"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 (http://www.t4g.org/blog/page/3/); 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