Thinking Out Loud

March 8, 2016

Steven Furtick: Unabashedly Unqualified

Un(Qualified) - Steven Furtick - Waterbrook PressThe title of Steven Furtick’s 4th major book release (Un)Qualified is taken from a YouTube clip he watched where the person being interviewed was tersely dismissive of Steven’s ministry. One word. Unqualified. I would have been hurt. Insulted. Devastated. But instead, he decided to own it. Apart from Christ’s help, none of us is qualified. The book is an invitation to embrace our weaknesses instead of denying them.

In 2010 I reviewed his first bookSun Stand Still and in 2012 I reviewed his second book, Greater. Those two form a set, dealing with Elijah and Elisha respectively. In the intervening years, I had forgotten how engaging Furtick can be when he confronts such narratives. I was only planning on reading a couple of chapters — I hadn’t specifically requested the book — but his unique take and quirky sense of humor soon won me over. Consider:

The Bible takes time to point out that, despite being twins Esau and Jacob were polar opposites. When Esau was born, he was red and hairy. I’ll withhold my comments about how his parents must have felt when one of their long-awaited sons came out looking like a baby Chewbacca.  Esau grew up to be an outdoorsman and a hunter. He was tough. He was rough.  He could skin a buck and run a trotline. The star of the original Duck Dynasty.

But Jacob?  The Bible says he was a smooth-skinned, quiet man who liked to stay among the tents. Translated, he may have been a mama’s boy. He may have been more into HGTV than ESPN.  (p. 140)

The book — full title (Un)Qualified: How God Uses Broken People To Do Big Things — is so much more than Steven Furtick’s quirky sense of humor. This is a voyage into self discovery. How God uses broken people.

Often our greatest influence is birthed in our deepest suffering and brokenness. Our education, our eloquence and our intelligence are helpful, but they aren’t nearly as relatable as our weaknesses. We touch people around us because of the pain and humanity we share.

I realize that not everyone can or should be trusted with the details of our weaknesses. The goal isn’t to parade our problems, wearing our weakness for the world to see. But as we learn to be vulnerable with God and the right, trusted people we discover that every weakness, properly processed, contains secret strength.

Think about the last time you broke down and cried in front of a friend. It might have felt uncomfortable. It might have embarrassed you. But I bet that moment of vulnerability did more to win the person’s heart and cement your friendship than any other experience you’ve shared.

There is something about weakness that opens hearts. It disarms the defensive.  It softens the suspicious. It endears the indifferent. (p. 112)

Another complication of brokenness is that we often create an alternative edition of ourselves; a false persona that we carry with us into the world that is totally fake. Among other cautions, Furtick offers: “God can’t bless who you pretend to be.”

In this his 4th book, Jacob, Moses, Gideon and others (and more of Jacob) come under the microscope. Bible narratives are brought to life as never before, and there is practical advice on every page. My recommendation is that Furtick’s readership probably skews young. This would be a great gift to someone in his under-40 demographic. But I enjoyed it, also.

5 Comments »

  1. So does this mean he humbly dealt with the problem optics of his life-choices and rapacious appeals for cash from his congregants and/or does he still have that giant over-the-top house that caused the big kerfuffle some while back?

    http://clclt.com/theclog/archives/2013/10/23/steven-furtick-of-elevation-what-a-surprise-another-loaded-preacher

    Video clip included. Classy rep for Jesus? Thinking … no.

    Comment by Flagrant Regard — March 8, 2016 @ 11:49 am

    • It means that knowing everything that is probably in the link you sent — haven’t clicked yet — and having not tried to shield my readers from reports of this nature, I decided to exercise some grace and review the book on his own merits. He is a very gifted Bible teacher and writer.

      The challenge is this: If I exclude every writer who has found themselves on the wrong side of Christian social media, I would have very few books to review.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — March 8, 2016 @ 6:09 pm

  2. Do you really believe you can separate a book (‘on its merits’) from its author? You don’t feel that the shady character traits and life-style/self-enriching methods this guy lives by doesn’t get elevated (word-play intended) with every book you help him sell?

    Too bad if there are less books to review! What’s more important – the Christ-like example someone sets or the words that come out of their mouths?

    “It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.”
    Phillippians 1:15-18

    But I don’t see Paul ENCOURAGING his readers to support ‘Preacher-type A’ as opposed to himself, ‘Preacher-type B’.

    Now, yes, truth is truth no matter the source. If even Dawkins has something to say that rings of truth, we can’t say, “these words are wrong because they come from Richard Dawkins!” But at no point should a Christian support Dawkins lifestyle and atheistic ministry by buying his books! (There are libraries for such things… ). Same goes for the likes of Furtick and other unrepentant ministers who are living high on the hog thanks to their TV/Radio/Book dealings. How can any Christian, in good conscience, elevate the works of ministers whose lives do not reflect the life, humility and values of Christ?

    Like I said above, “Too bad if there are less books to review”. The pool of well-known preachers of the Gospel whose lives are emblematic of Christ’s ethics and attitude will surely shrink in these times. A sad truth. But the little guys out there who are honest, non-mega-churchy – like yourself – and who have great things to say on blogs that may or may not go noticed – they are the ones who further the kingdom, because their lives go ahead of their words. The riches of this world and pride-of-position haven’t robbed them of their core values … and we pray that they never will.
    F.R.

    Comment by Flagrant Regard — March 9, 2016 @ 3:27 pm

    • As I stated in my first response, I knew the potential liabilities in recommending this book going in. I’m very clear in the review itself that I reviewed his first two books, but I passed on Crash the Chatterbox, and here in the comment section, you’ve made it clear to everyone why that might have been. I also made it clear in the 2nd paragraph that I had not requested the title and was only planning to look at a chapter or two. I think anyone able to read between the lines would be quite clear on how I picked up this book and approached it.

      However, I am standing by my recommendation of <(Un)Qualified. That’s not an absolute endorsement of everything Steven Furtick has ever done or will do, or how much he gets paid, or whether they ‘seed’ the altar call response, or what movies he attends, or how he takes his coffee. I believe that God has uniquely gifted him. How he exercises that gift and the responsibilities and blessings that come with that is entirely up to him.

      Honestly, I think your quotation of Philippians 1 can be seen two different ways, and really, it proves my point. Again, I read the book and I thoroughly enjoyed it and I’ll take it any day over any number of books by the proverbial “men in suits” type of pastor/author. Some of those men may be living exemplary lives, but if their writing doesn’t communicate to an entire generation, then I need to identify those that do, even if they are work in progress.

      I spent a long time last summer agonizing over this issue, starting with a particular worship song. Some of my thoughts are in this article: https://paulwilkinson.wordpress.com/2015/06/23/when-christian-authors-and-artists-lives-get-messy-should-retailers-pull-their-product/ I got to consult with some very respected leaders in the field of worship after that was written, and I can’t find the blog post that resulted from that meeting, but their advice was the same, “Do the song.”

      One last thing… I was really upset by the initial comment you made. I think if I had raised questions about the author’s integrity someone could pick up on that, but this was a soft blog post. People come here who are interested in learning more about the book, and then they hit the first comment and it’s like an explosion. But I decided to extend grace in all directions, and allow the comment, which was terribly ironic considering this is a book about brokenness. We are all, to a man, flawed people.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — March 9, 2016 @ 3:55 pm

  3. QUOTE: “ I think anyone able to read between the lines would be quite clear on how I picked up this book and approached it.”

    It really doesn’t matter how you got the book, the fact is that in this blog-post, you are by proxy (the book acting as proxy) promoting a man and his whole ministry when you’re promoting his book. You don’t think so?

    Okay – you use music as an example – let’s go with that. When Guns and Roses decided to sneak in a track written by proxy-killer Charles Manson, the public reaction was mixed, but for the most part, many were disappointed. Not JUST because the guy would make money from the song (http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1993-12-03/features/1993337105_1_charles-manson-record-a-song-spaghetti-incident) but because it was just in utter bad taste. Why? Because of what he represented. Who he was. You cannot separate the output of a man from the man. All ‘fruit of the poisonous tree’ … even if the fruit looks appealing.

    So let’s say a Christian artist writes a beautiful worship song and in a year’s time, completely turns around and states quite publicly, “I am not a Christian – in fact, I’m an atheist bigamist financing the burgeoning pot industry in Colorado with my own farm and don’t give a crap about God stuff.” You say, “Play his song” under the advisement of some respected ministerial types? We say, NO! You don’t continue financially supporting an individual who is no longer supporting the faith, especially if the proceeds of his song royalties go to financially assisting OR promoting his new life style (or say, his new cult-leader-pastor’s interests).

    How can you so easily put to the side the importance of personal integrity conveyed in the vehemently presented appeals to Timothy from Paul?

    “Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.
    Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”
    1 Timothy 4:14-16

    Ah, you say. But Mr. Furtick has ‘gifts’. Who cares? Paul of T. didn’t care that the gifts be manifest above Christian integrity or do you forget the ‘love chapter’ of 1 Corinthians 13 that puts genuine examples of love over the ‘gifts’.

    You don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Yet we’re not talking babies here. We’re talking representatives in the pulpit who are supposed to have what it takes personally and professionally, based on years of training, to do God’s work. I read Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus and I see that integrity, purity and ‘not being a lover of money’ is what should be considered emblematic of God’s man at the podium.

    “Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.”
    1 Tim 3:1-3

    Does S. Furtick fit this bill yet? No?

    QUOTE: “How he exercises that gift and the responsibilities and blessings that come with that is entirely up to him.”

    No it’s not. It’s up to God. He may believe it’s up to him and therein lies the problem. That’s what is currently making him unfit for duty. And a soldier who is declared unfit for duty should not be the one doing the training drills, yeah? God’s word has declared him unfit for duty by the example he sets. Again – DESPITE HIS SUPPOSED GIFTS!

    QUOTE: I’ll take it any day over any number of books by the proverbial “men in suits” type of pastor/author. Some of those men may be living exemplary lives, but if their writing doesn’t communicate to an entire generation, then I need to identify those that do, even if they are work in progress.”

    Wow. Nice put down of the older generation. The ‘suits’ like Tozer, and Packer. Yeah, just toss them aside … make way for the new generation who needs to have everything served to them on an e-platter with cool media props. May I direct you to an a propos cartoon I saw on Facebook tonight? You’ll need to sign on to Facebook to see it.

    Sorry Paul, but you’re off-base here bigtime. Cool (or what you might label ‘culturally relevant’) ministry isn’t better Christianity. There must be many a ‘minister’ of integrity who, like I stated before, is little known, hardly seen but who is quietly and consistently making fishers of men and helping squeeze some through the narrow gate. We know two of them – every time they go out, God uses them and you wouldn’t even know their names. And what sticks out about their lives? Their prayerfulness – their INTEGRITY. It goes before them and tailgates after them.

    Reading about Daniel’s integrity lately and how interesting it was that when he went out praying 3 times a day to his God in direct opposition to the edict of the king (to worship his image) he didn’t do so to make a big show of things. He was praying in that very spot regularly 3 times a day, every day, long before that edict went out. Nothing in his pattern of behaviour changed. His ‘look’ was consistent. No deliberate ‘showiness’ going on to grab the attention of the unbelievers (or believers).

    QUOTE: I was really upset by the initial comment you made. … People come here who are interested in learning more about the book, and then they hit the first comment and it’s like an explosion. But I decided to extend grace in all directions, and allow the comment, which was terribly ironic considering this is a book about brokenness.”

    Thank you for your grace. I can’t stand the likes of bloggers who are so into their own position on things that they BLOCK all non-supportive comments. I appreciate the chance to maybe have you or your readers evaluating and/or re-evaluating the weight of pastoral integrity.

    There is this recent movement, it would seem, for pastors to nearly glorify our brokenness before God. We’re all so broken … blah-blah-blah. Yeah – broken big time here – first to admit it. But I don’t think that is the issue here. That the pastor is broken so he’s good at talking about brokenness … still not the issue. The issue is what steps is this man, Mr. Furtick doing, living, breathing that evidence a movement away from the love of money and toward moderate living? If the answer is none, then we should not recommend his book (I realize you haven’t ordered it for sale – again not the point) as the proceeds will further his ungodly interests (until they have been dealt with via deposing him until he cleans up his act). There are no perfect pastors. Big ‘duh!’ there. But strangely enough and relevant to this issue I, just the other day, had to impugn the behaviour/integrity of a pastor due to a simply stupid facebook post. Had he not removed it, it could have very well cost him his job. But we pray that at best, our calling him out will help him seek after the integrity befitting a youth pastor as there are many eyes upon him – souls whom he has influence over.

    I leave you with the words of a old ‘suit’ here:

    “The last test of genuineness of Christian experience is what it does to our attitude toward sin. The operation of grace within the heart of a believing man will turn that heart away from sin and toward holiness. “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11-13).

    I do not see how it could be plainer. The same grace that saves, teaches, and its teaching is both negative and positive. Negatively it teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts. Positively, it teaches us to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world.
    The man of honest heart will find no difficulty here. He has but to check his own bent to discover whether he is concerned about sin in his life more or less since the supposed work of grace was done. Anything that weakens his hatred of sin may be identified immediately as false to the Scriptures, to the Saviour and to his own soul. Whatever makes holiness more attractive and sin more intolerable may be accepted as genuine.”

    A.W. Tozer, from ‘Man: the Dwelling Place of God’

    Take care,
    F.R.

    Comment by Flagrant Regard — March 10, 2016 @ 2:57 am


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