I’m going to try to do something new here from time to time called Monday Morning Pastor. It’s a play on the phrase “Monday Morning Quarterback”, for those who don’t know. I’m going to analyze the Sunday sermons of the pastors of some of the biggest churches in the country and/or the world. I think it’s good to analyze these teachings since thousands and millions of people are being influenced by them, and it would seem important to make sure these teachings are accurate. It’s easy to think because someone or some church is popular their teachings are right. But as the examples of the Bereans in Acts 17 shows us, even the most prominent of teachers always have to be subject to the truth of the Word. This edition’s Monday Morning Pastor is Pastor Steven Furtick’s sermon at Elevation Church, “#HarvestProblems”.
The Sermon: #HarvestProblems
So Pastor Furtick begins by expressing he felt compelled to share John 4:34-35 which states, “Jesus *said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work. 35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.” For the first 15 to 20 minutes He spent time going through one analogy to another about context bringing clarity. He would shout what I call “buzz lines”, which I define as witty sounding phrases seemingly designed to get an applause such as “How are you gonna be a conqueror without a conflict?” and “You can’t reap with your feet up”. He gets to another verse at about the 18:45 second mark in John 4:4 which states, “Now he had to go to Samaria”. Mr. Furtick goes on to explain there’s a history of Jews and Samaritans hating each other because of cultural and religious conflict, which verse 9 does seem to indicate that. Then he turns to the story of Jesus encountering the woman at the well.
The woman at the well
Mr. Furtick explains this situation with Jesus talking to the woman at the well was Him trying to show her something is wrong within her, and if it’s not right within a person, one’s life will “leak”. He uses another buzz line, “The only way to clarity is confusion”, and he expands on the passage being about Jesus satisfying one’s needs and that he believes Jesus was thinking this thought of the woman, “you’re about to be my bucket”, to people being “quarantined” by religion. I wasn’t exactly quite sure what he meant by that, but he goes on to mention one of their church’s saying being “what can God do through you”, and that’s the only way one could receive the water of the Word in Furtick’s preaching.
Then Mr. Furtick cites John 4:28-29 which states, “28 So the woman left her waterpot, and went into the city and *said to the men, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?” He professes the way God proves His presence in one’s life is through questions rather than bringing one to conclusions. He then expands on how the disciples were only focused on just giving Jesus food because they were “meal minded” rather than “mission minded” as Jesus was.
He furthers this point by stating that this was why some of your friends will not understand you. Pastor Furtick expresses loudly, “Some things I can’t eat in this season, Some calls I can’t answer in this season, I can’t hang with you, it’s harvest time, I gotta reap it before it rocks, some of you are waiting for the blessings of God, but you’re not reaping, it’s reaping time, it’s harvest time”. Another buzz line comes stating, “the need for convenience keeps one from calling”. It’s hard not to be moved by the passionate shouting, powerful arm flailing, and music in the background. It’s well designed in making one have an emotional reaction to the moment.
Furtick ties tithing to blessing
Then he switches this point to coming to church and just coming to be “fed”. He points to the volunteers of his church as people who are reaping, and it’s about giving on a mission level, which he then ties to tithing. That if everyone gave 10%, their church wouldn’t have another bill and could build 17 campuses. I found this to be the low point of this sermon, because there’s no New Testament command to tithe, but also cause the point of the church money as I note in another post of mine seems to be for the needs of the congregants, the poor, and paying the leaders of the church according to scripture. He cleverly persuades his audience in stating it’s a blessing to sow, and that the audience won’t ever reap a harvest if they don’t sow in this way through the tithe.
Your problem is your harvest
He states a few more buzz lines such as, “The seeds for my future are in the faithfulness of my today”, and “I’m trying to take you from the farm to the table”. Pastor Furtick then cites John 4:35 which states, “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.” He connects the disciples lifting their eyes to see the harvest and the Samaritans coming a few verses later to meaning “What you call a problem, heaven calls a harvest”. He professes the practicality of the message is “What is the purpose of the problem”. “What if God is using the hardest thing in your life to do what you’ve been asking Him to do in your heart all along”. He proclaims the problem is the harvest that one can choose to either reap from it or allow it to rot. Then the message closes with a crescendo of Mr. Furtick stating over and over “It’s harvest time!” with the band playing louder behind him and the people roaring to a loud applause.
Final thoughts on the sermon
So let me start with the good. I think it was great that Mr. Furtick at a few points in the message focused on sacrificing oneself in living for God, or as he was putting it, being “mission minded”. That it’s not about focusing so much on the desires we have and things not going our way, but focusing on the bigger purpose beyond those things of living in commitment to our faith through love of God and our neighbors as much as possible. What I found to be troublesome though, is he took this story of Jesus in Samaria, and this idea Jesus was stating about harvest, and shaped it around this idea of the harvest being some good you’re going to eventually get out of all your problems. The harvest Jesus was talking about was getting people to believe in Him, which the Samaritans did end up doing in that chapter.
There seems to be too much liberty in this sermon of inferring subjective meaning into the text that’s not explicitly stated. It’s dangerous because scripture warns us so much, don’t add or take away from the word, or stick within the bounds of what’s being taught by the Apostles. But the loud expressions of emotion, the buzz lines that sound profound but under the surface don’t appear to have much meaning, and the consistent applause of the audience that seems to affirm everything said to be true, it’s hard for less knowledgeable Christians or non-Christians not to be sucked in by it all. But it’s important to remind each other that we as Christians are supposed to challenge everything to the scripture. And this isn’t to bash Pastor Furtick at all, just as the Bereans weren’t bashing Apostle Paul in checking Him through the Word. It’s about making sure we’re all living our faith in God authentically to His Word. Hopefully through doing that, we can all live and understand our faith the way God wants us to.
Peace to all those who are in Christ.