The Elevate City Church Con Job

elevate city church 2

The Elevate City Church is an Evangelical church located in Fort Wayne, Indiana. According to the church’s website, Elevated City Church is:

elevate city church

Under the Weekend Experience tab on the church website, Elevate lets everyone know that they are “come as you are” church. A couple of days ago, I was watching a TV program from one of the Fort Wayne TV channels and the station aired an ad for Elevate City Church. The ad was quite syrupy, with various members of the church saying the church was, drum roll, roll your eyes, please:

  • Real
  • Relational
  • Relevant

Ah yes, the three buzzwords of the modern Evangelical church. Rarely do people stop to consider that churches like Elevate are saying that other churches in their community are NOT real, NOT relational, NOT relevant. While the leaders of Elevate City Church would never publicly say these things, it is implied in everything they do. Rarely does anyone ask, why does Fort Wayne, Indiana, a city with hundreds of churches, need another generic, more awesome than sliced bread, Evangelical church? As I have stated before, we need LESS churches in the United States not more. Most every community has a plethora of churches and there is no need for more. Fort Wayne, in the heart of the Midwest, is hardly under served when it comes to churches for Evangelicals to attend. (Please read, The Secrets of Evangelical Church Planting Revealed and Does Rural America Need More Christian Churches)

I titled this post, The Elevate City Con Job. Why? Simple. The church wants to present itself as a, we will accept you as you are, church. While this may be true as far as sitting your ass in a seat, they most certainly have no intention of letting you stay as you are. If you want to do anything besides listen to Pastor Kyle Mills’ awesome sermons then you will have to change.

Kyle Mills is a graduate of an Evangelical Baptist university, Liberty University. The doctrinal beliefs of Elevate City Church are decidedly Evangelical and Baptist. A quick perusal of the church’s official doctrinal statement shows that the church believes that the Bible is the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God, salvation is through Jesus Christ alone, and, to use the words of the statement:

After living on earth, the unbelievers will be judged by God and sent to Hell where they will be eternally with the Devil and the fallen Angels…and hell are places of eternal existence.

Standard Evangelical boilerplate language. Again, exactly why does Fort Wayne need ANOTHER Evangelical church?  According to the church’s website:

  • The majority of Americans are spiritually restless
  • 180,000 of the 300,000 people in the Fort Wayne area do not regularly attend church
  • The non-attendance numbers are even greater for the 18-34 age group ( which I assume is the target group based on the nubile age of the church staff)
  • A new church is emerging (and  Elevate City Church is part of the new emerging church)

The Elevate City Church is almost two years old. They were started with the support of Eagle Rock Church (Columbus, Ohio?)  and The Association of Related Churches. I wonder, in two years, how many of the 180,000 people who don’t regularly attend church have walked through the doors of Elevate City Church?

I am sure Pastor Mills and the Elevate City Church are fine people. I suspect he and I would get along famously. This post is not meant to be a personal attack of Mills or the church. It is me calling bullshit. It is my challenge of the assumptions that led Mills to start Elevate City Church.

Church planters like Mills can never answer me when I ask, so why is planting a new church the answer to 60% of people in the Fort Wayne area not regularly attending church? What is the new church going to do that countless other churches haven’t already done? Of course, Mills would likely say, God told me to start the church. 

Church planters think that the church they plant is special; that they have a mandate from God. In Mills’ case, God told him at the age of nine to plant a church in Fort Wayne:

video link

God” also gave Elevate City Church a permanent meeting place, so I am sure Mills and the church see this as a sign that God approves of them starting the church.  Countless churches have come and gone in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Every church planter thought their church was special, that God wanted them to plant the church. Church plants fail, and those that don’t, in time, become just like the churches they swore they never would be like. Their new church, if it survives, will become an old church, and new church planters will move to town, claiming to be new, exciting, and different, and they will proceed to poach members from the old new church.

The dirty little secret of Evangelical church planting is that the vast majority of people who attend a new church plant come from other churches. Few people are new converts. Why? Because almost every American, especially here in the Midwest, has already heard the good news of the gospel. It is not a lack of information that is the problem. Americans are increasingly rejecting Christianity and turning to spirituality, eastern religions, or atheism/agnosticism/humanism. Why?

Evangelical Christianity is slowly dying. Instead of trying to strengthen that which remains, hip, relevant church planters start new churches. They poach the members of old, established churches and this “growth” hides the fact that the disinterested are still disinterested and they haven’t flocked to the new church. The truth is, more and more Americans think Evangelical Christianity is irrelevant. Evangelicals have a huge PR problem, and as long as their beliefs, practice, and lifestyle are tethered to an inspired, inerrant, infallible ancient book, Evangelicals should not expect the disinterested to rush to their churches on Sunday. Playing rock and praise and worship music, dressing down, getting rid of pews, and acting all hip and cool, hides the fact that the message is still the same; repent and believe the gospel or you are going to be tortured by God in hell for all eternity.

I have no objection to Evangelicals starting as many churches clubhouses as they want. This is America, and corporate, capitalistic, libertarian thinking dominates the Evangelical church planting scene. They just need to understand that some of us see through the smokescreen. By all means, plant another church, convince yourself that “God” is leading you to do so, but the facts on the ground remain the same.  Planting a new church will not fix what ails America. Americans no longer are buying what Evangelicals are selling. Perhaps it is time to follow the command of Jesus…go sell all that you have and give it to the poor. Perhaps when Americans see THAT kind of Christianity, they might take an interest in it. Even though I am an atheist, I can, from a distance, admire a church and a pastor that takes seriously the teachings of Jesus. All I see right now is the same incestuous, irrelevant church, with a new name. It is time to burn the institutional church to the ground and start over.  Or so says this atheist.

Comments (39)

  1. NeverAgainV

    “…Perhaps it is time to follow the command of Jesus…go sell all that you have and give it to the poor. Perhaps when Americans see THAT kind of Christianity, they might take an interest in it….” Yahtzee! Exactly my sentiments.

    Reply
    1. Lynn

      Ditto.

      Reply
      1. Appalachian Agnostic

        But then the people who bought all their stuff would have to sell it and give it to the poor, and then those people would have to do the same thing and eventually the poor wouldn’t be poor any more because they would have all the stuff and nobody else would have anything. So the cycle would have to start over again, this time with the formerly poor selling their stuff back to the previously well off who are now poor because they got rid of all their stuff… and so on and so on and…

        geesh! No wonder everyone gets upset when you try to apply logic to religion.

        Reply
        1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

          Yeah, that could pose a problem. :) I tend to view it this way. If I have it in my power to help someone I should. Of course the problem is the poverty that is occurring in other countries or places outside my own community.

          Reply
  2. Jeff Brown

    If you look at the ‘Media’ link he actually allows his wife to deliver a message. How unscriptural!!! LMFAO!!

    Reply
    1. Lynn

      I wonder what it’s like in Baptist seminary circles. You probably have those like this guy who start using more worldly methods to try to grow a church. Then you probably have others who want to “be ye separate” and want to do things the old-fashioned way. I think the latter would be part of the group that’s dying out.

      Reply
      1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

        Both groups appeal to certain individuals. I think it depends on what people are “looking” for. Certainly, right now, the megachurch, entertainment oriented, super star preacher way of doing things is quite popular. Like all fads it will, in time, die off.

        Reply
      2. NeverAgainV

        Let’s hope you are right about the “be ye seperate” ones dying out Lynn!

        Reply
    2. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      I think they are part of an Evangelical group that doesn’t have any problem with women in the ministry.

      Reply
  3. Michael Mock

    I’m somewhat impressed that they have a Director of Homeless Ministry. (I’d need to know more about what their homeless ministry actually does before I could have a real opinion about it, but if their staffing is anything to go by then homeless people are one of their main areas of interest, along with “youth” and “kids”.)

    Reply
  4. Reverend Greg

    Interesting. They talk about a ‘weekend experience’ but there is no mention of the worship of God. That’s your typical modern evangelical church. Then when beliefs are described, the Bible is placed first, before what they believe about God. Bruce, I know you and I don’t see eye-to-eye on the faith, but you’re spot-on about the modern evangelical church. It is consumer-driven and all about the self.

    Reply
    1. joe

      Hi Greg,
      Are you a christian and what type of church do you attend/condone please? Thanks

      Reply
      1. Reverend Greg

        I am a District Licensed Pastor in the Church of the Nazarene.

        Reply
        1. Lynn

          Does Church of the Nazarene believe that Christians are sinless?

          Reply
          1. Reverend Greg

            No.

    2. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Hey Greg,

      My take on Christianity is this..If a person is going to say, I am a Christian, then that ought to mean something. At the very least it means following Jesus and the example he set. This was the place I came to when I left the ministry a decade ago. (Hard to believe it has been that long) As I was contemplating what to do post-ministry wise, I got an opportunity to start a new Christian Union church in Zanesville, Ohio. A friend of mine thought enticing me with a new church opportunity would get my ministry juices going again. It didn’t. Zanesville didn’t need another church. It needed, if I may be so blunt, the existing churches and Christians to give a shit. Churches that set their power and money aside and focused on people. (You know, the two great commandments, love God, Love your fellow man)

      While I may be an atheist, I still think Christian Churches could make a difference if only they would. They can, but they won’t.

      Don’t get me started, bro. :)

      Bruce

      Reply
      1. Reverend Greg

        I had a pithy comment but my computer froze so I lost it! I’ll reply later,lol!

        Reply
        1. Reverend Greg

          Bruce, I think many churches, especially small ones, would be better at alleviating human suffering if they banded together and didn’t care about whether any possible converts would attend a church other than their own.

          And it is a jump to go from IFB to Wesleyan/Holiness! I do a bit of supply preaching at a few churches in the Zanesville arhe area.. I really like the people there and would consider moving to to the area.

          Reply
          1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

            As you may know, I lived in Central/SE Ohio from 1979-1994, a short while in 1995 and 2005. Polly’s parents live in Newark. I pastored one church for 11 years that was 15 minutes or so from Zanesville. We did a lot of our shopping in Zanesville. I also did a lot of street preaching in Zanesville.

            The man in this post now pastors Lighthouse Memorial Church near Millersport/Buckeye Lake. Prior to that he pastored a Nazarene church he started near Thornville. He left the Nazarenes because he considered them liberal. Sadly, I trained him well. :( if I remember right, Bill was converted at Faith Memorial in Lancaster when John Maxwell was there.

          2. Michael Mock

            Reverend Greg said: “Bruce, I think many churches, especially small ones, would be better at alleviating human suffering if they banded together and didn’t care about whether any possible converts would attend a church other than their own.”

            I’m actually willing to cut the churches some slack on this one. Yes, there are some organizations that manage it, but for the most part churches don’t operate that way simply because people don’t operate that way.

  5. Chikirin

    Pastors don’t seem to have enough faith that people will come unless there is a contemporary worship team to provide the musical draw. And it is a struggle to keep these worship teams going considering the turnover.

    Sometimes they have to even recruit nonChristians – i know this for a fact. Someone needs to run the p.a., a whole crew of people is needed to set up, sound check and tear down if the church doesn’t have its own facility. It’s backbreaking work hauling huge subwoofers, monitors, and speakers.

    If you are on one of these teams, you have to practice at least once a week and then arrive early and stay late on Sunday. But they are doing it for the lord as a ministry so there’s no compensation. But at least you get to be in the cool clique at church if you are on the “worship team.”

    If God is real, why all the song and dance? Why all the production value? I’ve never been to a Quaker meeting, but apparently they sit there and wait for the spirit to fall, or something like that, I’m pretty sure there’s no rock band.

    Reply
    1. Lynn

      I have been to a Quaker meeting and enjoyed it. No music, no sermon, just a few words and everybody introducing themselves-then silence for about 45 minutes. So they weren’t depending on the persuasive powers of a pastor or the fun of rock music. They weren’t trying to help God do anything.

      Reply
  6. Mika'il

    I’m certain that Christianity will never die out in the sense that we will always have something with us called Christianity….even if it eventually does not resemble, in any way, the christianity or Christianities we know today.

    All that being said, I’m starting to find it more and more plausible that evangelical/fundamentalist Christianity will eventually die out, and I think that’s a good thing. It may not happen in any of our lifetimes, but I wouldn’t be shocked if it eventually becomes a thing of the past.

    Reply
  7. Lynn

    The pastor lost me at “God tugged at my heart.” Some of us have heard these same old phrases said over and over and over for most of our lives, and they make us cringe. To me, it’s “church talk.” Nobody asks what that means to have God tugging at your heart. And saying those phrases is not “real.” I’d love to hear that experience described in “real” language. This pastor, who is probably a good person with good intentions, no doubt grew up around that way of speaking, then continued to be surrounded by it in seminary. So, it seems like he will attract only those who know the language and don’t see anything wrong with it. I mean, people gravitate toward those who are like them. In other words, as Bruce said-people from other churches.

    It’s funny to me to think about the other pastors in town driving by and seeing a sign that says this church is for real people. lol Do they feel insulted? Do they laugh? Do they feel sorry for the poor young guy who actually believes his church will somehow be different? Do they wish they could help him avoid all the inevitable problems that come with church members?

    And, Bruce, I think if regular Christians saw somebody who did give away all they had, etc.-they would just think the guy was nuts. Most Christians really are just like everybody else. They certainly aren’t going to give all to the poor, turn the other cheek, stop consuming, stop buying insurance, stop going to the doctor and instead just get hands and oil laid upon them when they’re sick. It just seems like it’s all a crock and they must know that on some deep, deep level because of their actions being like everybody else.

    Reply
  8. ... Zoe ~

    ” . . . hides the fact that the message is still the same; repent and believe the gospel or you are going to be tortured by God in hell for all eternity.”

    I’ve seen churches change their names to something more contemporary. Like changing their names from Bethel or Calvary to something whimsical. They build big churches, really big and act like it’s all brand new. Big churches with media and production set ups and presentations that could feed a third world country. Full-sized gyms that are no longer gyms, but recreational centers. Sanctuaries become meeting centers. I mean the look and sounds of the new vocabulary are seen and heard everywhere and it looks brand new. It looks like a new work. It looks genuine.

    As each person who might inquire as to what I think about it all and with each that attempts to tell me “this one is different” I ask them if the church has a website. They don’t know. I tell them it will. I then tell them to read the doctrinal statement on the website. I tell them it is the same doctrinal statement &/or statement of faith that existed prior to all the newness. It’s the same mission statement that existed in the old run down no longer big enough church for the city. I tell them to check out the staff and count on one hand how many women are on staff . . . and I tell them they will not find a single female pastor on staff anywhere. I tell them they will still fine the torture of non-believers preached and they will not find acceptance no matter how accepting anyone is of them until they are converted. In the meantime they will continue to appear to accept you but there will be a roller coaster of events that will vary between subtle and overt until one day you come to a fork in the road. If you don’t chose rightly you’ll witness what true hell is.

    Reply
    1. Ahab

      ” If you don’t chose rightly you’ll witness what true hell is.”

      By this, I take it you mean that all those “accepting” people respond with hostility to thise who refuses to convert? Sadly, I’ve seen it myself. Many evangelicals present a friendly facade in the hopes of winning you over to their religion, but if you refuse to convert, that niceness wears off REAL fast.

      Reply
      1. ... Zoe ~

        Yes.

        Reply
  9. Texas Born & Bred

    Playing rock and praise and worship music, dressing down, getting rid of pews, and acting all hip and cool, hides the fact that the message is still the same …

    I have brought this to the attention of the leaders of the church I attend. We have tried several times to “modernize” the music, etc. I like to remind the leaders that the music, dressing, and pew arrangement are superficial. If people wanted to attend, they should because of their beliefs, period.

    My case is a good example. I was raised Catholic. I went to college, but the prettiest girls were Methodist. So I went to a Methodist church. They sang hymns in the Methodist church (something I had never done before). At 19, my music was acid rock. Led Zeppilin, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, etc was what I enjoyed. But I was able to shift gears and actually enjoy the church hymns. I really liked most melodies and liked studying the lyrics. The lyrics spoke volumes to me about faith from people who had much more difficult lives than mine. They were inspiring to say the least.

    So a hip, cool, rock-based church worship service is not what attracted me to the Methodist church.

    It was the pretty girls.

    Reply
    1. Reverend Greg

      Thanks, Texas. There has been a move in the church to ‘modernize’ the worship. What we have endeded up with is music that appeals to middle-aged white suburbanites that has a catchy tune but very little depth.

      Reply
  10. Christian Kemp

    I noticed the word sell in the blog post, you do not think maybe this is all it is. Selling a product to make money? Maybe these people are far smarter all be it unethical than we think.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      I think it is likely these folks are sincere. The problem is they think God talks directly to them. There is no way to disprove a subjective, supposedly supernatural experience. I started five churches. In every instance I thought God was “leading” me to start the churches. I now know I started them because I wanted to. The voice of God was really the voice of Bruce. When you are conditioned to believe God speaks to you it becomes quite easy to hear God’s voice.

      Reply
      1. Mika'il

        “When you are conditioned to believe God speaks to you it becomes quite easy to hear God’s voice.”

        Isn’t is amazing how “God” always happens to agree with our plans, visions, social, and political views? LOL!

        Reply
      2. Ahab

        Once, I asked a fundamentalist how he knew that God was truly speaking to him. “How do you know that’s God? How do you know that’s not you?”

        I never got a coherent answer from him, which says volumes, methinks.

        Reply
  11. MichaelL65

    Who names these churches? I mean, “Elevate”?
    What the hell is that supposed to mean?

    Reply
  12. Randy

    Great post Bruce! Just what’s needed, ‘another church’. Going to the Fort Wayne Wikipedia page I learned… “Fort Wayne is sometimes referred to as the “City of Churches,” an unofficial moniker dating to the late-19th century when the city was the regional hub of Catholic, Lutheran, and Episcopal faiths.[79] Today, there are approximately 360 churches in the city.” City area 110.83 sq mi …. 3 churches per square mile.

    Not to mention the fact that: “As of December 2012, four national Christian denominations were headquartered in the city: the American Association of Lutheran Churches, Fundamental Baptist Fellowship Association, Missionary Church, Inc., and Fellowship of Evangelical Churches. Fort Wayne is the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend (covering 14 counties in Northern Indiana) and the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod’s Indiana District”

    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Wayne,_Indiana#Religion)

    Reply
  13. Dameocrat

    Judging from the language used in their about us tab, it seems obvious they are trying to trick people interested in the liberal emerging church movement into going to an ifb type church. So I wouldn’t call them sincere.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Yeah, I thought their advertising was somewhat deceptive. Of course, many churches do this. I am all for full-disclosure. :)

      Reply
  14. Betty

    You all have no idea what your talking about. It seams to me that most of you judging don’t even go there or even know what they do in Fort Wayne. Your comments are all really hateful and I hope that for your sake life is nicer to you then you choose to be to others. From what I’ve seen of them on TV and on the site they are caring and giving. Your blog is not needed because the community will decide for itself if something is good or bad. I suppose since I disagree with your stance? You’ll delete this because its obvious you judge based on your personal hate and not on facts. Bruce may life be nicer to you then you have chosen to be to this pastor of a church you went to once! And by the way this is not the 50′s. Women preach in many denominations of the christian faith!

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      This post is based on their ad, website, ecclesiastical connections, and Evangelicalism in general. It is my personal opinion.

      How can you possibly know that I “hate?” Do you have a special gift that allows you to discern motives and feelings via the internet? Besides, aren’t you responding exactly the way you accuse me of?

      Why would I not approve your comment?

      And please, in any further comment, please interact with what I actually wrote.

      Reply

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