Joe Manzewitsch was involved with Elevation Church for over 5 years, starting as a volunteer and becoming a leader for other volunteers. He worked closely with the church leadership team and had access to their internal data and statistics.
In the beginning, Manzewitsch was drawn to Elevation because they made him feel welcomed and accepted during a difficult time in his life. The church focuses intensely on crafting an emotional worship “experience” by stimulating the senses through things like music, lighting, and scent. This appealed to Manzewitsch early on.
Noticing Theological Issues
Over time, he started noticing issues with the church’s theology and priorities. The sermons promoted prospering yourself rather than centering on Jesus Christ. Elevation attendees would staunchly defend pastor Steven Furtick regardless of circumstances. Manzewitsch felt ostracized by the church when he asked questions.
According to Manzewitsch, Furtick tends to read himself into the Bible rather than drawing out biblical meaning and application. The sermons focus on making your personal dreams come true rather than glorifying Jesus. Furtick is extremely difficult to access and treated like a celebrity within the church.
Music and Growth Focused
The church leverages emotionally-charged music to draw people in. Their songs commonly get mainstreamed on radio stations. Manzewitsch said the music is intentionally crafted to stimulate senses and emotions.
Elevation pressures attendees to invite friends with the goal of growing the church. The gospel message presented is watered down. Baptism numbers seem inflated. Small groups just recap sermons rather than serious Bible study.
Manzewitsch noticed Furtick quoting a New Age universalist author in sermons. Furtick appears heavily influenced by whatever authors and pastors he associates with, leading to questionable theology.
Loneliness When Leaving
When Manzewitsch left Elevation, he lost contact with most of his friends from the church. He encourages people to intentionally befriend those leaving similar churches, since exiters are often very lonely.
Seeking Healthy Churches
After leaving Elevation, Manzewitsch visited several biblically-sound churches for a time. He warns that the prosperity “name it and claim it” theology either breeds arrogance or anger towards God.
The entire Bible points to bringing glory to Jesus Christ, not ourselves. If a sermon doesn’t point back to Christ, it’s not biblical preaching.
Encouragement for Questioners
Manzewitsch wants to encourage others who see cracks forming at Elevation that they aren’t crazy or deceived. It’s healthy to think critically and compare messages taught to the truths of Scripture. God’s Word centers on Jesus, not us.