Home Christian News What Makes Steven Furtick’s Elevation Church So Popular and Yet So Controversial?

What Makes Steven Furtick’s Elevation Church So Popular and Yet So Controversial?

Steven Furtick theology
Screengrab YouTube @ElevationWorship

In the 1920s, a psychologist hand-drew a series of blob-like shapes used to determine a patient’s personality characteristics. Named after its founder Hermann Rorschach, the Rorschach test became a cultural shorthand for anything—a person, a piece of art, a political movement—that was seen a variety of different ways by different people. The test’s premise is how you see the object says as much about you as it does the object.

Steven Furtick Theology

In the evangelical world, Steven Furtick and his Elevation Church is the ultimate Rorschach test. How you see him reveals your beliefs about church growth, theology, pastoral accountability and seeker sensitivity. For some, Furtick and his 17,000+ congregation is the paragon of church growth. For others, he’s a leadership crisis waiting to happen. Some consider him one of the most powerful pastoral voices in the country. Others say he’s a heretic.

Certainly, Furtick isn’t the first visible church leader to draw this varied a reaction, but right now he’s arguably the most famous. So the question is, who is right? And what does the controversy surrounding Furtick say not just about him, but about us?


Online magazine Pitchfork is arguably the most respected music review publication in the world. Reaching 1.5 million readers a month, the magazine is known for targeting independent artists and scenes. Which is why Pitchfork’s recent profile about Elevation Church’s worship music is so remarkable. Elevation Church has caught the attention of the secular music world.

The article, written by a self-professed non-religious journalist, is shockingly positive. Free of the snarky condescension found in many secular articles written about evangelicalism, the article shines a largely complementary light on the pastors of Elevation. The pastors discuss their engagement with all music, not just Christian music, the importance of musical excellence, and their desire to draw people through their music to a deeper relationship with God.

The writer is surprised by Elevation’s racial diversity “despite the frankly very white rock music that forms the backbone of the church’s sound.” And while one would assume the music’s styling isn’t his preference, the writer communicates a respect and understanding of what he perceives Elevation is trying to accomplish: “It’s this idea of reaching those ‘far from God’ that helps explain the strange paradox at the heart of Elevation—using one of the most notoriously profane styles of music to soundtrack weekly services and act as a beacon for faith in God.”