Elevation Church Catching Heat for 'Spontaneous' Baptisms

NBC affiliate WCBC has put together a pretty negative report on the much-lauded "spontaneous baptism ceremonies" being engineered by Charlotte's huge, influential Elevation Church. Online videos show people coming forward to be baptized by the thousands, but a "How-To" guide posted on the church's website tells other churches that key to their baptism's success is planting people throughout the auditorium who aren't so much moved to be baptized as they are instructed to come forward first. “Fifteen people will sit in the worship experience and be the first ones to move when Pastor gives the call," the guide says. "Move intentionally through the highest visibility areas and the longest walk.” Further instructions tell volunteers to pick "young, energetic" people to go on stage to be baptized first and "not necessarily those who are there first.”

Critics are calling this emotional manipulation. Elevation Church pastor Steven Furtick disagrees, saying “We are confident that those who attend Elevation Church know and understand our mission and vision for reaching people for Jesus Christ. As attendees, they are provided, through weekly teachings, biblical context for everything we do and practice, such as baptism, giving, serving and inviting friends to church" ...

Top Comments

Delise Bento-Carrier


Delise Bento-Carrier commented…

Manipulation should never be a part of the equation when it comes to leading people towards a fulfilled, trusting and genuine relationship with Christ.

One shouldn't need a mandated script for how to react either. Nor should there be a need for such calculated actions and responses. I understand that a baptism of such magnitude needs planning and some semblance of structure - this however seems to remove genuine spiritual connection and turns baptism into a factory conveyer belt where everyone is a number.

ETA: I think article hit it on the head when the word 'engineered ' was used. I haven't been to their church or experienced this event first hand, so I'll trust their intentions are sincere, I just don't think this is the way to go about it.



ML replied to Anna 's comment

I am your generation. 25. We are the selfie generation. Get over it.




ML commented…

Skeevy. If you've followed this church's problems over the past year, you know that their entire operation is skeevy. Yes, I cannot judge another's heart, but I can worry about another PTLesque scandal rocking Charlotte and the global Church. The things going on with Furtick's house and leadership (or lack thereof), combined with these kinds of reports...it's terrifying. Tens of thousands of people are putting their hope, faith, and soul into Elevation Church. Maybe also Jesus, but the primary devotion appears to be to the brand of Elevation Church. If you've lived in Charlotte for any amount of time, you can testify to how saturated this market is with the Gospel of Steven and the orange ^ symbols. The brand devotion is disturbing.
On this topic in particular, it's great that people are being baptized. I question the spectacle of it all. I think there are more millenials (by far their largest demographic) that are more of the 'selfie' generation that just wants to be on the big screen, noticed, interviewed for having a "special story", or recognized in even a minuscule way by The Steven Furtick. I think the "shy and nervous" population is negligible, Anna.
Picking energetic, young (and probably 'good looking') people to begin the ceremony is manipulation. It's skeevy and worrying.
Lastly, the biggest source of worry for me is the money issue. There is a massive amount of money being given to Elevation on a regular basis. They take pride in having given $10 million away, but...at risk of sounding like I'm minimizing their generosity...it's a drop in the bucket compared to what they bring in. I would love to see the numbers on what these mass baptisms run them: t-shirts, shorts, underwear, tents for changing areas, toiletries, towels, hair dryers, and the list goes on (and on and on)...I'm pretty sure the biblical precedent is "Go under the water and come back up." Why all the frills? That money couldn't go toward more important things?
The end result: people are being baptized. I encourage all Christians to pray for this church. I pray that the baptisms are genuine. I just wish Elevation would be even the tiniest bit cognizant of its public profile and stop giving people fodder to hate the Church. Just be smarter. Please.



Anna replied to ML's comment

Oh man, you lost me when you called my generation the 'selfie' generation. Quite a generalization. Ruined the entire argument for me. I'm sorry.



ML replied to Anna 's comment

I am your generation. 25. We are the selfie generation. Get over it.

Jeremy Edmonds


Jeremy Edmonds replied to ML's comment

I agree this does seem shady but it also one small part of their process. I don't like it though.
In regards to the "I would love to see the numbers on what these mass baptisms run them: t-shirts, shorts, underwear, tents for changing areas, toiletries, towels, hair dryers, and the list goes on (and on and on)..." comment I'd like to add this...
My church (City Church in New Haven - www.ourcitychurch.org) does half of that. We don't need tents but we use bathrooms for changing. We do have bags with clothes, underwear, flip flops etc. No hair dryers that I'm aware of but the process is mostly the same. The REASON FOR THIS?? Simple...
We want to remove ALL obstacles from people talking themselves out of doing what the Spirit is telling them to do. We have baptisms every 3 months and register folks to baptize but because we take part of that week's message to speak to the baptism issue and give them a chance to decide and THEN remove all remaining excuse for them to not do it we usually see at least triple the amount of people baptized then we do have registered ahead of time. Regardless, on the spot decisions or not, they all share their name and why they are getting baptized on mic getting a chance to make their faith public and then of course are baptized in Jesus' name.
Baptisms are always an electric time for us :) It's awesome!

Without the "no excuses bag" (my term) i know we'd have less baptisms, but we don't plant people in the crowd. That's just not right.

David Morse


David Morse commented…

This is incredibly unfortunate. I don't much know how you can read this and not see the manipulation here. Study the history of Finney-ism and other revivalist technique and you'll see this is nothing new, but it is incredibly dangerous.

Sure you have some who are genuine believers and thus genuinely baptized, but for every one of those I have got to believe you have fifty people not understanding what they are doing.

If this was the first thing to come out of Elevation I'd be much more inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt, but it's not. Furtick has got to listen to some of the other brothers (pastors) around the country who have voiced their concerns.

Once a pastor is above accountability and lacks transparency, which is something that no one debates is happening at Elevation, he has crossed into very dangerous territory.

James Floyd


James Floyd commented…

I don't understand why everyone is freaking out. This has been on their website for a long time, and the people positioned to come up first are those who already signed up to be baptized. I think the criticisms are unwarranted and any of us who haven't attended one of them, have no room to judge and have no right to bash a church that is changing so many lives.

Calvin Moore


Calvin Moore commented…

My team and I discussed this in our most recent "The Jacob Sessions" podcast. Feel free to listen.


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