Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Branding the New Breed

This is how you enlist in the Army of God: First come the fireworks and the prayers, and then 4,000 kids scream, "We won't be silent anymore!" Then the kids drop to their knees, still but for the weeping and regrets of fifteen-year-olds. The lights in the Cleveland arena fade to blue, and a man on the stage whispers to them about sin and love and the Father-God. They rise, heartened; the crowd, en masse, swears off "harlots and adultery"; the twenty-one-year-old MC twitches taut a chain across the ass of her skintight red jeans and summons the followers to show off their best dance moves for God. "Gimme what you got!" she shouts. They dance -- hip-hop, tap, toe and pelvic thrusting. Then they're ready. They're about to accept "the mark of a warrior," explains Ron Luce, commander in chief of BattleCry, the most furious youth crusade since young sinners in the hands of an angry God flogged themselves with shame in eighteenth-century New England. Nearly three centuries later, these 4,000 teens are about to become "branded by God." It's like getting your head shaved when you join the Marines, Luce says, only the kids get to keep their hair. His assistants roll out a cowhide draped over a sawhorse, and Luce presses red-hot iron into the dead flesh, projecting a close-up of sizzling cow skin on giant movie screens above the stage.
--Jeff Sharlet, "Teenage Holy War," The Revealer, 4/12/07.

Evangelical leaders like Ron Luce of Teen Mania ("Acquire the Fire") are using state-of-the-art marketing tricks to lure teenage audiences, copying "what works" from the pop culture and turning it into a method of merchandising the New Breed, a concept steeped in Latter Rain "Joel's Army" dominionism. According to Sharlet's story (cited above), which is definitely worth a read, Luce hired a "former producer of VH1's Behind the Music named Doug Rittenhouse" in order "to create pop-culture missionaries." The concept was to "start a production company and train up and raise a new kind of Christian media" -- one that would play off of "MTV's Headbangers Ball."

Teen Mania's unorthodox marketing campaign was the subject of a critical article entitled "Soap, deodorant and Jesus." Even though Teen Mania puts "advertising to teens" at the top of a series of examples of how teens are "targeted" and "threatened by pop culture," the Teen Mania solution seems to be -- more marketing! The article notes that three individuals who have held "important positions in Teen Mania" have "all worked for one of the nation's biggest advertisers, Procter & Gamble, in roles involving sales, advertising, marketing, promotions and product management." The article concludes:

"So when you watch Teen Mania attack those who advertise and market their products in the commercial/secular realm, keep one thing in mind. They aren't really attacking the reality of advertising to teenagers, since they themselves are marketers; many of Teen Mania's leaders, and now their hired secular advertising agency, were or are in the business that includes advertising to teenagers. They just want to influence and organize teenagers - for what is, over the long term, a political and social purpose - with their own set of advertised messages that frame militarism and conflict as virtues."

The New York Times article cited in the link in the paragraph above, "Christian Message, Secular Messengers" by Julie Bosman (4/26/06), explains the aggressive and high-tech media campaign:

"Tocquigny's first major project on the Teen Mania account was to take the organization's message to a national platform with a new Web site aimed at attracting teenagers. Teen Mania gave the creative planners at Tocquigny instructions to use whatever technology was needed, from text messaging to podcasting, to engage the youthful and tech-savvy audience.

"'I think one of the key things that we're seeing is really an increase in the sophistication and scope of these groups,' Mr. Dampier said. 'What we used to think of as a small nonprofit Christian organization has really turned into savvy marketers with an appetite for technology.'"

One obvious concern with Teen Mania's marketing campaign is the militaristic message. This is the topic of the latest Discernment Ministries newsletter, May-June 2007, which links much of the New Apostolic Reformation's focus on youth back to the Kansas City prophets' anticipated "elected seeds" that will "be the generation that's raised up to put death itself underneath their feet . . . a church that has reached the full maturity of the god-man!" (Bob Jones with Mike Bickle).

The Global Tribal Teen

It is no wonder neoevangelical leaders are copying secular teen marketing tactics. Teens and youth are a ready-made market. If a name-brand company wants to create an "army" of youth, they simply create a "movement" for their product. The intended result is changed lifestyles, uniform attitudes and collective buying behaviors. This is easy to do because the global teen market is already homogeneous and tribe-like. Naomi Klein devotes quite a few pages of her book No Logo (Picador, 2002) to explaining how teenagers have become "logo-decorated" into a "media-fabricated mold" (p. 118). A few highlights from the subsection "The Global Teen" are excerpted below:

". . . [T]he image of the global teen floats over the planet like a euphoric corporate hallucination. These kids, we are repeatedly told, live not in a geographic place but in a global consumer loop: hotlinked from their cellular telephones to Internet newsgroups; bonded together by Sony Playstations, MTV videos and NBA games. . . . The 'New World Teen Study' surveyed 27,600 middle-class fifteen- to eighteen- year-olds in forty-five countries and came up with some resoundingly good news for . . [ad] agency clients, a list that includes Coca-Cola, Burger King and Philips. 'Despite different cultures, middle-class youth all over the world seem to live their lives as if in a parallel universe. They get up in the morning, put on their Levi's and Nikes, grab their caps, backpacks, and Sony personal CD players , and head for school. . . . [T]he global teen demographic [is] . . . 'one of the greatest marketing opportunities of all time.'" . . .

"[T]he global teen. . . must exist as a demographic in the minds of young consumers worldwide or the entire exercise of global marketing collapses. For this reason, global youth marketing is a mind-numbingly repetitive affair, drunk on the idea of what it is attempting to engineer: a third notion of nationality -- not American, not local, but one that would unite the two, through shopping.

"Standing triumphant at the center of the global teen phenomena is MTV, which, in 1998, was in 273.5 million households worldwide -- only 70 million of which were in the U.S. By 1999, MTV's eight global divisions broadcast in 83 countries and territories, fewer than CNN's 212-country reach, but impressive nonetheless. Furthermore, the New World Teen Study found that the single most significant factor contributing to the shared tastes of the middle-class teens it surveyed was TV -- in particular, MTV, which 85% of them watched every day. Elissa Moses called the station 'an all-news bulletin for creating brand-images' and a 'public-address system to a generation.' . . .

"And the more viewers there are to absorb MTV's vision of a tribe of culture swapping, global teen nomads, the more homogeneous a market its advertisers have in which to sell their products. According to Chip Walker, director of the New World Teen Study, 'Teens who watch MTV music videos are much more likely than other teens to wear the teen "uniform" of jeans, running shoes, and denim jacket. . . They are also much more likely to own electronics and consume "teen" items such as candy, sodas, cookies and fast food. They are much more likely to use a wide range of personal-care products too.' In other words MTV International has become the most compelling global catalog for the modern branded life." (pp. 119-121)

The Emergent/Emerging and New Breed Teen leaders are capitalizing on this global joy ride. They have a ready-made target market of peer-driven, pop culture clones -- a teen army at its disposal, prepped and predisposed to soak up the alternative theologies of Latter Rain. The goal is to create an army for dominion:

"When you enlist in the military, there's a code of honor," Luce preaches, "same as being a follower of Christ." His Christian code requires a "wartime mentality": a "survival orientation" and a readiness to face "real enemies." The queers and communists, feminists and Muslims, to be sure, but also the entire American cultural apparatus of marketing and merchandising, the "techno-terrorists" of mass media, doing to the morality of a generation what Osama bin Laden did to the Twin Towers. "Just as the events of September 11th, 2001, permanently changed our perspective on the world," Luce writes, "so we ought to be awakened to the alarming influence of today's culture terrorists. They are wealthy, they are smart, and they are real."

The Truth:

"The merchants of these things, which were made rich by her, shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and wailing." (Revelation 19:15)

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Re-Branding Global Mission

"Harvard business professor Theodore Levitt published the essay 'The Globalization of Markets,' in which he argued that any corporation that was willing to bow to some local habit or taste was an unmitigated failure.
'The world's needs and desires have been irrevocably homogenized,' he wrote in what instantly became the manifesto of global marketing. Levitt made a stark distinction between weak multinational corporations, which change depending on which country they are operating in, and swaggering global corporations, which are, by their very definition, always the same, wherever they roam.
'The multinational corporation operates in a number of countries, and adjusts its products and practices to each - at high relative costs. The global corporation operates with resolute constancy - at low relative cost - as if the entire world (or major regions of it) were a single entity; it sells the same things in the same way everywhere.... Ancient differences in national tastes or modes of doing business disappear."

--Naomi Klein, No Logo (Picador, 2002), p. 116 [bold added].

Rick Warren's Global P.E.A.C.E. Plan looks like it is being designed along the same lines as the "swaggering global corporations" described above.

Very little is really known about the emerging P.E.A.C.E. Plan. It is a giant global network, initially being built upon the foundation of die-hard purpose-driven churches (the marketing "coals" saved from previous campaigns); and all but the most basic information is proprietary. Perhaps the word "secretive" might be appropriate to describe the launching of one of the world's most massive branding campaigns.

Mission agencies have been undergoing briefings about P.E.A.C.E. A few mission leaders have written about the briefings, but their comments indicate confusion, concern, and even a sense of being overwhelmed. They are trying their best to be positive -- even to the point of suggesting that everyone "[a]ffirm pure motive and common objectives" and "approach P.E.A.C.E. with the heart of a learner."(1) But it doesn't seem that they have fully grasped that that P.E.A.C.E. isn't about partnerships. It isn't even about ordinary collaboration or networking. P.E.A.C.E. looks like the re-branding of global mission.

According to mission leaders, P.E.A.C.E. has been presented to them as a process whereby a local church (or small groups in the church) connect with another church in what is called an "Unengaged People Group" (U.E.G.) for unspecified mission activity. The statement has been made that "P.E.A.C.E. is not agency dependent."

This is a startling statement. It appears that P.E.A.C.E. will operate like a gigantic global network which is overlaid on top of existing mission agencies and agendas. In fact, it has the potential to bypass agencies altogether by connecting directly with local churches. The statement was made that "All P.E.A.C.E. is local P.E.A.C.E."

No one has yet suggested that this spider web framework will suck the lifeblood out of current mission operations, but the mission leaders are writing about the need to align their operations to P.E.A.C.E. And it appears that the way these agencies buy-in to P.E.A.C.E. is by becoming a designated "Network Leader" which permits them access to the online resources so that they can become "fully viral." In other words, the entire operation looks like "pyromarketing," as discussed in previous posts.

The central hub of this marketing operation is the mega-computer, known as "Peacepedia" or "wikiPeace," which requires "armed guards, biometric palm scanners and steel doors that guard the facility," all of which was reported on in the Orange County Register last fall:

"Already, the platform's electronic brain – the 8-foot racks of hundreds of servers needed to store the site's growing database (14,000 articles in English alone) – is housed in a warehouse-sized, maximum-security "Tier-1" Internet data center in Irvine."

This is a global feedback system which utilizes state-of-the-art e-learning training methods. In fact, one mission leader expressed concern about the "limited percentage of the population" that "responds well to this method of learning," but noted that the system also relies on "coaches" and "team leaders." E-learning is based upon the methods of programmed instruction originally developed by B.F. Skinner in the 1960s when he experimented using computers for the behavior modification of children. E-learning controls all of the inputs, which then rigidly defines the outputs.(2) Obviously, this standardized training will have ramifications for global mission agencies, as it permits the P.E.A.C.E. operation to carefully select data, define the parameters, and regulate the results.

All of this activity will create a "universal distribution system" for P.E.A.C.E. to reach into every little hamlet and village in the world. Bill Gates never had it so good! In fact, this may perhaps explain Bill Gates' funding. Once the P.E.A.C.E. teams survey a locality on one of their short-term trips (P.I.L.O.T.), their assessment might indicate the need for more computer technology.

Several common concerns were raised by the mission leaders. First, there is intensive training and follow-up required. This could potentially overwhelm churches, pastors and team members, and detract from other mission activities. Once initial teams from churches participate and take pilot trips,

"the program is introduced to the entire church and implemented throughout the small group network. Before a small group is allowed to join the program and adopt a UEG, they must commit to sending at least three teams within three years."

Another concern is the expense. There is going to be a hefty shift in mission funding priorities:

"Based on the model presented in November, if five small groups from a church of 300 were to fully embrace P.E.A.C.E., it would translate into 15 short-term trips (three per small group) in 18-24 months. If each team had only six people and the average cost per person was $2,500, the total invested by that local church would be $225,000."

Wouldn't this money be better spent on genuine acts of mercy and compassion? That is no longer the thinking of the global mission leaders, who are disparaging "handouts" and "material assistance," and "donor-driven missiology." This is an incredible reallocation of traditional mission monies! The airline industry probably appreciates it, however. Perhaps they are "partners," too. To further underscore this point, one mission leader commented:

"P.E.A.C.E. teams are trained not to succumb to a missionary's alternative agenda nor to the pleas of nationals who seek funding for projects which would not be sustainable by the local believers over the long haul."

Who will meet the needs of the locals? Resources "that can be tapped" include "NGOs" and other agencies. The agendas and goals of these other agencies, which may be in conflict with Christianity, weren't acknowledged.

One quite serious concern expressed was the effect that the rapid deployment of short-term mission groups could have on existing mission work, some of it highly fragile and in very sensitive areas of the globe:

"Short-term teams focused on delivering P.E.A.C.E. principles could easily ignore cultural differences, devalue relationships, and create chaos by their visits. If they ignore security concerns, they could jeopardize not only the work but also the lives of national believers."

Finally, in another indication that this could all be about global re-branding, one mission leader commented that Warren is developing "universally transferable concepts" for mission work. Homogeneity. One-size-fits-all.

Interestingly enough, one of the examples of "swaggering global corporations" (see quote at top of post) promoting "homogeneity" is Rupert Murdoch (p. 117), whose pastor Rick Warren once claimed to be, and who is mentioned by the author later in a discussion of how western corporations have been willing to censor information and media in order to conduct business with Red China (p. 172).

It isn't likely that there will be much publicly available information forthcoming about the coming P.E.A.C.E. campaign. Except perhaps more media puff pieces about successful short-term trips. The global mission agencies, by and large, have already been networked together for years, and P.E.A.C.E. appears to be the final convergence of their global operations. It seems evident, in the very near future, that at some level every mission will have to become linked to the P.E.A.C.E. "system."

The Truth:

"Give to him that asketh of thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not away." (Matthew 5:42)

(1) Steve Moore, "Will Your Agency Be Ready for P.E.A.C.E.?" Mission Frontiers, May-June 2007.
(2) The history of this method of instruction, and an examination of the ethical issues surrounding it are examined in detail in
the deliberate dumbing down of america by Charlotte T. Iserbyt [Conscience Press, 1999].

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Big Box Churches Ring Pavlov's Bell

"Brand-obsessed shoppers have adopted an almost fetishistic approach to consumption
in which the brand name acquires a talismanic power."

--Naomi Klein, No Logo (Picador, 2002), p. 141.

Creating situations that provoke psychological, emotional or sensual reactions in people is a form of behavior modification. This can come through marketing, education and training, or group processes. Triggering reactions in people, particularly if they are unaware of the subtleties, is an attempt to change values, beliefs, attitudes, opinions or actions.

Behavior modification is a utilitarian form of manipulation which has gained tremendous ground in evangelical leadership training circles in recent years. It works. It is pragmatic. The ends justify the means.

Often this trigger is a relationship reaction. Which brand name of Christianity are you? To which church growth movement leader are you loyal? Which slogans foster a positive emotional response because of your prior experiences?

In order to understand how this works, we first have to step back and see how advertising in the corporate world functions. Naomi Klein, in a chapter entitled "Brand Bombing" describes the process:

"The branded multinationals may talk diversity, but the visible result of their actions is an army of teen clones marching -- in 'uniform,' as the marketers say, into the global mall. Despite the embrace of polyethnic imagery, market-driven globalization doesn't want diversity; quite the opposite. Its enemies are natural habits, local brands and distinctive regional tastes.

"Dazzled by the array of consumer choices, we may at first fail to notice the tremendous consolidation taking place in the boardrooms of the entertainment, media, and retail industries. Advertising floods us with the kaleidoscopic soothing images of of United Streets of Diversity and Microsoft's wide-open 'Where do you want to go today?' enticements. But in the pages of the business section, the world goes monochromatic and doors slam shut from all sides: every other story -- whether the announcement of a new buyout, an untimely bankruptcy, a colossal merger -- points directly to a loss of meaningful choices. the real question is not 'Where do you want to go today?' but 'How best can I steer you into the synergized maze of where I want you go to today?" (p. 129)

The ultimate goal, then, is to create a brand monopoly. Or at the least guarantee that the landscape of choices is "monochromatic." What is benignly called "synergy" in the new spirituality is, in reality, the narrowing down into a one-size-fits-all neoevangelicalism. Our recent series of posts on networking examined this process. Klein asks, "And what else is a monopoly, after all, but synergy taken to the extreme?" (p. 161)

Mega-churches may be the most effective at utilizing marketing devices because they artificially create a sense of "community" which replaces traditional families and church relationships. Not only do they build "big box" style churches, often prominently placed along major thoroughfares, but they also create micro-climates with artificial communities (small groups). Klein makes this precise point, when discussing the superstore Wal-Mart model: "Where the big boxes have swapped a sense of community values for a discount, the branded chains would re-create it and sell it back -- at a price" (p. 135).

One met
hod utilized by the mega-corporations to infuse brand loyalty is to make their "family of brands synonymous" with what they sell. You might ask for a "Kleenex" instead of a "tissue." Likewise Rick Warren's "purpose-driven," despite its trademark, has already come to have a greatly expanded generic application. This may be intentional. Klein explains:

"The idea is to make Gap's family of brands synonymous with clothing in the same way that McDonald's is synonymous with hamburgers and Coke is synonymous with soft drinks. . . . .

"Starbucks . . . is in the business of taking a much more generic product -- a cup of coffee -- and branding it so completely that it becomes a spiritual/designer object. So Starbucks doesn't want to be known as a blockbuster, it wants, as its marketing director Scott Bedbury says, to 'align ourselves with one of the greatest movements toward finding a connection with your soul.'" (p. 138)

The comment by Klein below could just as aptly be applied to mega-churches:

"'Creating a destination' is the key buzz-phrase for the superstore builder: these are places not only to shop but also visit, places to which tourists make ritualistic pilgrimages." (p. 151)

People are being driven by invoked images and feelings and illusions:

". . . [B]randed retail is about 'imprinting an experience on you as surely as the farmer's wife imprints good feelings in a clutch of baby geese when she feeds them a handful of grain every day.'" (p. 152)

This statement above is a description of behavior modification in its most rudimentary form.

The various streams of church transformation are all built upon this philosophy and freely use its mechanics. Oh, they may use different approaches and styles, slogans and logos, gurus and leaders, techniques and methods, images and illusions, experiences and activities -- but the net effect is still the same. Spirituality becomes something that is manufactured -- stimulus and response. Ring the bell, salivate.

The Truth:

"As soon as we remove the supernaturalness of the universe, all we have left is Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, in which religion is to be simply a sociological tool for the future. In Julian Huxley's concept of romantic evolutionary humanism, religion has a place, not because there is any truth in it, but because in the strange evolutionary formation, man as he now is simply needs it. So it must be administered to him, because he needs it. With the supernatural gone we are merely shut up to anthropology, psychology, and sociology, and all that we say about religion in general and Christianity specifically falls to the ground except as it relates to a mere psychological mechanism. All of the reality of Christianity rests upon the reality of the existence of a personal God, and the reality of the supernatural view of the total universe." (p. 257)

"Well, let us think of Pavlov's bell. Pavlov's bell was the beginning of the experimentation of a mechanically conditioned reflex. He rang a bell in front of the dog before he fed him, and after proper conditioning, the saliva came to the dog's mouth any time the bell was rung. This is perfectly correct concerning dogs, for that is what dogs are and what God made them to be. But woe to man when he begins to act as though this is all there is to man, because we have not been made in this circle of creation. We have been made in the circle of creation in the image of God-- not only moral but rational.

"The understanding of a conditioned reflex in regard to man has its limited place. If I study my physical structure, mechanics has its place in regard to the tension of the muscles and so on. But this is not all there is to man. If you deal with a man merely as a structural machine, you miss the point; and if you deal with a man merely as a set of psychological conditionings, you miss the central point. Consequently, as Christians begin to deal with psychological problems, they must do so in the the realization of who man is. I am made in the image of God. This being so, I am
rational and I am moral; thus there will be a conscious and responsible behavior. We must not think we can simply trigger ourselves or others into mechanical reflexes and all will be well, If we begin acting this way, we will deny the doctrines which we say we believe. In action that comes anywhere near the heart of the psychological problems, there will be a conscious aspect, because God has made man this way." (pp. 329-330) [italics in original]
[Dr. Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality (A Christian Worldview, Volume Three, A Christian View of Spirituality {Crossway Books, 1982}) For additional reading on this topic, see especially Schaeffer's Back to Freedom and Dignity, which contains multi-faceted warnings about the dangers of B.F. Skinner behaviorism. For more information and documentation on this topic, see here and here.]

"For, lo, I will raise up a shepherd in the land, which shall not visit those that be cut off, neither shall seek the young one, nor heal that that is broken, nor feed that that standeth still" but he shall eat the flesh of the fat, and tear their claws in pieces. Woe to the idol shepherd that leaveth the flock!" (Zechariah 11:16, 17a)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

What is Idolatry?

A reader alerted us to the relevance of the sermon by J.C. Philpot, entitled simply "Idolatry," to our recent series of posts. A few excerpts are below. To read the sermon in its entirety go to:

"For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God: and to whit for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead. even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come."–
1 Thess. i. 9. 10.

Now, what is idolatry? What is an idol? The bringing or meeting together in the human heart of two opposite principles. These are in every human heart, and are seen in various shapes and lusts, and mixed with natural religion. Idolatry embodies two things that are quite distinct and opposite. Idolatry embodies a false notion of God; at the same time it deifies some lust or corruption. These heathen idolaters had their god of war, of love, of murder, of wine, and the god of death. Their idols were deified vices, lusts, passions, corruptions, and the wickedness of the human heart. Such was the working of Satan on the human mind, that he brought forth an idol representing two things apparently distinct, yet united: religion and lust, worship and devilism; the prostration of the body before a god that truly was nothing less than some deified lust and corruption. This is devilism, a false religion, worshipping some lust or corruption under the mask of religion; our natural corruptions under a profession; worshipping our pride, our respectability, our covetousness, or love of the world. All these are worshipped under the garb of religion, which is idolatry; and this is what every man does, except so far as he is delivered from it by the power and grace of God. Men must worship something. All have a natural religion. When the mind is dark through sin, the heart ignorant, the old veil remaining on the heart, no teaching of the Spirit of God in the soul, we must worship something, as the Athenians of old had an altar to the Unknown God. We must worship something; and if what we worship is not the true God, then we worship idols. . . .

A man may have a hearty appetite, but if indulged in to excess may be a snare to him. So in many other things, as children, wife, family, and conversation. How soon may they degenerate into idolatry, occupy the thoughts and affections, and turn the soul away from God. Like David, who idolized Absalom, Eli with his sons, or Samuel, that great and good man, who made his corrupt sons judges in Israel. How deep this idolatry is rooted in a man's heart, how it steals upon his soul! Whatever is indulged in, how it creeps over him, until it gets such power that it becomes master. What work for conscience to get out of this snare; how the conscience is defiled when these idols become an object of worship! There is something so detestable and abominable in an idol that it should be our earnest prayer for God to deliver us.

If a man knows anything of the idolatry of his fallen nature he knows also the desire to serve the living and true God. He will also know that he never can blend these two things. He may try to do it – while serving idols to serve God, but he cannot; "for what communion hath light with darkness, or Christ with Belial?" There can be no communion between a dead soul and a living God. How these things make a man wince, to give up his idol, to be obliged to part with it. How he pleads so hard: just this time. What work it makes. especially if the conscience is tender, struggling with the idolatry of the heart, the lust, concupiscence, and devilism of our fallen nature. I have compared it to a spider watching a fly. The poor little fly has just been caught in the extremity of the web; the spider lies in a hole: as soon as he sees the web shake, down he runs, and draws the threads around his victim, kills him, sucks his carcase, and leaves it.

Thus the devil may be compared to the spider working in his web, waiting, lurking, in reality to suck the very bones and blood of a child of God and cast him into hell; and so he would, were it not for preserving grace. What conscience work there is between the idols struggling for mastery and for the grace of the Spirit of God, groaning, crying, and sighing continually to cast these idols out. Then we turn to God with weeping and lamentation, rending our hearts and not our garments; turn to the Lord with weeping and supplications. A man does not know himself if he does not know what power this idolatry has over him. None but God can make the man know it; and when the Lord delivers him, he then turns to God and says, "What a vile wretch I have been! What a monster to go after these idols, loving this thing, and that. A wretch, a monster of iniquity, the vilest wretch that ever crawled on the face of God's earth, for my wicked heart to go out after these idols!"

When the soul is brought down to a sense of its vileness and baseness and God's longsuffering and forebearance, it turns to God from idols to serve the only living and true God, waiting for his Son from heaven, who pardons the idolater, heals the backslider, and communicates special mercy to his soul. The Lord raises the poor soul up, raises him from the dead. What a blessed doctrine is the Resurrection of Christ! What a glory there is in it! The resurrection of Jesus is my triumph over death, sin, hell, and the grave; lifting the poor, his poor people, up from the grave of their misery and wretchedness, raising them from the dead. . . .

Preached at Bedworth on a Tuesday Evening in April 1852

Monday, May 14, 2007

Re-Branding Christianity

“Image is everything.”
--Tennis pro Andre Agassi, 1992 Canon camera commercial [Cited on p. 197 of No Logo by Naomi Klein (Picador, 2002).]

This could be the new slogan for the slick marketing campaigns in neoevangelicaldom today. These campaigns aren't selling a product, per se. They are selling the image of a product.

To understand what this means, check out the latest marketing strategies used by the corporate world. The example of Nike, as described in No Logo by Naomi Klein, is quite instructive:

“A company that swallows cultural space in giant gulps, Nike is the definitive story of the transcendent nineties superbrand, and more than any other single company, its actions demonstrate how branding seeks to erase all boundaries between the sponsor and the sponsored. This is a shoe company that is determined to unseat pro sports, the Olympics and even star athletes, to become the very definition of sports itself. . . .”

“The corporate mythology has it that Nike is a sports and fitness company because it was built by a bunch of jocks who loved sports and were fanatically devoted to the worship of superior athletes. In reality, Nike’s project was a little more complicated and can be separated into three guiding principles. First, turn a select group of athletes into Hollywood-style superstars who are associated not with their teams, or even, at time, with their sport, but instead with certain pure ideas about athleticism as transcendence and perseverance – embodiments of the Graeco-Roman ideal of the perfect male form. Second, pit Nike’s ‘Pure Sports’ and its team of athletic superstars against the rule-obsessed established sporting world. Third, and most important, brand like mad.” (p. 51) [emphasis added]

In order to sell more products, the marketing world began to sell ideals and ideas. They became purveyors of the “image” of a product. The intent was to create a pervasive worldview based on this image of a product.

“Many brand-name multinationals. . . are in the process of transcending the need to identify with their earthbound products. They dream instead about their brands’ deep inner meanings – the way they capture the spirit of individuality, athleticism, wilderness or community. In this context of strut over stuff, marketing departments charged with the management of brand identities have begun to see their work as something that occurs not in conjunction with factory production but in direct competition with it. ‘Products are made in the factory,’ says Walter Landor, president of the Landor branding agency, ‘but brands are made in the mind.’ Peter Schweitzer, president of the advertising giant J. Walter Thompson, reiterates the same thought: ‘The difference between products and brands is fundamental. A product is something that is made in a factory; a brand is something that is bought by a customer. Savvy ad agencies have all moved away from the idea that they are flogging a product made by someone else, and have come to think of themselves instead as brand factories, hammering out what is of true value: the idea, the lifestyle, the attitude. Brand builders are the new primary producers in our so-called knowledge economy.” (pp. 195-6) [emphasis added]

This focus on image explains why doctrine is no longer important. Image now reigns.

For example, isn't the Emergent/Emerging church creating a new “brand” of Christianity, the very “image” of “the deep inner meanings” of mystical spirituality? By using carefully pre-fabricated metaphors, an “image” of a new doctrinal “product” is being marketed.

Emergent leader Brian McLaren, in discussing “Jesus’ secret message,” said His “secret plan” was for a “spiritual revolution that would give birth to a new world” (p. 4). This is the language of the doctrine of dominionism, and his book The Secret Message of Jesus (W Publ. Group, 2006) is rife with examples. Remarks like:
  • "God's conspiracy seeks to overturn the world as it is so that a new world can emerge." (p. 143)
  • "Each person can be a secret agent of the secret kingdom." (p. 83)
  • "God was launching a new world order, a new world, a new creation." (p. 31)
  • "A new day is coming--a new earth, a new world order, a new reality, a new realm--in short, a new kingdom." (p. 23)
  • "What is Jesus' secret message reveals a secret plan? What if he didn't come to start a new religion--but rather to start a political, social, religious, artistic, economic, intellectual, and spiritual revolution that would give birth to a new world?" (p. 4)

McLaren introduced his re-branding campaign in marketing terms:

“Is it possible that the message of Jesus was less like an advertising slogan—obvious and loud—and more like a poem whose meaning only comes subtly and quietly to those who read slowly, think long and deeply, and refuse to give up?” (p. 34)

McLaren referred to this image of Jesus' secret message in terms of “God’s dream” and suggested we must “realign our dreams with God’s, to dream our little dreams within God’s big dream” (p. 142). He even invoked the name of a historical superhero, Dr. Martin Luther King, for the new application of the slogan “the dream of God.”

Naomi Klein considers this type of ‘piggy-back on a historical celebrity’ marketing to be “culture vulturing” and provided several significant examples from 1990s ad campaigns:

“The spring 1998 Prada collection, for instance, borrowed heavily from the struggle of the labor movement. As ‘supershopper’ Karen von Han reported from Milan, ‘The collection, a sort of Maoist/Societ-worker chic full of witty period references, was shown in a Prada-blue room in the Prada family palazzo to an exclusive few.” (p. 84)

“. . . Apple computer’s appropriation of Gandhi for their ‘Think Different’ campaign, and Che Guevara’s reincarnation as the logo for Revolution Soda (slogan: ‘Join the Revolution. . . ) and as the mascot of the upscale London cigar lounge, Che.” (p. 85)

An interesting look at how Dr. Martin Luther King’s “dream” has been co-opted for remarkably similar marketing purposes by Brian McLaren, Rick Warren, Robert Schuller, Bruce Wilkinson and the New Ager Theosophists can be found in an Update to chapter 10 of Warren Smith’s Reinventing Jesus Christ book, now posted online, in a subheading “God’s Dream?”

In his 2006 book The Secret Message of Jesus: Uncovering the Truth That Could Change Everything, McLaren states that the emerging twenty-first century church needs a new user-friendly language to effectively communicate with the world about Jesus. With no mention of Schuller—or Rick Warren for that matter—the very first metaphor McLaren suggests is the concept of “God’s Dream.” Not surprisingly. . . he also tries to link this Schuller concept to Martin Luther King’s civil rights movement and King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. McLaren explains:

For all these reasons, “the dream of God” strikes me as a beautiful way to translate the message of the kingdom of God for hearers today. It is, of course, the language evoked by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as he stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. His dream was God’s dream, and that accounted for its amazing power.

But this descriptive linking of “God’s Dream” with Martin Luther King’s civil rights movement is the same thing that New Age leaders were doing as they linked their PEACE PLAN—their “civil rights movement for the soul”—to Martin Luther King and King’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech. Curiously, when I did an Internet search I could find no instance of Martin Luther King ever using the specific term “God’s Dream.” By using the Schuller concept of “God’s Dream,” while invoking Martin Luther King and his civil rights movement, church leaders were now falling—even more directly—into the New Age spiritual trap. With an ever-evolving, conveniently overlapping, new transformational language, Rick Warren’s Global P.E.A.C.E. Plan was in the process of semantically merging with the New Age PEACE PLAN.

Emergent is a marketing campaign in and of itself. It is a rebranding campaign that is repackaging Christianity into a kaleidoscope of ever-fluctuating mystical images while "we're seeking to align our wills with God's will, our dreams with God's dream"( p. 161).

The most fundamental doctrines are being re-branded. McLaren’s definition of repentance, for example, reads like the toothpaste commercial discussed in the previous post. If the old brand of repentance no longer whitens and brightens, switch over to the Emergent brand. It promises that new zing in life. The image of repentance, according to McLaren, means “rethinking everything in light of the secret message” of Jesus. “It involves a deep sense that you may be wrong, wrong about so much, along with a sincere desire to realign around what is good and true” (p. 105). What is “good and true” is no longer moored to the tenets of the faith. Rather, it is now tied to the nebulous penumbra of the image of Jesus’ “secret message.”

The Truth:

"Ye shall make no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I am the LORD your God." (Leviticus 26:1)

Friday, May 11, 2007

Las "Vegas in a can" Religion

The Dopamine-Driven Church: Part 8

Dopamine Beverage Co. Vegas In A Can!

16NOV2006 16:45 
Published by OrbitalCommander
Dopamine Beverage Company is launching a new and exciting product: Dopamine Energy Drink - Vegas in a can! 100% of people who have tasted and compared this drink simply love it! We believe that it is the best on the market today.

Las “Vegas in a can”?! A dopamine-producing drink?! Doesn’t that speak to the effects of dopamine? Apparently it isn’t enough that the modern advertising industry works hard at heightening people’s dopamine reactions in order to boost sales. Now they’ve actually created a dopamine-producing product! A dopamine-driven culture seeks for Las Vegas type experiences. Which, sadly, can lead to full-fledged addictions, such as gambling. The promo continues:

“Orbital Enterprises, a publicly traded company under the stock symbol: OBLE, has announced the launch of its subsidiary - Dopamine Beverage Company, Inc. (a Nevada Corporation). Orbital will design and create numerous television commercials for Dopamine, and will assist in the company's internet marketing as well. Check out the website that Orbital is currently developing for Dopamine located at”

The transformation of the secular marketing business has crossed over into the evangelical world. To create dopamine highs, believers now encounter staged events that heighten emotions with artificially created experiences, orchestrated spiritual-like activities, and induced fanatic enthusiasms that breed excessive brand loyalty by hitching on to evangelical rising stars.

A few examples from the secular marketing world will show how this works. The book No Logo by Naomi Klein (Picador, 2002), which we began reviewing in the previous post, illustrates the spiritualization of branding by delving into several corporate branding campaigns from the 1990s, among them Starbucks and Nike.

Describing Starbucks as a brand that tries to “’establish emotional ties’ with their customers” through a “Starbucks Experience,” Klein points out that this isn’t about coffee, the product. “It’s the romance of the coffee experience, the feeling of warmth and community people get in Starbucks stores,” says Starbucks CEO Howard Shulz. (p. 20)

Haven’t you heard the same remarks about transformation churches? That people aren’t there for the “product,” i.e., the Gospel. To paraphrase, they are there for the “romance" of the religious "experience," the "feeling of warmth and community.” Church becomes an experience that triggers dopamine.

Klein quotes Scott Bedbury, Starbucks’ vice president of marketing, to give an example of the techniques used to “infuse” brands with “meaning.” And that "meaning" is attached to “purpose” and “experience.”

“Nike, for example, is leveraging the deep emotional connection that people have with sports and fitness. With Starbucks, we see how coffee has woven itself into the fabric of people’s lives, and that’s our opportunity for emotional leverage. . . . A great brand raises the bar – it adds a greater sense of purpose to the experience, whether it’s the challenge to do your best in sports and fitness or the affirmation that the cup of coffee you’re drinking really matters.” (p. 21) [emphasis added]

Paraphrasing again, a “great church has woven itself into the fabric of people’s lives” which is a brand-maker’s opportunity to wield “emotional leverage.” And a “great church raises the bar” by adding to a “greater sense of purpose to the experience” So, for instance, if you add the Global P.E.A.C.E. Plan to your church's purpose, you get a sense that what you’re doing at church “really matters.”

Perhaps by now you are getting a glimmer of how a mega-marketing purpose-driven branding campaign might work. Keep in mind that the threat of bad or guilt-producing feelings also works. Have you ever gotten “bad feelings” from an ad because your toothpaste is ineffective, inefficient, not white enough, not bright enough, and doesn’t have breath-cleansing properties? Are you in danger of losing the pretty girl? The chance for a promotion at work? That’s an advertising gimmick that promises a new life if you simply switch brands.

Value-added meaning, producing dopamine-driven hope. Buy Brand X toothpaste, get a girl, get a higher-paying job. Live happily ever after.

Likewise, pastors are promised: change your church program to experience-driven, get new members, make more money, build more buildings, dream more dreams, buy a condo in Florida for your retirement.

The same marketing philosophy works for motivating hundreds of thousands of purpose-driven converts who seek a meaningful "purpose" in life. Tired of working out in the church gym? Need a fresh “purpose” for your life? Desire accomplishment? Enlist today in the "billion man army" and do something to "make a difference" globally. “Be all that you can be.” Satisfy self. Impress others.

Notice how dopamine bypasses reason and judgment? Pay attention to marketing maneuvers the next time an ad pops up in front of you. The purpose of stimulating dopamine is to create instant reactions. Don’t think before you leap. Jump into the experience. Live the feeling. “There’s a sucker born every minute.” The dopamine trigger is meant to bypass the will and go straight to the emotions.

But Scripture tells us another way -- a narrow way that requires a sober mind, a will, and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. . . .

How to AVOID Being Dopamine-Driven

  • 1) Take the Scripture literally:

“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)

  • 2) Notice key trigger points for dopamine-producing experiences. The Bible calls this “lust.”

“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” (1 John 2:16)

  • 3) Take note of the long-range outcome:

“And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” (1 John 2:17)

  • 4) Guard your mind. And then change the way you live:

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:2)

  • 5) Avoid identifying yourself with evangelical brand name stars who market sensuality:

“For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” (Romans 16:18)

  • 6) Thou shalt not covet. Marketing induces covetousness. Covetousness hinders your prayers:
“Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” (James 4:3)

  • 7) If you seek a deeper walk with Jesus, here is the way:

“Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts ye double-minded.” (James 4:8)

  • 8) FLEE. Don’t even put yourself in the path of temptation. Flee not only in your mind (lustful thoughts) but flee from the circumstances that produce lust. Turn off the media that incessantly pumps your mind with lusts:

“Flee from idolatry.” (1 Corinthians 10:14b)

“Flee fornication.” (1 Corinthians 6:18a)

“Flee also youthful lusts.” (2 Timothy 2:22a)

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)

“But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. . . . But thou, O man of God, flee these things. . . .” (I Timothy 6:9, 11a)

  • 9) Be sober-minded:

“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” (Titus 2:12)

  • 10) Take all of this seriously:

“Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” (James 4:4)

Matthew Henry’s Commentary says of the above verse, James 4:4:

“Covetousness is elsewhere called idolatry, and it is here called adultery; it is a forsaking of Him to whom we are devoted and espoused, to cleave to other things. enmity: There is this brand put upon worldly-mindedness – enmity to God. enemy of God: A man may have a competent portion of the good things of this life, and yet may keep himself in the love of God; but he who sets his heart upon the world, who places his happiness in it, and will conform to it, and do anything rather than lose its friendship, he is an enemy to God. It is treason and rebellion against God to set the world upon His throne in our hearts.” (Study Bible [World, 1994], p. 2616)

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


Part 7: The Dopamine-Driven Church

Churches can no longer rely on brand loyalty. . .

"Religion has become a product just like everything else . . .Churches have to become brands because brands are quick pieces of information that people don't have to think about but they can identify with." . . .

"Marketing and evangelism are the same thing . . . . A product becomes a part of a user's personality, and the users of the product become evangelizers of the product.

[John Blake, "Faith & Values: Church's campaign isn't subtle, but it is personal," Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2/3/07, emphasis added]

The evangelical church has jumped full tilt into the brave new world of marketing. Marketing has become a substitute for biblical evangelism. But worse, marketing has become a way of identifying churches, organizations and movements by "branding" them.

An Orange County Register article (12/9/05) "'God branding' in films gains religious acceptance" by Ann Pepper, explains the concept:

"Religion and pop culture, often at opposite ends of the values tug of war, are finding more opportunities to form marketing partnerships that, in effect, create a 'God brand.'" [emphasis added]

Discussing how the movie The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe was used in a marketing campaign for Biola University, the article said:

"The idea was to connect the school with the movie in the minds of those customers.

"'We are brand building,' said Rob Westervelt, Biola's director of brand management. 'There are emotions and beliefs tied to this movie experience, and we want Biola to be a part of that. We want people to say, "Remember that movie we saw that was so great, and we saw it at Biola's premiere."'

"'There's what I call a "cool factor." When we gave out tickets the response was, "This is so cool." And that translates into "Biola is so cool."'" [emphasis added]

Marketing in this context is viewed as a strategic tool to win new converts and/or sell them something religious. This movie, for which Saddleback bought 20,000 tickets, was touted as "a good way to reach 'people who might normally be put off by Christian ideas.'" Note the justification:

"'By using such pop culture opportunities. . . We're partnering with what we believe God is doing in the world. We are aligning ourselves with it.'

"It's a strategic plan straight out of Ecclesiastes 7:13 - 'Notice the way God does things; then fall into line.'" [emphasis added]


What is branding and how does it work? Brands have come to embody the meaning of products by associating lifestyles, attitudes, beliefs and ideas with these products. Logos have become iconic cross-cultural images, symbols transcending the barriers of language.

A critical look at branding can be found in the book No Logo by Naomi Klein (Picador, 2002). Branding is a relatively recent concept that arose concurrently with corporations as mass-produced products began to be marketed to consumers over a hundred years ago. From the very beginning branding conveyed the "image" of a particular product or company. Klein observes:

". . . [A]dvertising wasn't just scientific; it was also spiritual. Brands could conjure a feeling -- think of Aunt Jemima's comforting presence -- but not only that, entire corporations could themselves embody a meaning of their own." (p. 6-7) [emphasis added]

Klein's premise is that during the decades of the 1980s-90s branding began to take on more of a spiritual essence -- purposefully seeking to create emotional attachments, experiences, identification with the product -- even altering lifestyles and changing culture:

'". . . Brands, not products!' became the rallying cry for a marketing renaissance led by a new breed of companies that saw themselves as 'meaning brokers' instead of product producers. What was changing was the idea of what -- in both advertising and branding -- was being sold. The old paradigm had it that all marketing was selling a product. In the new model, however, the product always take a back seat to the real product, the brand, and the selling of the brand acquired an extra component that can only be described as spiritual. Advertising is about hawking product. Branding, in its truest and most advanced incarnations, is about corporate transcendence." (p. 21) [emphasis added]

The evangelical world was busily branding during this same time period. Leadership Network functioned like mega-corporation, creating new brand names in Christianity to market to various segments of the diverse evangelical population. In fact, Leadership Network trained an entire generation of neoevangelical pastors in quite sophisticated marketing dynamics. Desiring to create a paradigm shift, the hand-picked rising stars diversified into various "logos" and "products" to appeal to different audiences with their own brand names -- Erwin McManus' Mosaic, Rick Warren's Purpose-Driven, Bill Hybel's Willowcreek, Brian McLaren's Emergent. . . the list could go on and on.

Same product -- church transformation. Different name brands.

Even down to the local level. Change the name of your church to create a new identity in the community. If the evangelical customer doesn't like one brand, he can pick another. What's your preference? Starbucks on Sunday morning? Cigar smokers clubs? Aerobic exercise classes? Choose your church. Whatever feels good.

In a media-saturated culture, with people salivating at the next juicy hamburger commercial on TV, it wasn't hard to accomplish the task of bringing evangelicals into the spiritualized new world of branding. Evangelicals had long ago repudiated the doctrine of separation from the pop culture. They had become desensitized to advertising. So the next logical step was to use the very same marketing strategies to forge a new vision of Church.

And create new movements for church transformation. Complete with their own logos, images, brand names, icons, superstars, downline networks and customers.

Logo-driven is image-driven. Branding is iconic. The more people are attuned to pictures rather than the written word, the more susceptible they are to deriving meaning from these images and icons. This is the beginning of idolatry.

The concept of branding comes from "a mark burned on the skin with a hot iron, formerly used to punish and identify criminals, now used on cattle to show ownership" according to Websters. Branding rose to a new level when the Nike swoosh became so ubiquitous that some people actually had the swoosh tatooed on their skin. Klein states,

"Not only do dozens of Nike employees have a swoosh tattooed on their calves, but tattoo parlors all over North America report that the swoosh has become their most popular items. Human branding? Check." (p. 56).

What happens when the evangelical culture rushes headlong into branding? It may lose its ability to be salt and light. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution article notes that churches may lose their "unique selling position." Huh? Examine the purpose for this church-based branding:

"[Mark Einstein, associate professor of media studies at the City University of New York] says churches that aggressively brand themselves run the risk of losing what she calls their 'USP' —- unique selling position.

"The goal of any marketing is growth. That goal quickly can become the sole focus of a church engulfed by a marketing campaign. They seem no different from a business, where success is measured strictly by numbers.

"'What religion offers as its USP is the ability to step outside the culture, to not be a part of the marketing,' she says. 'When [churches] become a marketed product, they may lose their USP.'" [emphasis added]

On the horizon is global brand name recognition. The Orange County Register article concludes:

"Rich Karlgaard, publisher of Forbes magazine, in 2004 declared Warren's 'The Purpose-Driven Church' the best book on entrepreneurship, business and investment he'd seen in years.

"Warren followed that with his mega-best-seller 'The Purpose-Driven Life.' His purpose-driven success has spawned a whole purpose-driven department at Saddleback - which draws about 20,000 worshippers on Sundays - and Warren's friends tease him publicly about what might be coming next: purpose-driven toothpaste?

"Warren has his sights set much higher: making Africa the first purpose-driven continent.

"'God branding,' Westervelt said, 'is recognizing that these things are going on in the culture and aligning with those things. Our mission is to impact the world for the Lord Jesus Christ.'"

The next few posts will examine global marketing in more detail, Lord willing.

The Truth:

"From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." (Galatians 6:17)

We struggle to come up with any possible marketing meaning for the following verse, quoted above -- other than perhaps the exact opposite! Here is what Ecclesiastes 7:13 says:

"Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked?"

Friday, May 04, 2007

The Goals for Coals

Part 6: The Dopamine-Driven Church

“The era of mass marketing is ending.”

This death knell was sounded in PyroMarketing (HarperBusiness, 2005, p. 15). New marketing styles like PyroMarketing have the potential to radically transform the marketing industry to a new viral age of advertising. This new-fangled style relies upon the mechanics of 1) building experiences in the context of 2) networking communities.

By creating and managing cellular affiliation groups, and linking them together, one can capitalize upon synchronous group experiences that can give birth to waves of emotion, motivation, enthusiasm, excitement -- all of which serve as catalysts to generate more sales. Or, viewed in a broader context, if the intended result is to promulgate a new doctrine or practice, these small groups become the perfect vehicle to achieve transformation.

The transformation of the global church plan fits hand in glove with new age marketing styles. This is because the local church is a ready-made community of people with a common bond of interest. However, the old-fashioned homogenous mass of pew-sitters has to give way to the more lucrative and effective model – the cellular networking structure. The formation of small groups, with “some of its most loyal customers . . . mixed into every group” (p. 218), creates the perfect climate in which to build experiences. When deeply spiritualized activities (spiritual formation, contemplation, mysticism, signs and wonders, etc.) are included in the mix, a reservoir of optimum conditions is maintained. Small groups have the potential to heighten the intended results, serving as a perfect catalyst for transformation.

Since the beginning of February, this blog has been covering the origins, designs and purposes for global networking. We began with the New Age Theosophists, and their original plan to use systems networking to engineer the Aquarian Movement. We then tracked the development of the networking model in the history of the neoevangelical church.

Standing back to take in a composite view of all of this, it seems quite obvious that the next stage of the church growth movement will be to solidify and institutionalize this networking cellular model (“small groups”) in order to best facilitate and market the doctrines and practices of the Movement called The New Apostolic Reformation/Second Reformation.

This cellular networking structure is designed to become far more comprehensive than the local church, however. It comprises a radical new definition of “church” – EKKLESIA. [We noted in the very first post that was put up on this blog back in September 2005.] This new-style church is already being connected horizontally to the marketplace (corporations and businesses) and vertically to the State (including the dominionist call to change governments through the “Kingdom mandate”).

Examined in this broader perspective, the innovative cellular networking structure fully comprises the three legs of Peter Drucker’s 3-legged stool of Society. As the original mainpage of the Global P.E.A.C.E. Plan website [] first proclaimed: P.E.A.C.E. is mobilizing a civilian force of compassion using the worldwide distribution network of local churches.” [emphasis added]

How will this happen? Organizing the global church into networking cells will facilitate transformation to this worldwide "distribution network." Each node and level will align and interconnect both horizontally and vertically like a giant net. Connected to computer databases and assessment methods, it will provide a global feedback mechanism, giving its operators the ability to tweak every little cellular node on the network to ensure optimum performance.

A few insights into this next stage of global marketing can be found by reading PyroMarketing:

“Every book aspires to be a bestseller, but very few achieve it. Not only was The Purpose-Driven Life a bestseller, its success was unprecedented. Publishers Weekly declared it ‘the best-selling hardback in American history.’ How did this one book accomplish what millions more fail to attain? Its success was a side effect of a ministry campaign that, perhaps unknowingly, modeled the four steps that define PyroMarketing.” (p. 206) [emphasis added]

Notice the last sentence in the paragraph. Can you tell the difference between Rick Warren’s book marketing campaign and his “ministry campaign”? This is the key to understanding the formation of what appears to be the next stage in marketing. All 3 legs of the stool could be operating together, blurring the lines between for-profit enterprises and non-profit ministry.

Under the Global P.E.A.C.E. Plan, the Church looks like it is being set up to become the premier global marketing agent (distribution network) for governments and corporations, NGOs and foundations, and all sorts of interest groups and agendas. So, how will this controversial idea be marketed to the church-at-large? By creating the optimal downline structure.

Let's pause to examine some basic facts. PyroMarketing summarizes the steps of Rick Warren’s first successful campaign:

  • Rick Warren collected the “driest tinder” – the thousands of pastors who had logged onto his website and registered as members.
  • “When it was time to launch the Forty Days of Purpose Campaign, he sent a message to the pastors on his list and twelve hundred signed on.” (p. 207)
  • At the end of this very experiential campaign, the final purpose was evangelism where “people were told to share the gospel with others.” This turned into people recommending The Purpose-Driven Life book to others. (p. 207)
  • The Forty Days of Purpose Campaign kept a database of people ("save the coals") who read the book and logged onto, and also maintained a database of over 20,000 churches that participated in the campaign. (p. 208)

Knowing this successful format, it can therefore be imagined that the next stage will utilize the saved coals from the previous campaigns to launch the forthcoming campaign. This is a no-brainer. Even political candidates "save the coals" from previous campaigns to build a contact list of potential voters and donors in their future campaign, often building on a precinct-level cellular operation. Many non-profit and political action groups do the same. In fact, when Tim Challies website documented the troubles that Greg Stielstra was having with Rick Warren over the publishing PyroMarketing two summers ago here and here, he concluded that:

“But why does Warren fear this book? From all I could find, Stielstra has never written anything negative about Rick Warren or The Purpose Driven Life. If anything, he has praised both the book and the author and appears to respect Rick Warren as a pastor and as a church leader. After two rounds of changes that were subsequently approved by Warren's agent it seems clear that the book will be likewise positive in tone. What would cause a person to knowingly risk interfering with a contract made between two other parties? Based on the comments made by his representatives, it would seem that the explanation lies in Warren's fear that his critics will misinterpret the book and twist Stielstra's words to prove that Warren is not a pastor, but a marketer. He feels that people will come to view The Purpose Driven Life as a marketing success rather than a ministry success. This may also impact Warren's global P.E.A.C.E. plan which is in the beginning stages even now. Perhaps when people become aware of PyroMarketing techniques they will come to see themselves as ‘glowing coals’ and realize they are part of a larger marketing campaign.” [emphasis added]

How else can one look at this scenario, if not through the lens of marketing? If the previous campaigns were all about saving coals to ignite the “driest tinder” for the next campaign, then presumably the next campaign could be about marketing a new church structure that will guarantee that in future this type of viral marketing will be even more effective. Plus it paves the road to more interaction with the two other networking legs of the 3-legged stool. And if the church-based cells begin to interconnect with precinct-level political cells, the effect could be volatile.

One mission organization which received pre-training in the next phase of Rick Warren's operations explained:

“Warren plans to add two additional 40-day programs: The third will be 40 Days of Vision focusing on missional and structural renewal. It will incorporate a lay version of The Purpose Driven Church currently under development.

“The final series will be ‘40 Days of P.E.A.C.E’ which will focus on the cultural aspect of renewal, and will move people into ministry and mission. . . ." [emphasis added]

It may be that this "lay version" of The Purpose-Driven Church campaign will function in a similar fashion to the previous campaign by mixing ministry with marketing. Calling Rick Warren “a master marketing tactician,” Orange County Register reporter Gwendolyn Driscoll reported at the beginning of this year that

“The PEACE plan relies on an in-development Web site to organize, train and send missionaries, and a not-yet-launched ‘40-Day’ campaign to mobilize churches.

“The nascent nature of these PEACE ‘products’ may explain why in the Rwandan village of Ruhuha, where small Saddleback groups traveled in March, Warren's ‘second reformation’ of the Christian church has yet to begin.

“That ‘reformation’ posits a new world of church-based evangelism and good works, sparked by exchanges of PEACE missionaries. . . .

“Even Warren agrees the PEACE plan will succeed as an ecumenical movement only if it is authentically about the often-mentioned ‘common good.’ He also acknowledges he will succeed only if he proves himself a true representative of the elusive center and not, as some fear, an evangelical Trojan horse, carrying a particular ideology to the world in the guise of an appealing, purpose-driven message.” [emphasis added]

The Truth:

"Therefore say thou unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye unto me, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the LORD of hosts." (Zechariah 1:3)

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

What is Your LifeTime Value?

The Dopamine-Driven Church: Part 5

"There is only one valid definition of business purpose: to create a customer. The customer is the foundation of a business and keeps it in existence. He alone gives employment … Because it is the purpose to create a customer, any business enterprise has two, and only two, basic functions: marketing and innovation."

--Peter Drucker

"There is only one valid definition of business purpose: to create a customer."
--Peter Drucker

"Mr. Drucker is famous for a series of questions: What is our business? Who is the customer? What does the customer value? The answers to those questions, asked by generations of managers around the globe, became known as 'the theory of the business.' The most distinctive hallmark of the managerial mindset is that it operates from that theory. Major decisions and initiatives all become tests of the theory. Profits are important in part because they tell you whether your theory is working. If you fail to achieve the results you expected, you re-examine your model. It is the managerial equivalent of the scientific method, starting with hypotheses which are then tested in action, and revised when necessary."
--"Modern Management Expert Peter Drucker dies at age 95," 11/11/05. [All emphases above added]

When Peter Drucker's ideas about "customers" came into the modern church growth movement, it began to change the Church:

1) Marketing became integrated with evangelism, changing the way lost souls were identified and approached, recruited and enlisted. The very definition of "salvation" came to have a "close the sale" connotation.

2) Parishioners were seen as "customers" who had purchased the product -- a new style of doing church, new methods, new music, new formats, new covenants, etc. As such they were viewed in economic terms as a source of income, activity, and outreach for recruiting new "customers."

3) Certain "customers" were assigned more value to the mission of the church because of their talents and abilities, endeavors and activities, and large donations to the ministry.

Observing this marketing phenomena, Dr. David Wells commented:

"First, the churches, in larger and larger numbers, are adapting themselves to felt needs in the congregations much as a business might adapt its product to a market. In other words, the Church is sanctioning the idea that when someone comes in its doors it's okay to view that person as a consumer, somebody who is going to attempt to hitch up a product to their own felt needs. The products in question, of course, are the activities, the experiences, the amenities, and the message of the Church. However, what people who are coming in these church doors today are thinking about, and what they want, is not primarily personal salvation. What they want is a sense of personal well-being, however momentary and fragmentary that personal sense of well-being is and our churches are beginning to cater to this. I have no doubt at all that they are going to become very successful. Indeed, some are successful already and they are going to become more successful because marketing in America is what makes the wheels go around. They are, in other words, simply doing what Pepsi has done, what self-help groups have done, the auto makers, the makers of jeans, the makers of movies, and what Madonna herself has done. So why shouldn't churches do this, somebody might ask? Why shouldn't they want to be successful in the same way that Pepsi and Madonna are?

Peter Drucker has had a tremendous impact on evangelical pastors, particularly his ideas about marketing. When Drucker passed away in 2005, Leadership Network wrote about his work among evangelical leaders:

"Buford wanted to create a network of church leaders who could learn from each other and provide working models for other churches. So he naturally contacted his mentor for guidance. Drucker gave him three pieces of advice:

  • 'Build on the islands of health and strength' (that is, recruit leaders from successful churches as Leadership Network's first customers);
  • 'Work only with those who are receptive to what you are trying to do';
  • 'Work only on things that will make a great deal of difference if you succeed.'

"These principles became the founding strategy for Leadership Network, but Drucker's influence was only beginning. His impact on Leadership Network has been so extraordinary that the organization 'belongs partly to him,' Buford says.

"Events sponsored by Leadership Network often featured Drucker as a speaker and resource, and his writings have been excerpted in its publications. In the early days, church leaders attending Leadership Network seminars could meet with Drucker in small groups and get to know him over shared meals.

"Some leaders, like Father Leo Bartel and Pastor Rick Warren, followed up with telephone calls seeking Drucker's advice on pressing issues, and even made trips to consult with Drucker in his home. . . .

". . .Warren says his staff reads and discusses Drucker's writings, using them to manage the church's multi-faceted ministry. Everyone who walks into the pastor's office is reminded of Drucker's well-known advice, which appears on a print that Drucker signed and gave to Warren:
  • 'What is our business?'
  • 'Who is our customer?'
  • 'What does the customer consider value?'" [emphasis added]

Similar Druckerian concepts can be found in Greg Stielstra's book PyroMarketing, which we have been reviewing. In Chapter 6, "Save the Coals," Stielstra explains the basic concept of databanking customer records. In this day and age, databasing programs and the Internet "form a match made in marketing heaven, a one-two punch that allows you to collect reams of valuable consumer data. . . ," says Stielstra on page 197. Privacy concerns aside, there are other issues of concern.

In selling a new type of toothpaste it might not be a big issue if you identified "your best customers and their interests so that you can better target them with relevant offers" (p. 179). There are good customers and better customers, and databasing is a way of sorting out whether some customers are "far more profitable than others" (p. 186). And you can "[m]easure the value of certain customers. . . ." (p.186).

In fact, your database can track something called the Lifetime Value (LTV) of certain customers, predicting their future value as a customer. Echoing the words of Peter Drucker in the Leadership Network excerpt above, Stielstra suggests:

"Not all customers are created equal. Some are much more valuable than others. By segmenting your database you can calculate the LTV of different customer segments and separate the wheat from the chaff. . . .

"Just who are the most profitable people? . . .

"You can arrange them according to the affiliation groups they join or by causes to which they donate their money. You can even segment them according to their value as customer evangelists by tracking how often they recommend your company and its products." (pp. 193-4) [emphases added]

This philosophy resembles Drucker's ideas about people possessing an economic value. Perhaps in a perfect marketing world, this makes sense. It does leave out the poor, however, who aren't profitable by these definitions.

And, how far and wide has this Lifetime Value concept permeated the modern evangelical church? Could it perhaps account for the new elitism, leadership emphases, the focus on results, assessments, "health," and "significance"? The list could go on and on. . .

In the next few posts, this issue will be addressed further, Lord willing. . . .

The Truth:

Continuing his thoughts on marketing in the Church, Dr. David Wells wrote:

"The answer is that marketing will produce success but not necessarily the kind that has much to do with the Kingdom of God. To start with, the analogy between the business world and the world of Christ's Kingdom is a completely fallacious analogy. Consumers in the market place are never asked to commit themselves to the product they are purchasing as a sinner is to the Christ in whom belief is being invited. Furthermore, consumers in the marketplace are free to define their needs however they want to and then to hitch up a product to satisfy those needs, but in the Church the consumer, the sinner, is not free to define his or her needs exactly as they wish. It is God who defines our needs and the reason for that is that left to ourselves we would not understand our needs aright because we are rebels against God. We are hostile both to God and to His law and cannot be subject to either, Paul tells us. Now, no person going into the marketplace, going to buy a coffee-pot or going to buy a garden hose, engages with their innermost being in the way that we are inviting sinners to do in the Church. The analogy is simply fallacious."

"Thus saith the LORD my God; Feed the flock of the slaughter; Whose possessors slay them, and hold themselves not guilty: and they that sell them say, Blessed be the LORD; for I am rich: and their own shepherds pity them not." (Zecharaiah 11:5)