Thursday, November 10, 2005

Marketing Emergent

There is currently a rapid explosion of alliances between ministries, missions, and corporate ventures. Big business has entered the Church with partnerships for "advancing the Kindgom" and with promises of winning new souls along with profits. These marketplace "ministries" are popping up all over, particularly in Rick Warren's activities on the continent of Africa [see for more details on this point].

The postmodern, neoevangelical, emergent, etc. (fill in the blank) church has opened its arms to embrace a new"ministry" of saving souls by conducting business. In fact, marketing has entered the church as a "kingdom-building strategy." Cell church and church planting structures (by whatever name) are based on the Amway system of network marketing.

Name brand positioning to market one's one unique style of evangelism, church growth methodology or theology is now commonplace. For example, "purpose-driven" is inextricably linked to the man Rick Warren and his particular folksy style. The same is true of the term "Emergent" or "emerging" and Brian McLaren. An article from Publishers Weekly that ran earlier this year gives some interesting history of how "Emergent" is now a marketing bonanza for the publishing industry. An article entitled "Pomos Toward Paradise: A new subcategory points Christians to an emerging faith for a postmodern world," by Marcia Ford from 1/17/2005, discloses:

" . . . in the 1990s several existing groups and companies began to converge after recognizing their shared vision for ministry in a postmodern world: Youth Specialties and Zondervan, which had already enjoyed a 30-year partnership—with Zondervan publishing a line of ministry resources for youth workers for the organization—and the Young Leaders Network, affiliated with Leadership Network. 'The Young Leaders Network started doing some exploration in this area [of postmodernism],' said Youth Specialties president Mark Ostreicher. 'About that same time, some friends of mine started using the phrase 'emerging church' and formed a group called Emergent. We formed a partnership with them on day two of their existence, which is why our imprint is called emergentYS.'

"Not surprisingly, emergentYS has become the imprint most closely associated with the movement, with its author roster composed largely of members of the Emergent network. . . . "

The Publishers Weekly article explains the careful market positioning with the new name-brand of "Emergent."

"Partly because of the amorphous nature of the emerging church movement—unlike a denomination with a clearly defined and easily reached demographic—titles in the subcategory tend to stay in print and continue to sell long after their initial release dates. An example is McLaren's A New Kind of Christian. 'Sales have doubled every year, which is not the backlist pattern we normally see,' said Sheryl Fullerton, executive editor of the Jossey-Bass religion line. 'In that book, Brian crystallized a lot of the questions people had. It became one of the seminal texts of the movement, and I think that's why it's continuing to do really well.'

"'The longevity of pomo ["postmodern," ed.] titles can also be attributed to steady sales resulting from word-of-mouth marketing. "The emerging church is a community. They're bloggers, they have independent Web sites, and there's all this conversation going on,' Fullerton told PW. . . ."

"That kind of viral networking keeps books by some of the movement's most popular authors—Leonard Sweet, Robert E. Webber, Dan Kimball, Stan Grenz, John Franke, Spencer Burke, Mike Yaconelli—in print for years, including some titles that released in the mid 1990s." [emphasis added]

The secular Publishers Weekly aptly describes the Emergent niche in the overall evangelical market:

"As the Emerging Church name implies, the movement is one that has not fully arrived. Those taking part in the movement wouldn't have it any other way. A resistance to anything final and formulaic sets pomos apart from the modernist's emphasis on science, reason and propositional truth. Pomos see faith as a journey that integrates core values such as community, relevance, relationship, transformation, mission, story and interaction with a post-Christian culture." []

The Truth:

For several articles critiquing the Emergent church, see "Emergent Church: Where Is The Truth?" and "Emerging With A Christian View Of Scripture"

"And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all of them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves." (Matthew 21:12-13)