The finances of Elevation Church and its lead pastor, Steven Furtick, have been under scrutiny in recent months, and last week, the church's chief financial officer answered some questions about the sale of Furtick's new book.
Crash the Chatterbox: Hearing God's Voice Above All Others was released Tuesday by WaterBrook Multnomah, a division of Random House Inc. Furtick was promoting the book to his congregation from the pulpit before the book's release, reported ABC affiliate WCNC-TV.
Elevation Church CFO Chunks Corbett said in a statement emailed to WCNC-TV that the church, which is based in North Carolina, began selling Furtick's book to attendees at a discounted rate this past weekend.
"The church buys these books at Pastor Steven's 'author discount' (which is something every author has) and Elevation, not Pastor Steven, keeps the 'profit' on these sales," wrote Corbett. "Pastor Steven not only makes nothing from these sales, he actually forfeits money he would otherwise be entitled to since he could simply have the church buy them the same way a bookstore would buy them, sell them at retail prices and earn his royalty share on every book sold through this channel. In other words, no royalties are paid to an author on 'author discounted' copies."
A page on the book's website says buyers are eligible to receive a free copy of Crash the Chatterbox for each one they purchase by Feb. 14, though some conditions apply. James Duncan, associate professor of communication at Anderson University in South Carolina, has criticized Furtick and his publisher for the buy-one-get-one-free offer, suggesting on his blog that it is simply a method they are using to propel Crash the Chatterbox onto a New York Times Best Sellers list for the sake of further marketing the book.
"It's all very cozy, though one of the ironies of all this manipulation is that it contradicts the premise of the book, which is to help readers overcome their fear of failure and rejection," wrote Duncan. "Pastor Furtick and his publisher are taking whatever steps they can to ensure that this book doesn't fail."
But Corbett's statement to WCNC-TV says Elevation has never tried to push any of Furtick's books, which include Sun Stand Still and Greater, onto the list.
"If we were concerned with NYT bestseller status, we would simply urge our own people to go purchase the book at their local bookseller since those sales would count in the NY Times' system," wrote Corbett. "Books purchased in bulk through the author discount are not counted in any bestseller equations."
He later adds: "Pastor Steven's desire is simply to write as he feels he has something important to say in book form, and then work and pray the book reaches as many people as possible through whatever channels. He is well aware that some will sell better than others, meaning some will land on various bestseller lists and others will not."
Furtick faced criticism last fall when it was revealed that he had a 16,000-square-foot, $1.7 million home built for himself and his family. The salaries of Elevation staff members are not disclosed in the church's 2012 annual report, CP previously reported, but Corbett has said Furtick is paying for the house using money from books he has written and from those he will write.
Despite the criticism, Elevation has consistently shown its generosity locally, nationally and abroad. The church recently donated $300,000 to a fund that is used to fight homelessness in Charlotte, and it has given away more than $11 million to 84 outreach partners since it was founded in 2006.
"From day one, our motto was partnership," said Furtick a video posted to the Internet several weeks ago. "We never wanted as a church to create our own ministries but partner with people…Our church is a generous church and the thing I always teach when we hear of needs that are happening in our city, down the street or across the world, [is that] there seems to be three basic responses and the first one is greed then guilt…but generosity is God's answer."