Steven Furtick's Elevation Church sent Easter seeker-friendly invites that omit 'resurrection,' 'Calvary'

Steven Furtick, pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Steven Furtick, pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. | Screenshot/YouTube

Christian music artists and pastors have weighed in after a senior staffer at Steven Furtick’s Elevation Church in North Carolina revealed the megachurch doesn’t use words like “resurrection,” “Calvary” or the “blood of Jesus” in their Easter invitations for fear of alienating potential non-Christian attendees.

Nicki Shearer, Elevation Church’s digital content director, recently spoke with Pro Church Tools and said the church, which has 20 locations, avoids using language that “immediately makes someone feel like an outsider.”

“When I think about how I’m going to talk about Easter, I’m thinking about how I’m going to talk to people far from God, because that’s the thing that matters most to us,” Shearer said, adding the church wants to reach the “un-churched” and churched alike. 

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Shearer, who Pro Church Tools said is “responsible for what Elevation says and how they say it,” said Easter and Christmas are the only two events of the year that are “actually wrapped around a particular passage in the Bible.”

“I'm putting a lot of my focus, energy, time, resources toward what I would call the ‘cold audience,’ people far from God,” she reiterated. “I'm not going to say the word ‘Calvary,’ not going to say the word ‘resurrection,’ I'm not going to say the ‘blood of Jesus,' I'm not going to say any of these words that make someone feel like an outsider. This is really an important guide for how we develop language. Anyone can be a part of our church; it might not be for everyone, everyone might not like it, but anyone can come.”

Pro Church Tools attempted to clarify that while certain terms are absent from invitations, they are indeed emphasized during Elevation's services, particularly regarding the resurrection of Christ. 

“[It] doesn’t matter how amazing your message might be if it’s not accessible to the people you’re trying to reach,” interviewer Brady Shearer of Pro Church Tools said. 

On its website, Elevation made available an Easter message that can be copied and pasted to send to potential attendees.

"Hey, do you have plans for Easter Sunday?" The message reads. "I'm heading to Easter at Elevation. Would you like to join me? The music and the message are always incredible. It's honestly one of my favorite ways to celebrate the holiday. I'd love to have you as my guest this year!"

The Christian Post reached out to Elevation Church for comment. A response is pending.

Nicki Shearer’s comments sparked controversy among some on social media, with critics accusing Elevation Church of diluting Christian messages for the sake of inclusivity.

“This is woke-ism,” Shane Idleman, pastor of Westside Christian Fellowship in Southern California, said. “'I don’t want to offend others.' Well, you just offended God. … I want to say, listen, you can market the Gospel; just say, ‘Come and see what Christ has done. … I'm not embarrassed of the Gospel, Calvary is a wonderful thing. He shed His blood on Calvary and has set me free and He has risen again.’”

“You might want to get up and go and find a place where you're not offended because the Gospel offends us,” he added. “It breaks us, it humbles us. I'm here because of God, not because of you. … When did the Church become for non-believers? We are to welcome them, reach them, love them and understand them. But at the end of the day, I'm here because of God, and I will not apologize, if that's a little too strong.”

Weighing in on the controversy, Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Dallas, also criticized efforts to water down the Gospel message ahead of significant Christian observances by not mentioning the crucifixion and resurrection as futile, likening it to "trying to swim in an empty swimming pool." 

“In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul declares that the foundation of Christianity is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ,” he told The Christian Post. “To try to reach people on Christmas and Easter without mentioning the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ is like trying to swim in an empty swimming pool. What’s the point?”

Shane Everett and Shane Barnard of the worship duo Shane and Shane told CP that the resurrection has a non-negotiable place in Christian doctrine and stressed that omitting such crucial elements risks presenting a form of Christianity devoid of its power. 

“This seems like a very dangerous place to be,” Everett told CP.

Barnard added that while he’s heard some “great sermons” by Furtick, "you can’t leave the resurrection and even the ascension out of the Gospel."

"Jesus died on the cross for our sins, and the resurrection is proof that the check cleared. It’s a key event in history. I don't know how you could read that and, especially on Easter, not proclaim the resurrection for all who would believe," he said.

The Gospel, according to Shane and Shane, should be presented in its fullness, including the challenging aspects like the acknowledgment of sin, without dilution or omission for the sake of making it more palatable.

"Boasting in our weakness and leading with a limp," as they put it, is the key to creating an environment where seekers feel welcomed and understood, as exemplified by the Apostle Paul. 

“The Gospel is an invitation for sinners; Christ Jesus came to die for sinners,” Everett said. “That's not to say that some aren't and some are. It's just that some see that they are and some see that they're not. The Gospel is an invitation for sinners, the lowly and weak. … If you're a sinner, and if you're in need of a Savior, it's the greatest news ever. There's nothing you need to do. You don’t need to pad that for a seeker, because a seeker is seeking the Gospel. They’re after a life of freedom, the forgiveness of sin, everlasting life and God.

You don’t have to overthink it. If you're on an island and you read this book, it's pretty clear what the hope of our salvation is. Be bold and share it. And trust that God's going to do the work. It's His perfect Word.”

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