Together for the Gospel (T4G) 2012: Bigger and Better?

"Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely."

– Lord Acton



Together for the Gospel (T4G) 2012 is fast approaching, and the Fab Four are hoping for a record breaking crowd at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky. If you’re wondering why C.J. Mahaney bailed out of Covenant Life Church to attend Capitol Hill Baptist Church (CHBC), there is a strong possibility that it has everything to do with T4G. As C.J. Mahaney stated in his May 2008 message to the CHBC congregation,

“And I must make at least one brief comment about Together for the Gospel. If you aren’t aware of this conference, it just took place a few weeks ago in Louisville, Kentucky. It was attended by over 5,500 primarily pastors were in attendance. This conference is really the fruit of your senior pastor’s leadership, you senior pastor’s friendship with a number of individuals.”

Let’s stop right there. Do you know how the Fab Four (Dever, Duncan, Mahaney, and Mohler) became acquainted? Ligon Duncan spilled the beans on the T4G blog several years ago by explaining:

“T4G is a biennial conference that grew out of a set of now Gospel friendships. Mark Dever, Al Mohler, C.J. Mahaney and I had all been friends for a number of years (Mark, Al and I have known one another since the 1980s, and Mark introduced Al and me to C.J.).”

At one time the link to Duncan’s comment on the T4G blog worked (; however, the website has been revamped and the Together for the Gospel blog no longer exists. Oh well… At least we know with certainty who introduced C.J. Mahaney to Al Mohler and Ligon Duncan, namely Mark Dever.

What follows are my personal thoughts and opinions on the Together for the Gospel conference.

First of all, if you check the Together for the Gospel address at the bottom of the website, you will see “525 A Street NE, Washington, DC 20002”. Now let’s verify the mailing address for Capitol Hill Baptist Church. It is “525 A Street, N.E., Washington, D.C. 20002”. So T4G is headquartered at Capitol Hill Baptist Church…  With the planning of T4G 2012 in full swing, it seems obvious to me why Mahaney made his move from Covenant Life Church to Capitol Hill Baptist Church. My guess is that he is devoting much effort toward the planning of the largest ever T4G conference. I have heard that they are hoping for 10,000 attendees. And that’s certainly possible. As Mahaney stated above, there were over five thousand attendees in 2008 and I believe over seven thousand in 2010. With the T4G conference being held for the first time in Louisville’s new arena, they will probably exceed their goal.

Here is the crux of what I would like to discuss about this conference. Do you have any idea how much revenue a conference of this size generates? Don’t forget about the HUGE bookstore. It appears to me that the organizers of T4G have modeled their conference after the ones planned by AMWAY kingpins who have excelled at this marketing approach for two or three decades. One such kingpin lives here in Raleigh and holds conferences in the very same Louisville arena where T4G will soon take place. Indications are that there were fifteen thousand attendees at that kingpin’s most recent conference. Back in 2004, Chris Hansen of Dateline did an undercover investigation of this AMWAY kingpin who hails from my area. It was appropriately called “In Pursuit of the Almighty Dollar”. Here is the transcript.  The bottom line of this investigation was that these leaders perched atop their pyramids make most of their money from conference fees, books, and other sales tools.

As far as I can determine, the conference fees charged for T4G are comparable to those charged by AMWAY kingpins. And it’s obvious that there are a ton of books sold at Together for the Gospel. What happens to all that cash collected from conference fees and book sales? We are talking millions of dollars. Yes, I know that there is a substantial charge for renting the facility, but…

Mahaney explained that mostly pastors attend T4G. By that I’m sure he also meant future pastors, as in seminary students (who attend at a reduced rate). Have you ever thought about who is paying for these pastors to attend T4G? Conference fees, hotel and food costs, as well as transportation? My guess is that the churches are paying all of these expenses. I wonder if church members even know that their pastor is attending this conference.

It has been interesting to see more speakers being added to T4G 2012. I wonder what their cut will be (sorry, I meant honorarium). I also wonder if they will be advertising their latest book at the conference. You know the answer to that!

Where are those who are sounding the warning about these Calvinista prophets who appear to be profiting handsomely from this venture? Does anyone know how much these guys are pocketing from this conference? Does anyone even care?

Then there is the “Together for the Gospel” label. Yes, those who label themselves as New Calvinists (whom we call Calvinistas) are congregating, but what about Christians outside their narrow little circle? Would they feel welcome at T4G? It is obvious from the roster of speakers that they would not.  Not much togetherness from my perspective.

What is most amazing is that these pastors or pastor wannabe’s soak up all this information at the conferences and come out sounding just alike. It certainly appears that the Fab Four have been successful in cloning the T4G attendees. Recently, I checked out the website of a Southern Baptist church located in a small town here in North Carolina which will remain unnamed. The relatively young pastor graduated from a Southern Baptist Seminary and has links on the church website to the websites of Mahaney, Mohler, Dever, Piper, etc. In his blog he often quotes these men whom he revers. I can’t help but wonder how his strong allegiance to these leaders affects his congregation. Perhaps this church (which was recently established) is a foreshadowing of things to come as the Calvinistas increase their sphere of influence and try to advance their movement throughout Christendom.  Since Dever, the mastermind of Together for the Gospel, is BIG on church discipline, expect things to change in churches across America as the T4G attendees go back and implement what they have been taught. Dever’s Nine Marks are having a significant impact throughout Christendom as well.

Here is the bottom line. As long as the Together for the Conference is successful, there will be ripple effects throughout the churches and organizations where the T4G attendees have influence. Dee and I are extremely concerned by the hyper-authoritarianism exhibited by this crowd, and we believe much is at stake. One has to wonder whether there is a direct correlation between the Calvinstas (who are so dogmatic about their theology) and the success of Rob Bell’s book Love Wins. It is clear from our commenters here at TWW that true believers are being driven out of hyper-authoritarian churches in DROVES!

Yes, it’s a no brainer that C.J. Mahaney is closely associating himself with Mark Dever and Capitol Hill Baptist Church during the planning stages of the Together for the Gospel conference.  There is much work to be done to make T4G 2012 the biggest and best conference ever! Is Mahaney double-dipping by receiving a salary from both SGM and T4G?  It will be interesting to “observe” what happens regarding Mahaney’s church affiliation after the conference is over. Rest assured, we will be watching.

Thanks for letting me rant about something that is extremely upsetting to me. It grieves me deeply when I see so-called prophets become profiteers. Is anyone besides Dee and me upset about the ever-increasing Christian conferences? Your feedback will be greatly appreciated.


Lydia's Corner:        1 Kings 19:1-21     Acts 12:1-23     Psalm 136:1-26     Proverbs 17:14-15



Together for the Gospel (T4G) 2012: Bigger and Better? — 98 Comments

  1. First, let me say …

    my name is FSGP and I am a recovered conference-aholic!

    Deb, at first I was going to agree with you and Dee and say that conference mania upset me, but I am numb to it. Conference mania is a symptom of a greater illness plaguing the evangelical church.

    Conference-free for over 3 years,
    Former SG Pastor

  2. FSGP

    How long did the withdrawal symptoms last? When did you realize that you could buy most of the books they hawk at these conferences on Amazon for half price or used for $0.01 +$3.99 shipping? And what did you do with all the T-Shirts?

  3. Dee,

    Don’t ya know that those autographed books are priceless? Gotta go to the conference to get John Piper’s John Hancock. What a bunch of groupies. It’s so embarrassing…

  4. FSGP,

    Someone on SGM Survivors commented a while back that the money he spent on conferences, books, CD’s, etc. was roughly equivalent to the amount he contributed to his SGM church. That’s incredible! Such a waste of financial resources in my opinion.

  5. To Whom It May Concern:

    Kris over at SGM Survivors has posted the following information which may be of interest to some of our readers:

    A Request From A Reporter

    “I received a request yesterday from a reporter at the Washington Post. She is interested in talking with those who are willing to go on the record, under their real names, and speak about their experiences with Sovereign Grace Ministries. This reporter and I have exchanged several emails, and we’ve come up with the following arrangement: if you would be willing to be interviewed, please email me, and I will forward your message on to her.”

  6. How many conferences did the Apostle Paul set up? How many did Jesus set up? How much did they charge? When are we ever going to cut out all of this man made foolishness?

  7. Dee –

    Tees = Rags

    Withdrawal was brutal. MsFSGP put me in a rubber room with 4-pt restraints. This was tough because before I was a 5 pointer (calvinista nurse humor). I hallucinated conference speakers in every corner of the house. I had a recurring nightmare that I kept missing the early bird registration rate and had to pay full price. Then it got really weird; I had a vision that I was trying to read a big stack of books from a conference, but all the books contained endorsements by the speakers from the conference.

    Wait, that last part was real.

    Much better since the voices stopped,
    Former SG Pastor

  8. You sure you’re not talking about the KFC Yum! Center? It opened a year ago. Freedom Hall’s been around since the 50s.

  9. Yeah… I knew that T4G was housed at CHBC. I know that addy by heart, lol. Hey, I was prideful! Gimme a break, will ya! I’ve come to my senses now.

    About T4G…

    –the hype. T4G to the reformed Calvinista crowd is like high school prom and an invitation to Heaven…early. Everyone you have come to respect, love and savor their thoughts will be under one roof. The funny thing about it is that it’s not marketed to women. In fact, women are very minimal and are serving in places such as in the bookstall or at the 9Marks booth etc… Women who come to help might attend the talks, but many simply aren’t geared toward them. As a woman, though, you wanna go help out in that bookstall pretty damn bad. Every eligible single wannabe pastor is gonna make his way there and you’d be proud to sell him a pocket ESV whilst batting your lashes as little as possible. You don’t wanna be regarded as a harlot. When I passed up the offer to go help on my own dime, I felt like I had given up an amazing opportunity.

    When everyone returned,it was the talk for weeks. You felt like you missed something amazing, like you missed prom or the spiritual lottery. Not only do you have the likes of Dever, Piper, Duncan and Anyabwile, but you have men like Anthony J. Carter and the Gospel coalition joining ranks who are now spreading a neo-reformed movememt in the urban communities. It’s a Mecca for the reformed, and you should make that pilgrimage at least once in your lifetime.

    To hear women tell stories of men coming into the bookstore talking about their love of the gospel, the local church, their wives and families…well, that put many of those girls to tears. To them, they had an overwhelming spiritual experience. I thought I had missed the op of a lifetime.

    The bookstore was a huge job, and those attending came home with about 15-20 books. That number is not exact. I heard it was a zoo!

    –Freedom Hall. This was in the plans for a minute now. I heard about it last year on response to the turnout they had. Apparently, the town had also seen the mega money maker this convention would bring and wants to profit from it as well. They mentioned plans of revamping parts of that area and doing some upgrades.

    –9Marks. That’s part of the underlying mission of nine marks and that is building and planting healthy churches. That has been done in various ways by inviting pastors and seminary students and associates to weekenders. During the average weekender, these participants get to see what life is like at CHBC. They are the model church for healthy churches. These participants get to see everything from how a members meeting is conducted, how administrative things are dealt with, how they do missions, sermon preparation, service review, how they do baptisms, order of service, as well as forums where questions and answers happen through discussion with pastors and elders.

    There are breakout sessions on different topics. These visitors also sit in on a Sunday service as well as evening service to understand the difference in formats. They see how communion is done. They have dinners and see how the local church serves one another. Some stay at people’s houses or in common houses that are shared by men, etc… Part of this is a dinner where members who “represent” the church community and work for the church. Usually, that’s… Mmhm. You guessed. Families with children, married people. There ARE some singles but very few and will likely be men.

    It’s an entire weekend of shock and awe. And a lot of those small town guys leave looking like they saw their first skyscraper. This church is very unique — where it is, Capitol Hill, its influence in the community, the types of people who attend are high earning professionals or ivy leaguers or Hill staffers. Most of them a bunch of hardworking, A-type overachievers. It’s the place where if you want something done, it will sure as hell get done and with unparalleled perfection. THAT becomes the norm and in the end, the normal folks who don’t work like that get burned out FAST. They’re gonna exceed 100 percent. They are going to do it 500 percent for the gospel. (insert smirk).

    There are many Sundays where men who feel called to ministry and have been pursuing that track will preach at other area churches. Apparently, most men in the neo-reformed Calvinista crowd are “gifted” for ministry (insert another smirk). Much of this is intentional and much of the preaching and messages are homogenous in style and organization. It’s like cloned leadership. It makes for very awkward sermons at times.

    –another way that nine marks influences other churches is by meeting with pastors of those churches, developing relationships, giving them materials to read and maybe even some for their own bookstalls. They do mentoring type relationships in hopes of helping other churches become healthy churches. The Gospel Coalition is doing quite the same thing.

    –churches who believe they are healthy also help other churches by sending members over to become part of those congregations where the leadership wants reform and they are supposed to model healthy church members. It’s all weird.

    I’m half sleepy so some of this just isn’t worded the best. But yeah, these are good questions you are asking. There are answers. You may not like them either as I found that I didn’t at all.

  10. BrianD,

    You are correct. Thanks for letting me know that I was using the wrong name to describe the new Louisville arena.

    Have you seen this promotion video of the guys playing basketball in the new arena?

    The Game

    Playing basketball in street shoes? Where are the sneakers? The funniest part of the video is Mohler tweeting on the sidelines while play is underway.

  11. FSGP said:
    “I had a recurring nightmare that I kept missing the early bird registration rate and had to pay full price.”

    LOL!!! So true…

    FSGP, I also enjoyed reading this part of your comment: “Then it got really weird; I had a vision that I was trying to read a big stack of books from a conference, but all the books contained endorsements by the speakers from the conference. Wait, that last part was real.”

    There is no question that “it’s a business” masquerading as a ministry.

  12. No Longer Reformed,

    WOW! You saw and experienced T4G mania while attending CHBC. I had no idea the church was up to its eyeballs in this stuff, but it makes complete sense. Care to write a guest post about the information you have shared?

  13. I attended T4G a few years back. It was at the Louisville Convention Center. There weren’t any breakout sessions that I recall. There was a mandatory pre-T4G session for SG pastors.

    It was at this meeting that SG announced a realigment. Shank and Detwiler were de-commissioned as apostles. The troops were enjoined to behave and to not scare they nonCharismatics. The enjoiners didn’t realize that SG was mostly nonCharismatic at that time.

    T4G was like a big rock concert. And like a big concert, attenders who don’t like the band that is currently playing complain. People slept through Duncan. They found Mohler incomprehensible. They called Anyabwile repetitive.

    Many did not like the music which was lead by Bob Kauflin. I sat by some CHBC guys who refused to sing and had to be browbeat by their peers to even stand for the songs.

    Attenders acted like teenaged girls at a Beattles concert for John Piper. All the other bands were teasers leading up to JP.

    CJ closed out the show. Or so I heard. I joined the throng that headed to the airport to catch an earlier flight.

    The most vivid memory I have was of my senior pastor complaining the whole time about how going to a conference was work for him. Talk about a buzz-kill.

    Ah, memories …
    Former SG Pastor

  14. Eagle

    Mahaney is taking a walkabout, not unlike the Queen of England was advised to do when she was ignoring Diana’s death.This walkabout was the beginning of the the rehab of the royal family’s image.

  15. Another attempt at “Christianity is cool” falls flat. Even more embarrassingly for me personally, they’re doing it on my Cards’ home floor. Maybe they can move T4G to Rupp Arena next year. Or even better, the Dean Dome. I’m sure our Blog Queens would LOVE to see this thing move from the Bluegrass to Tobacco Road. 😉

  16. Craig,

    Great comment!

    All Calvinstas should make the trek to Mecca at least once in their lifetime, so even though you are disappointed about choice of venue, I hope T4G remains in Louisville.

  17. Cindy K,

    Thanks for sharing the link to the “conference mania” series. I will definitely read it. I’m not sure that most people understand how hypnotic these conference situations can be. You have loud music, talk after talk, and often attendees are kept up half the night. All of this is done on purpose because it robotizes participants. What FSGP shared is true. You have to go through a detox program before you understand how brainwashing these conference experiences can be.

  18. Deb,

    I spent the first 30 years of my life under religious hypnosis. What I am so grateful for was that my local church focused, focused, focused on hiding the Word in your heart and knowing what was written in God’s promises to us. How brokenhearted I was on the day I awakened from it. I’d been duped into serving the church instead of serving God, for a grand part. I pray that despite whatever else crazy goes on in churches that the Word of God never returns void in the hearts of those who love Him. It has been true for me, and I am so thankful to God for it.

  19. Cindy K,

    I am grateful God’s Word did not return void in your life. I have to give you A LOT of credit for opening my eyes to the dangers of patriarchy in the church. Thank you for making that presentation at the seminary that will remain unnamed. God providential led me to watch all of those YouTube videos of your talk, and my eyes have been opened! Likewise, we are trying to help others see the truth here at TWW.

  20. I have a couple different family members who have been to T4G. They purchased no books. However, they were given 6-8 free books each year(new, amazon retail over $100 total). These books were given to everyone in attendance. So let’s see, that’s over $700,000.00 in book revenue given away if there were 7000 attendee’s and everyone took the free book giveaways.

    I am sure this is because it was actually a sinister way to make MORE money somehow…

  21. Good try, Joey! The publishers aren’t stupid. They give away free books to pastors because they want these pastors to promote the books so that congregants will go out and buy them. If it weren’t profitable for them to give away the books, they wouldn’t be doing it.

  22. FSGP–

    Maybe I was wrong about the breakout sessions, i.e. different talk sessions, but it’s what I remember. My memory is shotty these days… which leads to…


    I’d love to, but I’m afraid that I may not be able to recall the details as fine tuned as would be needed for truth’s sake and the integrity of this blog. What I’ve written here is pretty much what I recall. But I don’t recall much more than that. Also, being that I didn’t get to go, I don’t have any knowledge of actually being there. I just know about the frenzy, the importance of it amongst the calvanistas, and other people’s remarks and heartfelt exclamations. I do know a bit about T4G, Ligoneer and Gospel Coalition. The GC is like the urban branch of the Reformed crowd.

    Anyways, that’s just my two cents, but if you think that’s enough to offer, then sure, I’d be happy to rewrite it for a post.

    Funny that Craig said that because I think I said that here or on another blog and thought the same thing. Like all Calvanistas should get to T4G at least once in their lives–it’s the neo-Reformed mecca.

  23. Joey doesn’t know that the bookstore sold tons of books. You don’t just walk in there and get all the books for free. I know this because I was going to volunteer to work in the bookstore.

    It is true, though, that conference attendees did get several books along with registration, but that’s nothing to do with the bookstore.

  24. Giving away books creates “reciprocity,” and obligates the recipient to give something in kind back to the giver. It is a most potent manipulation tactic of social influence.

    The Basics

    The rule of reciprocity requires that one person try to repay, in kind, what another person has provided

    Supports the giving of favors since repayment is expected from the recipient

    Sense of future obligation makes it possible to develop continuing relationships, transactions, and exchanges in society

    Members of society are trained from childhood to abide by the reciprocity rule or suffer social disapproval

    How It’s Exploited

    Rule can apply to uninvited exchanges – when exploited, others can reduce our ability to freely decide, and thus, lead us to react automatically

    Rule can spur unequal exchanges – individuals may agree to perform a substantially larger favor in return for an initial, small one

    Principle also applies to making concessions – you may reciprocate a concession if the other party seems to make one

    Ex. “Door-in-the-face” – relies on persuader making an outrageous, extreme request first, then conceding to a comparatively small request (one desired all along) that will likely be accepted because it appears to make a concession

    Also increases the likelihood person will agree to future requests

  25. If you go to T4Gs website, you can see a lot of what’s going on.

    They do allow exhibitors there… Here’s what they posted… This thing is a real money maker, fo sho.

    Also, there are going to be 9 or 10 breakout sessions with different speakers.

    T4G hopes to expose attendees to a few faithful ministries that are endorsed by the speakers. Please submit an application (see below).

    Two adjacent exhibiting areas will be available.

    •A Books for Sale area will host publishers.
    •A Books for Free area will host all other ministries.
    Like in 2010, both areas will be located in the Kentucky International Convention Center (KICC) one block from the KFC Yum! Center where plenary addresses will be given.

    T4G will provide a standard booth plus two exhibitor badges (full access pass to all sessions: Value = $458). More information will be provided to approved applicants.

    $1,000 for non-profits
    $2,000 for for-profits

  26. NLR,

    I thought what you wrote from the perspective of being an attendee of Dever’s church would be interesting, whether you actually went to T4G or not. It’s the after effects on CHBC members who went that I find interesting, and that’s what I really liked about your comment. You are an invaluable resource to us here at TWW because of your experience at Capitol Hill Baptist Church.

  27. Joey

    Tch, tch…did you forget that we have MBAs. I believe your comment was quickly dispatched in Marketing 101. You spend money to make even more money. Your seasoned out head apostle took advantage of that axiom

  28. Craig

    If they did such a thing, we would don our most glamorous clothes, Tarheel blue, along with pseudonyms and see how the pork gets spent. This is the home of pig barbecue, after all.

  29. My pastor is 48 this year. He has been a Christian for 33 years. He is a college and seminary grad. He has been a pastor for almost 20 years.

    In those years he has attended lots of meetings, conferences etc. where this sort of thing goes on – speakers, books etc.

    He has said that T4G is the most substantive and refreshing conference that he has attended in recent years. He does not agree with everything that is said, nor has he heard all of the break out speakers at those sessions.

    He does not agree with the opinions of all the speakers on all issues. But he says that the conference focuses on the Gospel and major issues (again, I don’t know about the breakout sessions) that are important to him.

    On the book thing, he sees the conference attendance fee (which is high) is not a bad deal. He said that he got about $250 worth of free books at the conference.

    Our church knows that he goes to this, and we are happy to pay his way. I have not seen any negative influence that has come out of this conference in our pastor or his work at the church.

    These 4 men have put a lot of time and energy into what they do. They have written books and speak to people in many different venues etc. I supposed they have ministered to people, and that people enjoy hearing them.

    So, I don’t see any big deal about all this.

    There are some things that I disagree with these guys about. I am not a C.J. Mahaney fan. Mark Dever and I disagree about elders and I think that the emphasis on church discipline is excessive, but we don’t engage in that kind of stuff.

    I think that overall it is a good phenomena. They are promoting the Gospel. I have not heard any heretical theology come out of this group. I think that they do want to proclaim Christ, and that they want to disciple younger people in the ministry.

    I would be for any group like this getting together and having a positive conference that ministers to other people. Not every conference does anything for me (e.g. the liberal Baptist confab – New Baptist Covenant), but I would still be in favor of their having such a conference etc. to promote their agenda (global warming, high taxes, whatever).

    I don’t see this as such a big deal. It just looks like people being free to live their lives.

  30. Anonymous

    Thank you for weighing in. It’s sounds as if you have a nice church.

    However, I want to challenge your assumptions by asking a simple question. You said, “They are promoting the Gospel.” Can you define for me what you mean by the word “Gospel” which you capitalized so you mean something very specific and then tell me how the word “Gospel” is defined by this crowd?

    Corollary: As a hint, I refer you to the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.They use Biblical to mean something more than the actually word.

  31. Dee,

    Several years ago, I took medical hypnosis classes for Nursing CEUs to help understand pain management and how to help people deal with the chaos of trauma (teaching them how to self soothe and to cope with overwhelming situations). If a patient (or you) are in intense pain, and if you can teach a patient or yourself how to pay less attention to the pain or to see their pain meds as just being 50% more effective, you’ve done a dramatic thing to help decrease debility and help mitigate dependency on medication.

    I had no idea what I would learn about how churches use this stuff. They take both the good and the weaknesses of human nature and use it for personal gain. I even learned information about where my own branch of Pentecostalism came from. I was horrified.

  32. How about we spend all the money from these intramural conferences on starving, ill and orphaned children around the world?

    Ministry needs to be separated from unbridled financial gain.

  33. I am not “anti-conference” at all. I think that there is a time and a place for everything. It is great to gather together to hear speakers and to meet with others who share common beliefs and goals. I even find professional conferences to be this way — it’s inspiring and a wonderful thing to be inspired and encouraged.

    What troubles me is the hype and the money changers outside of these things that are really about the selling of ideas (and products) under the guise of ministry and all about conformity. These parachurch groups are also a big problem in that way, blurring the distinctions.

    There are times for meeting with other believers that come along with the wonderful sense of anticipation. And there are times for helping the needy. But I agree with you over just how much money these folks earn at these conferences and just how much money they take in. We’d all be shocked, I know.

  34. “The Game”

    How cute.
    Playing basketball in sweater vests.
    The custom-made jerseys on hangers.
    All with the hymn singing in the backgound.
    Promotion. Promotion. Promotion.
    Gimmicks. It’s all a game alright.

  35. Deb says; “What follows are my personal thoughts and opinions on the Together for the Gospel conference.”

    Fair Enough. At least you don’t claim omniscient perfection. I am actually appreciative of that.

  36. Aw Matt,

    I wasn’t commenting on your comment necessarily, really just chiming in with you.

    I’m accused of all sorts of weirdness, so since I brought up the manipulation factor, I was prompted by your remark to make the distinction. Part of the problem with what goes on today arises from the lack of distinctions. Buying a Piper or a Mahaney book seems to be tantamount to tithing with some.


  37. Matt

    Amen, brother. Lots more can be done with both time and money. Imagine what these guys could accomplish by publishing less and doing more to help this world?

  38. Cindy

    You know that you are a real Christian if you have your ESV Bible autographed by John Piper during a T4G conference.

  39. Cindy K,

    Sorry, I was agreeing with you – albeit in a terse fashion.

    Conferences can have value – I have attended my share, some of which have been of benefit. I’m just so over the hero worship bologna and the book table infatuation.

    Conferences are great for reminding us of the gospel, what Jesus has done for us. Good preachers lift up the gospel every week and sometimes need refreshment themselves.

    But do we really have to spend all this money just to get everyone together and march our heroes on the stage? It’s just all so…American (excessive, narcissistic and freaking expensive).

  40. Deb–

    Thank you. I appreciate that. In that case, maybe I can work something up. Get my email from Dee and we can collaborate a little.

  41. Warning: This is OT

    Look at what Challies has said now about Brent and his document leaks…

    Here’s more sickening reasoning from non other than Challies, commenting on the SGMWikileaks situation:

    “The gospel is what offers us hope and confidence that our evil motives and our evil deeds have already been made right by Jesus. The grace and forgiveness he extends to us is what we are now called to extend to one another. Are we willing to do this, even at great personal cost?”

    and then…

    “What needs to be proven from Scripture is that this is what God would have him (Brent D ) do. It seems to me that he ought to have stopped before this and been willing to leave it in the Lord’s hands. It is not an individual’s job to make this kind of thing known to the church; it is the church’s job (by which I mean the leadership of the church). ”

    Like my good buddy who sent me this (Buddy, you know how great you are and smart too! You and your precious gal!), I’m sick of these dudes.

    Challies thinks, apparently, there hasn’t been enough “personal cost” spent on CJ and his tomfoolery. What a DB!

  42. See what believing in God’s Sovereignty more than his love and justice will have you believe! That you have to really “do” nothing, particularly in the case of exposing the ridiculous sins of a man who is very possibly and most likely sick. Is he for real?

  43. Dee,

    Agreed. I think a new model for ministers and theological personalities is in order. Here’s the deal – you get credentialed in an area of expertise or trained for a trade. You go out and get a job (like the rest of the normal world) where you get paid for DOING something.

    Once you do that and you still think you’re called to ministry we’re gonna set you up with an income but it’s going to be no more than 20% to 30% of your overall income. That way, if something happens where you need to leave the ministry, you’ll be able to handle it and you won’t have so much to lose.

    Our churches will be less interesting in terms of programming but I’ll bet our pastors won’t have time to build empires.

    Just an idea.

  44. Dee,

    Regarding your comment to Cindy about a John Piper autographed ESV Bible…please say it ain’t so.

    This is NOT happening, is it?

  45. Martin Luther and even the highly questionable modern father of theonomy (Rushdoony) would puke if they were alive.

    We have sold the Reformation for a mess of pottage.

  46. @ NLR: I agree with deb, dee and Cindy K – you have terrific insight into the way CHBC (etc.) works, and I have a lot of respect for your honesty both about that and about how you feel re. your time there. (It takes courage to post publicly about abuses and hurts, even under a pen name.)

    So… I think the “sleeping lion” in the tall grass isn’t as hidden as it was even two weeks ago… please help us to understand the dangers!

    You’re a gifted writer – and I think you + deb and/or dee could put together something pretty helpful for posting here.

    Just my .02-worth – and no pressure! [heeheehee]

  47. Dang, Dee! And come to think of it, a Muslim would never write on the Kuran. Wow. Urm… Don’t know what to say bout that.

  48. “And it’s obvious that there are a ton of books sold at Together for the Gospel. What happens to all that cash collected from conference fees and book sales?”

    The book prices were about the same as those on Amazon – the books were being sold at a considerable discount. There wasn’t any gouging going on there. Lifeway Christian Store ran the bookstore, and payments went to them.

    “Have you ever thought about who is paying for these pastors to attend T4G? Conference fees, hotel and food costs, as well as transportation? My guess is that the churches are paying all of these expenses.”

    A “conference budget” for most pastors is usually just a way to get a tax budget. Churches usually offer their pastors a lump sum and let the pastors divide it up any way they want to. For example, a church will often say that all salary and benefits for a pastor will be $50,000, and the pastor might decide to create a “conference budget” of $1,000 so he can go to T4G. But this does increase the total amount of money the pastor receives. Rather, this is simply a way for the pastor to get a tax deduction.

    There is really nothing sinister going on here – except for people like you, who hate Reformed theology and don’t want to see it spread.

  49. Matt,

    You are probably referring to the “Big” pastors. But if you mean to apply your pastor career/salary plan to all pastors, then I would have a problem with it.

  50. Totally unrelated, but given the general TWW characterization of Paige Patterson as close with Al Mohler, I was a bit surprised that he endorsed a self-published book called “A Cultish Side of Calvinism” (according to the book’s Facebook page). Don’t know what the endorsement said or much about the book, but thought it was interesting.

  51. Watcher
    Mohler and Patterson are deeply divided over Calvinism. However, it is amazing that both SBC non-Calvinists and SBC Calvinists in general support hyper-authoritarianism.

  52. Watcher,

    We haven’t mentioned Paige Patterson in the longest time, so I find your comment puzzling. Thanks for bringing “A Cultish Side of Calvinism” to our attention. We’ll look into it.

  53. Dee:

    Thanks. I have read you for some time now and believe that you would really enjoy our church.

    I define the Gospel the way that Paul did, I think in First Corithians. You will have to forgive me because I don’t have a Bible right here.

    Christ was God incarnate, came to earth and died on the cross for our sins and was raised on the third day. He became sin for us on the cross so that we might be forgiven. If we believe in him and his work, then we have the forgiveness of sin.

    That’s what I believe the Gospel is.

    It is not Christ’s ethical commands, it’s not that Christ was a good person and lived an exemplary lift, it’s not the reordering of the planet, society etc.

    All of those things may be implications of the Gospel, but they are not the Gospel.

    Our pastor preached on this just a couple of weeks ago.

    Many conservatives seem to want to add to the Gospel and make it about things they do – be a good person, live a good life, lifestyle regulations, cultural add-ons, etc. These may be implications of the Gospel, but are not the Gospel.

    Conservatives actually believe the Gospel – that Christ died for our sins, God raised Him from the dead, and if we believe in him we have eternal life and the forgiveness of sins.

    But additing to the Gospel or making other things the Gospel diminshes the Gospel, in my opinion.

    Liberals do not believe the Gospel. They are usually trying to overtly substitute something else in it’s place. The diety of Christ, his preexistence, the virgin birth, his sinless life, his substitutionary death and resurrection are all or selectively denied.

    Instead, a bunch of things are substituted. Usually one is left with a Gospel that looks like today’s liberal political agenda, and it’s read into the Bible.

    So, conservatives had the temptation of adding on and liberals have the temptation of open denial and substitution.

    Neither is good.

  54. Anonymous

    Many churches now advertise “gospel parenting” gospel marriages” and even, I am not kidding, “gospel smoking cessation.” I am still trying to get those guys to tell me what they are talking about.

  55. A religious conservative believes in the Gospel as set forth by Anon @5:21 today. If one reads the “gospels” and studies the life and preaching of Jesus, one must be concerned about the “least” among us, and seek social justice — hungry fed, incarcerated visited, aliens cared for, widows and orphans cared for, etc., etc. (btw, its in the OT too) — these things are usually called, by political conservatives, “bleeding heart liberalism”. (Actually the phrase “bleeding heart” derives from the spear in the side of Jesus on the cross, and its artistic interpretation.) So we have an interesting conundrum. If you are truly religiously conservative and try to adhere to the Bible and Jesus’ teaching and example, you may find yourself in the midst of political liberals.

  56. Building on what Arce has said —

    The trouble is that “Liberal” has become a filthy word in Evangelical Circles. America was founded upon principles of classical liberalism, but because it has been hijacked, it had to be re-named libertarianism. But the Calvinists don’t like libertarianism either, as Bruce Ware has taught that you can’t really be a Calvinist or a Christian and be libertarian. God is sovereign, and if we are libertarian, that also denies God’s sovereignty and Lordship. You need a blooming scorecard to keep the list of laws and standards straight.

    There are many definitions of what liberalism means. My definition of the term is different from someone like, Oh, lets say Rob Bell or Tony Campolo and different from Mohler’s and different from a Methodist or an Anglican and a Catholic.

    That said, I think that plenty of liberals believe the Gospel. R.C. Sproul used to quote someone else ?? who once said that we are practically Arminian when we get born again, and we grow into becoming semi-pelagian and eventually Calvinist as we mature spiritually. (But when Sproul first said that (quoting someone who I can’t remember), Mohler was a politcal whelp, and the Calvinistas were still working on their game plan. You don’t have to be a conservative to be saved. You grow and mature, just like a child grows into a wise adult. Much of that kind of thing comes along through the sanctification process.

  57. Deb,

    I just took notice to your comment from earlier today (about the Word remaining after I woke from my fog of “religious hypnosis”), and I am honored to tears.

  58. Yes, Arce. Christians, and all people, should be concerned for the poor and less fortunate.

    But that concern is not the Gospel. That concern is an implication of the Gospel, but it is not the Gospel.

    Any disagreement there from you? Do you agree with the definition of the Gospel given in scripture?

  59. Cindy:

    Liberals named themselves, politically and religiously. That goes back 70-80 years.

    You are right. It is not the same thing as political or economic liberalism of the mid 1900s.

    Actually, political liberals are not for liberty. They are very anti-freedom when it comes to economic liberty.

    Political liberals can be conservative religiously. And religious liberals can be politically conservative.

  60. Cindy
    We used to to talk about you before we started the blog! We were excited when you first commented on our blog!

  61. Anonymous,

    I’ve just got a big bee in my proverbial bonnet (ooh, headcovering!) about how so much language has been hijacked by these religious groups, distorting so much — even the beautiful words that describe the nature of God and the church and the work that Jesus did on the Cross. Covenant has been perverted and both it and Biblical are used as thought-stopping cliches. Others have pointed out how SGM uses “gospel” as a modifier for everything. Don’t take Classical Liberalism away from us, too! Without it, there would be no United States!

  62. Yes I agree that the Gospel is “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved”.

    But Jesus also said that not all who call him Lord will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, and then said that if you don’t take care of the needy, you won’t be among those who go there. Sounds like a social gospel is required after the Gospel. (note capitalization)

  63. Arce:

    Or perhaps a social Gospel is an implication that necessary follows belief and Lordship.

    Some of our ancestors unfortunately threw the Gospel out and substituted it with the implications of the Gospel. I wonder if Walter Rauchenbusch (sp?), for example, if he were alive today, would have kept the Gospel and seen his good work with the poor as an implication of the Gospel.

    These things are a challenge.

  64. Cindy:

    Don’t be too discouraged.

    Language, especially English, has a way of changing over time. These changes are brought about by popular use.

    Liberals were the first to call themselves that. They did not want to call themselves Progressives (that was late 19th, early 20th century) or Socialists (e.g. Evan Thomas’s grandfather – was a Socialist candidate for President). They preferred Liberal. The religious people did not brand them that, actually.

    We are smart enough, I think, to still use the term, but have to qualify it.

    Think of the other great terms that have gone with the wind, so to speak.

    It’s sad, but it is the nature of things.

  65. Anon 8:48 am today
    I think that is what I said. If you have the Gospel, but do not practice the gospel, then your claim to the Gospel is dead — faith which does not result in works is dead.

  66. “These changes are brought about by popular use”

    The question is ‘where does popular use’ come from? And that is the problem…

    He who defines, wins.

  67. Just another view…Perhaps part of the big difference is that “liberal” christians want “Caesar” to be the one who distributes the pooled money to widows. Some conservatives, like me, (who are not following the celebrity christians) know this does not work well at all and makes Caesar a tyrant, too.

  68. “Covenant has been perverted and both it and Biblical are used as thought-stopping cliches.”

    Yes, I can think of a ton of them just in my lifetime that have changed to mean other things: Trinity (ESS), Gospel (gender roles are now salvic), Sovereignty of God (excuse for evil doing by leaders)…the list goes on.

  69. Anonymous,

    The use of “liberal” has changed, but as others have pointed out in subsequent comments, there is a more malicious and surreptitious perversion of language in cultic groups and within ideological totalism. It is part of the loading the language, one of the eight criteria of thought reform as defined by Robert Lifton.

    Christianity is rife with it now, particularly groups like SGM and the SBC. It is not legitimate use of language or the change of language over time. It is the way language is used to shut down or make dull the critical thinking ability of the masses so that people will let the divine leaders do all the thinking for them.

    There was a legitimate use for the term “liberal,” but it was the evangelicals who hijacked it, and it was not an innocent change in the word usage over time. Christian Reconstruction turned into a filthy word for Christians to use. That is part of their own revisionist history. Without “liberalism,” at least in the classical sense, they would not have the religious freedoms that they enjoy. And what I’ve seen over the past ten years or so has either been a change in their approach or an inability to conceal their true intentions: They don’t want to see classical liberalism or libertarianism work by means of a government of, for and by the people. They want a theocracy. The only difference between most of these folks (SGM would be right in there with other Calvinistas) is that rather than Democrats being in charge, they want to be in charge. They’re doing many of the same things that they complain about the Left doing. In so doing, they become hypocrites.

  70. Lin makes note of the phrase “He who defines, wins.”

    Where does that come from? It’s a phrase popularized by one of these new, angry, “survival of the spiritually fittest” Calvinistas, Doug Phillips.

  71. “The only difference between most of these folks (SGM would be right in there with other Calvinistas) is that rather than Democrats being in charge, they want to be in charge. They’re doing many of the same things that they complain about the Left doing. In so doing, they become hypocrites.”

    This is exactly true. Both the far left and far right want to “be” the government.

  72. Lin @10:14 am

    That is my remark about how the Calvinistas have defined what is and is not “Open Theism”. So maybe we should start defining what Calvinism is. Suggestion: “Calvinism depicts God as a Monster who creates babies for the sole purpose of burning them in Hell regardless of what they do in life. It also depicts God as willing every natural disaster to cause exactly all the damage, death and destruction caused by such disaster, and being the root cause of all evil in the world, including the Holocaust and like events.”

  73. Arce,

    Douglas Wilson has actually written and published stuff that reads this way. He’s taken many of the online quotes down, but I have a couple in print. We should even rejoice when we see the children of the heathen when they’re naked and hungry in the gutter of the streets because their parents hate God and therefore, those kids are automatically non-elect. Or that the man who dashes the heads of the wicked on the rocks is blessed because God rejoices in their destruction, so we should be glad when the non-elect abort their babies. It glorifies God. I guess Wilson “sees” like Driscoll does and can mystically tell who is elect and who is not. It’s a skill that all of the Calvinistas see m to posess.

  74. Cindy K:

    I have read and heard sermons denouncing liberals from as far back as John R. Rice and Gresham Machen (sp?). That has been around a lot longer that the Christian Reconstructionists.

    But your basic point is correct.

  75. Regarding the T4G book giveaways, the amount spent on this is a drop in the bucket compared to the income generated. BTW, did you notice that the most of the authors are T4G speakers or lackeys. A new trend is tossing a bone to younger CHBC men (you have to have been an intern!)by letting them write a booklet and getting it published by Crossway. Don’t be naive. It’s all wrapped up together. Can I suggest a name change: T4D. Guess what the “D” is for?

  76. Otis

    Thanks for the laugh. T4D (dollars). There are some in the upper echelons of the SBC who do the same. Actually there are pastors who write books, buy a bunch (maybe with church funds) for their church and need to store them when they don’t sell.

    Books are the latest way to boost income. I heard a young pastor say that he was discouraged because all his friends were getting book deals and he wasn’t. Here’s the question. How many are actually reading the books ?

  77. dee – deb – everyone

    Thought someone might like to respond to this blog post. 😉

    The Gospel Coalition


    Fellas, Take the Ladies Salsa Dancing!

    …Besides being fun, you’ll have a wonderful model for male-female relationships in marriage. Here’s what I learned:

    1. The entire dance depends on male leadership. There is no dance if the man doesn’t lead.

    And much more… on complimentarians…

    Seems to me to be a very ugly comparison. 🙁

    Oy vey!!! 🙂

    Be blessed… And be a blessing…

  78. A Amos

    This is hysterical. Now there is such a things as Gospel salsa. Is it weird out there or what! I have put this into my blog ideas folder. It will show up one of these days. Thank you.

  79. Just to be a voice of balance here:
    Knowing a couple of these men pretty well, I can assure you that profit (monetary anyway) is not on the radar screen. Certainly money will be made, but I suppose if you want to do away with that, then no one should write books or take a salary as a pastor.
    As for T4G, it is valid to warn against a celebrity mindset or the hype of conferences, but by and large, these kinds of conferences are extremely encouraging, edifying, and educational for pastors across the country. The potential danger for some does not necessitate evil on the part of those involved in planning and attending these events.
    So yes, be careful not to make such things an idol. At the same time, go and be edified. It is well worth the time (and money) to do so.

  80. Ryan

    Thank you for your perspective. It is good to get the other side. However, let me assure you of this. Within the churches, the T4G perspective is the one being espoused and this insignificant blog is one that is providing some insight that is lacking within this movement. In other words, please listen to us. We might have a thing or two to say.

    Let me give you view from the unwashed in the pews. I know pastors who worship at the altar of both T4G and the Gospel Coalition. I have watched this so-called edification work itself out within the church paradigm. I have heard one pastor say, from the pulpit, that he is not as important because he hasn’t gotten “book deal” like the rest of these guys. I have heard another pastor breathlessly quote these guys, by last name, assuming the rest of the pew sitters actually know who these people are. Most don’t.

    I have watched the guys in T4G exonerate CJ Mahaney and never once address the pain and suffering of those desperately hurt by his “ministry” at SGM. I have been chastised by a well known T4G speaker for daring to question this pain and suffering, saying that I was involved in character assassination by raising concerns about the “trajectory” (one of the buzzwords of the in-speak)of the ministry.

    I have heard the word “winsome” applied to all of these pastors, when I think winsome is the last word i would use to describe some of the big boys.( i like the term “pretty darned sure they are totally right.”)

    I have heard one T4G pastor claim that, when he was appointed as pastor, he left the ministry of the congregation to become a different person.

    I watched one church, involved in this group, lie about a group of people who raised concerns about the handling of a pedophile situation in the church. I have watched others, taking a cue from one T4G leader, downplay domestic abuse and ask wives to return to an abusive situation in order to show submission “for a season.”

    As for the edification part, one must adhere, without one iota of disagreement to all 5 points of Calvinism or be considered a lesser or uneducated or, even worse, maybe not even a Christian.

    Frankly, one can buy all of the books these guys push second hand, read them at home, (or better yet, just read one or two-they all say the same thing)and then get out into a dying world and serve the truly needy and lost as opposed to serving what seems to this writer, some fairly big egos and an old boys club. One could take the money and apply it elsewhere. One can get edified quite easily online without spending money for plane tickets, admission tickets and T-shirts.

    From what I can see, there are far too many “edifying “conferences while the number of atheists in America is on the rise and people are beginning to flee the pews. Do we really need to spend time at all of these “necessary” conferences?
    And to clarify all of this, I know that not all of the T4G pastors are like this. But, this is a generalize feeling of this writer. But, maybe, just maybe, this woman sees something that needs to be addressed.

  81. Most of the comments on this thread are very uncharitable! Who are all of you to judge the motives of Dever’s or Piper’ or the other’s hearts? It seems like many of you are simply anti-Calvinistic. Fine. But are you saying that Calvinists are against Christ? If so, you are on dangerous ground. Also, do not claim that these men are in the ministry for money, or that they are doing this conference for monetary gain. Do you have access to their bank accounts? Do you know John Piper’s spending habits? You need to repent of your judgmental attitude toward these men.

  82. David L

    Hmmmm. You obviously have not read enough to know what we are in terms of Calvinism versus whatever. In fact, one of my dearest friends is a 5 point Calvinist and we enjoy one another and he is quite supportive of this blog and does not think that i am “anti-calvinist.” Now, i am anti-Calvinista which we have defined in our FAQ page. Please read it and get back to me.

    Only God knows the hearts of men but we are called to look at one another. We are to weigh what is said against Scripture and known actions. And, whether you choose to accept this or not-conferences and books are a big money making enterprise-HUGE. Anytime that much money is coming in, we should be asking questions.

    Carefully delineate exactly what we need to repent of. I am confused. Give me statements. Until you do, this seems all very emotional.