Friday, April 27, 2007

Skin Deep Religion or Crucified with Christ?

Below is an excerpt of a sermon by J.C. Philpot, "Crucifixion with Christ," preached at the North Street Chapel, Stamford, on August 19, 1860. It is a worthy endeavor to read the entire sermon, as it is a blessing of Truth in these dark days. It is based on the verse:

"I am crucified with Christ– nevertheless I live;
yet not I, but Christ lives in me–
and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God,
who loved me, and gave himself for me."
Galatians 2:20

1. If we are crucified with Christ, the WORLD is to be crucified to us and we to the world. But which world is crucified, for there are two; a world without, and a world within? Can we take the outward world in our grasp and drive through it the nails of crucifixion? This we can no more do than we can embrace the globe, or drink up the Atlantic. That huge world which lies spread before our eyes is beyond our reach; out of all proportion with our grasp. But we have a worldly "I" in our bosom which is but the reflection of the great world without. For what is the world all around us but an aggregate of human hearts; a motley, mingled multitude of carnal "I's;" so that each individual is but a specimen of the whole, and the whole but a huge collection of individual specimens? It would indeed then be but lost labor to attempt to nail the outward world to the cross of Christ. This is not the task that lies before the child of grace.

His crucifixion is within. His own carnal heart, worldly spirit, proud, covetous, aspiring mind, it is, which is to be crucified with the Lord of life and glory. For it comes to this, that our worldly "I" must either reign and rule; be pampered and petted; fed and nurtured in pride and pleasure; or it must be crucified, mortified, and subdued by the power of God's grace. The apostle therefore speaks of the world being crucified to him and he unto the world. What attraction would the world, with all its pleasures and profits, have to the eyes of one dying on a cross? Or what charms could he, writhing with pain, groaning in agony, dropping blood from his hands and feet, present to the eyes of the gay and glittering world? The cross killed the world to him; the cross killed him to the world. What was a living world to a dying man? What was a dying man to a living world?

Now we cannot be literally crucified. Even if we were, that would give us no spiritual change of heart, nor cause us to be crucified with Christ. It is, therefore, not the actual body or the literal flesh– the mere outward material man which is crucified; but it is the worldly spirit in a believer's heart, the proud, selfish, carnal "I," which, by virtue first of his representative, and then by the power of his experimental crucifixion with Christ is crucified with Jesus, nailed to the cross to suffer, bleed, and die with him.

This inward crucifixion of the worldly spirit, of the natural "I," kills the believer to the world. Do you not find this in your own experience? The world without would little attract, influence, or ensnare your mind, unless you had the world within alive to it. As long then as the worldly spirit lives in you unsubdued, unmortified, uncrucified, your religion is but skin deep. A thin coat of profession may film the surface of the heart, hiding the inside from view; but the whole spirit of ungodliness is alive beneath, and as much in union with the world as the magnet with the pole, or the drunkard with his cups. But, on the contrary, if the world within be crucified by the power of Christ's cross, the world without will have little charm. And this will be in exact proportion to the life and strength of your faith and the reality of your crucifixion.

The world is ever the same; one huge mass of sin and ungodliness. That cannot be changed; that can never die. It must be you who are changed; it must be you who die to it. Now, is it not true that it is the meeting of the two worlds in one embrace, which gives the world without all its power to ensnare and entangle your feet? Let the worldly spirit be but crucified in our breast, then we shall be like the dying man who has no sympathy with the living world. The poor criminal that was nailed to the cross, dying there in agony and shame, could look down with expiring eyes upon the crowd below him, or cast his last glance on the mountains and valleys, woods and rivers of the prospect before him. Might not such a one say, "O, busy crowd! O, once fair and beauteous world! I am dying to you, and you are dying to me. O, world, where now are your fashions; where your maxims; where your lusts; where your vain and gaudy shows; where are you all, now that I am dying here upon the cross? My eyes are sinking into the shades of night. I am leaving you, and you are leaving me. Here we part, and that forever. I once loved you, and you once loved me; but there is between us now separation, enmity, and death." Is not this crucifixion? This at least is the figure of the apostle; and a most striking one, in which he represents the world as crucified to him, and himself to the world.

But you will observe that it is only by virtue of "the cross of Christ," that is, by a spiritual union and experimental [experiential, ed.] communion with Christ crucified that this inward crucifixion can be really effected. There are two things whereby the inward, spiritual, and experimental crucifixion of a child of God is distinguished from that of a Papist, a Puseyite, or a Pharisee. The first is that it is by "the cross of Christ," that is, it flows from a spiritual knowledge of union with a crucified Jesus. "I am crucified with Christ." I do not crucify myself; nor does my flesh crucify my flesh. The second feature is that the whole of the old is crucified; it is not one limb, but the whole body which suffers crucifixion; as the Apostle says, "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not sin." (Rom. 6:6.) In the literal crucifixion, though the nails were driven through the feet and hands, the whole body was crucified; so spiritually, though the nails may chiefly be struck through the working and moving members of the old man, yet the whole of him is crucified with them. So not only our worldly spirit, but our whole flesh, with all its plans and projects, with all its schemes, motives, and designs, is nailed to the cross; and especially our 'religious' flesh, for this is included in the "affections" of it, which are crucified. (Gal. 5:24.)

But now arises another question. Is this crucifixion with our consent, or against our consent? To this I answer that it is partly voluntary, and partly involuntary. We may illustrate this by the example of Peter. The Lord said to him, "The truth is, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked and go wherever you wanted to. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will direct you and take you where you don't want to go." (John 21:18.) The Lord was here referring to Peter's crucifixion. Do we not see from this that Peter would shrink from being crucified, but that he would be carried to the cross against his will? Yet we read in ecclesiastical history, that when that time arrived, Peter begged of his executioners to crucify him with his head downwards, because he could not bear to die in the same posture with his crucified Lord. Thus we see in the actual, literal crucifixion of one of the Lord's most highly favored followers, there was a shrinking from the cross, and yet a submission to it. "The spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak." The natural "I" was unwilling, the spiritual "I" was willing.

So it is with us in a spiritual sense. The coward flesh rebels against, and cries out under the nails of crucifixion; but the spirit submits, and, when favored by divine help, counts itself unworthy of such an honor and such a blessing. But no man ever spiritually crucified his own flesh. This is God's work, who in so doing spares not for our crying. Perhaps we are hugging close some bosom idol, some secret lust, some rising ambition, some covetous plan, or pleasing prospect. This may be as dear to us almost as our natural life. Can we then drive through it the crucifying nails? Or if we could, would that crucify it? No. God himself must take it with his own hand, and drive through it the nails of crucifixion; yes, and so drive them through this worldly spirit, this covetous heart, this proud, unbending mind, this self-righteous, self-pleasing, self-exalting affection, this deceptive, delusive, soul-destroying, fleshly religion, that it may ever after live a dying life. It is he, not you, who thus crucifies it, that its hands can no more move to execute its designs than the hands of a man nailed upon a cross, and its feet no more walk in the plan projected than the feet of a crucified man can come down from the cross and walk abroad in the world. Here is God taking your darling schemes, your favorite projects, your anticipated delights, so that they become to you dying, bleeding, gasping objects.

Have you not again and again experienced this in providence? Have not all your airy castles been hurled down, your prospects in life blighted, your hopes laid low, your projects disappointed, in a word, all your schemes and plans to get on in life so nailed to the cross that they could move neither hands nor feet, but kept dying away by a slow, painful, and lingering death? But did you approve of all this? Very far from it; but you were in God's hands, and could not fight against his cutting strokes. Thus, then, you have a proof in yourself that your worldly schemes and projects were taken by the hand of God, contrary to your wish, for you loved them too dearly to part with them, but were as if torn from your bosom by God's relentless hand, and nailed to the cross, not by you but by him.

And yet mercy was so mingled with these dealings, and your heart was so softened by a sense of God's goodness in and under them, that there was a sweet spirit of submission given you, which mingled itself with this unwillingness, and subdued and overpowered it. Thus you were made willing in the day of his power that God should take the idols out of your bosom with his own hand; you consented generally, that they should be crucified, because by this lingering death only could the life-blood of your worldly spirit be at all drained out of your breast. For crucifixion is a gradual death which drains life and blood slowly away.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Customer Evangelists

Part 4: The Dopamine-Driven Church

"Do something nice for your-
self. Something cool and
creamy. Something rich,
smooth and chocolaty.
Something that can turn a
down day upbeat and make
a good day better. A savor
every spoonful indulgence
that's a perfect end to a per-
fect meal or just as satisfying
all by itself. And while you
are at it bring someone you
like, love or can't stand,
a Frosty, because everyone
likes doing what tastes right.

Do what tastes right. (TM)

[Exhibit A: Wendy's placemat, circa 2005, advertising their Frosty product.]

"The degree to which people can spread their positive feelings about your product to those around them has more to do with the place than the person. Situations make the Salesman, so stop searching for contagious people and look instead for contagious circumstances. Introducing your product into smaller groups of similar people who share a
strong emotional attachment to each other and the group can dramatically improve the speed with which it diffuses through that community and beyond. Leveraging the conditions that enable social learning and emotional contagion fans the flames and spreads information, emotion, and your product from one person to the next.

The ability of one person to influence another is powerful and well understood. Just how individual influence expands to affect whole populations, though, was a mystery for many years. Why did some trends catch on while others failed? The new science of networks is beginning to unravel the mystery."
--Greg Stielstra, PyroMarketing (HarperBusiness, 2005), pp. 163-164. [bold added]

"Real spiritual growth is never an isolated, individualistic pursuit.
Maturity is produced through relationships and community."

--Rick Warren, The Purpose-Driven Life (Zondervan, 2002), p. ii.

Once one has read PyroMarketing by Greg Stielstra, they can never look at the purpose-driven phenomenon in the same way. It is all about marketing. And the people in the pew are not only "customers," but they are also unwitting "customer evangelists." This is because the purpose-driven marketing plan is based on network marketing. Network marketing, unlike large-scale mass marketing, relies upon individuals in its downline to be its salesmen. But, in his new twist on this traditional Amway-style marketing concept, Stielstra shows how to get entire groups ignited so that the whole network is ablaze.

Since February 6th, Herescope has been running a series on networking. Today's post is a climax of that series, in that it explains a major reason why the transformational church is being restructured into small groups to form a gigantic global network. The purpose is really quite simple: networks expedite the flow of information, easily spread contagious emotion, and best facilitate the marketing of a new product, idea, or theology. When the church is restructured to fit this format, marketing will follow.

Continuing the book report on PyroMarketing by Greg Stielstra, which explains the wildly successful Purpose-Driven Life marketing campaign. The chapter "Fan the Flames" contains a subheading, simply "NETWORKS." The quotations below come from pages 165-170.

The key to networking is a knowledge of "collective behavior" and how that can be "synchronized" for "social coordination." Social networks, sometimes known as "interest groups," are the key to using "customer evangelists" who work the downline networking structure. Stielstra notes that there are competing human desires to be individualistic and also fit into a group:

"Those competing desires move us to find and join communities of interest called affiliation networks. Affiliation networks allow us to pursue our interests and belong to a group. The more affiliation networks two people share, say, by attending the same high school and joining the same gym, the closer they become."

This "common context" between two people then becomes the "commonality" which "directs and encourages the spread of information." The network made up of small affinity groups serves as a structure to diffuse information rapidly. Here is how it works:

"Minimally, all networks contain nodes, links, and clusters. In a social network, every person is a node and every relationship is a link. . . .

"Every person participates in several affiliation networks, which together define their social identity. . . .

"The dense, short links within a cluster--between a person and their friends--are strong ties that help information spread quickly and effectively within affiliation networks. . . . " [emphasis added]


The key to networking horizontally is a principle called "flashover." Stielstra explains:

"Weak ties, those chance encounters with people from other social spheres, makes it possible for information to jump beyond our affiliation networks and into others like a spark lifted by the wind from a forest fire that starts a new blaze in another location."

"Flashover is the goal of every PyroMarketer; it is that moment when the tiny fire you began with the driest tinder leaps beyond the initial group to ignite whole populations. The social equivalent is called an information cascade. . . ." [emphasis added]

There are two keys to the effectiveness of this: 1) a person's "threshold" ignition temperature and 2) connectivity, meaning "the size of a person's social network." Stielstra observes that "it is the percentage of nodes in our network neighborhood that adopt a new product, not the absolute number, that determines whether someone else's choice will influence ours."

This is the "science" of influencing people to make group decisions based upon the human proclivity to act like sheep and follow the herd. Even mass marketers (see Exhibit A above) use the power of peer connections to sell their products. Psychological studies have demonstrated that if enough people behave in a certain manner -- even if it is bizarre, illegal, or unethical -- the more likely we will be to "join" with them in this behavior.

The key word is "adopt." The goal is to get you to "adopt a new behavior." That is, unless you are checked by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit acting upon your conscience, will and heart. So, if enough people act strangely, we might be inclined to do so, too. Rational behavior becomes irrational, which then becomes re-defined as the new "rational." For instance,

"Think of the man on the elevator: Two-thirds and even three-quarters of the riders did not sway his decision to face the front. It wasn't until four-fifths of his network neighborhood faced the rear that he also turned."

In this utopian world of social networks, one can catch a glimpse of the pervasive influence of Peter Drucker, the business guru who mentored Rick Warren. Drucker was also a marketing genius. In Drucker's world one only possesses significance if they are well-connected -- "social capital" -- and well-trained - "knowledge capital." And Drucker's endeavors to create an entire class of people called "knowledge workers" who possess "knowledge capital" sheds considerable light on the type of "customer evangelists" who are most desired -- even sought after -- by the purpose-driven church movement. Stielstra explains:

"Supposed a person needs to see 25 percent of their network neighborhood buy a new business book before they adopt it themselves. A person with one friend (low connectivity) becomes vulnerable to buying that book, no matter how high their ignition temperature, the moment their friend buys because a recommendation from that one friend represents the unanimous choice of their entire social network. . . . but the cascade would end because, with just one friend, they could not spread the message to anyone else. . . .

"Affiliation networks are the key to starting information cascades because they provide the ideal balance between threshold and connectivity, what's called a vulnerable cluster. A vulnerable cluster is a group of people who know each other and that contains at least one person whose ignition temperature is lower than the heat of your marketing and one or more additional people whose ignition temperature is within the reach of a single personal recommendation." [emphasis added]

At this point it becomes clear that the S.H.A.P.E. assessment tool, and all of the other measurement, assessment and evaluation "feedback mechanisms" used in purpose-driven churches, actually may serve a marketing purpose: to identify those people who have the higher and highest "ignition temperatures."

Who is most likely to first adopt a new idea, product or method in your congregation? If you are a pastor who's been sold on this marketing deception, you'd want to identify and then distribute these key individuals across the small groups network. No one would want a small group composed entirely of "duds" who can't ignite. You would want to intersperse people who more easily catch fire into each group. Stielstra underscores this point:

"This is what happened with
The Purpose-Driven Life. The campaign began in affiliation networks created by a handful of churches. By dividing each congregation into small groups of eight to ten that met once each week, the campaign created network neighborhoods of ideal size and ensured that if three of four people adopted the book and its message, the rest of the group would soon follow. . . . Soon whole communities were synchronized." [emphasis added]

It gets worse. Stielstra dreams of a "futuristic marketing" in which new computer technologies will tell you "who to approach," how to build a "communications infrastructure" to "transport your message to those people most likely to buy."

"The ideal plan would discern subtle differences among people, suggesting one product to some while recommending something else to others. Beyond knowing whom to target, it would also calculate precisely when to approach them, choosing the right moment to deliver its message. . . .

"The ideal marketing campaign would continually adjust its message, optimizing its relevance and persuasiveness for each recipient. . . .

"It would also make sure people received your message. . . . It would accurately read and interpret feedback from the consumer and adjust accordingly. Such a campaign would even displace your competitor's message, giving you exclusive access to each communications channel. It would cost little or nothing, be self-replicating, and endure without end."

The observant reader, perhaps those most inclined to cynicism, will note that Rick Warren already utilizes this "futuristic marketing." The sophisticated message dissemination, that speaks one way to one group of people and another way to others. The constant re-adjustments to the message. The use of professional public relations agents, which may use focus groups and other feedback mechanisms to help adjust the message. There is a "communications channel" that has no opposition because everyone has agreed beforehand that they won't criticize. This form of futuristic marketing can dispense a message so powerfully that could potentially replace the Word of God.

[It would be irresponsible
not to point out that during the PyroMarketing fires of The Purpose-Driven Life campaign, Warren was aided by some of his "partners." Such as the mega-corporation Walmart, who threw huge logs on the fire by purchasing huge quantities of his book, which jumpstarted whole new forest fires across many networks.]

The Truth:

Carrying the lessons of today's post into individual experiences within purpose-driven churches may help to explain a few things to the bewildered reader. It may explain why you went through some of those gut-wrenching experiences in your church. Why you felt all alone sometimes. Why it was so hard!

This also explains the biblical concept of "remnant." A remnant is that group of people who don't go along with the rest of the herd, but instead choose to follow Jesus. No matter what the cost. Even if no one else in the herd follows Him.

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall
anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-30)

Monday, April 23, 2007

40 Days of Shared Emotions

Part 3: The Dopamine-Driven Church

esearch suggests giving preferential treatment to a few generates demand from everyone
By Robert Weisman, The Boston Globe, April 8, 2007
Envy is a powerful force in the human psyche -- and a tool to be exploited in marketing.

"Consumers clamor for products endorsed by celebrities or people with whom they identify, new research suggests businesses can stoke the enthusiasm of some potential customers by giving preferential treatment to others.
"The promise and perils of this slight-the-customer approach are explored in a recent Journal of Marketing Research article titled 'How to Attract Customers by Giving Them the Short End of the Stick.'
"It draws on a half dozen experiments conducted at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, where student volunteers from the master of business administration program were presented with a range of products and scenarios. The authors conclude that, under the right circumstances, 'consumers judge the same offer to be more attractive when a seller offers a better price or more benefits to another group than when the seller treats everyone equally.'
"The article is based on the dissertation of Alison K.C. Lo, a recent doctoral graduate of Fuqua. She cites a number of examples of how the theory has played out in the real business world.
"Swimwear maker Speedo International used the 'relative mistreatment' of customers to its benefit when it stimulated demand for its Fastskin bodysuits by giving them away to Olympic swimmers. Millennium Import Co., which sells super-premium vodka from Poland, did the same when it launched its Belvedere Vodka by hosting free tastings exclusively for bartenders.
"The Coop in Cambridge boosts sales of its Harvard and MIT sweatshirts and T-shirts by discounting them to alumni of those schools. 'Doing this authenticates the brand,' suggested Lo. . . .
"'People always love to compare themselves to others,' Lo said in an interview. 'Companies can use this to their advantage.'" [emphasis added]

According to Greg Stielstra's book PyroMarketing, discussed in the previous Herescope post, the "force behind the incredible success of The Passion of Christ and The Purpose-Driven Life, or any other runaway movement" (p. 145) is peer pressure. He doesn't exactly call it that, but technically that is the crux of the 5th chapter of his book entitled "Fan the Flames."

Under the subheading "Forty Days of Shared Emotions," Stielstra explains that the 40 Days of Purpose Campaign "fanned its flames by providing nearly perfect conditions for emotional contagion." (p. 163) This is the essence of the push for the small group format in churches.

Stielstra explains this process of "fanning the flames" when selling a product:

  • "92 percent of consumers made a purchase decision in the last year based on someone else's opinion." (p. 144)
  • "people spread messages more effectively than advertising. The fire is hotter than the match." (p. 144)
  • "In PyroMarketing, fanning the flames involves equipping your customers to spread your message through word of mouth. . . . Harnessing its power is the key to expanding a fire beyond its point of origin." (p. 145)
  • "Converting them into zealous evangelists and equipping them to influence others is what you must do next." (p. 145)
  • "you can transform those initial buyers into customer evangelists whose personal influence makes an unstoppable marketing force." (p. 145)

Herescope has frequently mentioned psycho-social techniques that manipulate people. One of the best descriptions of these techniques and why they work can actually be found in Stielstra's book. For example, he refers to the classic Solomon Asch studies in the 1950s in which people, under group pressure, actually doubted their own visual judgment to the extent that they went with the group's decision. Building upon that, Stielstra cites psycho-social theories of "bounded rationality," "social proof," and "decision externalities": To be concise, what this means is that if humans are overwhelmed with too many choices, we begin to look at others to see what they are doing, and then copy it. And, Stielstra notes, "Certain people, relationships and circumstances exert a disproportionate influence over our choice." Therefore, in the marketing world "you can design marketing programs that take advantage of them and better fan the flames of your growing fire." (p. 151)

Synchrony -- the New Agers have long noticed this but attribute it to emergent global convergence. The marketers pay attention to it because it sells products. The term "synchrony" has to do with people acting in unison. Stielstra explains:

"It's called self-organization because no one leader coordinates the group's actions. Synchrony emerges instead from the interplay of the group's individual members in a way that scientists are only now beginning to understand. . . .

"Paying attention to others enables synchrony and, in the words of sociologist Duncan Watts, 'We humans continuously, naturally, inevitably, and often unconsciously pay attention to each other when making all manner of decisions, from the trivial to the life changing.' Every day our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others. Paying attention is simply how the process begins." (p. 152)

Stielstra also cites Albert Bandura's "social learning theory" about how people imitate one another by watching others.

"First, he noticed that people are more likely to imitate someone they like. Mimicry increases when the observer finds the example setter to be smart, attractive, or popular. Just how much the observer copies them depends to a great degree on how much they want to be like them. This makes a person's circle of friends and family especially influential.

"But, perhaps more important, whether an observer copies modeled behavior also depends on how much they believe they
are already like them. People follow others' examples because they want the same outcome." (p. 154)

To be a good customer evangelist you have to be emotionally excited about the product. Stielstra observes that "people tend to 'catch' each other's emotions" and so, therefore, "If someone feels good about a product they recommend, we are likely to catch their good feelings as they recommend it." (pp. 155-6)

To undergird this point, Stielstra discusses mimicry, Malcolm Gladwell's research in the "facial-feedback system," and Edman and Frisen's research on "Facial Action Coding System [FACS]." Shoe leather is put on these concepts by mentioning the success of The Passion and the Purpose-Driven Life, attributed to "people's ability to accurately express and interpret genuine, positive emotions like affection, excitement, and satisfaction." (p. 159)

The best way to catch these positive emotions is by deriving our "self-identity from membership in groups," and our "emotional attachment to those sending the emotions." (p. 161) Notably, women are more susceptible to "catching" other people's emotions, something which Scripture talks about from Eve onward. We can guess that the serpent was very "subtle" by presenting "genuine, positive emotions like affection, excitement, and satisfaction."

"For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts," (II Timothy 3:6)

Small groups are key to the whole process because people "derive their sense of self from their membership in a group" and then "catch emotions from its members." And, "Smaller groups have a larger influence because it is easier for people to feel integrally involved." (p. 162)

Of course, this small group thing works. It is human nature. "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:6)

The chapter goes on, but we'll stop the book report here to analyze what has just been stated above.

First, all of this is explaining how the Purpose-Driven Life book and concept were marketed by Rick Warren. To see further documentation on this point and read the interesting story about how there was an attempt to suppress the publication of this book read here and here. After one reads this book it becomes obvious that this advertising campaign was extremely sophisticated. And one can presume that the next campaigns will be even more so.

Second, this book discloses the marketing plan used by many evangelicals today. The advertising industry as a whole seeks to SELL A PRODUCT above all else, and is very pragmatic. Whatever works. Whatever sells a product. When the whitewash is removed, this could be a formula for preying on people's lusts. And there appears to be no higher ethical code for evangelical marketers. In fact, this book is a cutting-edge new style of network marketing; so, in effect, evangelicals could actually be paving the way on this one.

"It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak." (Romans 14:21)

Third, the tiny little word "covet" is not ever mentioned in this material, but it seems rather obvious that this style of marketing works best off of this particular sin. The rationale goes like this: If Fred buys a new car, and you are a member of Fred's group, then lust or envy or covetousness -- or possibly Fred's contagious emotional excitement -- could push you over the edge to buy a new car just like Fred's. Even if you can't afford it or don't need it. Remember the previous two posts. Rational thinking is bypassed in the brain when you catch the emotional "fire" of dopamine.

"Thou shalt not covet" . . . (Exodus 20:17a)
"Woe to him that coveteth an evil covetousness to his house, that he may set his nest on high, . . . (Habakkuk 2:9a)

Fourth, take what has been learned from this column and begin to apply it to your own life -- not only in the evangelical world but also in everyday life. The best offense is a good defense. The more you know about how this psycho-social manipulation process works, the better you can resist the temptations that are daily thrown your way from every sort of media, whether it be secular or religious. Just how many decisions do you make in life because of "the group"? If that group isn't godly, then consider your ways. Who do you wish to emulate? How much of your life is dictated by styles and fads of the marketing industry? Examine the content of the ads that are directed to your age group, interest group, sports group, etc. From now on you might view this kind of marketing more objectively.

If you are interested in the background and history of these concepts, we recommend the materials posted at

The Truth:

"And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you; whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not." (2 Peter 3:2)

Saturday, April 21, 2007

"Touch It with the Match"

Part 2: The Dopamine-Driven Church

"The fake rose petals strewn across the tablecloth gave Milton Hobbs' booth a romantic aura. He stacked crystal-cut perfume flasks in a pyramid and set out pink candles tied with ribbon. The effect was almost sexy — at least compared with the other booths at the International Christian Retail Show.

"Hobbs liked it. He needed a striking display to call attention to his most unusual product.

"'Christian perfume,' he said. "It's a really, really new genre. We're the first!"

Virtuous Woman perfume comes packaged with a passage from Proverbs. But what makes the floral fragrance distinctly Christian, Hobbs said, is that it's supposed to be a tool for evangelism.

"'It should be enticing enough to provoke questions: "What's that you're wearing?"' Hobbs said. 'Then you take that opportunity to speak of your faith. They've opened the door, and now they're going to get it.'"
--"Christian Retailers Put Their Print on Products," Stephanie Simon, LA Times, 7/21/06.

In his book PyroMarketing (HarperBusiness, 2005), Greg Stielstra describes the wildly successful marketing campaign for Rick Warren’s bestseller, The Purpose-Driven Life. PyroMarketing is the name for this marketing concept, which is based upon the analogy of building a fire: 1) gather the driest tinder; 2) touch it with the match, 3) fan the flames, and 4) save the coals.

Stielstra developed a novel twist on network marketing that actually fits hand-in-glove with the structure of the New Apostolic Reformation cellular churches. It is now possible to market a new concept, idea, lifestyle, doctrine or product DOWNLINE through the cellular networking structure. Stielstra’s marketing matrix includes the latest medical research on how to stimulate the brain, state-of-the-art sociological tools, and time-honored political methods like “saving the coals” (i.e., keeping records of your supporters until the next campaign rolls around).

In Chapter 4, Stielstra describes what he means by “Touch It with the Match”:

“Touching it with the match involves giving people an experience with your product or service and its benefits. . . . Experience heats marketing to new levels.

“An experience with a product’s benefit quickly transforms prospects into customers. Without it, however, you cannot move people beyond their ignition point. Until you can build their interest to reach that critical temperature, you will be unable to build a fire, no matter how much fuel there is.” (pp. 109-110)

In the advertising and marketing world, stimulating dopamine production is the desired outcome. It is the brain chemical needed to create good feelings that will induce a person to buy a new product or idea (see previous post). Stielstra writes that “You must close the distance between your marketing and the customer’s experience.” (p. 111)

“Instead of merely exposing them [your prospects] to your advertising, you involve them in it. Promotion for your product or service becomes a holistic sense-stimulating event that conforms to the brain’s natural learning processes in ways traditional advertising can’t.” (p. 112)

Under a subheading “PURPOSE,” Stielstra relates that “Rick Warren understands the power of experience and designed it into his book and the campaign that spread his message.” (p. 113) This experience was the 40-Day campaign which involved readers in small groups, simultaneously experiencing the book. Stielstra refers to this as a “deep, meaningful forty-day experience with powerful content” and notes that the book sales “naturally followed.” (p. 115)

To explain the significance of experience, Stielstra devotes another subsection to a discussion of how “EXPERIENCE EXCITES EMOTIONS.” There is a path from sensory input to the thalamus to the brain, but marketers understand the importance of the amygdala in receiving this sensory data which “enables an emotional response before the neocortex has had time to consider a rational reaction.” (p. 120)

A goal of advertising is to elicit an emotive response before the brain has time to process it rationally. Emotional experience “engages so many more senses and in much stronger ways. Experience stokes emotion and emotions move people to action. Emotions overrule our logical inclinations. . . ” (p. 123), says Stielstra. Furthermore, the more frequent emotional and sensory-stimulating experiences one has with a product, the more ingrained this product will become in lives, even to the point of creating “customer evangelists.” “Customer evangelists” (p. 124) is the core group that begins to work the downline of the network. They become an “unstoppable marketing force” whose “personal influence” spreads the fire. (p. 145)

Writing about the bio-chemical activity of dopamine, Stielstra explains:

“The chemical messager dopamine is the pleasure drug. Its presence reinforces pleasurable behaviors. . .

“As we anticipate a good experience, our brains release a certain amount of dopamine.

. . . [S]ensations of pleasure, triggered by dopamine, reward our actions. . . . it is the action itself and not simply its outcome, that we find rewarding.” (p. 127)

Why does experience with a product work in advertising? “As experience holds our attention, excites our emotions, improves our memory, and heightens our pleasure, it eventually influences our preferences.” (p. 132) And happy customers will buy again. And really excited customers will become “evangelists” for a product.

It is beyond the scope of this brief post to examine the ethics of creating psychological experiences that stimulate people’s senses and create lusts in order to sell a product. Should Christians be in the business of purposefully titillating the senses to create dopamine reactions? Obviously the context of this question connects back to Rick Warren's emphasis on "felt needs" and his overall marketing strategy.

Church Growth leaders have never really acted like they are bothered by ethics. They have been using just this sort of psychological marketing tool for years, but not just for the purpose of selling books, church buildings or perfumes. They have been intent on selling a new way of Christian life – new ideas, lifestyles, doctrines and practices. Their entire empire has been built on dopamine! And a dopamine-addicted church culture breeds a constituency that flits from one high to the next in a never-ending cycle. Perhaps this is what Peter Drucker meant when he said that Rick Warren was the “inventor of perpetual revival.”

The Word of God, which the Bible says “is quick and powerful, and sharper than a two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12), has been replaced by manipulating dopamine! A "good feeling" is substituted for the Holy Spirit and all seems well until the next dash is made for a dopamine fix.

Part 3 will continue this topic, Lord willing.

The Truth:

Here is an example of the old-fashioned Bible preaching on today’s topic by Marvin L. Fieldhouse who was a missionary to Japan:

“This subtle glory of pleasure has so permeated the warp and woof of American life that even the so-called worship in its churches must be garbed in fun and ruckus or lose its numbers. (“Church hopping” is a well-known practice to certain pastors: people, hop, skipping and jumping from church to church in search of the program which affords them the greatest pleasure!).

“The central core in American culture is pleasure, around which the whole nation rotates, and all avenues of national life can be traced back to this glory. This is finally what the ‘true blue’ American citizen will spill his blood for – his personal right to himself. . . to enjoy himself when, where and how he pleases! Pleasure in some form composes the very fibre and foundation in his life. To this he will be loyal, and because of this particular glory he will serve the god of this world, for he loves this glory as his own life; and one of his main terrors at capitulating to Christ is that he suspects that the first thing God will ask him to do is give up his many pleasures! . . .

“Has it ever entered into your thinking yet that if Satan can somehow conscript us under one of his many bright banners, and then enlist us to fight for just 1/10,000th of that gorgeous worldliness which Jesus rejected, he has ruined our witness for Christ in this world?” (“Worldliness and Me”)

“And the world passeth away and the lust thereof, but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”
(I John 2:17)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Dopamine-Driven Church

Part 1: C’mon God, Light My Fire

“There is a generation rising that is hungry to see the power of God evidenced with signs and wonders. The Bible says, according to Hebrews 11:1, that faith is to be accompanied with substance and evidence. This rising generation is not satisfied with the preaching of mere words alone, but is, however, after the Biblical preaching of the gospel evidenced by the power of miracles, healings, signs, and wonders fully manifesting the Kingdom.”
-- The Elijah List advertisement for the “Fire Glory & Harvest Conference, Feb.28-March 3, 2007.

Replacing the Holy Spirit with a dopamine high: this is the agenda of the New Apostolic Reformation. If people can be trained to be ruled by their senses, they are more malleable, easily manipulated, and ready to be driven from one new lustful fad to another.

What is dopamine and how does it work? For a thorough scholarly analysis see the full article by Dean Gotcher, entitled “The Dialectical Drug Culture.” Below is a descriptive excerpt:

"Dopamine is a chemical which the body naturally synthesizes to transmit messages of pleasure from the nerve endings to the midbrain. The midbrain then synthesizes the neurotransmitter dopamine to activate other parts of the brain in an effort to find what caused the pleasure, to record it, and if necessary to figure out how to continue, restore, or create the environment which caused the pleasure. Our body naturally loves the effect of dopamine. It seeks after the conditions which trigger its release in the body. Most drugs of habit are related in some way to affecting dopamine production, replacement, or inhibition . . . .

"Any time we touch, taste, smell, see, hear, and then think about something which activates the neurons of pleasure, dopamine is used to convey this message to the brain which then seeks to continue the state of pleasure. The body in essence has a mind of its own to seek pleasure. . . .

“After studying this system of the body it has become apparent the effect this chemical (the neurotransmitter dopamine) has had on the history of man. Eve's desire to touch the tree (dopamine), Adam's desire to listen to Eve (dopamine), Esau giving up his birthright for food (dopamine), the ten spies, David and Bathsheba, etc. are only a few examples we find in the Bible the effect this chemical (the love of it's effect upon the brain) has had upon our lives. Self loves pleasure. Instead of hearing self control, self discipline, humble yourself, deny yourself, today we hear of 'self esteem.'

Self-esteem (love of dopamine) always comes from group-esteem (group respect--love of the respect of men). God is not a respecter of persons. Consensus is group dopamine―orgy, love fest, worship of man, social Eros, etc. All that is of the world is dopamine-producing, flesh, eyes, and pride―Maslow's Hierarchy of 'felt' needs. . . .

“There is nothing wrong with dopamine; it serves its God created purpose, but when we seek it above the lords command, we let the body control us (id, impulse, natural desires, etc.) and we fall into and become slaves to sin. The dialectical process is discourse (which we all do with ourselves or others) in an effort to create a dopamine-producing world. Call it by groupthink, lovefest, love of love, consensus, globalism, world peace, Emerging church, Church Growth or any other name, it is simply the love of pleasure. It can even be disguised as the love of God―experiencing God―'love that feeling.'"

How does dopamine work in everyday life? Your feelings! One key area of vulnerability to its effects can be found by examining how the advertising industry preys upon these feelings. Below is a recent, poignant example of how good feelings in the brain can circumvent rational thought. It comes from a NPR transcript of "All Things Considered" that ran last Friday, April 13th:

Drug Ads Play Up Benefits, Downsize Risks
by Allison Aubrey

Taking medicine used to be only for the sick. But in the age of direct-to-consumer advertising, drugmakers have persuaded a lot of people that taking medicine can be a casual affair, something healthy people should do to stay well.

With more than $4 billion a year spent on pharmaceutical ads, studies show it's increasingly common for people to ask their doctors for drugs they've heard about on TV.

TV ads for the sleeping pill Lunesta air during many popular network shows. One ad begins with a pitch-black screen.

"This is you," a narrator's voice says. "You've awakened in the dark because your sleep aid didn't give you a full night's sleep."

On screen, viewers see a woman with lying in her bed. She's tossing and turning, clearly frustrated.
But during the 60-second advertisement, her sleep problems are put to rest.

"Tomorrow, ask your doctor about Lunesta," says the narrator as gentle music plays and a glowing moth appears.

The woman appears to fall into a deep sleep.

Selling a Feeling

She looks so restful, says former TV producer Al Tompkins. "And when she wakes up, she's just gorgeous," Tompkins says. "She sits right up and stretches and looks great. Who doesn't want that?"
Tompkins, now a consultant with the Poynter Institute, says TV ads like these are persuasive because they sell you a feeling. "I believe you remember what you feel, longer than what you know," he says. "And this spot is long on feeling and clearly the things you could know — the facts, the numbers — are things you'll never remember."

A litany of warnings and side effects is spoken clearly during the Lunesta ad.

The narrator's voice tells viewers, "Until you know how you'll react to Lunesta, you should not drive or operate machinery. Do not take Lunesta with alcohol. Most sleep medicines include some risk of dependency. Side effects may include unpleasant taste, headaches, drowsiness or dizziness."

Reading these warnings, it's easier to remember the details. But when people watch the ad, they're much more likely to be distracted by the moving pictures and music. The images of the gliding luna moth almost feel like an IMAX movie.

"When the eye and the ear compete," says Tompkins, "the eye wins.". . .

It is an interesting exercise to read the complete text to this "All Things Considered" radio show. The advertising industry has learned that by appealing to people’s “felt needs” they can sell a new product. Likewise, the church growth movement has borrowed the same tools and strategies to market new doctrines and practices to modern Christianity – a group already saturated with, and desensitized by, the media dopamine-driven culture in which we live.

Bear in mind that the original neoevangelicals, as described by H.J. Ockenga, repudiated separation. Old-time fundamentalist separation, particularly well-described by J.C. Wenger in the classic work Separated Unto God (Herald Press, 1951, reprinted by Sword and Trumpet), once taught that true believers should separate from the popular culture in order to truly preserve their ability to function as “salt and light” within that culture. Therefore, a neoevangelical church immersed in the constant barrage modern media, particularly dopamine-inducing ads, becomes trained to salivate upon stimulation. People fall for anything "new, better or more," as Jeremy Rifkin noted (quoted in the 4/12 post).

There is a certain symbolism with running an advertising excerpt about a sleep-inducing product in the context of discussing dopamine's effect on the Church. Obviously, those who are spiritually lulled to sleep by the antics of the dopamine-enhanced New Apostolic Reformation aren't going to want to be bothered to wake up and read discernment materials! Side effects? Apathy to Scripture. Warnings? Forget facts, this "feels" so right! God is doing a new thing? Rush off to the latest signs and wonders “revival”! God is making people laugh like hyenas, bark like dogs and contort their bodies into birthing positions? Disregard the fine print warning labels!

Slick new packaging helps to sell products. Likewise, sugar-coating dopamine-inducing events with a spiritual patina works to sell new theologies. So if you can be induced to attend the latest rally, revival, prayer event, then the organizers know you can more easily be persuaded, seduced, manipulated, marketed to. Why was Promise Keepers such a raging success? Because men were lured into mass rallies complete with hype, hoopla, and an extreme focus on "felt needs" -- breaking down the walls emotionally and spiritually. Small groups modeled on the encounter group format of humanistic psychology work the same way.

Addiction to the latest dopamine high. If it feels good, do it. Whatever it takes.

Part 2 will continue this topic, Lord willing.

The Truth:

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” (I John 2:15-16)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Emerging Spiritual Revolution

“It is also important to note the extreme nonrational anti-institutional nature of the Charismatic movement. It is, first and foremost, a movement of the heart over the mind, of personal experience over objective analysis. The very basis of the Charismatic renewal is nonrational and subjective. . . .

“As a possible revolutionary movement, then, the Charismatic renewal must be reckoned with seriously.”
[Jeremy Rifkin, The Emerging Order (G.P Putnam’s Sons, 1979), p. 228, emphasis added.]

In his blueprint for “the emerging spiritual revolution” (The Emerging Order, p. 95), Jeremy Rifkin wrote about how to manipulate the Charismatics to create a new Dominionist worldview for science, economics and spirituality. This worldview is New Age, representing a new world order created out of the humus of Hermeticism. Rifkin suggested that the Charismatics could provide the nonrational component, while the evangelicals could work on the theological logistics of a “new covenant vision and a new world view."

“Today’s Christian renewal movement is a two-pronged phenomenon. First, there are the millions upon millions of Charismatics, whose belief in supernatural gifts of faith healing, speaking in tongues and prophesy represent a monumental assault on the modern age itself. For the Charismatics, these supernatural powers are beginning to replace science, technique and reason as the critical reference points for interpreting one’s day-to-day existence. If this unconscious challenge to the modern world view continues to intensify, it would provide the kind of liberating force that could topple the prevailing ethos and provide a bridge to the next age of history.

“While the Charismatics are generating a potential liberating impulse, the more mainline evangelical movement is beginning to provide the necessary reformulation of theological doctrine that is essential for the creation of a new covenant vision and a new world view.” (p. x)

Rifkin proposed that a “new definition of dominionism” be part of this “new covenant vision.” In future posts we will detail the history of how, since Rifkin wrote about it in 1979, this “new covenant” doctrine was authored and became pervasive. Just as Rifkin planned, these doctrinal changes came out of the neoevangelical mainstream – particularly Fuller Theological Seminary, the U.S. Center for World Mission.

For a good part of his book, Rifkin was particularly consumed by the mechanics of how to create a “great religious awakening. . . one potentially powerful enough to incite a second Protestant reformation” (p. xi). He seized upon the media, particularly televangelists, and newly-developed psycho-social tools that utilized “anxiety” to change cognitive function, as a way to stage-manage these “nonrational” aspects of Charismaticism.

The original neoevangelical leaders (see April 5th post) had used revivals as a way to facilitate change, and Rifkin had taken note of this. Richard Riss, in his book Latter Rain (1987) spoke of how the mid-twentieth century neoevangelical “awakenings. . . contributed significantly to the revitalization of evangelicalism” (p. 18). Bill Bright, working under the influence of Henrietta Mears, published his Awakenings Bulletin in the 1950s, chronicling the fervors. Mass revival was a method that was both “emotional and illogical” (p. 27), but that is what the leaders wanted. J. Edwin Orr, Armin Gesswein, Billy Graham, and others studied the mechanics of the revivals. Orr taught a class on “Spiritual Awakening” at Wheaton College in 1949 (p. 37). The goal of these revivals was to create a sensation of the “presence” of the Holy Spirit. By the 1970s, a mechanism for mass indoctrination was created that critic John E. Ashbrook referred to as “Explos and Extravanganzas” (New Neutralism II, Here I Stand, 1992, p. 77). Mass spiritual events in stadiums, could work people up into an emotional frenzy. And heightened emotions were supposed to be evidence of the "presence" of God.

The rise of the global prayer movement deserves special mention in this context for its ability to accomplish so many of Rifkin’s objectives simultaneously:
  • ecumenism
  • altered states of consciousness
  • desensitization to new practices and doctrines
  • experience over reason
  • communicating new doctrines
  • mysticism
  • new worship
  • mood-altering music
  • spiritual warfare
  • Dominionism
  • creating a international Christian mindset

The emphasis was most often put on group prayer. When these corporate acts of prayer are accompanied by sensory stimulation (optical, aural, tactile, etc.) and sensory deprivation (fasting, sleep loss, physical exertion, etc.), there is a heightened ability to alter cognitive processes in the brain. In other words, organized prayer rituals serve as a vehicle to open the mind to heretical ideas. In a similar fashion, mysticism incorporated into private prayer activities (such as meditation, contemplation, etc.) serves to open the mind to the occult.

Significantly, Vonette Bright, wife of Bill Bright, is credited by C. Peter Wagner as the “key person in heightening and sustaining a significant prayer emphasis in the Lausanne Movement” and convening “the World Prayer Assembly, the largest international prayer meeting that had ever been held. . . in Seoul, Korea, in 1984” (Confronting the Powers [Regal, 1996], p. 15-16). Indeed, many of the global mission leaders also worked to jumpstart the global prayer movement, justifying it by the need to pray for "unreached people groups." It is difficult to criticize prayer for mission work, but Al Dager, writing about this in his book The World Christian Movement (Sword, 2001), noted: "If people must be motivated to pray for their neighbors by an external organization whose agenda is dominionist and, thus, unscriptural, there is something wrong." (p. 138)

Of note is the special purpose of the World Prayer Center, which has served as a hub for the various streams of the New Apostolic Reformation, particularly the convergence of the mission and prayer-warfare Dominionists. Al Dager explains:

“Of late the focus on the WCS’s dominionist agenda has spread from U.S. Center for World Missions in Pasadena, California, to The World Prayer Center, affiliate of Global Harvest Ministries, headed by C. Peter Wagner in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The World Prayer Center (WPC) is headed by C. Peter Wagner, Ted Haggard and Chuck Pierce, all of whom Charisma magazine calls ‘God’s Generals.’ It is touted as the ‘Pentagon of modern Christianity.’ ‘God’s Air Command,’ and other militaristic nomenclatures.” [emphasis added]

According to Dager, the World Prayer Center website originally explained its purpose in terms of databanking and networking -- a gigantic global prayer request databank filled with personal information, as well as strategic "intelligence" data about population groups around the globe:

“The World Prayer Center is a communications center, serving the Church throughout the world by linking prayer requests, practical needs, and reporting evangelistic breakthroughs. It will collect and compile requests from every continent as national prayer centers report what God is doing and how His people ought to pray. Dr. Peter Wagner says, ‘We see our task as getting people in touch with one another to form interactive, human web networks that are properly equipped to wage effective spiritual warfare.’

“The physical facility. . . will include the latest telecommunications system. . . .

“Never in the history of the Church has it been possible to link believers throughout the world. The coordinated prayers of God’s people will be concentrated on His objectives. . . .

“Since prayer is the precursor to every great move of God, a fully equipped nerve center with data and information about prayer needs throughout the world will enable intercessors to pray intelligently. The World Prayer Center networks prayer ministries, denominations, churches and cell groups. This creates a united prayer front that will end Satan’s attempt to divide and isolate believers, and to blind so many to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” (pp. 127-8) [all emphases added]

It can be surmised that Rick Warren's Global P.E.A.C.E. Databank will either supplement or replace the current World Prayer Center.

The Global Day of Prayer is the latest worldwide attempt to network Christians for “revival,” notably in stadiums. This five-year annual event was promoted by Rick Warren as part of launching his Second Reformation. Doctrines of Dominionism are incorporated into the prayers.

A high-tech version of the dominionist prayer/mission movement, connected with the entities above, is George Otis’ Transformations video series which promises that entire cities, regions and nations can go through a revolutionary process of revival. All of this remarkably serves Rifkin’s original intents and purposes. But, as Al Dager cynically notes:

“With all the hoopla, sweat, screaming, wailing and jumping up and down that have gone on over the spiritual plight of cities these past several years there isn’t a single one that has been won to Christ. And there won’t be any. These efforts create nothing but black holes that suck up Christians’ time, energy, and money while exalting the leaders as God’s anointed apostles and prophets.” (p.134)

Notably few, if any, of these corporate prayer revivals have been accompanied by widespread repentance. The doctrine of Dominionism focuses attentions on changing the structures of society, but not on the more difficult dying-to-self work of the Holy Spirit in the heart. Concerted prayer is claimed to serve as a better way for God to hear His people, but the Scripture assures us:

The Truth:

“The LORD is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous.” (Proverbs 15:19)

“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:16b)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Plan to Market Transformation

"Every time the Bible is made available through a new technology, there tends to be an awakening. The Protestant Reformation occurred after the invention of the printing press."
--Rick Warren, interview in Business Week, May 23, 2005.[emphasis added]

"See, here's the other reason why I believe a Reformation could happen: every time God's word is put into new technology, there's a Reformation. In 1456 or something, that's when Gutenberg came out with the printing press, and the first thing he prints, what is it? A Bible. It's not pornography; it's the Bible, okay? Within about 50 years of that time we have the Reformation. Why? Because what Martin Luther nailed to the wall of the Wittenberg door somebody pulled off the wall and started reprinting. The Reformation would have never happened without the technology to make it possible. We now have a new technology which allows global networking between millions of local churches. It's called the Internet."
--Rick Warren, "Myths of the Modern Mega-Church," speaking at the Pew Forum's conference on religions, politics and public life, May 23, 2005. [emphasis added]

Jeremy Rifkin, in his landmark book The Emerging Order, which was a blueprint for how to create a massive overhaul of evangelical doctrine to a new Dominionism, seized upon media technology as the primary vehicle to forge this transformation. Not only would evangelicals use the medium of television, but television would, in turn, transform the evangelicals. His 1979 book (G.P. Putnam's Sons) didn't foresee the role the Internet would play in this transformation, but his comments pertaining to television below could just as easily have been applied to the Internet:

"Before the invention of the printing press, the written word was preserved largely through the efforts of monks who were subject to the Catholic Church. This gave the Church a virtual monopoly over reading and manuscript duplication and assured their authority over the interpretation of Christian doctrine as well. The printing press changed all of that overnight. By making the Bible readily available to everyone, Gutenberg helped set the conditions for the Reformation's challenge to the authority of the Church. . . .

"Now six centuries later, the print medium is being eclipsed by a new medium--television. In just thirty years, electronic communication has changed the entire way people conceptualize the world around them. In the process, it is dramatically changing the way people perceive Christian faith and doctrine. A revolution in Christianity is beginning to unfold, and it owes much of its impetus to television, just as the Reformation owed much of its impetus to print. The movement from print to TV has transformed the human mind. The sensual and experiential mode of instant television communications has replaced the objective and analytical mode of reflective print communications. Time and distance have been overtaken by spontaneity and immediacy. The individual no longer thinks as much as he acts. He no longer ponders as much as he experiences. This new conceptual mode will transform much of the Christian doctrine now and the turn of the century. The Charismatic phenomenon represents the first significant step in that transformation process." (pp. 113-114) [emphases added]

Modern technology is a perfect vehicle to transform the human mind, Rifkin is saying above, because it is "sensual" and "experiential." Rifkin foresaw that the new media had great possibilities for creating a manufactured revival in order for the Church to adopt the new doctrines of Dominionism. In his chapter "Evangelicalism and America" he discussed how "professional ministry" (fundamentalists, ed.] had been frightened by the "emphasis the revivals placed on inward experience over doctrine" (p. 134) and how this emphasis led to "hysterical outbreaks of anti-intellectualism." (p. 135) But that wasn't necessarily bad: Rifkin proposed using the Charismatics to launch a "reformulated theological doctrine for a new order and a new covenant"(p. 169) because it is "first and foremost, a movement of the heart over the mind, of personal experience over objective analysis. . . nonrational and subjective" (p. 228).

Rifkin's book contains an interesting case history of Dwight L. Moody, the great revivalist at the turn of the last century, which sheds some light on the marketing mechanics behind this emotive revival process:

"Moody was never ordained a minister, but this seems to have been no great obstacle in his successful efforts to bring the new infidels of the nation's great cities to God's kingdom. Moody fit the style of the new industrialized era. It is said that he not only looked and dressed like a businessman, but preached like one as well. In fact, his entire evangelical organization became the model of modern business practices normally associated with successful twentieth-century evangelism. Moody combined the showmanship of P.T. Barnum with the calculating financial acumen of Andrew Carnegie. Advance men, publicity agents, advertising campaigns, guaranteed gates, were all a part of the accouterments of the new big-city revivalism. And it worked. True to modern accounting procedures, his organization kept strict records of cost effectiveness in the field; 2,500 saved in Chicago, 3,500 saved in New York City, and so forth. This 'conversion' body count provided a sort of sales performance record from which to judge the effectiveness of the amount of investment put out. Moody even brought his sales and marketing techniques directly into his sermons: 'Who'll take Christ now? That's all you want. With Christ you have eternal life and everything else you need. Without Him you must perish. He offers Himself to you. Who'll take him?'" (p. 153-154) [emphases added]

Indeed, evangelism in the past century took on the elements of a formulaic sales ritual, including the unseemly practices of hyping, pressuring, cajoling, threatening, "nailing down the sale," and counting converts like tokens of success. And revivals began to rely more and more on drama, lighting, music, and other background multi-sensory experiences that played with emotions. The more the evangelical world borrowed these psychological techniques, rather than disavow them or separate from them, the more it opened itself up to being just as seduced by real world marketing. Rifkin writes about this vulnerability as a way to maximize a new transformation:

"Before World War I, people were satisfied with a little more than a chicken in every pot. After World War I, the cry was for a Ford motorcar (or even two) in every garage. Ours was to be the century of growth, of mobility, of expansion. We adjusted rather well to the new pace, all things considered. Overnight, Americans became obsessed with the concept of new, better and more. Telephones, refrigerators and radios were all for the taking. It was the new paradise. The consumer kingdom replaced the kingdom of God, and advertising helped cushion the turmoil of transition by reminding everyone that values are really styles. And, since styles change every season, woe to those who find themselves out of tune, out of touch and out of the running. Jefferson once said, 'Nothing is unchangeable except the inherent rights of man.' Madison Avenue quickly changed rights into wants, and announced that everything was, in fact, exchangeable--unless, that is, they were temporarily out of stock." (pp. 157-8) [emphases added]

So, when leaders of the New Apostolic Reformation (such as Jill Austin in yesterday's post) "prophesy" about a heightened use of the arts and media combined with modern technologies for bringing about a revival, the context is an increased ability to transform the minds and doctrines of the people in the pews. The Second Reformation is all about using new media and technologies (including especially psycho-social "technologies") to facilitate transformation. And, as historians like Jeremy Rifkin have observed, the leaders have had an entire century to practice on "what works" best for creating a optimal climate for mind-altering transformation.

The Truth:

"But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ." (2 Corinthians 11:3)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A Holy Mafia and Media Army

"If Jesus were literally walking the earth today, I know He would use the media because it has global impact!"

"I feel as if the Lord is saying we’re moving into global warfare. We’re moving into governments clashing. We’re moving into the war of resources and communication and media, where [the enemy is] trying to cultivate evil."
--Jill Austin, "Warfare is Coming," Charisma, e-newsletter Streams of Revival, April 3, 2007

Networking the global church for the Dominionist ideal of "kingdom-building," as described in the recent series of Herescope posts, requires a veritable arsenal of the most modern psycho-social tools of marketing and the media. This "Joel's Army" is going to require a massive public relations campaign, a legion of spin-doctors who use state-of-the-art tactics of deception.

A recent post (April 10, 2007) on the Elijah List from Jill Austin of Master Potter Ministries, entitled "God's Media Army: Global Changers and A Holy Mafia," proclaims:

"We need to wake up to the power of communications and the media! They are going to be powerfully used by the Lord to harvest whole nations. Dreamer God is on the move!"

Austin's explains:

". . . [W]e've lost control of one of the most influential avenues of evangelism in the 21st century! We really need to repent, take back the territory we've lost, and infiltrate all of these ranks...for Jesus! Let's redeem the arts together! . . .

"God needs to capture these influential avenues of communication again!. . .

"God's Dream Team: A Holy Mafia

"High adventures await us as we become culturally relevant to impact the world with first class, top-notch, extraordinary performances in all of these avenues! . . .

"Today, Jesus "produces" movies by influencing others in these areas. He also challenges and inspires financiers, marketplace advertisers, and entrepreneurs to help bring Biblical truths to humanity. . . .

"I feel that God wants to give dreams, visions, and fresh revelation from Heaven for these forms of media, the arts, and communication. . . . This is a call for action! Let's storm the gates and take the world by storm!! We must put "shoe leather" to our visions and dreams because they will be strategic to awaken peoples' destinies and callings. . .

"God is raising up men and women who are like a dream team, ones who move in hearing the voice of God and creating world trends." [all bold in original]

Charisma magazine (1/9/07) listed "Media outreaches" as one of the "12 Prophetic Sign Posts for 2007" by Matt Sorger:

"1. Media outreaches will continue to grow in both the Christian and the secular arenas. New media outreaches will be birthed this year. … God's power will be displayed [even] over the secular networks. Radio, TV and the Internet will be important media tools for spreading the gospel around the world." [bold in original]

To put this in the perspective of the networking of Joel's Army, note these other prophecies on Sorger's list:

"7. New leaders will continue to emerge and come to a place of influence in the body of Christ . . . . Key associations and relationships will emerge and be formed by the Spirit releasing a new generation of leaders. The apostolic will continue to mature and come into a greater manifestation. God is forming a new wineskin to hold the new wine. There will also be the emerging of young apostolic leaders who will be regionally minded in building the kingdom of God.

"8. God is not looking for carbon copies. He wants originals. He is raising up a new breed, a new model and a new 'container for the time.'” [emphasis and link added]

Jill Austin of Master Potter Ministries is a regular contributor to Charisma's e-newsletter Streams of Revival. Jill Austin is downline in C. Peter Wagner's New Apostolic Reformation networks, often connected with Chuck Pierce. She came out of the original "Kansas City Prophets," and was quite active in the 1990s in the "signs and wonders" movement. Along with Wagner, she serves on Harvest International Ministry's (H.I.M.) Apostolic Team. H.I.M is described as "an apostolic network of churches, ministries, missions organizations, church networks and marketplace ministers committed to loving and helping each other fulfill the Great Commission."

Austin's "prophecy" about a Media Army and Holy Mafia mentions a key networking strategy: using the Internet:

"I love the internet! We live in the 21st century and the electronic age where almost anything is possible and limitations are no longer an excuse. It is amazing because the internet brings an instant platform that touches the world. Computers are in most homes and schools. The world is connecting in internet coffee shops, Muslim and Communist nations, as well as remote third world nations. With the internet, you are not limited by your education, gender, nationality, age, or finances because almost everyone has access to it. Boundless opportunities for learning are at our finger tips!

"Not only is the Lord raising up people in entrepreneurial areas, but He is also moving creatively through stay-at-home parents, retired folks, internet bloggers, savvy yuppies, bed-ridden people who have access to computers, the techie twenty-somethings, and even little children who can travel through electronic windows and electronic highways of the world."

Previously, Herescope has pointed out that these so-called prophecies by the New Apostolic Reformation leaders have the effect of introducing their next new tactic. It is a way of communicating military strategy to the troops under the guise of claiming that God has given them a vision or "word." These words are meant to communicate that marketing, media and networking are the next phase of global operations.

The underlying assumption for all of this hyped up (and offensive) rhetoric is that the Church is in a new age in which it can use any mechanism at its disposal to "build the kingdom of God on Earth." The ethics of using such sophisticated techniques of propaganda and manipulation is never discussed. The ends justify the means. Whatever it takes.

Lord willing, in the next series of posts, these tactics will be explained in some depth.

The Truth:

"Because of the multitude of the whoredoms of the wellfavoured harlot, the mistress of witchcrafts, that sells nations through her whoredoms, and families through her witchcrafts." (Nahum 3:4)

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Early Networks

“Since I first coined the phrase ‘The New Evangelicalism’ at a convocation address at Fuller Theological Seminary ten years ago, the evangelical forces have been welded into an organizational front. First, there is the National Association of Evangelicals which provides articulation for the movement on the denominational level; second, there is the World Evangelical Fellowship which binds together these individual national associations of some twenty-six countries into a world organization; third, there is the new apologetic literature stating this point of view which is now flowing from the presses of the great publishers, including Macmillan and Harpers; fourth, there is the existence of Fuller Theological Seminary and other evangelical seminaries which are fully committed to orthodox Christianity and a resultant social philosophy; fifth, there is the establishment of Christianity Today, a bi-weekly publication, to articulate the convictions of this movement; sixth, there is the appearance of an evangelist, Billy Graham, who on the mass level is the spokesman of the convictions and ideal of the New Evangelicalism.

“New Evangelicalism has changed its strategy from one of separation to one of infiltration.”
--Dr. H.J. Ockenga, press release, 1957* [bold added]

“Neo-evangelicals emphasized the restatement of Christian theology in accordance with the need of the time, the reengagement in the theological debate, the recapture of denominational leadership, and the reexamination of theological problems such as the antiquity of man, the universality of the flood, God’s method of creation, and others.”
--Dr. H.J. Ockenga, Foreword, Battle for the Bible by Harold Lindsell (1976)

Neoevangelicalism was set up as a movement from its very inception, as described above by its spokesperson and leader, Dr. Harold John Ockenga. Neoevangelical methodology would be most unorthodox – infiltration. Infiltration was particularly a useful tool to worm new theologies into existing denominations, seminaries, publishers and mission organizations. The strategy of infiltration would prove to be completely compatible with the clandestine mechanism of networking. And for the pragmatic neoevangelicals, the ends would always justify deceptive "infiltration" means.

The neoevangelical movement was launched by a cadre of men committed to a common purpose -- to repudiate, mock, distort, caricature and destroy biblical fundamentalism. At the core of this "good old boy" network was, surprisingly, a woman. Historians credit Henrietta Mears as being the key individual who discipled a group of young men who would go on to serve as neoevangelical leaders in Dr. Ockenga’s movement.

Mears is credited as "mother" of the modern Sunday School movement. It was Mears who reformed Sunday School along the lines of education socialist John Dewey’s model. Henrietta Mears served as the Director of Christian Education at Hollywood First Presbyterian Church and founded Gospel Light Publishing.

Mears was surrounded by an inner core of men who jumpstarted the neoevangelical "Awakening." This powerhouse group included Drs. Armin Gesswein and J. Edwin Orr, who worked tirelessly to create a new ecumenism. Dr. H.J. Ockenga, who is credited with starting the neoevangelical movement in 1942, worked alongside Mears, as did Charles Fuller, well-known for his radio program "The Old Fashioned Revival Hour." The goal of these men was to create a new youth movement that recaptured the passion of the original Student Volunteer Movement of the 1800s.

These men would, in turn, assist Henrietta Mears in her discipling of the rising stars in the neoevangelical world. Al Dager provides a concise history of her influence in his book The World Christian Movement (Sword, 2002), and her goal was a global mission:

“Henrietta Mears was completely sold out to what she called ‘the Cause of Christ.’ By ‘the Cause of Christ,’ she meant winning the world to Christ—establishing Christianity as the guiding force in society through evangelization of the world. (p. 16)

The group of young men discipled by Henrietta Mears went on to form organizations and promote ideas that replicated her theology. These included Bill Bright (Campus Crusade), Billy Graham, Richard Halverson (chaplain of the U.S. Senate), James Rayburn (Young Life), Ralph Winter, and many others. Mission Frontiers described the impact of these encounters with Mears:

"Together, these leaders have helped set the pace for world evangelization over the last 40 years. They are the ones who have formed new mission agencies, launched publishing houses, organized evangelistic crusades, and convened international conferences."

Oddly, Mears practiced a form of “impartation” on these young men, which is a Latter Rain cult practice of passing on an “anointing” or “mantle” from one man to another. Al Dager describes the history of Billy Graham’s impartation:

“. . . Mears established the Fellowship of the Burning Heart, wherein she encouraged her students to be willing to die for ‘the Cause of Christ.’ She laid her hands on them to receive her mantle. Thus they received within themselves a ‘burning heart.’” (p. 16)

“D.R. Riley, Henrietta Mears’s pastor in Minneapolis, and later President of Northwestern Schools, envisioned that his mantle was to be passed on to Billy Graham just as Elijah’s passed to Elisha. Graham at first balked at accepting Riley’s impartation. Near death, Riley called for Graham. There Graham accepted his mantle.

“Thus, Graham was named acting President of Northwestern Schools. At the same time, he was teaching at Forest Home Christian Conference Center. There, one evening, J. Edwin Orr met with Graham and was persuaded that Graham had, indeed, received Riley’s mantle. Orr then laid hands on Graham to receive his mantle. Thus, Graham became an accepted, anointed evangelist along with Bill Bright and Richard Halverson, all members of the Fellowship of the Burning Heart.

“While Bright was able to start with a ready-made network of college campus meetings, Graham went into every major city under the auspices of Armin Gesswein’s prayer meetings. Almost from the beginning, Graham would not accept any invitation to preach where ecumenical representation—including Roman Catholic clergy—was not present. That is still his policy today.” (p. 20)

Historian Richard Riss, in his 1987 book Latter Rain (Kingdom Flagship Foundation), chronicles the activities of the older men in shepherding the young generation towards the goals of neoevangelicalism. J. Edwin Orr helped Billy Graham to see that his "view of the Scriptures was narrow and that if he remained circumscribed in his view of the Scriptures his ministry would be curtailed as a result." (p. 29)

". . .[A]s a result of Graham's association with Harold Ockenga, Graham moderated his sensationalism, expressed distaste for interdenominational feuds, and deplored the intolerance and sectarianism displayed by some fundamentalists which had a tendency to destroy their own effectiveness. He expressed a willingness on his part to 'fellowship with all born-again believers,' and announced that he would refuse any invitation to conduct a revival that was not tendered by a majority of the Protestant clergy of the host city." (p. 45)

From the beginning, Billy Graham was a packaged and stage-managed "evangelist extraordinaire" who "more than any other single force, was responsible for preparing the groundwork for the acceptance of neoevangelicaldom," according to Jeremy Rifkin in The Emerging Order (G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1979, p. 166-7). Armin Gesswein and J. Edwin Orr orchestrated Billy Graham's revivals that brought him national recognition (p. 32). And after Billy Graham had a "vision" that accompanied his repudiation of biblical separation, "he frequently phoned or visited Henrietta Mears, seeking her counsel and praying with her." (p. 30) To underscore his commitment to neoevangelicalism, Graham resorted to casting aspersions on fundamentalism. William E. Ashbrook, in his 1963 book The New Neutralism records several notable instances:

  • "According to Christian Life magazine for March 1956, when Graham was asked to define the fundamentalist label he had been plastered with, Billy objected: 'I don't call myself a fundamentalist,' he said. He declared there was an aura of bigotry and narrowness associated with the term -- which he certainly hoped was not true of himself." (p. 16)
  • "As reported in the Buffalo Evening News: 'He [Graham] warned that the NAE stands at the crossroads and "could slip into an extreme ultra-fundamentalism that God has long since bypassed and proved that His hand is not on it . . . ."'" (p. 26)

Richard Riss records that these Forest Home College Briefings done by Mears et al were the result of a simultaneous vision experienced by four young men (Bill Bright, Richard Halverson, Louis Evans and John Franck) and Henrietta Mears on the night of June 24, 1947, in which "fire fell" from heaven (p. 25) and they "received a vision to have a conference for college students from throughout the nation."

"The word 'briefing' was added to the title of the conference; just as soldiers during World War II had been briefed before their missions, so the College Briefing Conference was to prepare men and women to go out commissioned and trained to win the world for Christ." (p. 26)

The effect this had on Bill Bright was profound:

"During the 1947 revival at Forest Home, Bill Bright gave up a secular business and decided to prepare for campus work. After completing seminary at Princeton and Fuller, he continued his student-directed missionary efforts, living with his wife at the home of Henrietta Mears and using her home as a center for the emerging crusade, which later became Campus Crusade for Christ." (p. 28) [Ed. note: Bright never actually completed seminary.]

Al Dager reports that Bill and Vonette Bright lived with Henrietta Mears eleven years (p. 18). He also cites the impact Henrietta Mears had in the life of Jim Rayburn, who founded Young Life (p. 18). Many other neoevangelical leaders got their ministries or careers start at this time in a similar way.

Several interesting features of the early neoevangelicalism movement included a focus on ecumenical ministerial groups and prayer movements. In fact, a "network of pastors' prayer meetings sprang up across North America" (Riss, p. 32). J. Edwin Orr put an emphasis on signs and wonders as part of this "Awakening," and even noted that "the Holy Spirit was forming a cloud of blessing over the [Seattle] area" (Riss, p. 32). Chosen young men were groomed by the "anointings of acceptable evangelists" (Riss, p. 33).

Various historians credit William Randolph Hearst for the meteoric rise of Bill Graham. Henderson Belk, the Rockefeller brothers through their various funds, and the Pew family, among others, contributed significant amounts of money on pivotal occasions to give credibility and a firm foundation to this rapidly burgeoning network.


Fuller Theological Seminary was a network hub for these young leaders who went on to become influential in evangelicalism and the world mission movement. Fuller modeled itself after secular institutions of higher learning by purposefully concentrating on training a generation of academic leaders who could then practice intellectual infiltration, diffusing the new doctrines of neoevangelicalism throughout other evangelical colleges and seminaries, publishing houses and mission agencies.

Fuller’s School of Theology spawned new doctrines. Fuller’s School of Psychology worked to integrate psychology with theology, eventually incorporating aspects of New Age mysticism. Fuller School of World Missions, founded in 1965 by Donald McGavran, was heavily influenced by Ralph Winter, who set up his interlocking U.S. Center for World Mission.

The extensive networking of these original, second and third-generation men is mind-boggling. There were cross-connected organizations that continually birthed new groups, and interlocking boards of directorates at every juncture in this movement. Historian Nancy Flint chronicled a significant group of networking Fuller leaders who impacted neoevangelicalism with their new doctrines, books, organizations and agendas. Here are just a few examples:

Donald McGavran
DAWN, Spontaneous People Movements, group decision-making, Bridges of God (1955)

Ralph Winter
"Secret Mission of the Church," Abrahamic Covenant, SIIS (Perspectives), American Society of Missiology, Theological Education by Extension

C. Peter Wagner
Methodologies/strategies of mission, strategic warfare network, New Apostolic Reformation, School of the Prophets, mentor to Rick Warren

John Wimber
Restoration implementor, Vineyard churches, "Signs, Wonders and Church Growth" class with Wagner

Charles Kraft
Paradigm shift to eastern worldview, encounters

Richard Foster
Renovare, contemplative, Celebration of Discipline

G. Eldon Ladd
Theology for dominionism The Gospel Of The Kingdom (1959)

Don Richardson
Eternity in Their Hearts, contextualized Gospel, redemptive analogies

Robert Grant
Christian Voice, American Freedom Coalition, voter scorecards

Jay Grimstead
Coalition on Revival, Christian Worldview, dominionism

Arthur Glasser
Diffusion of Innovations, progression of interaction, World Council of Churches

Robert Coleman
The Coming Revival

Bill Bright
Campus Crusade for Christ, Jesus Film Project, evangelist, ecumenical movement,

Billy Graham
Evangelist, BEA, Fuller Board of Directors, The Lausanne Movement

David DuPlessis
"Mr. Pentecostal," Catholic Renewal Movement

David (Paul) Yonggi Cho
Church Growth Movement, cell church model, Incubate the Kingdom

Roberta Hestenes*
Spiritual Formation, World Vision

Jay Gary*

BEGIN, Perspectives, AD2000, Celebration 2000, Lausanne, Jesus March

William E. Ashbrook, in his historical account of the heretical activities of these leaders, observed the following about Fuller Theological Seminary:

“Fuller Seminary is a stronghold of New Neutralism. Back in 1953 an editorial in The Evangelical Beacon, voice of The Evangelical Free Church of America, said: ‘Leading the way toward a new emphasis in evangelical thinking, the Fuller Theological Seminary declares itself in favor of a new evangelicalism, by which it means a merger of the fundamentalist’s affirmation of the super-naturalness of Christianity and the social passion that has characterized the liberal wing of the Church . . . We believe other evangelical schools will follow the example of Fuller Theological Seminary, and that the new emphasis will make possible a greater impact of the gospel upon our country and the world – just so there is no compromise on the great essentials of the Christian faith.’ Tragically, however, such a course always results in compromising the faith, . . . . As predicted, other Seminaries have followed Fuller into the New Evangelical fold . . . ." (The New Neutralism, p. 52)

John E. Ashbrook, in his sequel to his father’s book, entitled New Neturalism II: Exposing the Gray of Compromise (Here I Stand Books, 1992), continued the historical chronology of the activities of these early men who were given impartations by Henrietta Mears. The quotes at the top of today's post were found in his book, and much of the documentation is expanded upon. Ashbrook concluded by noting that "Fuller has moved from a scholarly seminary to a zoo displaying all the theological species." (p. 94)

The Truth:

"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." (1 John 2:15)

[*Not on the original list but added because of their far-reaching significance.]