Megachurch pastor Steven Furtick, pastor and founder of Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, is the latest victim of "fake news".
A number of people were fooled by an article published by The Babylon Bee, a satirical news website covering issues in the Christian community, titled "Steven Furtick Signs 6-Year, $110 Million Contract With Lakewood Church."
"In a stunning move that is making waves throughout evangelicalism, Pastor Steven Furtick has announced he has come to an agreement with Lakewood Church to preach alongside Joel Osteen, forming the core of a 'superstar preaching team'", the satirical article says.
"The contract is worth $110 million over the next six years, Lakewood confirmed, making it the largest the preaching world has ever seen."
Finally, Furtick was forced to address the rumor - which he did in a Facebook video published over the weekend titled "CONSIDER THE SOURCE."
"All right, just a quick reminder something you already know, something my mom taught me since I was a little boy: Always consider the source," Furtick says in the video.
"A friend of mine sent me a link the other day to a fake article on a satirical website to make it look like I was leaving Elevation Church to go to another church like an NBA free agent for a big contract. And of course, none of that is true. I'm not leaving Elevation Church. The thing was meant to be a joke. Whether it's funny or right for them to post that, that's up for you to decide, but what's crazy to me is the number of people who believed it. And then even spread it around that I was leaving my church."
Thousands of people "liked" and "shared" Furtick's video, while others commented words of encouragement.
"Babylon Bee can be pretty funny, but this one was not. As soon I read the article I could tell. Pastor Steven wouldn't walk away from Elevation like that," wrote one commenter.
Wrote another: "Pastor Steven, I knew that you would address this falsehood! You are the most honest, real, true, sincere Man of God that I know! You are my pastor and I thank God each and everyday for the truth that you allow God to speak through you! Thank you for sharing this even though my family and I knew it was not true and spoken through someone who most likely is not serving God! God bless you Pastor Steven and Holly and your children!"
Charisma News notes that last year, Furtick was the victim of another Babylon Bee headline claiming the pastor installed a water slide as a baptismal.
"That article that was published was 100% false," Elevation Church said in response. "All of their articles are false. We are so sorry for any confusion that the article may have caused. We do not have a water slide. We take baptisms very seriously at our church. We believe baptism is the outward expression of an inward decision to put your faith in Jesus."