Offer Them Christ
The Weblog Of J.F. Howard


          A Father’s Day gift for me was a trip to Charlotte, NC to attend Elevation Church. Lead Pastor Steven Furtick planted Elevation Church in 2006 with 121 people attending the first service at Providence High School. Recently, Elevation was recognized as one of the fastest growing churches in the United States.

            I was looking forward to this trip to Elevation very much.

            Here are a few things that stood out to me from my experience:

            When we drove into the parking lot, a sign requested first time visitors to turn on their flashers. After a moment’s hesitation, we chose to do so. This made the parking lot filled with volunteer attendants guide us to a parking spot close to the entrance. When we got out of the car we stopped by the VIP tent, for first time visitors. We were warmly greeted by a number of the volunteers. They asked us where we were from and engaged us in conversation. One of the volunteers told us that since it was Father’s Day they were offering free car washes and detailing to first time visitors. They asked us if we wanted to have our car washed. We were in Kari’s car. She was very pleased to accept this invitation. So while we worshiped, a professional car detailer cleaned our car outside and inside.

            We were told to come back by the VIP tent after worship and turn in a first time visitor card to receive a free Elevation t-shirt.

            Before we ever entered the facility, Elevation Church had already made a good impression with such kind and generous examples of hospitality.

            I love the idea of referring to first time visitors as “VIP’s.”

            Once we entered the church we noticed dozens of volunteers greeting us and directing us to where we needed to be. All of the volunteers wore yellow t-shirts with the name of the current message series “Unstoppable” printed on them. Great publicity for the series and a wonderful way to identify volunteers for visitors like me.

            When we entered the worship center we were offered free earplugs. There is just something about a church that says if you might need earplugs you are in store for a service of energy and excitement. I passed on the earplugs but later wished I had picked up a pair as a souvenir!

            The worship auditorium is styled after a theater/concert hall. A smoke machine was putting out a light covering of mist from the platform. This set an expectant atmosphere.

            Just before the service began some announcements were done via video called 5B4. This was an entertaining was to give out information for the church and get people ready for worship. One of the items during 5B4 gave step by step instructions on how to give to the church online. Most traditional churches could learn from that.

            When the video counter hit 0:00 the praise band began their opening song. I was interested to see that Elevation did the “special song” first as a way to open the service. Most traditional churches have a choir anthem or special song later on in the service. After the praise band finished their song, they invited the congregation to stand and worship with them. They then played a few songs, most of which were original songs written by Elevation Church.

            After the praise band finished the campus pastor came out and gave a welcome, especially to first time visitors and father’s on Father’s Day.

            A video package set up the message series entitled “Unstoppable—the church standing together.” As the video played the praise band and their instruments were removed from the stage.

            The message on this day was from a local area pastor, Derwin Gray, the founding pastor of Transformation Church in Rock Hill, SC, and former NFL player with the Indianapolis Colts.

            When his message finished, a video testimony played while the praise band and instruments were brought back to the platform. As the praise band played the offering was taken. Then the service concluded with a few more congregation songs let by the praise band. Once more, most of these songs were written by Elevation Church.

            One of the usual criticisms of contemporary churches is shallow theology. I was very impressed at the faithfulness to the Bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ at Elevation. The preacher spoke on the Prodigal Son and emphasized the love of the Father restoring and reconciling people who are living far from God. Lead pastor Steven Furtick made a couple of references to Jesus’ death on the cross during his lead in to the offering.

            I was impressed by the whole experience.

            One of our sons made the comment when we got in our (freshly washed and detailed!) car after the service, “Now that’s a church!” I asked another son during lunch what stuck out the most to him and he said, “The atmosphere of excitement in the place, and all the volunteers they had ready to help people.”

            Those are all words that stood out to me in my Elevation experience:




            I found Elevation Church to be a great worship experience and a wonderful learning experience. I took home a number of ideas, insights and a clean car! Not a bad Father’s Day!


One Response to “Elevation”

  1. John,

    I’m glad you had such a great experience! My first time at Elevation was Father’s Day of last year, just after my family and I moved to Charlotte. My experience was similar to yours, and I’ve continued to be blown away by the atmosphere, expectancy, and hospitality every week as we’ve gotten more deeply involved in the life of the church.

    Thanks for posting about your experience!

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