"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."
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.
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