE GET’S A FREE PASS. I forgot…

    • Carpinions

      To wit, it’s the same strategy that the propagators of pyramid schemes also use when confronted by “doubters”

      • Matthew Haller

        Very true.

    • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com/ Captain Cassidy

      Keep talking, Matthew. The more you talk, the more words there are, and sooner or later the pile of words will overflow and the people who need to hear will start listening.

      I see the Christian tactic of shooting the messenger and trying to silence those who say openly that the Emperor is nekkid is still in full swing, but the truth will out. It just about always does. This guy’s paycheck depends upon silencing you, and those he’s ensorcelled will no doubt do whatever they can to try to invalidate the truth. But please don’t stop.

  • Neko

    Hey haters.

    Woe to you!

    • Guest

      Hey delusionals.

      Get a therapist.

      • Neko

        LOL [if you're calling me a "delusional"]

    • Rationalist1

      I assume that comment is sarcasm. No thinking person could take such an individual seriously.

      • Neko

        Maybe we’ve had another round of misinterpretation…

        • Rationalist1

          I think so. Sorry.

  • JQD

    unsurprisingly “comments disabled”. I’d say he’s a lunatic, except he’s not – he’s a very slick scam artist. You just KNOW he knows that all the “god” stuff he spews is nonsense. He’s in it for the money, nothing more, nothing less.

    • JET

      This is how I feel about all televangelists in mega-churches. The lowest of the low, believing none of their own crap, capitalizing on the gullibility of the masses.

  • Linda

    I didn’t understand him. Was that rap?

    • Fentwin

      “Was that rap?”
      Missed it by one letter.

    • unclemike

      White Xtian rap.

      Which is to say: not rap.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        ‘s still CRAP, though.

  • Graham Martin-Royle

    And all that money donated is recorded as charitable giving. Hmmm.

  • Jeff

    You have to recognize one good thing about this guy. He’s a more successful thief than anyone could be with a gun….

  • dagnykight

    Hey haters! You look like a toddler! Drawing a line in the sand!

    um. ok.

    • lmern

      Maybe I need more coffee this morning but your comment made me laugh way louder than I anticipated.

  • expastor

    What a douche! After one minute of his dribble, I wanted to shove an ice pick in my ear!

    • Jonathan Arthur

      Your ears aren’t the problem. Use the metaphorical ice pick where it will do some good.

  • Lynn

    I have learned a very hard and truthful lesson in my personal life. People follow the famous, the $$$, and love to play abusive games without questioning any of it. They want to be at the popular restaurant, just like the popular church.

    Steven Furtick is a scam artist like many others in the god business. He is using his power to build an empire and engage people in the hate. He instigates it like a psychopath and does it well. But like someone else said, it is a matter of time before he falls down.

    That is one crazy video!!!

  • Leisuresuitbruce

    Very nice musical F%$# You.

  • Gus

    When you’re running a church, this statement pretty much ought to condemn you, regardless of whether you have a 1.7 million dollar house:

    All volunteers and employees of the church have to sign a confidentiality agreement promising never to reveal the church’s finances.

  • Gus

    How am I feeling about my life choices? Fantastic. I may not be rich, but I sleep a lot better knowing I’m not bilking thousands of people out of millions of dollars with pious lies and false promises.

    • The Other Weirdo

      That’s because you have a conscience. I doubt that he has much trouble sleeping.

  • Gus

    Every time this guy comes up I keep expecting to see somebody like Crouch, or Falwell, or Robertson, some old southern guy in a bad suit. And then I see this young guy trying to be hip, and I still manage to be surprised. What I really want to see though is this guy and the Mars Hill guy in a cage match, Thunderdome style: Two men enter. One man leaves.

    • Artor

      I wouldn’t mind if neither of them left.

      • Gus

        There’s always a logic error in these simple rules. I think I’ve got it right now:

        Two men enter, no more than one man leaves.

  • David McNerney

    A basic condition of a Tax Exempt Charitable Status should be published accounts.

    • meekinheritance

      Tax Exempt *anything* Status

  • Richard Thomas

    That guy definitely seems like he’s on something. Are we looking at the next Jim Bakker?

  • Matt Bowyer

    Why I have nothing but scorn for charlatans such as this guy.

  • Jonathan Arthur

    “But for all your hating and pontificating and games … I’m still richer than you, loser! It’s not about you … it’s about my money! I bathe in riches and status and hinky financial bullshit – just like Jesus!”

  • cryofly

    There is a group in this nation that whole heartedly believes that tax must be abolished. That is among other things like, education must be done at home, environment protection is god’s business, etc. Many of them have found the loophole in the system that says fooling people in the name of god is tax free. I do not see the rock etching called the ten commandments in his front yard (but he will ask for one in front of the court and public buildings), nor the penchant to live a decent and humble life in service of his fellow beings, which is what he signed up for. Didn’t he?

  • Jonathan Arthur

    He needs a big house to accommodate his huge collection of stuff. Why would Jeebus give him all this beautiful booty without a place to put it? Even hell-bound atheists should be able to see that.

  • WalterWhite007

    I’m sure I saw him in a porno movie; but it was a small role.

  • WalterWhite007

    This just proves how blind faith can be that anyone would ever want to read or hear anything this goof had anything to do with.

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    Dear Pastor Steven Furtick,

    I know I’m a hater, but that’s because my depth is not love nor strength of word, and the spirt has not enter but left because I was hating because I see how strong in Jesus’s love and strength is good because God rewards and hater hate because toddlers toddle because God reaches into their shallow depths and makes them walk to give you money and,… shit where was I going with this… oh yeah, do you, per chance, want some vinegar to go with that word salad of yours, you sad little con-artist.

  • dagobarbz

    I would love the fat stacks that come with the scam of religion, but I wouldn’t be willing to prey on gullible innocents to get them.

    Isn’t that stupid, the people who SHOULD be teaching morality don’t want to because they know. Religion is a scam, a get-rich quick scheme for the con man sharp enough to see it. Guys like L. Ron Hubbard; blatant liar and crook, still venerated by a dwindling pool of devotees.

  • http://roguemedic.com/ Rogue Medic

    “The only kinds of words you ever seem to speak bring death to the hearer.”

    Really?

    The only kinds of words he seems to speak are logical fallacies.

    He is just another snake oil peddler who tries to be more slick than his critics.

    The sad thing is that many people fall for this nonsense.

    Steven Furtick, Bernie Madoff, Uri Geller, Sylvia Browne, . . . .

    Scam artists taking millions of dollars from gullible people.

    .

    • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com/ Captain Cassidy

      He comes from a long tradition of liars: “Don’t eat of that tree, because the day you do, you will surely die.”

      Unproven false threats are the finest kind.

  • Pepe

    He smirks too much

  • http://roguemedic.com/ Rogue Medic

    “Embrace a new way to change the world.”

    I thought Christianity was a couple thousand years old.

    I guess he is telling us that he is the new God.

    Jesus preached for handouts of food and shelter, but this guy needs large amounts of money as befits a narcissist.

    .

  • Cogito Ergo Sum

    Bit of background for the trivial-minded among us. The Editor in Chief of World Magazine is Marvin Olasky, who used to be a newspaper reporter at the Boston Globe. You may have seen him in some of the better known religion vs. atheism debates with Hitchens and others at Kings College, where he was provost until 2011. He also was an advisor to GW Bush during his Texas gubernatorial years. At his best, Olasky is in favor of an open exchange of information and of not stifling other worldviews. At his worst, he is yet another evangelical conservative who helped popularize the phrase “compassionate conservatism” — a key part of Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign. He also happened to be one of my college journalism professors in Austin, where he injected religion into a lecture course about mass communications.

  • Ashley W.

    I would shy away from any church that has its finances confidential. My church has a quarterly business meeting where we get a statement of all transactions. This church’s money problems are only a symptom of its true problem: awful theology. But as always, so goes the leader..

  • TheG

    My question is for the IRS: if the money for the house came from his books and not the church, is he taking the (questionably unconstitutional) parsonage exemption on his income tax return?

    Follow up question: if not, is he paying taxes on the books sold at and promoted in his church that he used to finance the home? Because he is then co-mingling nonprofit and for profit funds. If he isn’t paying taxes on the books, that would mean that he considers himself to be a charity. Is he registered that way?

    It seems that he has the IRS to answer to one way or the other. That is, if anyone at the IRS can step up against a mega pastor and show he has the grapes.

  • Dennis Vander Houwen

    That is the most “crap” spoken word I have every subjected myself to.

  • squinney

    Man, he is just C.R.E.E.P.Y.

  • Naomi Lazarus

    I love it when Christian leaders act like Christianity is somehow counterculture. Rebellious. Anti-establishment.

    Do they really think we’ll watch a video like that, and think, “Down with mainstream rationality! I’m going for that scrappy underdog, Christianity!”?

    You go on with your bad self, Christianity. You rich, powerful, America-controlling, globally dominant rebel, you.

  • T0m0

    Have you noticed how he talks out of the side of his mouth?
    Two faced.

  • T0m0

    I give my money to local businesses.
    I tip those who serve me locally.
    I stay away from those who preach about mythological beings with their hands out.
    I may not be able to prove that he does NOT exist, but they cannot prove that he does, even with my money in their wallets.
    TAKE CARE OF YOUR OWN AND THEY WILL BE LESS LIKELY TO BE TAKEN IN BY CON ARTISTS LIKE THIS.


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