Carl Trueman recently wrote here that he is disturbed by the willingness of Christian groups to pay Christian leaders $10,000 and upwards for giving a single lecture. He even quotes another favorably, suggesting that a willingness to pay such a fee gives “Christianity in this country a bad name.” Trueman warns against the preparedness of some Christian organizations to pay such fees, noting that it is “horribly sleazy” when one is influenced by a speaker’s “ability to command serious media attention or simply fill that stadium”. He goes on to suggest that not to voice that a lecture fee of $10,000 is “distasteful or downright inappropriate” is to head into “televangelist and prosperity huckster” territory.
Is it immoral to choose any speaker based upon a degree of popularity even when accompanied by a motive to fill even a large auditorium? If a Christian organization desires to communicate a particular message to as many people possible in one single evening, would it necessarily be wrong to consider the notoriety and communication skills of potential candidates? Moreover, if proceeds for such an event were, say, in the tens of thousands, why would it be impermissible for a speaker to be compensated $10,000 or more?
Indeed, I don’t question that speakers are sometimes sought out by Christian organizations for less than pure motives. However, I am not prepared to paint with such a broad brush as to say that to pay a speaker half the proceeds for addressing an audience of 1250 people at 16 dollars per head is distasteful, let alone horribly sleazy. Imagine, for instance, a professor writing a book on the Trinity that required a lifetime of study and reflection, including a grueling year or two to organize it into manuscript form. Not much money can be made selling useful Christian books, even award winning ones. Accordingly, I would have no problem with a Christian author recouping some of his effort in the form of a 10K financial reward through the medium of a single conference engagement. I wouldn’t even have a problem with a minister who preached thirty five sermons per year in a large congregation in Luanda, Angola making $350,000 per year given that a fast food meal in that city cost over twenty dollars in 2011.
Much more can be said on this matter, like what we think regarding the perceived worth of something relative to supply and demand.