Signs and Wonders: Furtick defends expensive 'gift from God'

by Warren Cole Smith
Posted 10/28/13, 09:50 am

Furtick’s non-apology. Charlotte, N.C., megachurch pastor Steven Furtick has been embroiled in controversy since news of his $1.7 million home went public in a television news investigation last week. Yesterday, he stood firm, saying the five-bedroom, seven-and-a half-bath house is a gift from God. He did not apologize for the house, but he did say he was “sorry” for any uncomfortable conversations his congregation had to have about it. A church official said Furtick is paying for the home with money from book sales, but Furtick has refused requests—including those from WORLD—for copies of audited financial statements and other financial information. Furtick’s salary is determined by a “board of overseers” made up of other celebrity pastors. His church has no deacons or elders.

Enough is enough. One of the largest congregations in the Presbyterian Church USA has voted to leave the denomination. Highland Park Presbyterian Church in Dallas has 4,000 members and voted overwhelmingly on Sunday to leave the PCUSA and join the Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians (ECO), which was formed by former PCUSA congregations in 2012. Though barely a year old, the ECO already has nearly 100 congregations and more than 30,000 members. Highland Park is currently in a legal battle over the congregation’s $30 million church campus. The church and Grace Presbytery, the PSUSA’s regional body, had been in talks to try to resolve the property issue, but those conversations have devolved into a lawsuit. According to the Dallas Morning News, a “state district judge granted a temporary injunction to protect the church’s ownership of its property, pending the outcome of the lawsuit.”

Hell house. Every year we see a rash of Halloween stories. Some pastors rail against it. Others say it’s benign. Lately, we’ve seen churches create so-called “Hell Houses,” a Christian version of the long-popular haunted houses. Hell Houses supposedly tell you what it’s like in hell. Some of them provide opportunities to accept Christ at the end of the tour. Southern Baptist theologian Dr. Timothy George adds some interesting thoughts to this otherwise tired conversation in First Things. Commenting specifically on these Hell Houses, he writes: “It may be that some young people will find their way to genuine faith through such ghoulish shenanigans, but their overall import is a distortion of the Gospel. Those who indulge in such displays are taking something serious, eternal, and consequential and treating it with a finesse of a butcher doing brain surgery. In the process, they trivialize evil and domesticate grace.”

A crude awakening. The idiotic movie Bad Grandpa won at the box office this weekend, taking in $32 million, more than doubling its $15 million budget in just its first week of release. Gravity and Captain Philips continued their strong box-office run by taking the next two spots. The only other opener to crack the top 20 was The Counselor, coming in at No. 4 with a gross of $8 million. The Christian-themed Grace Unplugged continued its theatrical run, and managed to eke out another $121,000, bringing its total take to $2.3 million.

Warren Cole Smith

Warren is the host of WORLD Radio’s Listening In. He previously served as WORLD's vice president and associate publisher. He currently serves as president of MinistryWatch and has written or co-written several books, including Restoring All Things: God's Audacious Plan to Change the World Through Everyday People. Warren resides in Charlotte, N.C. Follow him on Twitter @WarrenColeSmith.

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