But not only do the in-service baptisms take planning, they take a lot of crowd manipulation. What has been discovered by a local TV station is that Pastor Steven Furtick plants volunteers in the various locations in the crowd to get the momentum going when he calls for 'spontaneous' baptisms.
And Elevation produced a document to show other churches how they could do likewise.
It’s titled “Spontaneous Baptisms – A How-To Guide” and the church shared it freely on the Sun Stand Still website.
“They had people in the crowd stand up who never intended to be baptized,” said James Duncan, a communications professor at Anderson University and critic of Furtick. “They were shilling for Steven and the intent was these shills stand up and everybody else follows.”
Duncan blogged about the baptism guide in a post he titled, “How Steven Furtick engineered a miracle.”
“Although Furtick says this is a miracle, it’s not a miracle,” Duncan said. “It’s emotional manipulation.”
The spontaneous baptism how-to guide describes its purpose as to “pull off our part in God’s miracle.” Church leaders have repeatedly referred to the mass response as a “miracle.” But the guide reveals plenty of human staging.
“Most people would not want to be seen as manipulating a group because then you would have questions of authenticity,” said Rev. David Key, who teaches Baptist studies at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology.
Rev. Key compares the mass baptism service to a show at Disneyworld. “This church has obviously discovered what we in the industry call the ‘Disneyfication’ of religious services.”
More stage instructions tell volunteers to go to staging rooms outfitted with towels, pre-printed t-shirts, sports bras, boxers, makeup remover, hair-dryers and flip-flops. Volunteers are instructed to “pick young energetic people” to go on stage first to be baptized and “not necessarily those who are there first.”
“Think of the room in terms of a NASCAR pit stop,” the guide reads. “Quick in and quick out.”
It takes “30 to 45 seconds” to baptize each person as church photographers snap photos.
More volunteers are told, “You are looking for one or two great stories in your group. When you ID those individuals, place a ‘black wrist band’ on them so that the video crew can interview them….”
The guide then tells the “media team” to be “mining great stories and pushing them up to the video crew.”
James Duncan calls it “marketing for God and because it’s for God it’s OK.”
The baptisms, the photos, the video marketing all serve to build brand loyalty to Elevation.
“Look at how much branding these churches do - the bumper stickers, the T-shirts, the hats, the bracelets – everything,” Duncan said.
But parts of the mass baptism guide have drawn sharp criticism – from other Christians. Page one shows that the first people instructed to respond to Pastor Steven’s call to baptism were not converts suddenly inspired but Elevation volunteers carefully planted in the crowd.
The guide instructs, “Fifteen people will sit in the worship experience and be the first ones to move when Pastor gives the call. Move intentionally through the highest visibility areas and the longest walk.”
Hype... It isn't the same thing as the Holy Spirit. Learn to tell the difference.
Some are calling for Pat Robertson to be labeled a False Prophet for telling his friends and viewers that God had told him that Mitt Romney would be the next President of the United States.
I’m more apt to say that God has a really funny sense of humor!
(Pat is about to get his own tag on this site…)
West Virginia Pentecostal Pastor ‘Mack’ Wolford boasted on Facebook this last week about a special home-coming service he was hosting over the weekend. Turns out he wasn’t so good with snake handling, but he was pretty darn prophetic.
Mark 16: 17-18 reads, "And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues. They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover."
His sister, Robin Vanover, told the Washington Post 30 minutes into the service her brother passed around a rattlesnake. “He laid it on the ground and he sat down next to the snake, and it bit him on the thigh.”
Please note that the scripture said nothing about putting down the snakes, just taking them up. Mack’s problem was that he just wasn’t taking the Bible literally enough.
Though the squirrel would like to feel sorry for this pastor, he sort of saw it coming. Seems that Mack’s dad also died of snake bite in a similar service when he was 39 years old. Now the family has two Darwin awards to its name.
To the dismay of many religious circles the “Pray the Gay Away” programs just don’t seem to be working. A North Carolina pastor has challenged his congregation to try a new tactic when their male sons act effeminate – to punch them.
"So your little son starts to act a little girlish when he is four years old and instead of squashing that like a cockroach and saying, 'Man up, son, get that dress off you and get outside and dig a ditch, because that is what boys do,' you get out the camera and you start taking pictures of Johnny acting like a female and then you upload it to YouTube and everybody laughs about it and the next thing you know, this dude, this kid is acting out childhood fantasies that should have been squashed.
Dads, the second you see your son dropping the limp wrist, you walk over there and crack that wrist. Man up. Give him a good punch. Ok? You are not going to act like that. You were made by God to be a male and you are going to be a male. And when your daughter starts acting too butch, you reign her in. And you say, 'Oh, no, sweetheart. You can play sports. Play them to the glory of God. But sometimes you are going to act like a girl and walk like a girl and talk like a girl and smell like a girl and that means you are going to be beautiful. You are going to be attractive. You are going to dress yourself up.'"
The pastor now says his words were meant to be funny.
How come nobody is laughing?
Maybe we could all decide to punch pastors in the mouth when they say something that is unloving and doesn’t represent Jesus at all.