Last night Stuart Watson's 2nd installment of his investigation into the Elevation Church and Steven Furtick's finances - and Furtick's new $1.7M, 16,000 square foot mansion on 19 acres - aired on WCNC in Charlotte.
And there is a Jacksonville connection to this very hot story that has Steven Furtick's finances under a microscope: as Watson reports our own Jacksonville mega church pastor Stovall Weems of Celebration Church is or was one of the five friends Furtick recruited to make up a so-called "Board of Overseerers" that votes on Furtick's salary!
But that is not all. As reported by Watson, there seems to be a conflict of interest involved with Weems and two of the other 4 "board of overseers" in that they personally have financial connections to the Elevation Church. As reported in the story:
"The board of overseers is made entirely of other mega church pastors just like Steven Furtick. 'The financial well-being of all of these guys are intimately intertwined'. That means Steven Furtick agrees to pay them to preach at Elevation [including Stovall, pictured above] and they pay him to preach at their conferences or mega churches."
So how on earth is it justified that men who earn money from Elevation Church by speaking at Furtick's church - yet have no official connection to the church itself - are on the board that sets his salary, yet none of the members who pay for the salary are able to find out what that number is?
The one Elevation Church official who IS speaking to Stuart Watson confirms that men like Stovall
do get paid for their speaking gigs at Elevation, but the pay is "small in scope". But he won't give any ranges of numbers.
Maybe I can help. I wrote about this practice two years ago in an article entitled "Modern Day 'Circuit Riders' - Traveling Mega Church Pastors Finding Another Way to Fleece the Flocks and Recycle Their Sermons." And in that article I wrote:
"Insiders tell me that visiting preachers at mega churches will earn up to $3000 for a Sunday morning sermon, or $5000 if they do the hard work of staying over and preaching the Sunday evening sermon also. But I'm sure they have not one iota of guilt, since they tithe on the money, which makes them super spiritual.And that number of $3000 to $5000 is for a more "modest" SBC mega church here in Jax. I am going to go out on a limb and estimate that Furtick's bunch pays much more than that to its visiting Men of God. But of course we'll never know. It is all top secret.
Not bad scratch. If they earn $3000 in addition to their travel, meals and lodging, that is about $100 per minute for an average 30-minute sermon. Not an hour. A MINUTE. That is professional baseball player per minute money. While churches everywhere are seeing their revenue continue to decline, the mega church pastors are hot and heavy to get out on the circuit to get their share of the visiting preacher dollars. "
And while I'm at it, let me quote myself again from this article of two years ago, because this circuit-riding practice gets worse - many of these pastors like Furtick pay other pastors to come in and "beat the sheep", or what I would call shake-down the congregation, to get them to give more money. I wrote:
"Sometimes preachers are brought in to do the dirty work of the pastor. One of the more brazen moves was Perry Noble of NewSpring church hiring Robert Morris to come in for two straight weeks to beat up the sheep over tithing, telling them of the curse on them and their money unless they gave Perry's church 10% of their income. Shameless."As I said yesterday, I'm glad reporters like Stuart Watson are finally reporting on these practices that are fleecing congregations all over our country, and which will eventually drive evangelical Christianity into the ground as all of this is exposed.
And I highly, highly recommend that members of mega church pastors here in Jacksonville read the Wartburg Watch article yesterday, "Steven Furtick Proves That It Is Time to Stop Giving to the Local Church." Dee and Deb give EXCELLENT advice to members of today's modern church regarding their financial support of their church.