With the exception of vacation, It is an unusual thing for me to have a weekend off. If I am not preaching at my favorite church in the universe, this awesome place called freshlife, I am usually in the pulpit somewhere else. This past week was one of those rare occasions where I found myself out of town but free from any speaking engagements on Sunday morning. So what did I do? I went to church! I know, I am kind of a junkie, but there is never a good reason to miss gathering together with God’s people to worship Him–wherever you are. And it is always eye-opening to see what God is up to in other churches.
Since we were in Charlotte, North Carolina, my wife and I were looking forward to visiting Elevation Church, which is pastored by Steven Furtick. This explosive move of God began five years ago and in that time they have grown to over 9,000 people meeting at 4 campuses. I have been blessed following this extraordinary ministry through the internet the last few years. It is one of the 5 or 6 podcasts I listen to almost every week.
As a church, we have learned much from Elevation. Back when we were gearing up to launch the Whitefish campus, we sent some members of our team out to Charlotte to learn from Pastor Steven’s team. I knew that the team I sent would witness cutting edge tech and get a vision for excellence across a multi-campus ministry. What I didn’t know was that they would come back different and that the experience would drastically change our church. The concept of honor is one of the key values to Elevation church. They honor those above them, those beside them and those under them. It is infectious. Since that visit, an epidemic of honor has swept through our culture and has changed us for the better.
Experiencing the church in person was awesome. Even better than I expected. The work that God is doing there is powerful, and they do absolutely everything with excellence and on purpose. Their facilities and use of media are killer–state of the art and LOUD (it’s the only other church besides freshlife I know of that offers ear plugs at the door.) The message was outstanding. They are in a relationship series and Pastor Steven taught verse-by-verse through John 4 and showed that Christ calls us from the polluted wells of this world to the Living Water that He offers. It was powerful.
What really stood out during our trip is the way that the vision of the church has been amplified and rings out powerfully from every detail and crevice of the experience. Every single staff member or volunteer I spoke to was passionate, enthusiastic and seemed elated that they were allowed to be a part of what God was doing at the church in reaching people far from Him. It was inspiring.
Jennie and I were also very stoked to spend some time with Pastor Steven Furtick and his wife Holly while we were there. Since meeting a few months back, he has gone out of his way to invest in and encourage me. This is literally an answer to prayer. When we launched freshlife, just about all of my ministry mentors and leaders that I looked to were substantially older than me. Men like Pastor Skip Heitzig, Pastor Greg Laurie, my dad Chip Lusko and more recently Pastor James MacDonald. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am extremely thankful and grateful for the fathers in the faith that God has given me and their wisdom has both steered me through turbulent waters and kept me from pitfalls. But I have also specifically prayed for pastor friends my own age. The problem is that the megachurch-while-in-your-twenties club is not a huge one. It is an unusual mixture to have a handful of kids under five at home and a less than five year old church that has exploded.
God has answered these prayers with friendships with men like Pastor Pedro Garcia from CCk in Miami and this new one with Pastor Steven Furtick, younger pastors who I feel a kindred spirit and a common DNA with and who are charging it in a big way. I am also super passionate about “passing it forward” by intentionally making time in my schedule for another generation of church planters that God is raising up to plunder hell and populate heaven.