Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Myth of a Laity-Driven Movement

Last week Newsweek magazine featured the "15 People Who Make America Great" and included in this list was Pastor Rick Warren of purpose-driven fame. He was called "The Innovator" and lauded for his work, "Mobilizing Christians worldwide to heal the sick and feed the hungry."

In this article there is a remarkable statement by Warren: "Reformations always start with the peasants; they don't start with the elites." [bold added]

Is this statement historically accurate? Not really. Most historians, unless they are attempting to whitewash history, describe revolutions by peasants as having been orchestrated by certain leaders with an agenda. There are very few examples in history of a truly grassroots initiated movement.

Notice Warren's use of the word "reformation" rather than "revolution." That is probably a more acceptable term to use publicly. However, George Barna, one of the men whose statistics Warren likes to quote, more openly calls the church transformation movement a "revolution." In page 11 of his recently-published book Revolution (Tyndale House, 2005) Barna defines terms:

"Webster, not one to succumb to societal pressure to exaggerate, defines a revolution as 'an overthrow or repudiation and thorough replacement of as established government or political system by the people governed.' It adds that a revolution may also be a 'radical and pervasive change in society and the social structure.'

"Webster is aptly describing the transformation occuring in American spirituality today. Millions of devout followers of Jesus Christ are repudiating tepid systems and practices of the Christian faith and introducing a wholesale shift in how faith is understood, integrated, and influencing the world. Because human beings become what they believe, and practicing what they believe is the swiftest and surest means of generating lasting change, this revolution of faith is the most significant transition you or I will experience during our lifetime." (p. 11)

The terminology is important because the following words and phrases are used interchangeably to describe the same phenomena in the modern evangelical movement:

New Reformation
New Apostolic Reformation
Second Reformation

The next logical question becomes -- Is this purpose-driven global P.E.A.C.E. movement (Warren's "Second Reformation") a grassroots phenomena? Is it truly a laity-driven global program? Absolutely not!

LEADERSHIP TRAINING and MARKETING tactics alone would destroy this myth. Why would a movement that is a supposedly a spontaneous grassroots laity "reformation" need a propaganda campaign to launch it?

For the past 30-40 years, there has been a massive undertaking to train evangelical pastors and leaders through various entities (such as Leadership Network) and parachurch organizations to become "change agents" for "transformation." This leadership training, even though often done in the guise of "servant leader" (to make it more palatable), utilizes corporate business and marketing models.

For example, leaders are trained to develop a company "vision" and then, by using sophisticated group marketing techniques, persuade the "customers" (people in the pews) to "buy into" this vision. This approach is top-down, not laity-initiated.

In a recent Ministry ToolBox mailing to pastors, Rick Warren wrote about "How to communicate your vision." This message suggests utilizing various techniques that pastors can use to get their parishioners to buy into their vision. To get this "vision" effectively communicated, Warren suggests that pastors employ the following marketing techniques:

1. Warren tells pastors to be a "personal example" of their ministry and holds Lee Iacocca's slick corporate advertising campaign as an example of a leader who got everyone to buy his product.

2. Warren suggests that pastors employ verbal slogans and uses FDR's political methods as an example. Note in the quotation below that the Saddleback slogan "every member's a minister" makes it seem as though this is laity-driven. However, Warren's following points demonstrate that this really means "every member who has bought the leadership's visions can become a 'minister' to implement it."

"Let me suggest that you develop particular slogans that apply to your ministry…. The power of a slogan is very important. People do not remember speeches, and they do not remember sermons. They remember phrases. You need to have phrases that sum up succinctly in a few words what you’re trying to do so people can grab onto it.…

"Here at Saddleback we have dozens of these slogans: 'Every member’s a minister.' That’s a little four-word statement that summarizes what we believe about lay ministry. 'Pastors are the administers, the people are the ministers.…'"

3. Using another politician as an example, Ronald Reagan who is called "The Great Communicator," Warren advocates the use of analogy or metaphor, suggesting that this is what Jesus accomplished by using his parables.

In actuality, analogy and metaphor in the marketing world work by subtly manipulating people's senses. In the corporate world, analogy and metaphor serve as cloaks for hiding the real purpose of the company "vision." Why not be straight-out? Why not be open, honest, and verbally precise about the vision? After all, the vision statements are supposed to communicate realistic goals and plans…. Unless, of course, the vision is unbiblical, controversial or purposefully imprecise.

4. Further underscoring this semantic deception, Warren proposes using symbolism to communicate the pastor's vision: "Symbolism reaches people on an emotional level rather than on an intellectual level. Phrases and logos and things like that are very important." [emphasis added] Why is necessary to reach people on an emotional level rather than an intellectual level? Because marketing experts know that people are more easily manipulated at this level. Warren wrote in The Purpose-Driven Church (Zondervan, 1995) that

“It is my deep conviction that anybody can be won to Christ if you discover the key to his or her heart… It may take some time to identify it. But the most likely place to start is with the person’s felt needs.” (p. 219)

5. Finally, Warren recommends a schmoozing, flattering style of personal contact which sounds more like the behavior of an Amway salesman than a pastor--

"Get one-on-one with key people, the people who give legitimacy to your ministry. Get alone with them. Share the vision with them. Let them catch it from you at a breakfast or a lunch or a dinner or something like that. Then they’ll be your key supporters. People are usually down on what they’re not up on." [emphasis added]

The logical question then arises -- Is this a grassroots, laity-driven "reformation" that started with the "peasants"? Or are these the slick marketing tactics of a leadership-driven movement?

The Truth:

Jesus didn't use parables as a method of marketing. He didn't need to "market" the Gospel message. This suggestion is not only absurd, but also biblically inaccurate.

"These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father. " (John 16:8)

Matthew Henry's Commentary explains,

"He had spoken to them in proverbs, which are wise and instructive sayings, but figurative and general. Now, He would speak to them plainly, i.e., with freedom. When the Spirit was poured out, the apostles attained a much greater knowledge of divine things than they had before. They were led into the mystery of those things of which they had previously a confused idea; and what the Spirit showed them, Christ is said here to have shown then, for as the Father speaks by the Son, so the Son by the Spirit."

More on this topic tomorrow, Lord willing…