Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Everything Old Is New Again--Redux

Starting off 2008 even recycling titles (Blogger tells me I've used variants of this one twice before now). But apropos of the post below, I found this golden oldie from 2005.

If anything, I'm even less a fan of Osteen than I was then. As a friend mentioned to me, the difference between his latest book and his first book seems to be a reversal of the color scheme. This time he's using a blue background with gold trim; last time it was gold with blue trim. And where it was 7 steps to living at your full potential, now he offers us the 7 keys to improving your life every day.

As I say, it's all about marketing with some "churches."

I have been called, and rightly so, on my definition of "church." The one I was using in reference to "mega-churches" is meant to be limited not just to churches over 2000 in worship (the recognized definition of "mega-churches"), but churches whose main interest seems to be marketing the church, not marketing the Gospel. Tim Keller may well be drawing people in to six different campuses because of what he says, not because he preaches an "intellectual" version of the gospel of wealth.

My distinction, and my criticism, is centered on the churches more obsessed with attendance than with spirituality, more concerned with income than with mission. It's a fine line, and so speaking about it generally is a dangerous thing. But I've seen too many non-mega churches obsess quite a bit too much over their attendance and their budget, and imagine the answer is to ape Osteen or Ted Haggard or anyone else who packs 'em in on Sunday morning. I've also felt the same pressure from the judicatories of denominations, people convinced that more attendance would solve whatever problems the churches in their charge were complaining of, and probably resolve their budget concerns, too.

So if there is a generalized critique here, it's attached to Hockenberry's analysis of news as being market driven, rather than news oriented. The public model of church is rapidly becoming the market-driven one, the one that draws in warm bodies who will hopefully open their wallets. Still, as I said, there is reason to believe other models for church exist. In fact, I've got a (different) book on that; maybe I should re-read it and get back to you...

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