Elevation Church's pastor Steve Furtick came under fire earlier this week for his multi-million dollar mansion, raising questions about his financial profits from the success of his church and subsequent book deals and speaking engagements.
He spoke to his congregation about the issue on Sunday -- not to apologize for the luxury of the home, but to say he was sorry for any "uncomfortable conversations you had to have this week."
In his comments, he thanked God for his blessings and described the big, beautiful house as a gift from God. The Charlotte Observer reports that he told his congregation, "It’s a big house, and it’s a beautiful house, and we thank God for it …. We understand everything we have comes from God."
The personal enrichment that Furtick has enjoyed due to the success of his 12,000-strong mega-church has some critics saying that his expensive home "does not reflect the heart of a servant," according to Charisma News. His financial transparency has also come into question, as the deed for the house is not in his name, but that of a trust headed by his right-hand man, James Corbett.
Prof. Stanley Hauerwas, from Duke Divinity School was succinct about his opinion of Furtick's house. He told The Huffington Post, "It's just vulgar. It's an offense to the Gospel."
Shane Claiborne from The Simple Way in Philadelphia offered up a joke when hearing about the situation at Elevation Church. "The deacons of a church were praying over the offering they had just collected. They threw the money up in the air and said, 'God, you take what ever you need and the rest is ours.'"
Claiborne then shared his understanding of the role of money within the Gospel with The Huffington Post:
The prosperity Gospel is self centered, and narcissistic and it is very dangerous but also attractive, especially to those who have the money. Everything has to be bounced off Jesus who told the rich young ruler to sell what he had and give to the poor, If we look at the early church, nobody claimed their own possessions; they shared what they had so that everyone might have their 'daily bread.' What is tragic about the situation in Charlotte is it shows how far we missed the simple commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves - a commandment that should redefine how we view our possessions.
Claiborne suggested Proverbs 30:8-9 as a reflection that reads: "Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that I need, or I shall be full, and deny you, and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or I shall be poor, and steal, and profane the name of my God."
Furtick has refused to reveal how much he makes from books, and speaking engagements, and he's also very tight-lipped about his salary, which is set not by the congregation but by an appointed "Board of Overseers" made up of other mega-church pastors.