There is nothing wrong with being Christian and rich, says the Californian preacher Rick Warren, just so long as you give most of your wealth away.
"It's not about you," he told a Sydney crowd last night. "The purpose for your life is far greater than your personal happiness, your personal fulfilment. It's not about passions, possessions, positions or power."
Selling the message of God is Warren's business. This week marks 20 years of the annual Hillsong conference. Having begun in 1986 with 150 delegates, Warren is now addressing 16,000 Christians representing 71 nations and 21 denominations.
The conference's opening last night at the Acer Arena, Homebush, was more rock concert and religious revivalist gathering than the political-style rallies of the past, with political leaders being dumped from centre-stage.
But spotted in the audience were federal Liberal MPs Bruce Baird and Louise Markus, and state upper house MP Fred Nile, plus a NSW police chief and 17 rugby league players.
Missing this time was the cascading waterfall backdrop and the James Morrison solo trumpet piece, but all the elements of high-energy contemporary worship for which Hillsong is renowned were there - music to rival any secular rock concert and a positive, upbeat message.
As if to meet criticism that Hillsong preaches a brand of Christianity lite, the conference was full of scriptural references and proclaimed "The Church of Jesus Christ".
Warren, the founding senior pastor of one of the biggest congregations in the US, implored the audience to take on the "stewardship of affluence and influence" and suggests Christians should be more attentive to the poor and sick.
"I don't think it is a sin to be rich, it's a sin to die rich," he told the Herald earlier. "I want people to make as much money as they can as long as they give it away as much as they can." He is the author of The Purpose Driven Life, a 40-day strategy for spiritual transformation that is reputedly the biggest-selling hardback in American publishing history.
Warren, a conservative, says he has led by example and has given away 90 per cent of his royalties, and has returned every cent paid to him by his own church. It doesn't make him a poor man - his royalties run into the millions - but he says it makes him a better man.