Inside the Elevation experience: At a glance

tfunk@charlotteobserver.comJanuary 25, 2014 

Elevation Church’s caret-like symbol

Here are some things you may not know about Elevation Church and its pastor, Steven Furtick.

•  On worship days, Elevation has two tents at each location: A black one for first-time visitors, called “VIPs,” and an orange one for returnees ready to get involved in the church. Typically, first-timers who sign in on Saturday or Sunday get a follow-up call from the church on Monday, a letter from “Pastor Steven” on Tuesday or Wednesday and an email from the minister of Elevation’s closest campus on Thursday.

•  Pastor Furtick doesn’t generally preside at weddings or funerals or do hospital visits. That’s not uncommon in megachurches. Elevation leaves the ceremonies to pastors at the church’s various locations. And members of the church’s small groups – called eGroups – will often do hospital visits.

•  To the surprise of even some Elevation attendees, there are no crosses in Elevation’s worship spaces. Instead, the church says it prefers to stress Jesus’ resurrection from the dead with its name, Elevation, and the church’s caret-like symbol: ^

•  “We Are All About The Numbers,” Elevation says in its online listing of the church’s 12 core values. So its videos, annual reports, magazines and Web site are chock full of stats, including these from the 2012 report: 2,155,427 visits to elevationchurch.org; 2,950,390 Elevation podcast downloads; and a total calculated time spent watching sermons online (via the church’s Web sites and app) of 113 years, 127 days, 9 hours, 11 minutes and 44 seconds.

•  The 33-year-old Furtick – full name: Larry Stevens Furtick – doesn’t appear to do media interviews anymore. But he did one with the Observer in 2008, telling the newspaper that “I’m a very young man trying to do this. By the time I get up on stage, I’ve wrestled through a lot of fear and insecurity and doubt. . . . I love my my life, I love my calling.”

•  Furtick and Elevation tend to steer clear of hot-button social issues that might divide its young congregation or turn off some who might want to sample the church. The focus remains on Jesus, the church says. Elevation was relatively quiet in 2012 when other Southern Baptist churches played a leading role in promoting passage of the state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

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