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].