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Monday, January 10, 2005

Hypotheses offered, argumentation and evidence to follow

Hypothesis 1) Church marketing grows out of secular marketing.

Hypothesis 2) Secular marketing grows out of American revivalism, particularly of the nineteenth century (i.e. the "Second Great Awakening" and its successors.)

Hypothesis 3) The Second Great Awakening used pragmatic, instrumental methods to bring about conversions (i.e. the means did not match the ends). This shows a distinctively modern triumph of method in church practice, not necessarily the first, but probably the most prominent early use. (I take it that Modernity is ultimately nihilistic and inhuman, based on violence, and hence a problem for Christians.)

Hypothesis 4) (strong version) The ecclesiology that endorsed the Second Great Awakening is dubious (or at least infelicitous in our present American context) and ought to be rejected

Hypothesis 5) (strong version) The Christian church ought also to reject secular marketing as the outgrowth of a heretical development in the church during the nineteenth century.

...or if you don't like that...

Hypothesis 4) (weaker version) A certain sort of ecclesiology (largely Baptist and other free-church Protestants) supported the Second Great Awakening, and left its mark indelibly on that revival and subsequent developments from it (like church marketing).

Hypothesis 5) (weaker version) Certain segments of the Christian church -- Anglican, Orthodox, Roman Catholic, many Lutherans -- ought to reject the practice of church marketing as based on an incompatible ecclesiology.

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4 Comments:

Blogger Peter Young said...

I'm interested in what you consider church marketing.

Your third hypothesis seems to doubt the authenticity of the conversions. What is it about these conversions that causes your concern?

What portions of the ecclesiology of the Baptists and free-church protestants bother you?

Monday, January 10, 2005 3:44:00 PM  
Blogger Thunder Jones said...

Really interesting. It also helped these movements for wacked-out eschatology to move into the popular imagination. These groups really embraced it and still use it to drive their evangelism.

Christianity as process rather than conversion experience makes a lot more sense to me.

Monday, January 10, 2005 4:39:00 PM  
Blogger c said...

Interesting thoughts. I work in a publishing house where we sell those fabulous Church Marketing books. I think those books are ridiculous. If churches want to grow, that is great, but why? Is it because it will make us look good to have the seats packed every Sunday? Is it for the contribution? Does the preacher want to stroke his ego and move on to another bigger and higher paid church? Or do they want to see more people as agents in bringing about the Kingdom?

I wonder just how serious the move from modernity has been in light of nationalism? Good stuff.

Monday, January 10, 2005 5:19:00 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

Thunder: Right on. The Christian life, it seems to me, is much more about being faithful day in and day out, a "long obedience in the same direction" to quote Eugene Peterson quoting Nietszche, of all things. (Of course, that is what you would expect to hear from an Anglican.) The more punctiliar sense of revival/backsliding seems correlated with Enlightenment-era pietism and its evangelical successors.

Clark: Welcome to the Street! These are good questions you raise about church marketing, and I share them. Part of what I am on about is that worship of the Triune God, it seems to me, is an end in itself, not something that is undertaken for the sake of some other end (e.g. entertainment, fulfillment, spiritual maturity, etc.). If that is true, and worship truly is at the heart of being a Christian, then there is a sense in which the life of the church is also an end in itself. If so, then much church marketing seems misguided and disingenuous, trying to posture your congregation to appeal to a niche or market segment. I have more to say about this, much more, but will reserve that "more" for another post, before I get too out of hand here.

Pete: An adequate response might require more time than I have. Here are some starts:
1)By "church marketing" I do not mean "evangelism", if that's what you're worried about. If you want a finer distinction, I can provide one at another time.
2) My overall concern in the post is with means, not ends. Christianity has typically insisted that means and ends may not be separated. So, for example, conversion at gunpoint, although it might be an "authentic" conversion, is not an acceptable means. More than that, though, the idea of "conversion" being the most significant thing seems open to question.
3) As a Lutheran, surely you have some thoughts about answers to your last question?

Monday, January 10, 2005 6:46:00 PM  

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