Money “Fan”atics – aka Christian Conference Organizers

"For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs."

1 Timothy 6:10 (ESV)

Fan of Dolars by Petr Kratochvil

Tom Rich (an obvious misnomer :-)), who has been on the cutting edge of addressing problems in Christendom, uncovered just how lucrative Christian conferences can be almost three years ago. 

He presented his findings in a post entitled Crossing from "Church Marketing" into "Money Changing".  Since that time, it has been amazing to see more and more Christian conferences popping up.  Tom wrote:

"This is indeed the "church marketing" age. Churches large and small are employing techniques used for decades by businesses, to get the word out to the community about their ministry, to attract new prospects, and to entice people to come to their church.

This trend is accelerating, as mainline denominations like the SBC are losing members, and they see younger church members fleeing to the non-denominational churches, and there is more and more competition between a rapidly growing number of churches over a slowly growing "consumer base" of Christians. Mega churches especially are trying to stall this membership loss through spending hoards of money – money given by God's people for "ministry" – on things like marketing, advertising, and promotions to attract more nickels and noses to their church.

First Baptist Church Jacksonville was on the cutting edge of this trend back in the '80s as they began to advertise – putting billboards up around Jacksonville, and later, buying TV commercial time.

There are even consulting firms that exist today catering exclusively to the "marketing needs" of churches – offering services including website design and hosting, design of advertising and promotional pieces, design of sermon series and associated promotions and advertising. They will assist churches in applying the business model of market analysis and strategies: branding of churches (and pastors), identifying strategies to target specific market segments, etc."

Tom Rich explains that his former church, FBC Jacksonville, broke new ground with regard to marketing around six years ago (Mac Brunson became pastor at FBC Jax in early 2006).  Tom states:

"It is one thing to implement marketing principles within a church to help it achieve its mission or to simply grow – which some have criticized as being unscriptural at its core – but its another thing altogether when the church employs marketing techniques to RAISE REVENUE through advertising within the church walls.

That is precisely what FBC Jax has been done with the Pastor's Conference – the very conference that was started nearly 30 years ago by Jerry Vines to help minister to pastors and let them see how things are done at FBC Jax – access to these pastor's eyes, ears, and wallets is now being sold.

They have gone beyond using church marketing services of the A-Group to entice people to come, and now have employed marketing AND promotions firms to assist them in SELLING advertising WITHIN the walls of the church to raise revenue by selling access to the eyes and ears of the attendees sitting in the pew.

For the past 2 Pastor's Conferences under Mac Brunson, an Atlanta-based marketing and promotions firm, called Conexus, has actually SOLD advertising "promotions packages", ranging in prices of $1000 to $12,000. What FBC Jax is selllng in these packages includes:

– display of ministry name in the image screens of the main auditorium

– display of videos highlighting the ministry on the image screens

– "Emcee" recognition of the ministry from the pulpit

– plugs for the sales of CDs

– placement of ministry logos on the church website

– listing of the ministry on the conference website

– mentioning of name in post-conference emails

And this is just the start.

This year, they've become even more brazen in the promotions for the 2010 Pastor's Conference, as now they are trying to sell for thousands of dollars the privilege to place the name of a ministry on bottled water, pens, and conference bags. Even the mentioning of a ministry name from the pulpit is "negotiable", according to their website.

Do the people of FBC Jax really want their leadership charging other Christian ministries $750 for the simple privilege of occupying an 8' x 10' section of our foyer to put up a display table? Is that what the faithful people did 20 and 30 years ago when they gave sacrificially to pay cash to build the RLA and Main auditorium: so Mac Brunson and the A-Group could then sell promotions packages in the auditorium? Did the people of FBC Jax give money to purchase image screens and all of the top-notch audio-visual equipment so Trey Brunson could sell to Christian ministries for thousands of dollars the privilege of displaying their ministry logo or so the "emcee" could speak the name of a ministry to the audience after they have negotiated the appropriate fee with Trey and Maurilio?

I don't know about you, but as a Southern Baptist, and knowing the influence that FBC Jax has, and the respect that Mac Brunson has with churches all over the SBC, I'm worried when I see FBC Jax breaking new ground in this area. What a terrible precedent that I hope others don't follow."

We have often tackled the topic of conferences here at TWW, and we have observed the trend of holding mega gatherings in even larger venues.  Here are a few of our previous posts.

Conferences out the Wazoo

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

What's the Beef About Christian Conferences?

If you have the patience to watch the videos linked in our post T4G Bookstore – Check It Out!, you will see some of what Tom Rich described regarding the FBC Jax Pastors Conference.  We wonder how much "rent" was charged for the floor space, among other things, at the T4G Bookstore.  There are booths for the book publishers (e.g. Crossway), the ministries (Desiring God, 9Marks, etc.), the seminaries, etc.  Does anyone doubt that there is certainly a business element to these conferences?

Summer seems to be prime time for Christian conferences, and in our upcoming posts we plan to focus on some of them.  It does appear that these Money "Fan"atics (aka Christian conference organizers), have it down to a science. 

When will it stop? 

When people stop attending. . .   

We are just beginning to explore this trend and will have much more to say in the coming weeks.



Do you ever wonder about how the YRR crowd is being mentored at some of these conferences and informal gatherings? 

"JJ" – one of our commenters, shared the following with us.  Is it satire or reality?  We'll leave that for you to decide. . .


How to “lead” your church in three weeks

(Edited by Deb)


Walk into church on Sunday and think about how well you are subduing your flock, how joyfully they are submitting to your authority, and how your five-year plan is on track: mega-church, seminary, three-books-published, internationally-visited blog, popular conference speaker. Take note of those attendees who are not yet official members. Take note of members who think too independently. Take note of those members who do not adhere to all your theological views and might express these differences. Take note of the people who do not revere your every word and who read unsanctioned so-called ‘Christian’ authors.

Meet weekly for coffee with the eager young pastoral intern (male, of course) who is learning from you about ministry. Discuss how important it is that churches demonstrate unity, how essential it is that the church stay faithful to scripture, and how necessary it is that members not be allowed to sow dissension.  Patronizingly ask him to ‘keep you accountable’ so that you don’t stray from biblical standards.

Respond to an email from a disgruntled church member requesting a list of specific examples (including dates and times) of the supposed ‘hurt’ that has been experienced. The complainant would also need two witnesses to verify the hurtful experience. Blind carbon copy this email correspondence to the eager young intern and your elders.


Reply to another email from the ‘hurt’ church member. Tell them that you are concerned about their grievances and are saddened to hear about their loss of confidence in you as their leader. Tell them, though, that this list of concerns is worryingly detailed and suggests a vindictive spirit. Tell them to be aware that unfounded charges against you, a pastor, are not only dangerous and divisive, they are sinful and slanderous. Tell them you are going to pray about this and will ask God to show you if there is any deceitfulness in your heart. Tell them you will get back to them and let them know if they have been hurt or if any spiritual damage has been done.

Arrange to meet with the elders (and the eager intern) to discuss the church’s direction. Mention that you have received another troublesome email. Explain the content of the message and show how you have been completely biblical and faithful in all your dealings with this member. Share how concerned you are for this member’s walk with the Lord because slander is a serious sin. Then share your own concerns about this member’s personal history and issues which this member has brought up to you during pastoral counseling. In order for your elders to keep you accountable, it is necessary that they have the full details about your (consistently ‘biblical’) actions as well as the information that the member has shared with you in confidence. Nod in somber agreement when your elders confirm that you have been consistently faithful in your dealings with this member.

Send a brief email to the member, co-authored with your elders, stating how you value reconciliation and unity. Tell them, however, that neither you nor God can condone sinful slander and that the member will need to be church-disciplined. Tell them that this is for their ultimate good so that they might learn to submit, repent of their divisiveness, and be restored to unity.


Having let the elders do your dirty work, watch in satisfaction as the member discovers that the eager young intern knows details which they have only shared with you and is shunned within the church body.

On Sunday, preach a fiery sermon to your sheep on submitting to the authorities God has placed in their lives, telling them how when a church is moving in the direction God has called it to, there is bound to be a winnowing, a separation of the wheat from the chaff. Tell the sheep that you love leading this body of believers whose foundation rests on the undying truth of scripture, not the people-pleasing pandering that goes on elsewhere. Explain that for unity to be maintained, the congregation needs to be constantly on guard lest they fall into petty criticisms of those leaders God has placed over them.

Whatever happens from this point on, you have won. You have changed the subject in your church from Jesus to yourself. Your church – because it is *your* church – will be even stronger without these troublesome elements. The ‘hurt’ member will probably need years to recover and might turn away from church completely. And if, before leaving, they infected others with their toxic slander, don’t worry. You know how to deal with that. It only takes three weeks…

Lydia's Corner:  Daniel 4:1-37   2 Peter 1:1-21   Psalm 119:97-112   Proverbs 28:17-18


Money “Fan”atics – aka Christian Conference Organizers — 36 Comments

  1. It’s $185 for the Resolved Conference if you register by the end of May. I’m just wondering what it is after that.

  2. You would think if the “truth of the Gospel” being presented was so important to the speaker they would pay people to come. Or at least free?

    I think part of it may be the sound of the words. Words like “Gospel” (with emphasis!) “righteousness” and “Penal substitution atonement” are the the jazzed up, theological equivalents to the words shouted by the big-hair “evangelists” of decades ago. It sounds powerful. So much vanity.

    I suppose, with Paul, I should rejoice that the good news is preached, even from the mouths of jackals it seems. Are some of them my brothers? I suppose so, though perhaps not all. But even if they turn out to be my enemy, I ought to pour my life out in love for them anyhow. Loving the unlovable includes the nasty snobs as well, and I mean that genuinely.

    We should also weep, I suppose, as Paul wrote Timothy, “And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows”. They’ve invited a curse upon themselves.

  3. As someone who has organised conferences, I need to say that a balance has to be struck. The costs involved in putting an event on are often significant, and these do need to be recovered.

    But I have no hesitation in saying that the likes of T4G and TGC appear to be on the wrong side of the line. They look like money-making ventures, in line with the general and unwelcome trend of turning the church into a business.

    I should add that it could be OK for a conference to make a large profit if that money is then used for outreach work. But I don’t think any of the large conferences publish accounts, so we don’t know where it is going.

    The one thing that springs to mind, reading about these events, is that there’s very little difference between them and the world of the televangelists who preach a prosperity gospel. And so, despite all its claims to occupy the moral high ground, conservative evangelicalism seems just as corrupt as the darker side of pentecostalism – both are focused on personalities and driven by fund-raising. Very sad indeed.

  4. @ Cal:

    It’s probably a pretty bad sign when theological terms get used as buzzwords. When something becomes a buzzword, it’s losing its meaning. “Biblical,” for instance, used to be a meaningful word, but has now devolved into something to slap on the beginning of your argument so your audience doesn’t have analyze what you’re saying. As for the theological terms, I wonder if it started out as a positive effort to broaden people’s understanding, but went off track.

  5. In the late ’80s and early ’90s, I chaired conferences on a secular topic for five years, with an associated trade show. My benefits included a fully paid luxury hotel suite, reimbursement of my travel expenses and meals, and a reasonable payment (to my employer) for my time in organizing and attending the conference, plus a free booth for my employer in a nice place at the trade show. In addition, there was a reception for speakers and session chairs and their guests (some years in my suite — large enough for 75 or so people!) that was also paid for by the organizers with me as the host.

    So I suspect that if the conferences are not making money, some people are being treated like kings and getting paid for their time, in money, favors, and benefits.

  6. Cal

    They shout these words “I think part of it may be the sound of the words. Words like “Gospel” (with emphasis!) “righteousness” and “Penal substitution atonement” in order to give credence to their program. If you don’t like their program, you obviously don’t like the Gospel. Subtle, yet effective.

  7. In an era when we could access speakers via Skype and digital projectors on white-washed walls, what is the point of in-person events any more – unless you’re dealing with ministry skills and practices that haven’t been addressed in depth before? (I was a continuing education event organizer in the mid- to late-1990s, and we produced trainings on HIV/AIDS ministry – – still basically an untouchable arena even 15 years after the identification of the epidemic – – and generational dynamics, and things like that.)

    Sure, nothing can replace direct/person-to-person contact … but is that what’s happening in such large venues these days? Or is it about being in The Presence of The Person and soaking up his/her aura and brilliance? In which case, it isn’t so much about what the person has to contribute, but we have come there to consume: their celebrityhood.

  8. Ian
    I am becoming concerned by the number of pastors who frequent these conferences that are living very nice lifestyles, often far above the members of their congregations. I am not discussing Platt, Chan or Piper. Many of these guys have no trouble in moving on up to large homes and hitching rides on private jets. Of course, they excuse it all by saying that they are so, so, so, sooooo busy spreading the gospel and must take advantage of such perks.

    One pastor, whom I admire greatly, came into a great deal of family money a number of years ago. He an his wife decided to purchase a nicer house but not an expensive house that would raise eyebrows. He then did a sermon in which he spoke about his conflict in toeing the line in this area.He wanted his congregation to know that the house was not bought on church money. I found it rather amusing at the time because it is a nice house but not an exorbitant house by any stretch of the imagination. Nothing compared to the one Mac Brunson finagled for himself or like other pastors in this area who are buying homes in excess of $500,000 and claiming that it is good stewardship.

    I am becoming more and more jaded when it comes to these conferences. The well off headliners get major perks(along with adoring fan boyz who ask them to autograph their Bibles) which are being sucked directly from the poor churches who send their pastors to “learn” from the Calvinista brigade. I have a proposal. Let’s send these church pastor for a week at the beach with their wives and let them listen to the presentations on the internet.Also, there are some sites, password coded from what I hear, on which pastors can talk about how to deal with having people like me in their congregation. It’s a lot cheaper and the pastor might actually be able to unwind.

  9. Hester

    Do you think we should change the name of our blog to The Gospel-Minded, Biblical Wartburg Watch?

  10. Arce
    I believe that some of these speakers are triple dipping. The get paid for their time as pastor of a church, they get their expenses paid for attuning the conferences, and they get all sorts of “honorariums” and fancy digs, dinners, and whatnot for themselves and their wives.I agree. The conferences are not making money, the speakers are.

  11. These “conferences” are there to make money for the cult of personality Christian celebs.

    The whole “Church Marketing” is all part of the “Church Growth” ideas that really started to gel in the late 80’s. I knew people at Pat Robertson’s college that took “church growth” classes back in the late 80’s/early 90’s.

    It’s just basic sales and marketing ideas re-packaged for the evangelical community. I’m not surprised advertising packages are now being sold for conferences. It’s standard practice among business conferences.The Evangelical community has been taking sales and marketing ideas from the business world and re-purposing them in a Christian context for years.

    BTW – Radio ads for Churches still happen – Mclean Bible Church (megachurch in the DC area)advertises on the local all news radio station frequently. They call it the “not a sermon” commercial…..

  12. t’s $185 for the Resolved Conference if you register by the end of May. I’m just wondering what it is after that. — Stormy

    By way of comparison, AnthroCon is $50 until June 1 and $60 afterwards and at the door.

    $185 for pre-reg (and probably more at the door) — you’re going into WorldCon country.

  13. Do these speakers have no shame about raking in all of this money? — Mot

    If they’re Calvinistas:

    1) “See How God Prospers those He Hath Predestined!”

    2) “God Hath Willed It!”

    3) “Touch Not Mine Anointed! Do My Prophet No Harm!”

  14. I have always found the ‘church growth’ movement interesting, in the sense that a train wreck is interesting. I think of Jesus speaking of Himself as the Bread of Life–and how many deserted Him after that message. Speaking unadulterated truth may result, at least by the example of Jesus, in fewer followers, but perhaps, greater commitment on the part of those that truly desire to be disciples.

  15. Mot
    They have developed a theology of “God is blessing me because I am faithful to His “doctrine.” Some are no different than the prosperity preachers who they condemn.

  16. Freedom

    You said, “It’s just basic sales and marketing ideas re-packaged for the evangelical community.” Bingo-excellent soundbite statement that I will use again. Thanks.

  17. Rick
    You said “I have always found the ‘church growth’ movement interesting, in the sense that a train wreck is interesting.” Thank you for making me laugh this morning!

  18. @ Dee:

    The Gospel-Minded, Biblical, Christ-Centered, Reformational Wartburg Watch might be even more appropriate. ; )

  19. HUG

    1)“See How God Prospers those He Hath Predestined!” 2) “God Hath Willed It!” 3) “Touch Not Mine Anointed! Do My Prophet No Harm!”
    YOu are reading my mind.

  20. Eagle:

    I would find your story plausible but getting robbed in montgomery county? what? (I’m from Rockville 🙂 )

    You’re right though. The Church in many respects has become hollowed words. As Jesus said, “They shall know you by your love”; as John said, “If any man says he loves God but hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.”; as James said “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?”

  21. Eagle, I’ve often thought that if Jesus told that parable today, he’d use a gay person instead of a Samaritan.

  22. I went to a conference on prayer a few months ago. It was the first time I’d done that in almost 20 years. Registration was 40 dollars. It was held in a little gymnasium. Refreshments (cookies and puffed wheat squares) were made by the hosting church. Children and people with disabilities were gladly welcomed and encouraged to participate. I was prayed for. I prayed for others.

    My kind of conference.

  23. “The Gospel-Minded, Biblical, Christ-Centered, Reformational Wartburg Watch might be even more appropriate.”

    But only if you do Jazz Hands while you say it. 😉

  24. The Gospel-Minded, Biblical, Christ-Centered, SPIRIT-LED, GOD-ORDAINED, RESURGENT Reformational Wartburg Watch might be even more appropriate.

  25. “René on Fri, May 25 2012 at 11:37 am
    “The Gospel-Minded, Biblical, Christ-Centered, Reformational Wartburg Watch might be even more appropriate.”

    But only if you do Jazz Hands while you say it.”

    LOL 🙂

    Not quite–It’s gotta be: The Robustly Gospel-Minded, Christ-Centered, Reformational, Winsome Wartburg Watch.

  26. We are in a recession right now but they could careless. Amway is like that. Even when you cannot afford to go to a conference, you need to sacrifice all you have to go.

  27. Brad said: “In an era when we could access speakers via Skype and digital projectors on white-washed walls, what is the point of in-person events any more – unless you’re dealing with ministry skills and practices that haven’t been addressed in depth before?”

    It’s more difficult to “schmooze” via skype. I think it’s all about schmoozing and letting others see who you are schmoozing with. You look around and see who Big Name is talking with, rubbing shoulders with, etc. It’s an ego power trip.

  28. Diane/Arce/Rene

    The Robustly Gospel-minded, Christ Centered, Reformational,God-Ordained, Resurgent, Spirit-Led, Winsome, Missional, and Thoroughly Unpacked Wartburg Watch. (Jazz Hands employed)!

    Let them try to outdo that! We are truly sovereignly ordained now! Bible autographing will commence immediately. Send us your Bibles, along with a “donation” of 19.95 plus S+H. We will include a copy of our Flintstone Doctrine free of charge!

  29. Dee,

    Most Americans have no idea how meager that lunch was. We hear or read “loaf” and get the wrong idea. The origin of “loaf” is “leaf”, and in ancient times, that would be a fairly accurate description of the bread, probably about like a corn tortilla or a small pita. So five would be reasonable for a child’s lunch, along with two small fishes.

  30. Financial transparency is a good thing. I understand that it is opening the door for criticism since money is powerful enough a topic to evoke a storm of opinion.

    But, as I see it, it is the nuisance factor versus nothing-to-hide.

    For a professional christian to not opt for financial transparency / accountability to a neutral party does tell me something about them.

  31. Eagle,

    It’s been almost two weeks since we “talked” online. Hope life is treating you well. I’ve been keeping your dad in my prayers. How’s he doing?

  32. Eagle
    That segment is soooo scary. When the hand reaches out of the TV, one thinks of Bugs Bunny but it isn’t. But, I would not be surprised if a few folks out there think of us in thatt fashion. We’rrrrrrrrrrreeeeeeeeeee baaaaaaaaaaaack!