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Elevation Church pastor building big home in Waxhaw

By Tim Funk and Maria David
tfunk@charlotteobserver.com

More Information

  • WCNC: How pastor built multi-million dollar home
  • Homes by comparison

    • Panthers owner, Jerry Richardson, Charlotte, total square feet. 7,068; tax value: $2,621,000.

    • Investor, businessman, wealthiest man in Charlotte C.D. Spangler Jr. Charlotte, Total square feet: 6,169; tax value: $1,407,200

    • Businessman, wealthiest person in North Carolina, James Goodnight, Cary, Heated area 7,510 (total square footage not available); tax value: $4,977,270

    SOURCE: Public records



Pastor Steven Furtick, who has propelled Elevation Church into one of the fastest growing congregations in America, is building a 16,000 square foot gated estate on a large wooded lot in Waxhaw.

Tax value on the 19-acre property is $1.6 million, though Chunks Corbett, Elevation’s chief financial officer, pointed out that Furtick paid $325,000 for it – a figure confirmed by Union County tax records.

Corbett also said the 16,000 square foot figure was misleading – 8,400 square feet of the house will be heated; the rest will be basement, attic, garage and porch space.

Corbett said Furtick, 33, is paying for the five-bedroom house with income from the books he’s written and will write.

It’s not a parsonage or a gift from Elevation, Corbett said, “and it’s not tied to the church in any way.”

Though Furtick said in a recent sermon that “it’s not that great of a house,” it will be among the biggest in the Charlotte area, featuring 7.5 bathrooms and, according to a building permit, an electric gate.

The home he’ll share with wife Holly and their three young children will be nestled in a forested area near Providence Road. Nearby: other gated estates, swimming pools and No Trespassing signs.

“Quiet, private – and want to keep it that way” is how one of Furtick’s future neighbors described the upscale enclave and those who call it home.

Furtick should fit right in: He listed a trust rather than his name on the deed and tax records for the Union County property, making if difficult to find his home in public records.

“That’s for security and privacy of the family,” Corbett said. “When you’re a public figure, it’s a different thing …(Furtick) is the trust. It’s his house.”

Just eight years ago, the South Carolina-born Furtick had moved to Charlotte from a Baptist church in Shelby with hopes of launching a new evangelical church with seven other couples who had agreed to sell their homes and join him.

Now Furtick has a flock of nearly 12,000 worshipers every weekend, most of them young people drawn by the Christian rock music, the multi-media worship experience and the hip, passionate pastor who is as likely to make his spiritual points by referring to a song or movie as a scene from the Bible. The racially diverse Southern Baptist church has become one of the biggest in the Charlotte area.

Every weekend, Furtick preaches – either in person or live on-screen – at eight different locations in four counties. Two other planned satellite campuses, in Lake Norman and Ballantyne, will eventually make it 10.

According to the church’s 2012 annual report, its average weekly collection amounts to $391,299.

It’s a generous church: It gave away $2.5 million last year, including $120,000 to Samaritan’s Purse, $45,000 to A Child’s Place and $40,000 each to the Matthews Free Medical Clinic and Charlotte Family Housing.

Just how generous Elevation is to its pastor remains a mystery, though.

Corbett would not divulge Furtick’s salary, which is set not by a group of lay members of the church, but by a board of five out-of-town pastors. Furtick is also on the board, but doesn’t vote on his salary, Corbett said. These out-of-town board members are friends and mentors to Furtick and, like him, lead growing megachurches. They include Perry Noble of NewSpring Church in Anderson, S.C., and Jack Graham of Prestonwood Baptist in Plano, Texas.

This board bases Furtick’s salary, Corbett said, on a “compensation study formulated by an attorney’s office” that’s not tied to the church.

In 2012, the church’s personnel costs, for about 100 employees, totaled nearly $6 million, according to Elevation’s annual report.

“We don’t disclose salary details,” Corbett said, “though we’re happy to go big picture.” Translation: He said Elevation pays out about 29 percent of its income on personnel, while the national average is more like 40 percent.

To pay for his property and new house, Furtick took out a loan for some of the cost, but mostly tapped advances he received from his books, Corbett said.

Those advances, Corbett said, are based on projected national and international sales of the books.

Furtick’s last one, “Greater,” was published by Random House and debuted just over a year ago at No. 4 on The New York Times’ list of best-selling hardback advice and how-to books.

Corbett said Furtick also exercises an option given authors to buy copies of their books at discount prices. Then he lets Elevation sell these copies, many in bulk to other churches, and keep the profits, Corbett said. He said the church has made hundreds of thousands of dollars on such sales, none of which go to Furtick.

“So he’s building this house on his book advances, while allowing the church to be a beneficiary of the sales,” Corbett said.

Chatter about Furtick’s house is easy to find on the Internet, with some of his critics likening it to Elvis’ Graceland, which is 17,552 square feet.

Asked if the church worried that Furtick will be seen by some as another preacher indulging in PTL-like luxury, Corbett replied: “We understand the history of Charlotte and have tried to structure and build a church that will reach the Charlotte area for a very long time.”

Corbett said he wasn’t sure when the house will be ready for the Furticks to move in, or how much the construction will end up costing.

He declined an Observer request to interview Furtick.

Funk: 704-358-5703
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