Summer movie series are for other churches. At Elevation Church in Matthews, N.C., a concert sermon series is more fitting to usher in summertime.
Young founding Pastor Steven Furtick, who leads the church of 8,000 attendees, will move his congregation into the second week of the Summer Concert Series this Sunday.
Last week, the church kicked off the new series with snow cones, popcorn, and outdoor activities before service to create a fun summer-themed atmosphere. Every week, the church plans to surprise attendees with activities that scream: summer is here.
“Pastor’s thought process was that so many churches do ‘at the movies’ kinds of summer series, but Elevation Church is so big on the music,” explained Tonia Bendickson, communications director at Elevation Church, to The Christian Post.
“It made sense to do a Summer Concert Series instead, as a different, fun, fresh way to invite friends and keep the energy high during the busy summer time. It fits who we are better than a movie night.”
Furtick, 31, lauded the church’s worship team last Sunday, saying that “nowhere in this city, or any other city as far as I’m concerned, is there better music than the musicians we have right here in our church.”
“So let’s do it right this summer and give you a fun way to invite your friends,” said the young pastor, who came on stage after secular rock music and footage of rock concerts were played on the church’s jumbo screens.
The first message in the Summer Concert series was based on the story in Acts 27, where Apostle Paul sails for Italy and warns those aboard that the “voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.” But the people on board ignored Paul and followed the advice of the pilot and owner of the ship.
“Here is what I love about this passage. Paul warns them, they ignore him, and God gets them,” said Furtick. “God’s way is always the best way.
“So Paul tells them what God is saying and they do what makes sense. Have you ever done what made sense but really didn’t make sense because God was telling you to do something else?”
He pointed to Acts 27:20, where the writer Luke notes, “we finally gave up all hope of being saved” after the ship is battered by the storm.
“It goes to show that you can believe in God, be chosen by God, but still face something in your life that is so hard and so difficult that you sort of kind of give up,” preached the N.C. pastor.
But then Paul told the people in the ship to not be afraid and that only the ship will be lost.
“In our lives, our situation may get damaged, we may lose some relationships, we may lose some money, we may lose some time, we may lose some opportunities, but God has preserved you for a reason and even if the ship is beat all to hell, God is still capable to preserve your purpose and use your life,” declared Furtick.
“In other words, there will be consequences for you sailing when God told you not to sail, but God still has a plan for us. It is good to know.”
The story in Acts 27 is similar to the story about Jonah, he pointed out.
“Two different preachers; two different boats. You got one preacher who is sailing 1,300 miles from Caesarea to Rome to fulfill the will of God for his life. Another preacher who is sailing hundreds of miles to run away from the will of God for his life,” said Furtick. “One man who is willing to do whatever it takes to fulfill God’s purpose, even if it means being in chains, treated like a dog, and shipped off to the other side of the world. Another man to do anything but what God has called him to do.”
After the lengthy Bible lesson, Furtick tied the two stories together and made his point: the boat represents a person’s work, school, church, or whatever environment the person is in.
“Is the boat that you are on better off because you are on board?” Furtick asked pointedly.
Paul saved the life of everyone on the boat because he obeyed God, while Jonah nearly caused everyone on his boat to die because he disobeyed the Lord.
“If you are a believer in Jesus, every boat you are on is supposed to be better because you are on board and God is in you and you have a purpose,” stated Furtick.
“On the boat of my everyday life, how many times has my complaining attitude brought death to the boat, instead of bringing life to the boat?”
At the end of his sermon, he shared about his family background. His father came from an abusive household, where his grandfather was an alcoholic and killed himself on his father’s eighth birthday. His father’s older brother spent his entire adult life in jail and fathered a daughter he never could raise. Furtick’s cousin had a baby and their home life is “a living hell.”
“My dad was in the same boat [as my uncle], but somewhere along the lines he said, ‘God has a purpose for me.’ And my mom said, ‘I believe God has a purpose for us.’ And because they got on God’s track … I’m standing before you here today as living proof that if Jesus is on the boat … not only will you make it safely to the other side, but God will use your life for the saving of many.”
The Summer Concert Series will continue through the month of June, ending with a battle of the worship team bands.
Elevation Church is one of the fastest-growing evangelical churches in America.