I’ve just finished reading an advance copy of Sun Stand Still: What Happens When You Dare to Ask God For the Impossible by Steven Furtick, the pastor of the rapidly growing Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC. The title, releasing another “sun significant” day, September 21st from Multnomah Books, is based on Joshua’s prayer in Joshua chapter 10. “There has never been a day like it before…” (vs 13 NIV)
This is a book about prayer, and it’s a book about faith, and mostly, it’s a book about praying prayers of faith, or what he calls audacious prayers. As such it’s a title that will inspire next-generation Christ-followers to stretch their faith in prayer; a book that might be given to a teen or twenty-something and/or someone who is new to the family of faith.
The author quotes Jim Cymbala’s Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire early on and in many ways this book stands in that tradition of — and I hate to use this word because it can diminish the impact — books on prayer that are truly inspiring.
But beyond the reading process which I began several days ago, I decided to dig a little deeper to, if you’ll forgive the nameplay, see what makes Steven Furtick tick.
The book begins with the story of Elevation Church filling the Time Warner Arena in Charlotte the year on Easter Sunday; a dream planted in Steven Furtick’s heart just four years earlier. Reports ranged from attendance figures of 10,000 to the figure on the Elevation Worship Blog, 11,600. (It also lists the worship pieces that morning; of the eleven, six were from Hillsongs.)
I decided to watch the service online, but presented with a range of sermons, decided to jump into something else, only to find myself watching a guest speaker, North Point’s Andy Stanley. In the process of trying to ascertain where Furtick and Elevation fit into the larger map of American Christianity, Andy Stanley came as a bit of a surprise.
That’s because — as my reading of the book and eventual viewing of the Easter sermon and two other sermons convinced me — Furtick’s message and style seems to fit into a long line of Pentecostal or Charismatic tradition. For the Time Warner Arena occasion, he donned a suit which, combined with the dynamics of the arena, couldn’t help remind me of Joel Osteen.
But I’m not sure that Furtick would welcome the comparison. I decided to dig into his blog; not just current entries, but ones from its beginnings in the fall of 2006. He considers Craig Groeschel and Perry Noble mentors, and there’s nothing in his church’s core beliefs that hints of Pentecostalism.
Maybe it was just the Easter suit thing. Or the traditional invitation at the end of the messages. Or having the congregation stand for scripture readings. Or the “Amen Corner” on the website.
…Or maybe it’s part of our fallen nature that anytime someone has a faith-stretching, big-believing message we want to categorize or pigeon-hole that person with a “Charismatic” label, instead of recognizing that this is what it means to follow Christ as the early disciples understood it, and as we’re reminded in a story early in the book, Christians in the third world or persecuted church understand it today. In fact, in some places Furtick would challenge the prosperity or claim-it message of hardcore Charismatics.
In the end, I have to conclude that Steven Furtick is a hybrid. His next-generation appeal might earn him the label Emergent Charismatic. Neither adjective is fully accurate here — how about Missional Pentecostal — but it’s the best I got because Sun Stand Still is a Spirit-filled message of classical Biblical faith, but it’s a 30-year-old’s fresh take on a classic Old Testament passage that any young person should enjoy reading.
The book will energize your prayer life no matter where you are on your journey with Christ. If you want to dig in to more of Elevation online, you’ll find some powerful and passionate preaching with a wisdom beyond Steven Furtick’s years.
- Thanks to Norm at Augsburg Canada (Multnomah’s up-North distributor) for the advance copy.
- Elevation’s online sermon server gets you a full-screen, high-def video sermon every time, that downloads quickly provided you’ve got the bandwidth. Clearly among the best I’ve seen. I don’t see an audio option.
- Given the aforementioned appeal to younger readers, I gotta seriously question Multnomah’s decision to release this in hardcover at $20 U.S. ($23 CDN) I hope initial sales don’t discourage those involved, because this is a natural title for paperback first edition. UPDATE: This will release in paperback at $14.99 US/$16.99 CDN. They must have been reading this blog!!
- If you click on the “comments” section for this post (below) you can watch the promotional video for the book featuring Steven’s ever-changing hairstyles!