(Photo: Screen Grab via YouTube/Elevation Church)
Young Elevation Church Pastor and Crash the Chatterbox author Steven Furtick shot back at critics of his church's baptism tactics this week, declaring from his pulpit Saturday, "I'm too scared of God" to manipulate baptisms. He went on to baptize 400 people the same night.
A baptism guide produced by Furtick's North Carolina megachurch has been the subject of much criticism in recent months. Critics claim Furtick and his church have been manufacturing "spontaneous" baptisms of thousands of people and passing it off as a "miracle" and the church has since responded, charging that the information in the manual was being taken out of context.
Furtick, however, did not personally address the charges until Saturday. And he was so livid he said for critics to think he would do something like that was "just sick!"
"Man when they started talking this week on the news about our baptisms I got hot. Yes sir, I got hot. They were saying we manipulated our baptisms. That we have people planted in the audience who pretend to go be baptized. For the record, we have never planted anybody in our church to pretend to be baptized. I'm too scared of God to do something like that," declared Furtick in a video of Saturday's sermon posted to the church's website.
Likening his critics to snakes, he continued to approving applause: "Please, please, no. If you want to pick on my house, OK. But it's a different territory when you start picking on people who made a decision to be baptized for Jesus Christ."
"To take the fact that we have volunteers that lead the way so people will know where to go and to act as if they were pretending to be baptized and to negate the sincere faith decision of precious people who had one of the most meaningful experiences of their life, that's just sick!" he said.
He then explained that local media are on a witch-hunt for his ministry, which draws about 16,000 people weekly at multiple campuses.
"I know that this is not the last thing that's gonna be said about us unless we put the fire out. Unless we just stop growing. You don't baptize anybody they won't talk about how you did it," he continued. "We already know that the local media … are planning other stories, we already know."
The 34-year-old preacher said he asked God what to do about his critics and God told him to go on the offensive.
"I felt God said 'then don't play defense, play offense.' I thought about it for a minute … God said 'shake it back off into the same fire. Feed the fire."
He then announced to roaring applause that he would be doing a special baptism service later that night.
Furtick later posted a photo of him baptizing a paralyzed boy on Instagram from the service where he reportedly baptized 400 people with a message.
"Tonight we had a special baptism service at Elevation Church. Hundreds of people were baptized in Jesus name. Chris was the last one of the evening. He was paralyzed last summer in a swimming accident. Tonight he entered the waters to profess his faith in Christ. I have never been more proud of and thankful for the people I get to pastor. The best is yet to come," he said.