The Crisis of Conference Christians

Mark Driscoll » Church Mind Conferences Sin Stewardship Culture

I speak at conferences. I host conferences. I appreciate conferences. 

I am also very concerned about conferences. Or, more specifically, conference Christians.


The Conference Christian

By definition, a conference Christian is someone who spends a great deal of time (and often money) attending Christian conferences. They love hearing the speakers, love singing with the bands, love letting the world know who they meet and what they are experiencing via blog/Facebook/Twitter, and love meeting up with other conference Christians. Some of these conference Christians somehow manage to work a job in around all their conferences. Others are ministry leaders spending tithe dollars to pay for their hobby/vacation/fanboy obsession.


All Around Me Are Familiar Faces

Having spoken at conferences for various groups over the years, I’m amazed that the faces of attendees are starting to get familiar. Such conference Christians somehow make the rounds between seemingly all the big events. I have literally had a photo taken with some people at five or six different conferences in a single year. These are usually single white guys from decent families who treat preaching the way other guys do porn—obsessed with it and devoting hours to it every day. Here are my concerns with conference Christians:


1. A Pseudo Elder Board

They have a pseudo elder board that they self-select from their favorite preachers and authors. This allows them to not submit to a local team of actual spiritual leaders who know them, but rather just defend themselves by appealing to their heroes, who would be embarrassed to see how they were being used by conference Christians.


2. Comparison

They start comparing the preaching, music, and overall experience of their favorite conference to their local church Sunday experience. This makes it impossible for the average pastor and church to ever measure up. It’s a bit like the guy who is so enamored with the Victoria’s Secret catalog that his wife starts to look less and less attractive, as if it were a problem with her appearance instead of his obsession.


3. Addiction

They are addicts. They are constantly getting high on preaching, singing, and mingling, and, like all addicts, need a fix and are subsequently always jonesing for the next fix/conference. This explains why they are always preparing for a conference, attending a conference, or reflecting on a conference.

If a decent percentage of attendees are in fact conference Christians simply touring around like Deadheads used to, then we’ve got more of a crisis than an upsurge.


4. Self-Perception

They wrongly believe they are more spiritually mature than they are because they listen to a lot of preaching from highly skilled world-class experts. But they are often far better at hearing rather than doing the Word, which makes them more hypocrites than mature believers.


5. Preaching as Wine Tasting?

They treat preaching the same way wine snobs treat wine tastings. They start comparing and contrasting the bold flavors, subtle hints, and theological tannins only detectable by the most discerning of preaching palates. You will hear them say, for example, how they love the Edwardian hints in Piper and the Lloyd-Jones tannins in Keller, as if the preaching of God’s Word were to be merely sniffed, sipped, and then commented on for the purpose of impressing one’s friends.


6. Wrong Impression

They give the impression that there is a growing upsurge in passionate young evangelicals. This is particularly true when you see large crowds at various Reformed events, such as those put on by Desiring God, Together for the Gospel, The Gospel Coalition, Resurgence, Acts 29, Sovereign Grace, 9Marks, and so forth. However, if a decent percentage of those attendees are in fact conference Christians simply touring around like Deadheads used to, then we’ve got more of a crisis than an upsurge.


The Options

As I see it, conference Christians really only have three options. One, they can repent of attending too many conferences and pour themselves out as servants in a local church rather than consumers at yet another conference. Two, they can continue to attend conferences but mainly for the purpose of growing as a humble servant-leader with new passions and ideas to implement in their local church. Three, they can now start discussing why they disagree with this critique, which will give them something to do until conference season kicks up again in the fall.



« Newer Older »