We are occasionally asked why PTP has a tuition, so we asked a neutral, third-party person to give a biblical evaluation. Hugh Fulford has written as much on Bible authority as any man among us and his doctrinal soundness is respected both as a preacher of more than fifty years experience and as a widely-read writer (including frequent articles in the Spiritual Sword). His comments follow:
Polishing the Pulpit is a large, ever-growing, and spiritually enriching event conducted by and for members of the Lord’s church each year at the Wilderness Hotel and Events Center in Sevierville, Tennessee. In many respects, it is a huge lectureship or encampment. It is attended by Christians from all across the United States and a few foreign countries. The weeklong event (Friday of one week through Thursday of the following week) provides something for all who attend: elders, deacons, preachers, Bible teachers, teens, and children. To ensure its soundness and to make all the arrangements for it to happen, the program is overseen by the elders of the Lord’s church in Jacksonville, Alabama. For the Jacksonville church and its elders, it is a labor of love!
While a necessary fee is charged the attendees, the Jacksonville church does not realize a penny of profit. In fact, the fees paid by the attendees do not pay the full cost of the program and the Jacksonville church, with the assistance of other congregations, has to supplement the cost of the program by making a sizeable contribution each year. The fees that are charged are used to pay for the meeting place (and a place of the size and functionality of The Wilderness Hotel does not come cheap), to provide the speakers travel expenses, lodging, and an honorarium, and to take care of the massive amount of materials that are distributed, web/app programming and streaming, insurance, the equipment that is used, and the many hours of labor that are put into the program.
Some have questioned the matter of “charging” to attend the event. But think about it! Attendees would not expect the Jacksonville church to pay for their hotel or motel room, their cabin, or their RV lot. Individuals and families attending the program understand full well that they are responsible for paying for their own accommodations while attending the event. Now think some more! The attendees and their families also utilize the facilities of The Wilderness Hotel and Events Center. Who should pay for that? Should the Jacksonville church pay for it? Or should the people who are reaping the benefits of the program pay for it? The Bible says, “For every man shall bear his own burden” (Galatians 6:5). That would include one’s financial obligations. Just as the attendees pay “rent” for their living accommodations while at the event, it also is reasonable for them to pay their fair share of the “rent” for the use of the facilities and its equipment.
Over 175 speakers from over 20 states making over 600 presentations throughout the week are involved in the program. Who should pay the speakers? “The labourer is worthy of his hire” (Luke 10:7). “Let him who is taught in the word communicate (share in all good things, NKJV) unto him who teacheth in all good things” (Galatians 6:6). Every beneficiary of PTP should be willing to “pull his (or her) own weight” when it comes to paying the speakers. Such is both logical and scriptural, to say nothing of being appropriate and the application of the Golden Rule! “If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we reap your carnal (material, NKJV) things” (I Corinthians 9:11)? Those who reap the benefits of the teaching should be willing to help pay their fair share of what it costs to provide the teaching! That is a part of what the attendees’ fee is used for.
Most of our Christian colleges solicit contributions to help underwrite the massive costs of conducting their annual lectureship programs. Many attendees at our Christian college lectureships are happy to make a contribution to help with the expenses connected with conducting the program. No one attends a Christian youth camp or a Christian family encampment without expecting to pay a fee. No one pursues continuing education or attends a conference to enrich his or her work skills without paying a fee. The same principle is involved in reaping the marvelous spiritual benefits of Polishing the Pulpit.
It should be noted that the Sunday worship services conducted during PTP are open at no charge to anyone who would like to attend. A special “evangelistic night” is featured during the week which non-Christians are urged to attend at no charge. The last two days of the event are free to anyone who would like to attend. Many free services are provided during the week of PTP. Over 1200 children and teens attend with their parents at no extra charge, but 110 teachers and helpers and seventy-five staff members are required to run the children’s and teens’ programs! Who should pay for that—the Jacksonville church or the direct beneficiaries of the programs? That, too, is a part of what the attendees’ fees goes for. Too, financial aid is offered in the form of discounted or free attendance for widows, missionaries, students, and others who are unable to pay the full amount.
Polishing the Pulpit is an eminently scriptural program. To make all the arrangements, to see that all the many details necessary for it to occur, and to ensure its biblical soundness, it is overseen and directed by the elders of the Jacksonville, Alabama church. To pay one’s own hotel/motel/cabin/RV parking space is right! To help bear the expense of the use of the facilities in which the event is conducted is right! To help pay the speakers is right! It is nothing but scriptural, honorable, and right for those who are the beneficiaries of the program to pay a fee to attend it and to reap its immense spiritual benefits!
May God continue to bless Polishing the Pulpit! May it continue to grow in attendance and influence for good. May it continue its unyielding commitment to the word of God as the standard of authority for all that we do as the people of God!—Hugh Fulford