Skip to comments.Elevation Church 'Emotionally Manipulating' Thousands Into 'Spontaneous' Baptisms, Say Critics
Posted on 02/20/2014 5:24:30 PM PST by Gamecock
A baptism manual produced by Pastor Steven Furtick's popular Elevation Church in North Carolina, which teaches people how to produce "spontaneous" baptisms among the repentant, is being criticized as "emotional manipulation."
The manual, Spontaneous Baptism How-To Guide, was produced by Elevation Church in 2011 and received its first critique in November from James Duncan, a Christian blogger and associate professor of communication at Anderson University who lives in South Carolina.
"As a church we pray Sun Stand Still prayers all the time. We are constantly asking God to do something that seems impossible and then believing that He is going to pull through," explains the introduction to the guide.
"Most recently we prayed and asked God to lead thousands of people to take a public stand in their faith in Christ through baptism. God blew our minds and in two weekends we saw 2,158 respond and be baptized," it continued.
It then explains in very detailed and strategic terms how the church was able to get "this amazing, Sun Stand Still, only-God-can-get-the-glory miracle."
Among the strategies, according to the manual, is to strategically place people in the worship service who will pretend to respond when pastor Furtick gives the call for baptism approximately one hour into the service.
"Fifteen people will sit in the worship experience and be the first ones to move when pastor gives the call. Sit in the auditorium and begin moving forward when pastor Steven says go. Move intentionally through the highest visibility areas and the longest walk," the manual advises.
In a WCNC report on Tuesday Duncan claims that the tactic as dishonest.
"They had people in the crowd stand up who never intended to be baptized," said Duncan. "They were shilling for Steven and the intent was these shills stand up and everybody else follows."
Duncan highlights one of Furtick's baptism calls in his November critique in which Furtick dismisses the notion that his tactics are "emotional manipulation."
"You know God is calling you, and if you feel that in your heart, let me assure you that is the Holy Spirit of God calling you. It is not emotional manipulation. It's the presence of God drawing you and calling you. So in just a moment, I'm going to count to three. When I say 'three,' at every campus I want you to move into the aisles and go to the exit where the ushers are stationed at your campus," said Furtick.
Duncan, however, argued that it is emotional manipulation.
"Perhaps you could classify this as encouragement for a decision already made, not manipulation. You could, though if this were a decision made with confidence and determination, there would be no need to constantly reinforce that decision. Why I classify these as manipulative comes from the very first action, performed just seconds after Furtick's assurance that he wasn't manipulating them," said Duncan, who claims that people are being used as "shills" to start moving toward the front of the church.
Blogger Christopher Smith noted in his recent critique that the tactics being employed in the manual are a reflection of the McDonaldized Christianity many churches are now driving toward.
"Elevation has almost gone so far as to make themselves a caricature of McDonaldized faith, but I hope that like all good caricatures we don't just dismiss them as extreme, but rather, see through their story the desires in our own hearts and congregations that are driving us in a similar direction, even if we are not so ridiculous and extreme," said Smith.
The Christian Post reached out to Elevation Church for further comment on this story Thursday but a response was not provided at the time of publication.
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Sounds kinda Mormon..
It is recognition of emotional reality whether it is manipulation or not.
People respond more readily to something that is seen as socially appropriate. Others moving forward enables them to overcome any social embarrassment.
So, there is an emotional reality being addressed by this strategy.
If it is manipulation, then we need to address the household baptisms in the book of Acts when the leader of the household’s response led to others responding.
It became socially acceptable.
The same with the spread of Christianity when the conversion of the king led to other conversions, Ireland/Scotland/England giving examples.
Is it manipulation to respond to Christ because you have a follower’s mentality, but a friend or family member can be a leader who can enable you to overcome a social obstacle?
“The Christian Post reached out to Elevation Church”
I’m seeing that NewSpeak “reached out” all over the place now. Is that, like, “telephoned for comment”?
More likely, an email.
They attack this Elevation church guy relentlessly on Channel 6 in Charlotte. I think he must have murdered the new anchors dog or something. They literally have 10 minute stories every week.
A couple weeks ago they were putting a noose around his neck because he is selling a new book as buy one get one free to pump his sales numbers up to get on the NYT bestseller list.
I think the elevation guy is a bit of a shyster but I don’t see him breaking any laws. If people want to keep giving him money, that’s their prerogative.
You can’t be serious. When the head of a household led in conversion, it was genuine.
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Baptism is not to be trifled with.
Check this out:
THIS IS WHAT @STEVENFURTICK IS TEACHING THE KIDDOS!
I am serious. When the head of the household led, others followed? Would they have followed without the first step by the leader?
I’ve always known that Billy Graham had his counselors come down at the time of the invitation. Did that make it easier for others to get out of their seats? And, if it did, did it make ALL such statements of commitment to Christ by these people to be false?
It wasn’t a large percentage that stuck, but I think I remember reading it was over 10%.
Wow, this is scary, I take back my comment above. This guy is a whacko.
I’ve been studying the mind manipulation techniques used in religious settings for over twenty years. They are very common. I trained as a stage hypnotist in order to identify the process and know how to select the most suggestible individuals for demonstrations. It’s very easy to learn. I will never use the techniques and actually teach workshops on how they work and how to identify them.
I was very upset when the New Chapel Dean at Duke University who was formerly a professor of homiletics at Princeton started using these same techniques. I stopped attending his services.
The manipulation techniques are very common in black theology. Rev. Wright, Obama’s pastor is excellent at using them.
The difference between the real born again process and the fake one is the direction of surrender. In the fake process, the person surrenders externally to the suggestions of another individual. In the real process, they surrender within themselves to God.
Emotional manipulation is an excellent description of the process. The secret to trance induction is to first emotionally destabilize a person.
Interesting. Have you ever heard of a deciever named Rodney Howard Browne? He induces trance states also,in the name of Jesus.2 Peter 2
The excellent Tony Miano posted this on his facebook. Quite a terrible thing to hear. It’s the union between “marketing” and “evangelism”, and the output is probably lots and lots of false converts.
Only by the Grace of God am I able to discern the true from the false process. When the process is real I see the Light of the connection and feel the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Light will move with a person as they move around as though there is a spotlight above them all the time. It is unmistakable. There are also definite changes that take place in their soul.
Most spiritual leaders get their energy as parasites from the people who follow them rather than through their Divine Connection. They will never find God by raising themselves on the backs of their followers or by climbing the highest mountain. You can only find God by feeling as though you are falling and their is no bottom, at which time you turn to God in prayer and grab hold as His hand reaches out to you. That’s the real connection.
I just read the story about Tony Miano getting arrested in Scotland for preaching on the street and saying that homosexuality is a sin. It is interesting to observe the battles.
Most of ministerial words fall upon deaf ears as when a person is full of themselves they are not open to the answers. The upcoming economic, political and geographic turmoil will empty a lot of souls, just like the old bottle of wine must be tossed aside. Only then will people open their ears and listen for answers that will truly help them. Too bad satan is going to rush in and try to take advantage of all the fear to recruit people to surrender their souls to him in the interim, but it must happen according to God’s Plan.
“When the head of a household led in conversion, it was genuine.”
Many heads of households are deceived by satan. I can take these same men who feel in control of their lives and lead them through the false experience. The only way a person is not vulnerable is if they have already surrendered to God and hold on tight to their relationship.
Sometimes satan will use the Light of God to deceive folks by getting so close to God that people cannot tell the two apart and they end up following the wrong path, while the entire time they think that they are following God.
So Billy Graham was a faker, too?
That’s sad to hear.
“Baptism is not to be trifled with.”
Very true. But so often we wash the dirt off ourselves only to become dirty again. We must constantly wash ourselves again and again, daily until we are “Baptized by the Spirit.” Only that baptism will clean the soul as the water is somewhat limited to cleaning the flesh.
I Googled the name Rodney Howard Browne and found this interesting site:
I don’t think he was a faker. I think it was just the obvious time to have the counselors from all the area churches to come forward.
In any group of respondents, you’re going to have some that are real and some that are simply inquiring, and some that aren’t real. The inquirers are probably the biggest group. They are the ones you have to be careful with. Twisting their arms into “praying the sinners prayer” will be pointless without faith and the repentance that comes from actually being confronted by a perfectly holy Jesus.
In this instance, they have to be using counselors, too, and if it’s a “get dunked and get saved”, then they’re misleading inquirers.
That’s the point in the process at which I would have a complaint.
So Billy Graham was a faker, too?
Thats sad to hear.
We all make mistakes and justify them as tools for leading people to God. I’ve been in front of groups when things are not working the way I am expecting them to and feel as though I am going to look like a fool and failure. It is at that time that I explain that if things are not going well it is me in God’s way, if they are going well, it is God. The temptation to imitate the process and fool people in order to save face is a constant threat to following the path.
God likes a flat organizational chart. Everyone is to have their own direct connection to the boss through His Son and never through another human being. Just as death is an individual experience, so is “Being born of the Spirit.”
In a similar vein, I hesitate to respond or even form an opinion on stories like this, until I see what FRiend xzins has to say.
Thank you for your kind words. Please see #25 also.
I think those are excellent observations in #25. This type of church - and Billy Graham crusades, for that matter - are not my religious milieu. (Except when I get with the Mexican Charismatics, I’m quite stodgy ;-).
I can confidently expect that your comments will be well-thought-out, informative, and show respect for others.
Oh come now Chappy!
Conversions in the Book of Acts were brought about by the work of the Holy Spirit. If you go to the original source of this article you will see documents that quite clearly explain how to manipulate people.
Apples vs. Oranges
Definite sign of a CULT.
Indeed. I wouldn’t even be aware of Steven Furtick if it weren’t for Chris Rosebrough at piratechristianradio.com. He’s had Furtick’s number for a while. Chris sent out a tweet about the coloring book a few days ago. I’m continually shocked that people allow themselves to sit under the ministries of men like Furtick, Perry Noble, and Ed Young. Where’s the discernment?
Seems dishonest to me.
Excellent response. These techniques are pretty obvious in the penecostal, slain in the spirit scenarios. I have seen people go down just by being pointed at. Then I’ve seen people who won’t go down at all when they are nearly forced by the Pastor. Very embarassing.
This is as bad as the “snake pastor” who died from a snake bite.
See #25. I don’t think the point at which they come forward is the point at which any dishonesty happens. If someone else moving forward helps them overcome embarrassment or stubbornness or whatever, that is pretty much OK by me.
I don’t really see how it’s different than my encouraging them not to be embarrassed.
And of course as a Reformed Christian we don’t put much stock in walking the aisle to make a profession. Nor are we aline in that. Why? For the very reasons we see in this thread. Sure there are some number of true converts, but those who are coming forward our of peer pressure may be coming down the aisle for that reason alone.
That's why the issue for me is dealing honestly and honorably with the inquirers.
I purposely do not mention specific denominations as I do not want to create an adversary relationship where people’s minds become closed and discount what I say as attacking them or their faith. I would much sooner they learn the concept and then apply it to where ever they are at and grow individually.
These techniques happen in virtually every denomination as it is more based upon the individual skills of the pastor than the belief system. However some denominations have built their beliefs around the techniques.
Note: Being legalistic in our beliefs does not protect us from being vulnerable. Only our Loving relationship with God protects us.
What it gets down to is the purity of motive of the pastor. If the pastor’s motive is pure, mistakes will cause little or no harm.
For example, one very powerful mind control technique is to split the males and females into two separate sides of the church. It is done in many religions including Buddhist, Jewish Christian, Hindu, and I am sure many others. Just as Paul mentions that husband and wife become one, the group consciousness becomes one and forces conformity to all who enter the group. The group becomes “One.” The group is then focused upon the leader who steers them in any direction. The direction could be good or bad. The technique works in both directions just as a surgical knife can save lives or take them.
“That’s why the issue for me is dealing honestly and honorably with the inquirers.”
So very true. I prefer to work with people one on one and not in front of a group. I usually know their sin by reading their soul, often when they don’t even know it them-self. The first thing I always say is, “I do not judge you. I am here to help you as your self judgement is already destroying you.” I’m here to help you be free...
Even when in front of a group, I do not disclose what I know. I will often allude to the event by how old they were when it happened in order to help them recover it, but the worst thing I could ever do is to shame them.
The process is one of removing the obstacles to God’s Love in their souls.
It doesn't seem as if "coming forward" is a commitment, but rather only a step toward a confession of faith, baptism, or membership in a church. From that point, it's up to the leadership of the congregation to exercise good will and good judgment.
I think that's what you were saying ...
Yes. The counselor/pastor who receives any person must be sensitive to the words of the person who has come forward. If it's the jailer saying "What must I do to be saved?", then that's one thing. If it's "I want to know more.", then that's another. If it's, "I don't know why I'm here.", then we have a third.
Be honest and honorable. Those should be dealt with differently.
My favorite setting was the "Operation Appreciation" program for Ft Knox basic training soldiers who were invited to Louisville Kentucky. They had an inquirers room separate from the sanctuary. The counselors had time to talk to each of those who had come forward. Sometimes it was about salvation, but a lot of the time it was about lonliness, girlfriends, drill sergeants, or other needs that we'd pray for.
It would have been a lie to pretend all were there for "salvation".
I think many participants in a big event would be looking more for caring than for conversion, at least to begin with.
That was actually his second arrest. He got nailed, also in the UK, for the same thing, but that time the authorities didn’t have the guts to keep him, and just released him after awhile.
Miano also used to work with Ray Comfort of Living Waters ministries, though I think their theology differs a bit. (Comfort might be an Arminian, while Tony is a Calvinist). He’s a retired sheriff and used to preach to the guys in the backseat.
He’s a fantastic preacher, I respect him a lot.
I would not have an issue with it if this was done with full disclosre to the rest of the congregation.
You know, this can also work the other way. Some times in these situation when people see others move forward, they feel pressured to do the same without any sincere motivation to do it. Again, I have seen this happen to people who don’t feel lead to go down to the altar. They are even looked down on for not joining in.
That's a good point, and I need to think about it.
” I usually know their sin by reading their soul, often when they dont even know it them-self.”
What do you mean by “reading their soul”?