(Photo: Refuel via The Christian Post)
Though young, Steven Furtick didn't let his age stop him from relaying a powerful message and challenge to a group of pastors looking for some encouragement in their ministry.
The 31-year-old pastor from Charlotte, N.C., made it clear at the Refuel – Innovate Church conference on Tuesday that he's been in the trenches of everyday church life and has experienced the fears, the failures and the bad days that come with starting a ministry from scratch.
"Don't be writing me off because I'm young," Furtick, who leads Elevation Church, told pastors. "You need a young punk every once in a while just to get up and remind you that nothing is impossible with God."
"I started a church with nothing but a dream ... nothing but a calling."
Furtick was invited by Pastor Jonathan Falwell, son of the late Dr. Jerry Falwell, to speak at the two-day conference designed as a retreat to refuel church leaders and reinvigorate their ministries.
Falwell was among the few people who chose to support Furtick when he moved out to Charlotte to start a church six years ago.
The young pastor took the speaking opportunity on Tuesday to be honest about fears and failures with fellow ministry leaders rather than be one of those speakers who "talk some smack about how much faith you have and pretend like you never have a bad day."
"One of the frustrating things that happens to us in ministry is God is moving in our lives, ... plants this seed of inspiration in your heart about something He's working on on your behalf but someone else cuts in line and God blesses them and forgets about you," he said.
Pastors can often feel that "God gets busy blessing others."
But even if the situation gets desperate – from discouraging to hopeless – Furtick challenged pastors to simply obey what Jesus said when the daughter of one of the rulers of the synagogue died.
"Some of you are trying to figure out something that God wants you to just believe," Furtick stressed.
That may sound overly simplified especially for situations that seem complicated, but the Elevation pastor clarified that it's not a simple statement as much as it is "a focused demand."
"Just believe" doesn't mean to just cheer up and believe you can make it. Rather, "this is something you're going to have to give your entire effort to, that this is so singularly important that you trust me (Jesus) in faith that you're going to have to focus all of your energy in believing."
"I (Jesus) want you to trust me enough to devote everything you have ... to believing what I said is true and living like what I said is true until you see the manifestation around you of what I've already spoken inside of you," Furtick challenged. "Just believe."
There are moments when "the enemy" or a voice of opposition will say it's impossible and plant doubts.
Furtick experienced those very doubts when a church network declined to give him support, after concluding that his style of preaching would not reach the people of Charlotte.
But Furtick stressed that the greatest doubt comes from oneself.
"Put them (doubts) all out," he told conference attendees in Lynchburg, Va.
"Is it possible that God let a situation or a dream die in your life only so that He can raise up something better to show the world that He is God?"
Today, Elevation Church draws 9,000 people and has been recognized as one of the country's fastest growing churches.
Though the church has brought thousands to Christ, Furtick realized that he needs to dream bigger.
And he challenged ministry leaders to do the same. "If nobody has laughed at the size of your vision lately, you're not dreaming big enough."
Refuel is taking place at Thomas Road Baptist Church, with main sessions being broadcast live on the Web. Speakers this year include leadership expert John Maxwell, Central Christian Church pastor Jud Wilhite, missiologist Ed Stetzer, and Teen Mania Ministries co-founder Ron Luce, among others. The conference concludes Wednesday.