This isn't the first time I've asked this question however, in years past whenever my church claimed to actually have the $500... they didn't really have it. So, I did some research which ultimately only wasted my time.
Anyways,... My wife and kids go to a local church that wants a budget projector. Having hosted movies for the church in my home theater for years now,... they assume I'm an expert.
My own projector is a Sony VW60. (Which is usually not $500 and typically less bright than the business class projectors.)
The church has borrowed a Sharp XR-10X projector from one of it's members and they have been satisfied with it's brightness and overall performance.
A few years ago,.. this notion was a bit easier as you could only find one or two projectors for $500 but now on any given day Best Buy and Staples both have something on sale at that price.
So,... anyone care to make some recommendations? There's no way I am the expert they think I am because I haven't seen so many projectors at that price in action and there are a lot of models to choose from. Epson and Optoma have a few possibles.