Yesterday’s blog post was about money. Today’s is about money as well, only different.
Over the weekend, I read a couple disturbing pieces about our colleagues in ministry affiliated with Elevation Church (one of the largest Southern Baptist Congregations where I live in North Carolina) and our colleagues in ministry affliated with the “He Gets It” project which is an initiative of The Servant Foundation which is an initiative of The Signatry which exists to promote “biblical generosity.” (This took some digging.)
Rachel Held Evans famously said that millennials have excellent bull@*^! detectors. I would offer that other generations can also smell inauthenticity/traps/foolishness a mile away depending on our own spiritual maturity. Both Elevation and “He Gets Us” don’t pass the smell test.
And this is why we can’t have nice things.
Yes, Elevation Church is cool and there are some authentic people involved. And also they are charging up to $1000+ for “tickets to worship” at the Kia Center in the Los Angeles area in November.
I believe this makes Jesus weep. Yes, you can attend by purchasing cheaper tickets, but . . . gross. Pastor Steven Furtick is known for some sketchy activities from faking spontaneous baptisms to living a lifestyle that looks more like Herod than Jesus. Unbelievers sincerely seeking spiritual answers will not find it in a pay-to-worship venue led by a man who needs a helicopter pad in his backyard.
Some of the television ads sponsored by the “He Gets Us” project are well done and yes, I believe that Jesus gets us. The whole fully divine and fully human thing.
And also this organization – though definitively not aligned with any denomination or political party – is run primarily by successful white men whose personal church affiliation is very conservative theologically. Some of my best friends are theologically conservative successful white men and yet I would like to scream, if I may: Jesus is not a brand.
The Washington Post featured an article last weekend about this “He Gets Us” movement that says this:
A $100 million effort launched this year is blanketing cities and the web, aiming to redeem Jesus’ brand from the damage done by some of his followers.
Billboards with messages like “Jesus let his hair down, too” and “Jesus went all in, too,” have been posted in major markets like New York City and Las Vegas. And ads featuring black-and-white online videos about Jesus as a rebel, an activist or a host of a dinner party have been viewed more than 300 million times, according to organizers.
The He Gets Us campaign, funded by the Signatry, a Christian foundation based in Kansas, will expand in the next few months, with an updated website, an online store where people can get free gear if they forgive someone or welcome a stranger, and an outreach program for churches, all leading up to a Super Bowl ad.
Again, this smacks of marketing for a religion that is not about hipsters or t-shirts. I like hipsters and I like t-shirts, but saying that “Jesus let his hair down” makes me queasy.
What if – faithful readers – we who are trying to follow Jesus simply did what Jesus commanded: feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, support the weak, and serve “the least of these”?
Again, we make many mistakes misrepresenting what Jesus is all about. We confuse church attendance with spiritual maturity. We avoid sharing what we believe to people craving hope. We pretend we have it all together when we don’t.
Real Church is about discipleship and service. Disturbing Church is about profits and branding.
I admit upfront that if Elevation church was near me and the church I serve, I would be critical too. I hear your frustration and grief. I am not sure how calling out Steve Furtick and referencing articles written 8 years ago about him were helpful. I love love your writing and your thoughts. I want to keep reading and being challenged by them. But a pastor calling out another pastor- I just don’t know. I feel we should model healthy ways to disagree that involve direct communication and bridge building.
I imagine Jesus flipping lots of tables!
At our little country church, we thought about, even had plans drawn up, adding on to our fellowship hall and kitchen. We host a couple of fundraising events a year, all involving food! We love to cook and eat and share! Covid19 happened and we rethink our plans. We decide we can make do with what we have and still serve others. Our first event post Covid19, we had cars parked across the road and people lined up around the church. We raised more than we ever have for our local food pantry and local program, God’s Garden.
Our church has always given back 100% of the profits made on our fundraising.
I’m not saying this to boast, but to say when we serve in love it comes back.
I am thankful and blessed to be a part of this church family that has always felt led to serve God by serving others.