Monday, October 22, 2012

The Scandal of Christian Conferences


The 1960s saw an explosion of Christian conferences. From charismatic to independent Baptists to reformed and most every other genre offered a conference designed to accommodate your particular affiliation. Basically it was an opportunity to excite your base and many times to excoriate your doctrinal opponents. And it also was a vehicle to sell books and tapes which later became books and Cds. And it made many a preaching hero as well. People would flock to hear John Rice or Robert Shuller or other pastors and preachers.

But during the last 40 years it has expanded exponentially and has become a sophisticated way to spread whatever doctrine or lack thereof you desire. And these conferences are a medium that elevates personalities and ministries, and provides an atmosphere of man worship and preaching to the choir. They have become slick presentations that are well advertised with men’s names attached as drawing cards. And make no mistake, this is a phenomenon which bleeds across all doctrinal camps from orthodox to liberal to emergent and everywhere in between. Basically, they are a revelation of the humanistic culture and a disgrace to the body of Christ.

People spend all kind of money to travel to these events, and when they are national in scope, airline fairs and motel accommodations are a must. And although they number in the tens of thousands, the spiritual climate of the western evangelical church sees no spiritual revival and in fact continues to see a decline in all the ecclesiastical venues. But let us lift up the veil and expose the unpleasant underbelly of what takes place in these gatherings.

What draws people to these events? Is it that the men and women are coming with some new doctrine or some Biblical insight that they could not share via the internet? Are these speakers anointed with a knowledge of Christ that can only be communicated and transferred by in person messages? Let us be honest here, people go because they hold whoever is headlining in high esteem, and they look forward to messages that scratch where they already scratch themselves. They realize that these speakers will say what they already believe and that just their in person delivery will give them spiritual goosebumps.

But look even deeper. Many of the speakers are already pastors and not only will they receive their normal salary at their home church, but they will reap handsomely the financial benefits of this event. They do not usually come for free. And along with that financial remuneration, they often sell books and preaching Cds as well as Cds from the music leaders. If that does not accurately reflect the atmosphere when Jesus overturned the money changers I do not know what does, except maybe the Roman Catholic indulgences. They are little more than a mirror of a multi-level marketing convention.

And the church growth conferences throw out church growth red meat, and the Calvinist conferences throw out Calvinist red meat, and the emergent conferences throw out emergent red meat, and the purpose driven conferences throw out purpose driven red meat, and everyone dines sumptuously on the meal they already knew they would receive and already desired. The convention centers love them, the motels love them, Kinko’s loves them, the restaurants love them, the speakers love them, but God has no use for them.

But they are symptomatic of a church gone far astray and yet attempts to keep the excitement through spectacular events modeled after the secular and pagan culture. Does not the popularity of such events give us pause to evaluate their essence? Men and women profit greatly, not only directly through the event, but by the word of mouth when the attendees return back to their church and relate how much they were blessed. However nothing changes.

But what do they offer that the local church could not? If you desire better music you can still buy Cds. If you want to hear sermons from certain men they are offered over the internet or by request to their church or ministry. Here is a pastor who is a Calvinist (as an example) who shells out hundreds for a plane ticket to attend the annual Shepherd’s Conference put on by John McArthur. He pays the fee and secures a motel room near the event. Sometimes he rents a car and uses a credit card for his meals at nearby restaurants. And what does he hear typically? As in the 2007 conference he hears the main message, “Why I am a Calvinist”. So let me get this straight. The Calvinists come to hear another Calvinist speak on Why I am a Calvinist? Talk about your preaching to the choir! And I would assume that copies of that ground breaking message sold like doctrinal hot cakes. And for what reason?

Shouldn’t the local church be a continuing “conference” of who is Jesus and a penetrating challenge on following and emulating Him? Why do we have to travel great distances and spend great amounts of money to hear what all true churches should be preaching consistently? And these conferences are not evangelistic. They are meant to excite the base and also elicit funds and a pervasive followship of men and women. They do not exhort a crucifixion of the flesh, in fact they excite the flesh. They do not spend days on their faces before God beseeching Him to move in their own lives and in the lives of their churches. Most pastors and preachers arrive with a confidence that their lives and ministries and churches could use some advise but overall they fall within acceptable parameters.

The advertisement, the glossy pamphlets, the communications through the mail, the detailed maps, the motel listings, and the entire scope of these events mirrors a rock concert or an insurance convention. It engenders pride and is at odds with Biblical humility. It elicits unnecessary funds that might be used for other more Biblical endeavors. It makes rock stars of different speakers and expands the popularity of certain men and their ministries and their protected labels. And many times it exposes compromises that had remained clandestine until certain speakers were surprisingly asked to come. Oh yes, many times you would be shocked at the array of speakers from all kinds of doctrinal persuasions.

Ray Comfort (Way of the Master) spoke at a health and wealth conference, Rick Warren spoke at John Piper’s Desiring God conference, and T. D. Jakes is a common speaker at conferences mainly held by Southern Baptist persuasions. Strange bedfellows with the common denominator to attract people, cover the expenses, and spread influence. These conferences are fleshly outlets for religious entertainment which were learned directly from the heathen. The money that is spent is obscene, the excitement that is raised is fleeting, the amount of prayer is paltry, and the entire construct should be completely unnecessary if the local churches were following Jesus and His Word.

And many times the preacher takes a week long paid vacation and his church pays for his expenses to attend this conference. And I have personally known preachers who attend the three day conference, line up a Sunday morning preaching engagement for which they are well recompensed, and also receive their more than moderate church salary. And that is supposed to be Christianity? And some arrange for their families to be with them. In short, it is a scam.

Where are the advertisements in the Book of Acts? "Come hear the Apostle Paul!" Come and see people healed by Peter's shadow! But paul calls himself the chiefest among sinners and the offscouring of the earth. Not much of a drawing card and in fact his letters seemed more powerful than his personal appearance. And when paul or Peter or the other apostles preached, it was usually at the peril of their very lives. Quite different than a sumptuous meal and an air conditioned motel room. And HERE is a discription of what used to represent a "Christian" cruise. Yes, we've come along way.

And with all the conferences, and all the books, and all the singers, and all the preachers, and all the sermons, and all the famous men and women in Christian leadership, the fallen culture continues to be a more effective evangelist than all them put together. If we have ears to hear, that should speak volumes.


Anonymous said...

Hi Rick,

Isaiah 1 speaks what you wrote about. Far too many Christians will not pay their bills just so they can attend a conference and then expect God to perform a miracle to replinish their money wasted on every form of idol worship in the "church".

Isaiah 1
The Message (MSG)

10 “Listen to my Message,
you Sodom-schooled leaders.
Receive God’s revelation,
you Gomorrah-schooled people.

11-12 “Why this frenzy of sacrifices?”
God’s asking.
“Don’t you think I’ve had my fill of burnt sacrifices,
rams and plump grain-fed calves?
Don’t you think I’ve had my fill
of blood from bulls, lambs, and goats?
When you come before me,
whoever gave you the idea of acting like this,
Running here and there, doing this and that—
all this sheer commotion in the place provided for worship?

13-17 “Quit your worship charades.
I can’t stand your trivial religious games:
Monthly conferences, weekly Sabbaths, special meetings—
meetings, meetings, meetings—I can’t stand one more!
Meetings for this, meetings for that. I hate them!
You’ve worn me out!
I’m sick of your religion, religion, religion,
while you go right on sinning.
When you put on your next prayer-performance,
I’ll be looking the other way.
No matter how long or loud or often you pray,
I’ll not be listening.
And do you know why? Because you’ve been tearing
people to pieces, and your hands are bloody.
Go home and wash up.
Clean up your act.
Sweep your lives clean of your evildoings
so I don’t have to look at them any longer.
Say no to wrong.
Learn to do good.
Work for justice.
Help the down-and-out.
Stand up for the homeless.
Go to bat for the defenseless.
18-20 “Come. Sit down. Let’s argue this out.”
This is God’s Message:
“If your sins are blood-red,
they’ll be snow-white.
If they’re red like crimson,
they’ll be like wool.
If you’ll willingly obey,
you’ll feast like kings.
But if you’re willful and stubborn,
you’ll die like dogs.”
That’s right. God says so.

TD Jakes is already promoting the Woman Thou Art Loosed conference for next year and is telling the people to register before they purchase their airfare or reserve a hotel. What TD Jakes does not tell them is the registration fee is non-refundable and non-transferable. Talk about a SCAM! I mean, how long is it going to take for women to realize that we have been set free because of the blood of Jesus; not because some man said we are.

JMD said...

I may be ahead of where you are going but let's not forget cruises, tours, camps. Sort of like Wall Street for the church. eh?

Anonymous said...

Jakes is a real performer.These guys and gals have really made mockery of the church and it's purpose.It is a real turn off for me to see these wolves raking in the cash from all their stupid and gullible followers.The saying that there is no cure for stupidity is especially true today.

Michael A said...

Rick, I am honestly confused. I am NOT trying to start a confrontation, nor is this a personal attack on you. I firmly believe that we both believe that Jesus Christ is the ONLY way to salvation, that the Emergent church is an apostasy, and that ecunemisism is THE road to the religion of the antichrist (I refuse to capitalise its name). My confusion lies in this matter, because I have seen your entries on other websites. Why do you go out of your way to try to change a Pre-Trib believers view of the Rapture? This is a serious question, because I agree with quite a few of your doctrinal positions. What do you hope to accomplish by attacking their belief? I have not read anything in Scripture that would lead me to believe in anything other than a Pre=Trib view (and no, I am not a new believer...far from it), nor a reason OR prupose why we as believers would ever WANT tobe here for the fireworks. No, we are not any better or more privlileged than any Martyrs past or present; Jesus Himself said that there would be some of us who would be killed because of Him...not all of us. Why would we be told to pray that we would be found worthy to escape all that is coming if there wasn't a way out? Does it make a person any more holy to die as a Martyr? I am not trying to be disrespectful or snide...I am honestly perplexed by your ( and many others) positions about these things. May God Bless you and yours until He comes back.

Rick Frueh said...

I am pre-trib so I am not familiar where you say I tried to dissuade others from that position. Give me a quote and perhaps I can explain.

ChristopherV said...


If we have ears to hear, we would be willing to consider that what we think we read (our interpretations) in(to) Scripture might not be what was delivered to the Church from the Apostles.

The comments in this thread provide a timely opportunity to share

In Him,


Anonymous said...

Again, in total agreement.

I never took a christian cruise, or could never afford the money to travel to big conferences, but I slowly saw the vanity of it all. I started questionning healing ministries, like the Benny Hinn Ministry, that travels all around the world and how the crusades demand so much money and resources. I used to try to defend it, having attended one conference, yet it can't be defended when compared to the Word of God.

Yes, some may have been healed. But James says, "Is any among you suffering, Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil, in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven." As christians, we should all be available to do this. And I speak to myself too.

The healing crusades are possibly one of the biggest money makers of our time. No one should have to pay, then pray. People can be ministered to right in their own neighborhood. We don't need to spend thousands of dollars to see the "healer" that does pray in the Name of Jesus, but who also exploits the works of God by using his name on the crusade's the (Blank Blank) crusade that's coming into town. Donate, give, take the envelope and send so more people can be touched by the (Blank Blank).

This shouldn't be. No spiritual celebrities, and no resumes with great swelling prideful accomplishments should be printed, or advertised. The feeble with the strong, young with old, if they are in Christ, can do all those things and save themselves a great amount of money, time, expense, energy and minister to a neighbor in need.

Anonymous said...

It's like we are waking up to the spiritual con artists and it took a long time but maybe finally more christians will speak out.

The revelation that church has been hijacked by the enemy, and by celebrity-addictive pastors and members, and the idea that we can "book" church is shocking. Those who can afford to, can get the top floor, the best cruise ship rooms, and those who are on the economy tour get the lower quarters. It's like the Titanic. If the intention wasn't to create class warfare in the church, they failed; those who can afford a blessing versus those who can't. Or those who can get an 'upgrade' blessing for only $19.99/day.

It's like we sponsor the strong and the rich to inherit the earth. What about the meek? The blessed with a nice inheritance from the aunt can go and get a spiritual blessing, but the poor mom who's on Welfare can't. None of this makes sense.

To think that the clergy has been so deceived and led the flocks down the wrong path like this is beyond shocking. And the worst of it is, we are too pre-occupied with our daily lives to notice this whizzing by us and then it's too late.......the church is almost beyond help.

I know it the Lord's church, the Bride, and he won't forsake Her.

And the money-changers, and the TV evangelists, and when that wasn't enough for them, they are now trying to change the political landscape and call it christian. What next, will the church lust after power and control of the world?