(Photo: Elevation Church via The Christian Post)
One of the youngest megachurch pastors in the country preached what may have amounted to half a year's worth of sermons in 24 hours.
Executing what he called the craziest, most asinine ideas he's ever had, Pastor Steven Furtick stood in front of a live Web audience on Tuesday and Wednesday, teaching from the Bible for 24 hours straight.
Though hours of sermons may have easily sounded like a snooze fest for some, the online event was a big draw for thousands who were familiar with the young pastor's passionate preaching.
"Audacious faith" was the main message he proclaimed.
It's the same message found in his newly released book, Sun Stand Still: What Happens When You Dare to Ask God for the Impossible.
"There's so many people living with the ache of the ordinary; nothing seems to ever happen supernatural in their lives," he said.
The 30-year-old pastor reminded viewers, "We serve a God who can do the impossible."
"Why did you stop believing God for the impossible?" he asked.
Furtick, who leads Elevation Church in Charlotte, N.C., was commemorating the day that his first book was released. Rather than watch Amazon rankings all day, he decided to celebrate the book release in "epic style." Hence, the 24 hours of "good old-fashioned holy ghost preaching."
It wasn't a gimmick, he stressed, and he acknowledged he wasn't a TV preacher or "the LeBron James of pastors." But the online event was a celebration of what God had put on his heart to share with the world.
Responding to criticisms that he was merely "pimping" his book all day, Furtick admitted he was. But he said he was doing it because he truly believes the message – God's message – in the book will change people's lives.
Initially, he had hesitated to write a book.
"Like the Christian bookstores need another book on their shelves," he said.
But what it came down to was that he believed so many people were in a position where they needed to "get pushed into a pool." He wanted to tell them to stop wading in the kiddie pool and go into the deep end, to stop settling for spiritual mediocrity and to start living with unusual boldness.
"Your belief system, your way of seeing the world, your framework, what you operate out of is either going to be an outlook of faith or an outlook of fear," he said during the online event. "And the battleground where that all plays out is in your mind."
There are lies that keep people from audacious faith, he noted.
"Who told you you don't have what it takes to fulfill the calling God has placed on your life?" he posed. "You've got to find the lie and replace it with the truth."
Furtick warned viewers that they may have swagger jaggers in their lives – "people who want to cut in on you and stop you from pursuing what God has called you to do."
They're not always malicious, he pointed out. Sometimes, they are well-meaning people.
But "you can't let anybody step between you and the plan God has for you," he underscored.
It was nearly five years ago when Furtick – with little experience and strategy – made the decision to move to a new city where they had no connections and start a church. He was only 25 years old and newly married with a kid.
Some tried to dissuade him from making the move. They told him to find something safer, with security and benefits.
"People tried to talk me down, put me in my place," he recalled.
But with faith, he moved to Charlotte and now leads one of the fastest growing churches in the country. In less than five years, Elevation Church has seen over 8,000 people profess faith in Christ.
"I'm glad I stayed faithful to God," he said. "I'm glad I stayed belligerent about God's blessing."
Furtick challenged Christians to not necessarily ignore wisdom but to embrace audacity.
"This isn't some kind of crazy out there if you have enough faith, God will give you 17 vacation homes in Dubai and Fiji," he made clear. "I'm talking about when our desires are square with God's desires – the salvation of the lost, the healing of someone who is sick for His glory ... – you actually can become so convinced of God's desire to act on your behalf that you can approach Him with a type of holy belligerence."
It's the kind of faith Joshua demonstrated when he dared to ask God to make the sun stand still as he led the Israelites in the conquest of Canaan, as recorded in the Old Testament.
It was an unprecedented prayer, Furtick noted, not to mention unthinkable for the sun and the moon to stand still.
But Furtick pointed out, "If it's outside the realm of human possibility, then it gives God the opportunity to demonstrate His glory."
God, he said, likes scenarios where the odds are stacked up against Him.
The 24-hour event, which kicked off at noon on Tuesday, included times of worship and short films. Furtick tried to preach for a portion of every hour, caffeinated with Diet Coke and Starbucks. He didn't have 24 hours worth of sermons prepared because "that would be suicidal," he said. But he had stacks of notebooks containing sermon illustrations and ideas that he was never able to use because of limited time at worship services each weekend.
In his final sermon, Furtick encouraged Christians to believe that they were born for what God has called them to do.
"For us to be insecure about what God has called us to do is to disagree with the assessment God has made," he noted. "God has been shaping you all of your life for this moment."
In the Bible, audacious faith is the norm, he said as he listed figures from Abraham and Elijah to Jesus and Paul.
"Our Savior is an audacious Savior. Death could not hold him. Hell could not defeat him," he preached.
Ending the 24-hour run with a challenge, he said, "I'm ready to see what happens when we take our place as the living, breathing, advancing church of Jesus Christ ... walking in audacious faith, claiming the promise and seeing God do the impossible."
Sun Stand Still reached No. 28 on Amazon on Wednesday.