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Elevation talks some about expansion plans

After weeks of news and social media focus on the size of Pastor Steven Furtick’s still-under-construction home, Elevation Church shifted the spotlight Sunday to other building projects that will expand the number of its Charlotte-area campuses from eight to 10.

In a black-and-white video shown during Sunday services at Elevation’s several locations, financial leaders at the church held a “conversation” designed to update worshipers on plans to open facilities in two of Mecklenburg County’s most upscale and fastest-growing areas.

A church campus in Lake Norman costing $10.5 million is set to open mid-January.

And by late 2015, the church hopes to build a facility in Ballantyne that will probably cost more than $10 million.

Elevation, one of the most rapidly growing evangelical churches in America, is also believed to be looking at other potential locations, including the university area, but those were not discussed in the video.

Chunks Corbett, the church’s chief financial officer, hinted in the video that Elevation’s expansion won’t stop with Lake Norman and Ballantyne.

“The key to expansion is always being ready for the next project,” Corbett said in the video. “And to do that, you’ve got to be looking at every option in the city. The Lake Norman project is something we’ve been looking at for over four years. But we’re always trying to stay one project ahead.”

Corbett said a fundraising campaign last year raised $8.1 million, enabling the church to buy and convert an old movie theater in Lake Norman; buy the land in Ballantyne, which it has now closed on; “and make future plans.”

“The vision’s always bigger than the bank account,” Corbett said in the video. “Currently, though, we’re in a good spot, going into the first of the year.”

After the Lake Norman project is finished, the church will have a $3 million debt. But this year, Corbett said, the church paid off – after just four years – a $9 million loan to buy and outfit its popular Blakeney campus.

The 7-year-old church’s budget, which was only $250,000 in its first year, is $25 million in 2013, Corbett said.

Corbett and others in the video also said that Elevation gives 12 percent of its income to charities that it calls outreach partners; devotes 30 percent to operations; spends 30 percent on paying and providing benefits to 115 employees and covering contract labor; and earmarks up to 28 percent “toward future projects, paying down debt and capitalize assets.”

The video comes amid questions raised in the news media and on Facebook and Twitter about how transparent the church’s finances are. Those questions began after it was reported in the Observer and on WCNC-TV that Furtick is building a 16,000-square-foot house – the church said only about 8,400 square feet will be heated – in the Waxhaw-Weddington area.

Elevation will not reveal Furtick’s salary, which is set by a board of out-of-town pastors of megachurches like Elevation.

Corbett has said that Furtick is paying for the house with advance money he was paid for books he has written or will write.

Funk: 704-358-5703
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