Offensive DefenseMarch 20, 2014
Last month I reported for Ethics Daily about how Elevation Church, a Southern Baptist megachurch in North Carolina, planted people in the sanctuary to then come forward during the altar call. As I noted in the article, the baptism guide created by the church did not say if the planted volunteers were baptized but clearly described the role as acting like one going forward to get baptized. Although the church did not respond to my request for comment, the church's pastor, Steven Furtick, later attacked critics who questioned the practice. However, Furtick, who has also sparked controversy recently for his outlandish house and the church's financial secrecy, did not fully address the practice and again demonstrated his inappropriate view of baptism as a numbers game.
In his remarks, Furtick only insisted his church did not plant people to get baptized - which is good to know that the planted people were not actually baptized. But his incorrectly suggested that was the only criticism. He did not deny that his church plants people to walk through the church and act like they were going forward to get baptized. Such deception during altar calls raises serious ethical questions, and Furtick's avoidance of that issue is problematic. Additionally, Furick announced he was not just going to "play defense" but instead wanted to "play offense." So he then encouraged people to come forward and get baptized so he could get back at his critics (but it remains unclear if anyone was planted to walk forward). Using baptisms to try and make critics look bad is another misuse of baptism. To frame these baptisms in that manner shows that, unfortunately, he still holds a troubling and offensive view of baptism.