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Debbie and Savannah Lindell host a conference later this year. Image: video.

Controversy leads to re-evaluation of men’s, women’s conferences

The controversy surrounding the recent Stronger Men’s Conference in Springfield has led to a larger conversation about Christian conferences in general.

promo for the men’s conference began with images of a roaring motorcycle, a wrestling match and a shouting preacher pacing across the stage like a lion, urging men to get ready to fight. The promo for the women’s conference later this year begins with the image of a pink record player, followed by the voice of the late televangelist Kathryn Kuhlman, urging women to give their worship to God, and then breaks to scenes of joyful women dressed in stylish pink, dancing with joy as balloons and confetti fall from the sky.

“The energy in American Christianity right now is in this corner of evangelicalism,” Dan Mathewson, a professor of religion at Wofford College, told Religion News Service. “The stories you read in the news are about the decline of American Christianity, which is true in mainline Christianity, and even evangelicalism. But when something like this happens, everyone wonders, ‘What just happened?’”

Mike Prince, a former Assemblies of God youth pastor, attended the Stronger Men’s Conference from 2017 to 2019 after his wife signed him up for the event. She had attended the women’s conference for years. He described the event as a circus, designed to make sure that no one was ever bored. But at some point, he said, the event overshadowed the message.

“If you want to reach the lost,” he said, “the whole distraction from the spectacle does exactly the opposite. The spectacle completely overshadows the truth you’re trying to get people to hear.”

Evangelical author and Bible teacher Hannah Anderson sees something more in the women’s conference than meets the eye. The video for the conference, much like the recent “Barbie” summer blockbuster movie that satirized gender roles, may be about empowering women, not limiting them, she argued.

“It looks like a promo for a Barbie movie,” she said. “Everything is very soft and feminine and happy and emotional. But Barbie is also an icon of empowerment for women in the world. And as I watched the promo, it felt more like, here women are being empowered to know their true selves through knowing God.”

Katie McCoy, director of women’s ministry for the Baptist General Convention of Texas, said there is nothing wrong with promoting a conference for women in a way that seems fun or aesthetically pleasing.

“But it should be the icing on the cake and not your meat and potatoes,” she said. “We have been brought from death to life. “We have something that is transforming us from the inside out by the Holy Spirit living. Is that boring? Is the resurrection just kind of passé?”

McCoy said some conferences have moved away from a consumer model of women’s ministry to one focused on learning and empowering women to participate in church. “Women are looking for a place to contribute,” she said. “And one of the tragedies is that they don’t always find it within their local church.”

–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice


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