By Christian Research Network Associate Editor Erin Benziger of Do Not Be Surprised…
This is a repost of an original article on Do Not Be Surprised…

It recently was reported that the 2012 Hillsong Conference was scheduled to begin this past Monday, 2 July. Thus far, all things seem to be going according to plan and, as Christian apologist and radio host Chris Rosebrough pointed out in the tweet below, it seems that thousands have gathered onto this “wide ride”:


Hillsong 2012 has been a success, then, at least by Hillsong’s and the world’s standards. The event even garnered the attention of reporter Alex Murashko atThe Christian Post as he reported on Steven Furtick’s sermon. Furtick, who was the second speaker of the event, had already gushed over Word Faith preacher Joseph Prince’s earlier message:


Writes Murashko:

Elevation Church Pastor Steven Furtick preached at a Hillsong Conference in Sydney for the first time on Tuesday, telling thousands of people in attendance and an online audience that God doesn’t need anyone to “feel ready” to answer their calling.

The 32-year-old pastor, who leads the Charlotte, N.C., church of more than 10,000 members, said it was one sentence from the book Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, that gave him the inspiration to start a church.

“The sentence was ‘I despaired at the thought that my life might slip by without God moving greatly on our behalf,'” Furtick said. “The Lord used that one sentence because when the word of the Lord comes to you like it came to Jeremiah, it doesn’t have to say much to do a lot. In one sentence God put a desire in my heart – ‘one day you’re going to start a big church to reach a lot of people who are far from God in a big city somewhere in the United States of America.'”


It is interesting that Murashko emphasized Furtick’s recounting of the impact of Jim Cymbala’s book Fresh Wind, Fresh Fireupon his life and ministry. This is a story that Furtick has told numerous times before, including at the 2011 Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit:

Jim Cymbala is the pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle, and his book referenced above is widely known. While there may be points within the book worth commending, there also are many which may not only give cause for concern, but which may offer insight into Steven Furtick’s ministry and philosophy.

Gary Gilley, pastor of Southern View Chapel in Springfield, IL, has written a brief but helpful review of Cymbala’s book. While Gilley acknowledges the book’s positive contributions, he nevertheless shares many concerns which are worth noting. Gilley’s review will not be published in full here, but there is one section that is of special interest. About Cymbala’s view of the revelation of the Holy Spirit, Gilley writes:

Cymbala supports the increasingly accepted view that one can hear from God in the inner spirit. “I sensed God speaking. . . . I knew I had heard from God. . . . His word to me was. . .” (p.25). “Brothers and sisters, I really feel that I’ve heard from God about the future of our church” (p.27). “The Holy Spirit stopped me. ‘No!’ a voice seemed to say. ‘Fight for him! Cry out to me!’” “The Holy Spirit spoke to one of the choir members” (p.103). “As I spoke, the Holy Spirit seemed to prompt me to add” (p.160). Of course what God had to say to Cymbala was what every pastor would love to hear, “If you and your wife will lead my people to pray and call upon my name, you will never lack for something fresh to preach. I will supply all the money that’s needed, both for the church and for your family, and you will never have a building large enough to contain the crowds I will send in response” (p.25).

Reviewer’s Comment: Where in Scripture does one find this concept? That God has communicated audibly, in dreams and visions, through prophets and apostles, we are in agreement, but this “inner voice” is not to be found. Even the Vineyard theologian Jack Deere claims that the concept of God guiding through promptings, impressions, and insights has no biblical base. He says, “The word ‘prompt’ never appears in Scripture with God as the subject. [We are being] asked to believe in a form of guidance that can’t even be found in the Bible” (Surprised by the Voice of God, pp.283,284). When men like Deere can poke holes in our understanding of revelation, we had better take a second look.


When reading this portion of Gilley’s review, a particular sermon clip came to mind immediately. Listen to Steven Furtick as he preached earlier this year at the Presence Conference:

Note the multiple instances within this short teaching that Steven Furtick claims to have received direct revelation from God. The reader is encouraged to view the video again, and observe the following:

  • At 2:48, Furtick says to the leaders of C3, The Lord told me to give you $7,000 for your Brooklyn church.”
  • At 6:04 , he states that, following this offering, the great things of which he had spoken “are gonna happen for somebody” due to that person’s obedience that night. Really? How does Steven Furtick know this?
  • At 8:44, Furtick begins his next few statements by declaring that, “Somebody needed to hear me say…” Again, how is he aware of this? Who is telling him these things so definitively?
  • Finally, at approximately 9:50, Steven Furtick begins to describe how he and his wife had saved up a $5,000 emergency fund early in their marriage. Says Furtick, God told me to give it,” and so he wrote five $1,000 checks. He continues, “As soon as I had written the last one, God said, ‘I will never allow you to lack for anything you need to do My will if you keep your hands open to Me in this way.'” 

Those who have listened to many of Steven Furtick’s sermons know that this type of language and these types of claims actually are fairly common. There seems to be a great deal of similarity, then, between the method by which Steven Furtick claims to receive divine revelation and what Cymbala teaches in his book. Does this merit concern?

Gary Gilley also points out that Cymbala appears to have been greatly influenced by Charles Finney:

Cymbala promotes the currently popular and highly unbiblical view of revival as per Charles Finney style. Finney, who did more to cheapen evangelism than any one individual I can think of, is apparently Cymbala’s greatest hero, and is often quoted (e.g. p.58, p.115, and pp.174ff). Finney, the 19th Century evangelist and theologian, was the well-known author of “means” or special methods that he believed could produce conversions, as well as revival. All the church needed to do, so taught Finney, was to use the right means and the results were guaranteed, with or without help from the Holy Spirit. His evangelistic inventions are legion and lethal. Even prayer was seen as a “means” to an end (see p.58). God could be manipulated to send revival if only the church prayed hard enough. Evidence of Finneyism is rampant in evangelism today. Finney and his views need to be exposed, not endorsed. (Source)

Of course, much of Finney’s methodology is running rampant in the seeker-driven church today. If Steven Furtick was so influenced by Cymbala’s book, and Cymbala was so greatly influenced by Finney, the methodology of Steven Furtick and his Elevation Church ought not surprise us. It should, however, continue to cause the Body of Christ to speak out against those doctrines and methods which run contrary to Scripture.

It certainly appears as though Steven Furtick was a hit at his first Sydney, Australia Hillsong Conference. While it seems that the 2013 speaker lineup already has been determined, perhaps he will be placed at the top of the list for 2014. For now, the 2012 event rolls on throughout this week, with further messages from the prosperity preacher packed lineup.

Further Reading
Louie Giglio to Join Word Faith Lineup at 2012 Hillsong Conference
Steven Furtick, Hillsong Heresy Conference & Rick Warren (Apprising Ministries)
Steven Furtick Twists Scripture, Claims to Hear from God at Presence 2012