Forced Cancellation of T4G Due to COVID-19 Pandemic Has Them On the Verge of Bankruptcy

By | March 19, 2020

As you weigh whether to request a refund for your ticket to the cancelled T4G Conference, consider that your ticket in 2018 helped provide the following:

  • $25,000  salary to Mark Dever for two hours of work per week.
  • $62,000 grant to Thabiti Anyabwile’s Anacostia River Church.
  • $247,000 annual salary and other compensation to Matt Schmucker.

For further details see the article below.

 

Two days ago I wrote an article titled “T4G – When Will the Evangelical Leaders Cancel Their Gospelly Conference?” In the article, I stated that “I fully expect the T4G Gospelly boys to announce they are cancelling their conference any day now, but it’s rather shameful that the Governor of Kentucky may have to threaten the leaders with house arrest if they refuse to do so!”  This morning Mark Dever and Matt Schmucker published a statement and a video in which Dever said, “Government officials have informed us that we can no longer gather for the Together for the Gospel Conference.” Schmucker, not quite as forthright in his written explanation as Dever was in the video, stated: “our love for neighbor and submission to authority overrides even our desire to gather, hear good preaching, sing, and collect books.”  Call me skeptical, but if one realizes that above all, these guys are peddlers of the Gospel their actions become much clearer.

One didn’t have to be a Nostradamus to make the prediction I made above, a modicum of common sense and observation of current affairs made it abundantly clear to this member of the proletariat.

Two days ago I also stated: “Watch for them to ask those who have paid the $300 conference fee to donate it to T4G.  And watch their “partners in the gospel” do it!” Again, I am a rather simple-minded man, but a child of three could have figured this out. If you have followed T4G over the years you know that the crowd queuing up to plunk their hard-earned cash down for a seat in the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville is comprised of overwhelmingly winsome white men in their 20-30s. They idolize preachers like John MacArthur and C.J. Mahaney (neither were scheduled to speak this year), talks about church discipline, church membership contracts, and all things Calvin.

John MacArthur at the 2016 T4G conference, surrounded by his worshippers.


Below is a screenshot of T4G’s evolving response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

 


 

“Government officials have informed us that we can no longer gather for the Together for the Gospel Conference.” -Mark Dever

Don’t sound so shocked Mark. If the government officials hadn’t shut you down would you still be pressing on with your plans to hold the Conference? I can think of no better way to create a hot zone in all of Louisville, the USA, and the world, than to pack an arena full of men from all over the world shoulder to shoulder for 3 days and then disperse them back across the country and the world to transmit the COVID-19 virus. Ah, but you “held out hope for as long as we could.”  But of course, as Matt stated, “love for neighbor” won out, even though many of the resilient, bold, happy, (and may I add woefully ignorant) registrants were clamoring for the show to go on!

“We’ve taken your money that you have given us since September and have already invested it… So we’ve invested all this money, in one sense we don’t have it anymore, and the expenses still remain and we are completely relying on the registration money and our sponsor money. So the remaining expenses have to be paid, about ninety percent of it, from the registration money.”  -Matt Schmucker

Not exactly Matt. The definition of invest is “to use your money with the goal of making a profit from it, for example by buying property or buying stock in a company,” I’m no business expert, but it appears to me that what you, according to Mark Dever’s quote below, have been engaging in for several years, is a sketchy business practice. As the President and Executive Director of “Gospel Projects” (the umbrella non-profit group for T4G, Cross For the Nations, and The Front Porch), Conference-goers are paying your yearly salary of $250,000, while Mark Dever, a Vice President of “Gospel Projects” receives $25,000 per year for his 2 hours per week he spends working for the non-profit. (That works out to $240 per hour if Dever works 52 weeks in the year. Not bad money if you can get it!)

“And this is the only responsible way to work. It worked in ’06, ’08, ’10, ’12, ’14, ’16, ’18 and we had every reason to think it to work in 2020 unless the Lord allows such unusual providences, which again we trusted for.” -Mark Dever

Maybe Dever is right. Common sense tells me otherwise, but I would like to hear what an individual with a Masters in Business Administration has to say. Dever is a sharp guy, but I believe his specialty is theology, not business. Schmucker’s and Dever’s plans worked in normal times, but in the history of the world, times are not normal indefinitely. Pandemics happen. Natural disasters happen. War happens. Economic collapse happens.

So now Dever and Schmucker are reduced to cobbling some alternate plan together in hopes of coaxing a vast majority of those who signed up to attend a Conference to allow “Gospel Projects” to keep their “investment.”

Dever jumps in with “to be fair to you and the organization side of it is, that’s why you’re clear when people register that there are no refunds. That’s on the website.”

Is Dever being truthful? Not exactly. See the screenshot below.  There were refunds given, but the website shows the refunds ceased on February 28th. I believe a refund policy is established to protect the Conference organizer from whimsical Conference attendee who decides at the last minute they want a refund, rather than a Conference organizer who cancels the conference, even though it is for circumstances beyond the organizer’s control.

I don’t think I need to spend much time on this subject because it is clear that Dever and Schmucker have not said they will not give a registrant a full refund if requested, they are simply attempting to coax as many registrants as possible to choose not to request a refund. Dever’s comment above serves no obvious purpose and would have been better left unsaid.

 

 

 

“That’s one of the main reasons we have this conference, to get out those books! That’s the main thing, honestly, we do with your money.” -Mark Dever

Really? Then I have a suggestion. Why don’t you stop holding conferences and set up a massive book club? You could work with publishers to feature one book per month at an unbeatable price.

I think Schmucker’s plan to mail the books that were going to be given away to all Conference attenders is a generous offer, but perhaps not a wise business decision. If they were to mail out 12,000 boxes of books at $20 per box, total cost, they would spend $240,000. That is nearly equal to Schmucker’s yearly salary!  “Gospel Projects” is desperately attempting to stave off bankruptcy by convincing people not to demand a refund and then they turn around and promise to send books to everyone.  They have stated the postage for this will be $12.50-$17.00, but all those books will need to be packaged and addressed. I can’t imagine what the cost of that will be. At any rate, it will really cut into their profit margin.  I have seen that on the T4G Twitter account they are really encouraging people to donate money to them to cover the shipping expense, and as you can see below, one winsome man encouraged everyone to donate $20.

 

Now I would like to look into T4G’s finances and structure. I want to thank my blog partner, Janna, for digging up these tax returns for me.

As I have already stated, T4G is an entity operating under an umbrella 501(c)3 non-profit organization called “Gospel Projects.” There are two other entities also operating under Gospel Projects – “Cross for the Nations” and “The Front Porch.” I believe Cross for the Nations is spearheaded by David Platt and John Piper. They have an annual conference held around New Years Day. They make emotional pleas to college students to live “Radical” lives by becoming missionaries.

The Front Porch is a group that appeals mainly to African Americans and is headed by Thabiti Anyabwile.

 

 

Below is a screenshot from the 2016 tax return of the Gospel Project. Highlighted in yellow are the three entities I mentioned above. It is interesting to read their stats.

 

The officers of Gospel Projects are Chairman Jamie Dunlop. Below is a brief bio of him.

 

Next is President and Executive Director, Matt Schmucker. I have already given him enough exposure, but the document below, taken from the Gospel Projects 2018 tax return shows  Schmucker to have an annual salary of $204,156 and other compensation of $42,824 for a total of about $247,000.

Next is Vice President, Thabiti Anyabwile. There was a short bio on him above. He formerly served as an assistant pastor under Mark Dever at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. He has also been a regular plenary speaker at the T4G conferences, although he was not scheduled as a speaker this year.

Next is Vice President, Mark Dever. Dever is shown to work 2 hours per week for the Gospel Projects and received $25,000 for his labors!

Next is Secretary, David Verhey. Verhey is a prominent attorney in the Washington, D.C. area and has been an elder at Capitol Hill Baptist Church and then Del Rey Baptist Church in Alexandria, VA.

Finally is Treasurer, Matthew Freeman. He is an investment advisor and is a member of Mark Dever’s Capitol Hill Baptist Church.

 

Next, I would like to draw your attention to a troubling $62,000 grant that Gospel Projects gave to Anacostia River Church. The pastor of Anacostia River Church is Thabiti Anyabwile! I have no inside information about this gift from Gospel Projects/T4G, nor am I a tax expert, but on the surface, this appears to be an obvious conflict of interest. How can you explain this large sum of money given to a church which is pastored by an officer of the Gospel Projects? How does a non-profit group who Matt Schmucker admits in a video above that “T4G isn’t a large non-profit or backed up by a lot of money, we essentially live off the event from year to year,” justify gifting $62,000 to Anacostia River Church?

 

 

 

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Below is a copy of the 2018 IRS 990 tax return filed by Gospel Projects.  If you find it hard to view you can click on the link and read the document at the Scribd website. What I was unable to determine, and would really like to know is how much money the Celebrity Christian speakers who appear at the T4G conference receive. If anyone has that information I would love to hear from them.

2018 IRS990 Tax Return by … by Todd Wilhelm on Scribd

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