Disabled Child Removed from Church Service for Being a Distraction

Elevation Church, founded by seeker driven pastor Steven Furtick, has made news headlines for removing a child from services for being a “distraction.”

On Easter Sunday, twelve-year-old Jackson Helms, who suffers from Cerebral Palsy, attended Elevation Church with his family.  During worship, Jackson, according to his mother, “let out his own kind of ‘amen’ ” and was quickly removed from the service by Elevation staff.

The following is from an article on wsoctv.com:

“Easter Sunday he got all dressed up, got ready to go, no small feat with a kiddo like him,” she said.  But, right after the opening prayer inside Elevation’s sanctuary that Sunday, Helms said Jackson voiced his own kind of “Amen.”

“We were very abruptly escorted out.”  Kelly Helms said.

Helms said it was not a good feeling but saw an opportunity to contact the pastor with an offer to start a ministry for special needs children.  She says the idea was rejected.

When Eyewitness News went to Elevation Church, an employee told us they focus on worship and not ministries.  (Source)

While some people will argue that a child like Jackson disrupts service, I would argue that Jackson’s mother is the one who is responsible for controlling his outburst, which sounded like a mild outburst, to be honest.  But if anyone out there feels like strenuously defending Furtick and Elevation Church, then I urge them to consider what one wise commentor of the above news article pointed out:

Luke 14:12-14 Then Jesus said to his host,”When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.

Jun. 10, 2011 5:50pm EST | from smahl2075


I would say Furtick and Elevation should mold themselves more after the Savior and less after the circus church of the day.

29 thoughts on “Disabled Child Removed from Church Service for Being a Distraction

  1. Berakah

    Years ago there was a young disabled man who used to come to the church we were attending. He couldn’t talk but had a computer to aid his communication. He would sit right up in front in his wheelchair worshiping the Lord with the rest of us. Sometimes we would have 3 or 4 disabled people from the same group home come. There were those in the church who looked with disdain on this group. I loved to watch them. They too may have had “mild outbursts”, but their love of God was very evident and if we start limiting who is allowed in the building, then we need to get rid of the phraise, “whosoever will” from our vocabulary

  2. Mike A

    I am not sure words can fully express how angry I am at hearing this! Allow me to be as polite as possible with my response:


    Please – spare me the “there is probably not much gospel being preached there” – that is NOT the point. The point is that once again, when a family does not match up with the “churches” (I use that term as loosely as possible on this issue) philosophy of feel good gospel, they promptly cast them aside. I truly fear for the soul of the leadership who agreed and took part – who has the ability other than God to judge the soul of that young man?

    Allow me to go a little further: I witness not necessarily this, but single adults and couples do not fit the “needs” of the church(i.e. a family of four with s high, steady paycheck that they love to make offerings in abundance from) This is disgusting; it is not the bride of Christ but truly a den of thieves!

    This disgusted pastor has had enough – when was the love of Christ not big enough to include the even this young man?

    Mike A
    (Thoroughly angry pastor)

    1. Chrystal Whitt Post author

      If I’m not mistaken, the church claims they were escorted to an area where they could listen to the service….they just couldn’t be a part of it.

  3. ian vincent

    But Furtick is allowed to make outbursts from the platform, i spose.

    Are these people for real?

    Wasn’t there anyone of any Christian character in the audience that day who could have got up and stopped the staff from removing the child? I would have.

    Related to “churches” like Elevation Church:

    Consider that the woman in Rev 17 : MYSTERY BABYLON, false christianity, rides the Beast (satan) for a long time, but near the end of the age, the Beast she rides turns on her and destroys her. No free ride for her. No free lunch, i spose.

    Interesting that God will use satan, whom false christianity used to become successful, to destroy her. Satan will destroy false christianity, but only at the Sovereign command of God. Then a new religion shall emerge out of the ashes of false christianity, which is even worse: the kingdom of the Beast.

    The moral of the story is that if you ever compromise the Truth of the Scriptures in order to be more popular or successful, then there is a pay-day coming. The beast you ride, who was so nice to you; who blessed you; who propelled you up the ladder in the religion business, will bare his fangs, turn on you and destroy you.

    You’ve been taken for a ride.


  4. Beraca

    There’s a boy in our church who does similar things, mild outbursts, etc. His mother will sometimes ‘shhh’ him and he obeys her for the most part. It is a distraction to me. However, I would not want him or his Mom removed. I guess I look at it as the Lord is using him to teach me or someone else something.

  5. Shannon

    I don’t know all the details of what happened, but I do know that when Jesus said “let the children come to me,” he didn’t offer stipulations about only welcoming children with the typical number of chromosomes or the proper church behavior. I am sad for churches who miss out on the opportunity to serve alongside these families and their children. I coordinate special needs ministry for a large church in Raleigh, NC, and write a blog about it (www.theworksofgoddisplayed.com). Without a supportive, welcoming environment, many families who have a member with special needs can’t worship or be involved in other church activities. In 1 Corinthians 12, it is clear that ALL parts of the body of Christ are essential, and that we should more highly esteem those who others might look down on.

    I’m praying for this family and this church tonight. And I’m praying that other churches may learn from this and choose to respond in a welcoming way when a family like this comes to their church.

  6. Harry

    ” they focus on worship and not ministries”.
    Are they worshiping to get a good feeling?
    The worship was so good this morning, why, because my flesh felt good.
    The 5 fold ministry is there to train the church to do the work of the ministry not come to church “worship” and go home and think you pleased God.
    What pleases God is to take care of widows and orphans and to keep yourself from being corrupted by the world.
    I am not saying we should not worship, worship is important.
    If serving does not flow from us as a fruit of our worship we are worshiping something other than the God of the bible.

  7. Ruitje

    Sad that a seeker driven church acts that way. I think those churches are only interested in growing big, they don’t care about the sheep. May be this pastor didn’t like it that that child got the attention instead of the pastor himself…

  8. Annunk

    How many times have I sat in church with a baby whose “coooos” gradually turn into SCREAMS during the service? Or toddlers really letting loose during the service? (And no, I’m not in a tinsy little church either.)
    Does anyone offer to help them to the door? Nope.

    As disruptive as it may have been, this child was made in God’s image – (just like everyone else who was in there) What a sad witness this was to this mother – let alone her dear son. But that’s OK. I mean thik about it! This pastor’s church leadership got some “free advertising” out of this. Oh yeah…

  9. Rick Frueh

    I wonder how many “distractions” Jesus had to deal with at the Sermon on the Mount or in front of the five thousand? One can only imagine.

  10. Brian

    Steve Furtick is a HIRELING!!!

    John 10: 12-14
    12But the hired servant (he who merely serves for wages) who is neither the shepherd nor the owner of the sheep, when he sees the wolf coming, deserts the flock and runs away. And the wolf chases and snatches them and scatters [the flock]. 13Now the hireling flees because he merely serves for wages and is not himself concerned about the sheep [cares nothing for them]. 14I am the Good Shepherd; and I know and recognize My own, and My own know and recognize Me.

  11. Grant

    I don’t know how elevated this pastor is but he may have an elevated concept of himself that needs to be deflated a bit

  12. Dave

    So very sad that people would do something like this. Furtick should know better. Pray for his repentance…this is the kind of thing leaders are made to answer for.

  13. Steve

    If there is so much distraction that the message can’t be preched then maybe you could discreetly ask someone to move to the back or out into the hall. If all you came for was shouting and whooping and hollering then it shouldn’t be too much of a distraction. If you didn’t hear the word preached anyway, let the distractions begin. Blame it on the anointing. But if you are there to be fed and to grow, if you are there to let the Spirit speak, then distractions can be a…distraction.

  14. Sandy

    Unbelievable. What a fantastic way to model true Christian discipleship. I mean, we wouldn’t want anyone to feel slightly uneasy or uncomfortable, now, would we? There is a disabled teen in our small congregation who often makes loud whooping sounds. He is most welcomed by our congregation as a part of the church family because the pastors and elders welcome him as a part of our congregation. THAT is a beautiful picture of the of the Gospel.

  15. Carolyn

    Those who are consumed with perfection, will miss the beauty of innocence and unspoiled worship, the gift of uncontaminated joy that exudes from these bubbly, unselfconscious souls that God has been pleased to bless us with.

    I don’t think that putting a special needs child out of a meeting is the worst of Steven Furtick’s warped thinking, although it is painfully ignorant and pridefully contemptuous.

    But apart from that, in listening to Steven’s “sermons”, he is a product of his mentors. Just by listening to the content, you can tell who these mentors are. He is a product of WOF, Positive Thinking, Purpose Driven and Laws of Attraction, to name a few. He is well rehearsed in their manipulation for money tactics and he incorporates their dramatic tirades for strategies of growth and expansion. Ah yes, nothing new under the sun. And of course he uses the Word to back up all of his vain imaginations and boasts of God’s “blessing” on his accomplishments.

    2 Tim. 4:3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

    Where is the truth in Steven’s rantings? It’s not there. These paths that Steven travels on, are distorted, crooked and deceitful. I only have to listen to him for a few seconds and I know exactly where he’s headed having heard it all before.

    Hopefully that woman with her sweet special needs child will move, not just out of the midst of the congregation, but right on out the doors. Steven is the real distraction from the Word…not the child.

    Pslam 145:18 The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.

    I pray that Steven will wake up and start reading the Word…….in Spirit and in Truth…for his own benefit and the benefit of all his hearers.

  16. Pam Kissiah

    My son is severely disabled by Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation, Epilepsy and Landau-Kleffner Syndrome. He too would make noises, cry, sometimes even scream during services. No, it is not always possible to control his outbursts. No matter how hard you (as a parent) try to control a child like this or explain proper etiquette, these children just do not understand. I used to try to do just that. If he became too loud, I would try to take him outside so he wouldn’t disturb the other people who came to worship. There was one pastor who called me down for it. His name was Junior Jenkins. If I got up to take Dakota out, he would stop the service and tell me to sit back down. He told me that any preacher worth his salt could preach past a crying child. He made us feel welcome, just as Jesus would have done. I understand that behaviors like these could be unsettling to some people, but you have to consider what Jesus would do in that same situation. He would not have asked that family to leave. How can you call yourself a man of God if you don’t do what He would do?

  17. minimex3

    WOW! It is interesting to witness such a feeding freenzey by the naysayers of the “the church”. My gut feeling tells me that last week you were complaining about someone else and next week you will have moved on to another victim to cast your stones at. If we’re going to selectively quote scripture then I submit Ephesians 4, specifically vs. 29-32.

    I gather by watching the video mentioned in Revelation 2:5’s post on Jun 12 that Elevation knows “the church” better than it knows it’s self.

    Try to live what you believe rather that believing what you live…

  18. Carolyn

    @Pam…so great that you found such an accepting place. My sister is Downs…she has been welcomed as well, as she sings lustily, in her monotone voice. No one minds because she loves singing and she loves Jesus.
    Wouldn’t it be an idea to have more special needs awareness opportunities and a few less “outreach” days for kids that already have too much popcorn and cotton candy? Just sayin…

  19. Carolyn

    Touche my friend, Minimex3…Read the rest of Ephesians to find out how we are instructed to expose false teachers. We don’t live in a fairy tale land of love and light. These are perilous times with perilous consequences, increasing exponentially because of false teachers, wolves in sheep’s clothing which Paul warned about.
    Ephesians 5:
    8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, BUT RATHER EXPOSE THEM……..
    14 This is why it is said:
    “Wake up, sleeper,
    rise from the dead,
    and Christ will shine on you.”
    15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise

    By all means, tell us when our criticisms are unjustified, but don’t just make a baseless criticism of us because it is your opinion that we are being unloving. Where’s your biblical proof of our error? We are merely obeying Christ’s command…
    “Don’t be deceived…watch out for wolves who come to you in sheep’s clothing!!!!”

  20. Michael Acidri

    Interesting. My question then what would Steven Furtick do with Steven Hawkings (yes, the physicist) if he wheeled himself into his entertainment complex that he calls a church?

  21. Rob Tennant

    @ revelation 2:5 / minimex3 In the “haters” video, Steven doesn’t address anything specific. Essentially, he’s rebuffing anyone who would criticize him for anything. But, he offers no substantive response. Minimex 3, you don’t address the issue being discussed in this thread. What specifically are the “naysayers” saying? Does their critique have any merit. And to Crystal Whitt … that is the church’s response. But, to move someone to another room in the middle of the service presents its own problems. This wasn’t a crying baby, but a child who is intelligent but doesn’t communicate the way you are I might. So is the young person a second-class worshiper because of his or her disability?

  22. Rob Tennant

    Here is another account of what happened, with more information. http://www.schuylersmonsterblog.com/2011/06/story-of-distraction.html

    For those who want to criticize Furtick, and I am certainly no fan of his, if this report is true, then he did the right thing in following up. He also probably did the right thing in being careful about how he approached the media.

    His “haters” video is just not in any way helpful because it’s not apparent who or what he is talking about.

  23. Frank Donahue

    what I find the most angering about tihs is the total lack for the respect of our Loard Jeasus Christ who said , and that which you do to the least of mine you do to me !!!!!!!!!!!
    So would they have asked our Loard to leave if he was a distraction in the service
    Whould Christ even enter into that building or would he have overturned the pews and the self serving pulpet

    Frank Donahue a proud member in Christ in the United Methodest Church

  24. jason

    According to steve’s new book title “sun stand still”, I figured he would at least been able to “heal the sick.” Guess he forgot to pray that prayer. Besides, it just looks better trying to make the sun stand still than actually praying for someone. His cover would be blown because of the lack of power.

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