Steve Furtick has been all over our local news, Facebook and Twitter recently for the new house he is building. The local news channels have actually turned it into a three day series (so far) about his church, Elevation, which has around 14,000 members in the Charlotte area and beyond. For me it has been an interesting look inside a congregation that has a campus right down the street from my current appointment.
Here is WCNC's coverage, Part I, Part II and Part III and here is the article that ran in the Charlotte Observer. Here is another look from an "elevator."
Now I have been thinking about this since the story broke but I didn't know what to write. It is extremely easy to be judgmental and accusatory. I could complain about the salary or lifestyle of a pastor. There are people who have land blasted Furtick and Elevation. I do confess that the level of accountability (if what the news reported is true) makes me a little weary and is the complete opposite of my church structure (United Methodism). The truth is I don't know Furtick and I don't know Elevation so why should I judge.
Then last night I read a really good article in response to this which adds another perspective that spoke to me. I finally knew what I had to say. I say, I'm no different than Furtick.
If we back up and take in the world perspective I am no better. I live in a 5 bedroom 3 bath parsonage in a beautiful neighborhood and I don't pay a dime for it (besides the bills). How many people in the world have no place to call home. Or the place they do call home is nothing more than a dirt floor with mud walls? I have two cars, a ten year old Saab 9-3 and a five year old Saturn Outlook. This makes me in the top percentage in the world because many walk, bike or take public transportation (if that exists). I have enough food in my pantry to be able to feed my family for probably two weeks (if we were forced to eat everything) without going to the store. How many people will go hungry today and could live a year on what I refuse to eat? My church pays me an average salary for a church my size and depending on Church Council, they plan to give me a raise this year. I do not live near the poverty line. I am firmly in the middle class. How many people work three jobs simply to put food on the table and a roof over their head? How many cannot even find a job because no one is hiring or they were let go and are 'too old and expensive' for someone to take on?
The truth is I have nothing to complain about and my lifestyle, when compared to the world, is extravagant. When compared to Charlotte, it is simply average or below average, but to back up and take it from the world, I am rich beyond measure.
How often do we look at what others have and we ridicule, judge, and cast dispersions? It is easy to pick on those who have more because in our hearts we may be jealous. However I look around and I realize how blessed I am. Compared to the hungry, homeless, the poor, and the majority of the world, I am very rich. I realized that before drifting off to sleep last night.
Instead of "throwing the first stone" (John 8), I look at myself and realize how much I have. I am no different than Steve Furtick.