On Monday, a North Carolina preacher's Facebook post generated social media backlash, with some calling it heresy and others arguing that it required further context.
According to Christian Headlines, Steven Furtick, senior pastor and founder of Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, spoke Sunday from Luke 5:1-11 about Jesus asking Simon Peter to become his disciple. The reportedly sermon served as the inspiration for a Facebook post that was subsequently taken down, yet screen screenshots of the sermon may still be seen online.
The now-deleted post by Furtick reads: "Following Jesus doesn't change you into something else, it reveals who you've been all along. What would it be like to see the you that God sees..."
Christian Headlines' Michael Foust noted that Furtick's deleted tweet seems to be a reference to a part of his sermon when he recounted Jesus asking Peter to pitch his net into the sea. During that part of the talk, Furtick emphasized the importance of discipleship.
"And then He turns to Simon, who will later be named Peter. But he's already Peter. But he's still Simon. And the process of discipleship is not God changing you into something else. It's Him revealing who you've been all along," Furtick was quoted as saying in his sermon.
Furtick then told his audience that "Jesus sees Peter in every Simon." Still, he added that an encounter with Jesus transforms people.
"The Lord gave me a message today to preach to somebody who feels stuck where you started. Stuck, where you started - stuck in 'Simon.'... 'I'm a sinful man'-you are, but He died for you. So that's what you were. Now you're a saint - a holy saint. You've still got some patterns - that's called the flesh. 'Simon' never leaves - you just have to tell him where to sit," he said.
Accused of being a 'wolf' and as a 'false teacher'
Church Leaders reported that Owen Strachan, Grace Bible Theological Seminary's provost and research professor of theology, took a screenshot of Furtick's remark and re-posted it on his personal Facebook page as evidence.
Strachan issued a warning on social media in response to Furtick's remarks.
"Fact check: truly following Jesus turns you into nothing less than a 'new creation' (2 Cor. 5:17)," Strachan's Facebook post reads. "Do not come within 50 country miles of this man's false teaching. Furtick is a wolf. STEER CLEAR."
Strachan also tweeted his critique of Furtick's tweet, but this time he included Jesus' words from Matthew 7:15, in which he advises his followers to "beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves."
Furtick's post reportedly received over 18,000 likes and over 2,500 shares on Facebook, where he has 6.3 million followers.
"The number of shares and likes is sadder than the false statement itself," remarked Furtick's fellow SBC pastor Erik Reed of The Journey Church in Lebanon, Tennessee. "This is why we need a recovery of biblical theology and discipleship. When you don't have a solid foundation you get sucked into junk like this."
Elevation Church reportedly has an average of little more than 26,000 weekly in-person attendance and 65,000 weekly virtual spectators.