September 27, 2010
Furtick Uses 24-Hour Sermon to "Pimp" Book
When did ministry simply become a tool for marketing?
On September 21-22, Steven Furtick preached for 24 hours for an online audience of thousands. The senior pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, focused his hermeneutic marathon on the topic of “audacious faith.” And it’s not a coincidence that audacious faith is also the theme of his new book, Sun Stand Still: What Happens When You Dare to Ask God for the Impossible, which debuted the same day.
In a report at The Christian Post Furtick initially stressed that the online preaching marathon was not a gimmick. “he acknowledged he wasn’t a TV preacher or ‘the LaBron James of pastors.’” But the report’s next paragraph says:
Responding to criticisms that he was merely "pimping" his book all day, Furtick admitted he was. But he said he was doing it because he truly believes the message – God's message – in the book will change people's lives.
Furtick, who says he was reluctant to write a book, came to the attention of many about five years ago when he planted Elevation Church in Charlotte at age 25. The church reports that over 8,000 people have come to faith in Christ since it launched.
The 24 hour online event started on noon on Tuesday. Furtick didn’t actually preach continually for 24 hours—a pastor must answer nature’s call and not just God’s. The time was punctuated with music and short films as well. Furtick kept himself going with Diet Coke and Starbucks. We don’t know if the product placement helped Coca Cola or Starbuck’s bottom line, but Furtick’s new book reached No. 28 on Amazon’s sales rankings on Wednesday.
Last week Brandon O’Brien wrote a post about celebrity conversions. When an actor or recording artist converts is it really a “big win” for God? But the evangelical captivation with celebrities goes well beyond pop icons. Furtick is the quintessential pastoral celebrity. He’s got a large, rapidly growing church. He’s young, hip, and a fashion chameleon with ever-changing clothes and hair. He’s a powerful communicator with self-confidence wafting from him like pheromones. And he’s savvy enough to utilize media and technology to inflate his brand far beyond the confines of Charlotte, North Carolina.
But Furtick’s 24 hour preaching marathon, and the existence of celebrity pastors in general, raises a question: When did ministry become a vehicle for marketing?
I’m at a loss for how to wrap up this post. I’d simply like to hear your reactions to the news. Does this bother you? Are you indifferent? Is Furtick simply doing what many other pastors do but in a more effective way? And when does ministry devolve into marketing in God's name?