CHRISTIAN CONFERENCES EXPOSED
As transportation became more and more accessible in America many things began to change. Vacations could now be enjoyed across the nation, people could drive many miles to their jobs, many would travel thousands of miles to see a sporting event, and believers could pick a church to attend from a large menu of churches within even a fifty mile radius. And during the sixties especially another phenomenon arose within the evangelical community. It was called the Christian conference.
The format was basically this: One or more famous preachers were slated to speak and special music was also an important part of the event. These preachers became famous through periodicals, radio, television, and by many local churches within their particular doctrinal clique. So the independent Baptists knew of Jack Hyles and John Rice, and the Calvinists knew of John McArthur, the Charismatics knew of Oral Roberts and Kenneth Hagin, and Southern Baptists knew about W. A. Criswell and Adrian Rodgers. And these men and others were enlisted in a conference designed for their particular doctrinal bent and through extensive publicity that included mail outs, pulpit announcements, television and radio spots, and glossy pamphlets people were informed about the event.
Now these events charged admission when they were held at some public auditorium and even some charged when they were held in some large church auditorium. And they are well oiled events that are well scripted and organized. Most of these events are not geared toward evangelism, and most if not all are not geared toward a prayer meeting event. The drawing card are the notoriety of the men and women speakers as well as the singers. People come form all around and gladly pay the entrance fee just to hear their favorite preacher who they believe speaks the truth that they espouse at the time. Back in those days people would wait in line to have their Bible signed or the book they just bought.
And after the conference whether it is one night or a weekend event things return to normal. Yes, people have been excited and feel uplifted, but that feeling usually does not translate into any long term and life changing affects. And the plane fares and hotel accommodations and meals for the speakers and singers have been paid for as well as some handsome gratuity. These events, depending upon the size, deal with many thousands of dollars and some run into the millions. And if you count the travel and hotel and meal expenses of those who attend it can be quite a lot of money. And they sell a lot of books etc. as well.
Now in former times when there were no CDs or tapes and before television and radio men had to be present for you to hear them. But today you can purchase their books and tapes and CDs and listen to them for less than $10.00. So why would anyone spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars to hear someone they could hear in their home? The answer is very clear. These events are both ecclesiastical entertainment as well as open idolatry. People do not go to a conference to be convicted about their own spiritual lives. And they do not go to pray and be transformed and repent. They go to hear some they hold in high esteem. And they go because they are drawn by slick advertisements and the human drawing card.
Gal.2: 6 But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man's person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:
Some men of respect went to hear Paul but he said that God is not impressed with men’s reputations or earthly notoriety. And Paul described himself as the “offscouring of the earth” and “the least of all the saints”. But today men love to have “Dr.” before their name and be acknowledged by many as great men and women of God. Many are very wealthy even if they preach against the prosperity teachings. The entire construct is a scam and unworthy of the cause of Jesus Christ. Do the masses come with desperation about the spiritual condition of the world or do they come to hear what they already know and believe? The prosperity folks go to hear more prosperity, and the orthodox folks go to hear how bad the charismatic movement is, and the church growth folks desire to hear about how to build a large church, and on and on it goes. As I said, the crowd lays down handsome sums in order to hear what they want to hear but could already hear at home for nothing.
This is the ecclesiastical form of a rock concert. In fact, some conferences will see very long lines so people can rush in and get the best seats. It is an embarrassment to the early believers, the martyrs, and the Lord Jesus Himself. When have you see people pay large sums and line up hours early in order to get inside a prayer meeting? Don’t kid yourself. The flesh is not excited over prayer. This Christian conference phenomenon is not Christian and continues to be a legitimate part of a capitalist economic structure. People pay money and a very few accumulate money and round and round it goes and nothing changes at all. And this phenomenon can be found in almost every doctrinal wing of evangelicalism. If the speakers had to pay all their expenses out of their own pocket and if they received no remuneration there would be no conferences. But the restaurants and the hotels and the malls love these events.
All of us have attended one or more of these so this is not directed at anyone specifically. But when you mature, and when you understand the open teachings of the New Testament, and when you understand church history, you must see the deep compromise inherent in these conferences. The poor cannot afford them to say nothing of Christians around the world who live in fear for their lives or who pray for clean water and food for their family.
Some of these events come with great pageantry and are arranged with much professionalism. And the speakers are presented with an aura of uncommon spiritual insight. In America many of the leaders in these different movements are looked upon with awe and many admirers will believe almost anything they say or teach. I can remember many who did not care that Jack Hyles was preaching the same sermon they had heard several times. They were still exhilarated that they could hear him again. And that kind of idolatry runs through all the different evangelical strains. All have their heroes. And the concept of “heroes” has crept into the evangelical community which is a subtle and not so subtle form of idolatry. In fact when you set up a hero you subconsciously lend your mind and heart to that man or woman.
And these conferences lend themselves nicely to promoting such heroes as well as contributing to the wealth of these men and women. And please tell me where the Scriptures teach that church leaders are to be wealthy and how that kind of wealth does not affect them in the slightest. To be honest these conferences serve no real purpose unless you suggest that only by hearing that man in person can God’s Spirit work. And when you add all the accompanying trinkets and books and CDs as well as fine dining and wonderful hotel accommodations, well, you have a western construct that is really much like a political or an insurance convention. How can we justify such spending when the need both spiritually and physically is so very great? Our need to be stroked and a weekend of “in person” experience supersedes any urgent situation even among starving believers.
Yes, it is a wonderful spectacle which uplifts the spirits for a while and drains much money from thousands and redistributes it to men and women who do not need it. Wealthy speakers from every camp receive a salary from their church and add to it via these conferences. And they sell the recordings on their website. The prosperity preachers are obvious in their wealth accumulation, but men who preach against that message are wealthy as well. Try and bring what Whitfield and Wesley and Edwards did and what they sacrificed to preach God’s Word and try and justify the capitalist carousel which lives and breathes today. Look how far we have come, or more accurately, how far we have strayed.