harveyandsons asked a question:
Hello! I’ve been thinking about something and I needed to talk to someone about it. I’ve been thinking about all of these Christian conferences that happen and then I think about how I can’t go because I can’t afford it. These tickets are sooo expensive. How do you feel about this? Isn’t church suppose to be free? I understand needing to pay for the space and everything, but where is the line? I don’t know.
I absolutely feel you on this. I hate to demonize anyone here, but most of the American Christian conferences are geared towards upper-middle class people in their 20s and 30s, so they presume a certain kind of “behavior” within that narrow socioeconomic strata. At a specific price point, this will cut off the so-called “problem people” who are troubled by, you know, the lack of basic necessities. It’s a strategy for all high-end consumer goods to keep the “right kind of people” in their midst.
I know I sound really mean right now, but I totally disagree with these methods. You won’t see any homeless or orphans or ex-convincts in these conferences (though the preachers will talk about showing compassion to them, a lot). And these conferences all go for the exact same million-or-so Christians in America who get all the bestsellers and podcasts and CDs. Francis Chan exploded this whole mindset in a sermon here.
At the same time, some of these conferences are using all the funds for the right reasons. The Passion Conference, despite some of the criticism, does give most of their profits to fight human trafficking. Nearly every conference I’ve gone to enlists people to sponsor a child in a third-world country, which is a legit social cause. And some of the authors of these books, like Francis Chan, give all their profits to hunger funds and various charities.
A few years ago, when I had a panic attack and took two months off ministry, I wanted to attend the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta. It was way too expensive. I directly called them and said, “I would love to go, but can you offer anything for a struggling broke pastor?” And they dropped the price from about 420 down to 200. I know that’s still pricey, but they were willing to work with me when I contacted them.
The other thing is: I know some fellow Christians who are junkies for conferences and megachurches. I don’t think that’s a terrible thing, but they go back home to their own local church and feel “let down” or like “I’m above all these scrubs because I saw a real church.” And that’s just snobby. So while conferences can be a refresher, they won’t ever sustain your faith for the long haul. It’s nice to try out a spa every now and then, but you don’t need one to live.
I definitely think there’s a line with all this stuff, and I would really pray about where you invest. I understand that the church can’t offer everything free, because everything cost money, and to attend some of these bigger conferences is a privilege, which means they’re extra bonus things that are not necessary to our spiritual lives. So we can’t be mad if we can’t afford them. There are also sincere churches who leverage their influence and profits for the greater good. Consider doing the research and then seeking your own boundaries about this, and then saving what you can to attend if God calls you there.