How did we come to have “Together FOUR (oops – for) the Gospel”, and why are these four men – Mohler, Dever, Mahaney, and Duncan – so revered? 

I have been fascinated by the conference name and have a theory for how it came to be called “Together for the Gospel”.  As we pointed out in a previous post, it’s likely that Newfrontiers’ annual conference “Together on a Mission” was the inspiration for Together for the Gospel since C.J. Mahaney spoke at the 2005 event in England.  Lo and behold, T4G begins within less than a year in the United States. Coincidence?  We think not!  It appears to be a mere duplication. 

But why “T4G”?  Have you ever heard of TAG?  It’s amazing to me how much a 4 looks like an A if you glance at it quickly.  Long-timers in Sovereign Grace Ministries would surely recognize TAG.  This label predates the “People of Destiny” era.  When Larry Tomczak and C.J. Mahaney were getting their organization off the ground, they came up with a catchy phrase – Take and Give (TAG) – that described what they were trying to do as a ministry.  Tomczak and Mahaney trained their followers who were then to “take” the Gospel and “give” it out to others. 

The “T” in TAG represents the word “Together” and the “G” has to stand for “Gospel”.  That leaves the middle letter of TAG… What to substitute for the “A”? 

T4G was a clever idea to be sure, but when I think of the number “4” I immediately remember the many times my pastor described exclusivity in his sermons as “Four and No More…”

Well, that’s what we have here – four exclusive friends who share center stage with other reformed speakers.  Personally, I’d love to know how much the guest speakers (MacArthur, Piper, and Sproul) get paid.  All of these men are true celebrities in the eyes of the T4G attendees.  Al Mohler, Mark Dever, C.J. Mahaney, and Ligon Duncan admittedly draw a young crowd that worships and adores them, and they know it!  These reformed leaders are high and lifted up by their impressionable followers. 

Obviously, the Fab Four would strongly disagree with my assessment insisting that it is Jesus Christ who is high and lifted up at T4G.  That’s why all of this can be so deceptive.

So, what do you think?  Am I wrong, or are the Fab Four elevating themselves within Christendom because they have a specific agenda?

Folks, have you noticed?  Christianity is becoming more and more marginalized in our society, and the New Calvinists believe they have the answer.  Sorry, guys…  Hyper-reformed theology is just a passing trend like it was in Geneva during Calvin’s heyday and in Massachusetts during the Puritan era.  If the Puritans were so right in their peculiar brand of reformed theology, then why were the First and Second Great Awakening even necessary?



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    Well, I decided not to go to T4G this year because of the cost. The others going don’t mind the cost because registration comes, they say, with about $200 or more worth of books. I just couldn’t part with the $250 at this time, even if I got books worth an equal amount. I wouldn’t have time to read all the books, I’m sure.

    I think that part of your concern is spot on. Some of the concern is speculation.

    Our pastor and others have attended this conference twice before. This will be the third time. I have not seen any errant theology or worship tendencies on the part of any of our folks who go. They tend to keep things in perspective. Take what’s good and leave what’s not healthy.

    I am not going to condemn the motives of the organizers or participants of the conference. I don’t have a problem at all criticizing their theology when warranted. But motives are another thing for me.

    A financial report on the conference would be a good handout for all to see.

    I agree that Christians often catch on to fads. But there are other times when the spirit of the age causes the church to look at various doctrines and aspects of the Christian faith that might be needed at that time.

    I don’t think Billy Graham style crusades or the hyper individualism of the early and mid 20th century Baptists are going to return soon. I don’t see the Christian school movement coming back for a strong second round. Promise Keepers is around, but much smaller. Prophecy conferences and such are no longer the rage. Does Bill Gothard still have conferences?

    Everything has its its own season. T4G is in its season. I am not worried about it.

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    You made some good points and you may be right. But, just in case, we will keep an eye on things.

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    Good. No one is above analysis or comment.

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    Hi Dee and Deb,
    I’ve not commented here before, but appreciate your efforts and the research you’ve done.

    While mulling over the proliferation of Christian conferences, it occurred to me that they’re a steroidal version of the old-fashioned revival — or camp meeting. When I attended SGM’s Celebration conferences for several years, I was refreshed and renewed — at a huge cost. And the cost was off-putting, though I realized that the rental of a huge facility, the dormitories, the meals, etc., did not come free. However, the price we paid was MORE than we paid to attend similar-length conventions of secular organizations that were held in posh hotels and conference centers. So, I had to wonder then, and again now, while reading about T4G, etc. — WHO is getting all this money? And WHY would a minister who is fairly paid for his labor expect huge speaking fees? (if indeed, they do, and I do not know what they are paid — but a financial report could certainly clear up this question. And not just a “lump sum” kind of report like my former church handed out, that lumped “salaries” into one category so that nobody knew how much any staff member was paid. And are these conferences organized as non-profit organizations or as for-profit enterprises or are they sponsored by a church or other ministry?

    A friend contacted me recently, aghast that her church voted away their own voting rights and became part of James McDonald’s Harvest Bible Chapel “family of churches.” And now, every member is being heavily encouraged to fly halfway across the nation to attend “Harvest University” — at no small registration cost, not to mention travel, hotel, and meal expenses, not to mention missed work. (At least one family decided to take that same amount of money and give it to real mission work. They were told that they should consider the University “mission work.”) So I have to ask, if there’s a whole CHURCH involved, why don’t they just bring said University to the congregation?
    Conferences, revivals, camp meetings — I’m all for them. But I won’t go to another one unless I know where or to whom my precious dollars are going and that “big names” are not being paid exhorbitant fees. There are many gifted preachers and teachers who believe their work belongs to God, and joyfully give their work away for a fraction of what a “big name” might draw, believing that the work they do is part of their church job description. But in the end — the gospel is the gospel — and thank God, he didn’t give his gifts to just a handful of celebrity-types, but spread them throughout Christianity. Thank you.

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    Imagine Paul selling his writings on papyrus at tables set up when he traveled. He would preach a while and then invite people to buy his writings. Or, perhaps he would rent a hall (Tyrannus) and charge admission to hear him preach.

    Does this sound right? Do we have an example of this sort of thing in the NT?

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    Nope. Paul would have lived off the offerings of other people. In some places, he might have avoided that by tent making.

    Paul obviously did not sell his letters, as they were written to his recipients. But he did not have any printing expenses either, and he only wrote one copy.

    When they had big meetings, I don’t know where they met. They met in houses. Bigger meetings were certainly likely on farms and such. Who was housing 5000 plus women and children. Were they just walking down streests and such and sitting on crops or fields? Or did people rent places?

    The problem is we either have insitutional ownership (i.e. the Catholic Church, where the church owns everything). One works for the church. Writes for the church. Church owns the facilities. Writers, priests lives well, but the church collects and owns everything.

    Or we have a sort of Priesthood of the Believer captialism. You write a book – you pay to have it printed, or enter into a contract for that. You sell a book – pay someone to market it and stock it. you get a cut of the sales. The individual writes as he/she believes God is leading. Publishing houses don’t own the work, but they sell and market.

    Writers can give their material away. I don’t know anyone who does that. Some might give the proceeds away. I think that Rick Warren did that with a lot on the Purpose Driven Life.

    LifeWay is a money making enterprise with a spiritual purpose and goal. They DO charge for the reprinting of Paul’s letters and such. And A LOT of money is made. But what’s the alternative? Who would make the rules? Would it be any better than what we have?

    For all of its faults and hucksterism, I think that spiritual free market capitalism is the way to go. It’s just that we wish the flock were more discerning.

    The Priesthood of the Believer is wrapped up in all of this. I don’t feel comfortable telling people what they can do, but your comparison with the servant spirit of the NT apostles is on target. But since we don’t know what’s being done with the proceeds, it’s hard to be informed.

    That’s why I support disclosure. That should be a big issue in the church, in my opinion.

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    I really appreciate your insightful comment. What you have shared is extremely important.

    I have a question and if it’s too personal, please don’t feel obligated to answer. Would you happen to be referring to what used to be known as “Hickory Community Chapel”? If so, I have done extensive research on what happened to this church and may write about it soon.

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    Full disclosure is the key. It amazes me that more people in the church do not question the salary of their pastors, their reimbursement for housing, travel, expenses, how much time they actually spend on the work of the church they serve versus running around speaking at “conferences”,etc. Why is it wrong for those who are the community of believers to ask exactly what their pastor make? Are they not the ones contributing? Are pastors ashamed to let their people know what their salaries are?

    Don’t get me wrong. I am a free marketeer in concept. But, by free, I also believe in free flow of information in order to make intelligent and fair decisions.

    If any pastors are reading this, I would ask for some insight into why salaries are often hidden from this who are supporting the church.

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    Bingo. That’s the one. I live several hundred miles away from Hickory, and have never been there, but have dear friends who have been members there for many years.

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    “If any pastors are reading this, I would ask for some insight into why salaries are often hidden from this who are supporting the church.”

    Joel Gregory wrote about this in his book after leaving FBC Dallas in 1994. He made his salary public info in the book. 164,000/yr plus a 100,000 sign on bonus. That was 15 years ago!

    He said that they are not made public because it would be an issue for tithers who make much less. He is right.

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    I think it would be important to make these salaries public. If it is an issue, let the guys making these salaries, deal with it. They should be big boys since they act like big boys.

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    Years ago, one of my best friends became involved in a cult, The Way International. By God’s grace and protection, I had no desire to have anything to do with them. But I went to her wedding at Way Headquarters in New Knoxville, Ohio, and “Dr.” Victor Paul Wierwille officiated — what an experience — man, I could tell you some stories! Among the many red flags that flew over my tertiary association with that bunch was the bookstore in the “church” building — and the Mastercharge / BankAmericard Welcome Here sign on the front door of the sanctuary. (This predates Mastercard & Visa!) The Way charged exhorbitant amounts of money for their Power for Abundant Living classes. I was a college student at the time — and biblically illiterate — but one thing I knew was that church was something that was basically FREE. When I joined a PDI church, I was shocked that they charged a fee for the new members’ class materials, but chalked it up to covering costs — but I’m not sure why the cost was not part of church operating expenses covered by tithes and offerings. Wish I had run the minute I realized the only other group I’d seen use those tactics was a bona fide cult.
    Churches used to have libraries. But now, they have bookstores. Hmm. VP Wierwille turned out to be a trendsetter.

    If you ask me, a church or conference bookstore ought to be a non-profit enterprise, selling said books at cost. If they aren’t, they ought to say so.

    Conferences cost money. Reasonable registration fees are understandable — even expensive registration fees would be understandable if there was an open disclosure of costs.

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    OOps– I meant to post the above on the bookstore thread….

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    I absolutely agree with you. What exactly is the problem with full disclosure? We have a few theories. One of which is this. When speakers go to conferences, they are paid while still being paid by their churches since many probably go on church time.
    Also, some pastors write books, then talk about it in sermons and encourage people to buy their books which will be offered at a “discount” out in the foyer.
    Also, some pastors develop their own Sunday school materials and sell it to their churches. A bit of conflict of interest you might say.
    Thanks for your comments.

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    Yep. its on our radar and we will talk about it in the near future.

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    Interesting comment, Lydia. Wouldn’t it be fun to work up a marketing tool for Paul.

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    Can you imagine him on Larry King? How about his response to an Ed Young Jr’s series on sex? I think he would be throwing his sandals at some of these guys.

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    You are doing something so few Christians ever do. You are asking questions of the status quo. I, too, have paid my share of conference fees, lodging, etc. I have heard some wonderful presentation. Funny thing, though, the most important points in my growth as a Christian, have not happened at conferences. They have happened in the mundane, regular days of my normal life. Its the wonder of the first hummingbird of the season, my pug dogs running around in circles, the pain of losing a loved one, the love of my husband and children. a Scripture verse that jumps out at me, etc.
    Don’t get me wrong, I love a challenging talk. But, I guess I learn more from my questions than I do from some pat answers.

    Thanks for commenting (ps, Dee is my nickname)!

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    Most pastor’s salaries (that I am aware of) are published in the church budget. The majority of pastors are not paid well let alone over paid and are not famous conference speakers. Pastors are professionals and may be entitled to a higher salary than some of the tithers in their churches. The normal way publishing works for pastors is for them to develop sermons and materials for their churches as part of their ministry. Then they are gathered together and published. Many make nothing personally from the sale of the published materials. That being said, I am not a fan of the current culture within Christianity that elevates many musicians, preachers, and writers to celebity status.

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    Pastor Tim
    We are not talking about the majority of pastors. We are discussing the group who are in it for the money and fame. I once stood up in a church meeting and advocated for a far higher salary for my pastors.

    However, most of the churches today do not publish the salary and benefits of the pastors. It is put under a slush line that includes all salaries, benefits, etc for all hired personnel. In my former church, one had to request to see the actual salary of each pastor. The process is intimidating and meant to be so.That is how folks like Ed Young make scads of money and no one ever knows.

    Thank you for caring enough to comment.

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    There still seems to be some confusion. You contradict yourself. “We are not talking about the majority of pastors”. “Most of the churches today” (Most under normal conditions indicates a majority. The condition of the American church is truely a cause of sorrow in my opinion, and probably moreso in the eyes of the Savior, who has a much higher standard than I, but you are impuning the character and actions of “most” c hurches and pastors because of the actions of some. The integrity you seem to be calling for would require more care.

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    Pastor Tim

    If you would look at our blog as a whole, instead of one post, you might see that we are dealing with a certain segment of the church population which involves big money-be it the Calvinsta segment which runs around writing books and speaking at conferences and bossing the saints or the megachurch crowd which is …well, read the posts..We are pretty clear exactly what type of churches which we focusing on. And our integrity is very important to us. That is why we hope you read some more.

    We ask you to read generally on this blog and you might understand our themes.

    We are also in the process of transferring our archives from our old blog format and you will see this theme developed-big money and hyper-authoritarinan leadership (which is just as dangerous).

    Read the story of Doug Pittman. That was a smaller church with serious issues.