Thursday, October 16, 2008

Churchapreneurs: an overview

In this article, I want to introduce a series, that I have been thinking about posting for a while, entitled, "churchapreneurs." I have googled many times and have not yet come up with a similar set of articles posted by anyone bearing this name. What I have come across is an article on a "Churchpreneur" program sponsored by a pastor in the Bay Area in California, which prepares Christians to go out into the culture and start small businesses that are Christian in nature. With that disclaimer, I am going to jump in feet first.

So, what do I mean by a "churchapreneur?" Let's begin with a definition: a churchapreneur is a minister of a Christian church who views his church as a product to be marketed and sold as if it were a commodity. His church is a business, and he is the CEO. As a good businessman, he knows he needs a thriving customer base in order to grow his business, err church, so he can build a building with a more pleasing aesthetic appearance, have a better, "beefed up" sound system, and offer more products (think programs which target felt needs), which in turn attracts more customers. The "churchapreneur" then, creatively and aggressively markets his church and what it has to offer to "customers" who have various felt needs ranging from marriage problems, to parenting help, to socializing, to weight loss. Since preaching and teaching the unadorned, unvarnished truth of scripture is not the reason why his church exists, then he doesn't concern himself with accurate interpretation of scripture or with getting the message right, he only pastes scripture and pious slogans on the products (programs) he offers and sprinkles his weekly promotional pitch with dashes of uninterpeted scripture for the sake of appearances and to provide a mild and temporary spiritual satisfaction to the customers.

The other piece of the "churchapreneur" puzzle is vision. Every "churchapreneur" worth his salt has a vision from God, who told him to start the specific "ministry" he is now engaged in. Vision is key to the "churchapreneur", as the success of the business, which can be measured in terms of the number of people, size of the building, and community reach, is directly proportional to his obedience to the God-given vision he has received. Run down the list of any big-time "churchapreneur" today in America and you will find that its this divinely given vision which is at the foundation of their ministry success. Why is the vision so essential to their business success? Simple, the vision gives the "churchapreneur" the particular market niche he must target. For Chuck Smith, it was Hippies. For Rick Warren, it was "Saddleback Sam." For Joel Osteen, it was people who hungered for the message of "hope and change." For the "guy church movement" its disgruntled white men. But the vision is not just important because it defines the market niche, its important also, because it points to the strategy for reaching that target group as well. Hence, we have the buzz words of the evangelical world today such as, "missional," "emerging," "contemporary worship," and so on, which are the catnip used to attract the target audience. Therein lies the genius of the "churchapreneur." He not only sees the market niche he has been given the vision to pursue, he also has the business savvy to come up with the proper strategies and tactics to reach them. Genius is not mere vision, its application, because that's the engine of success!

So just to recap, a churchapreneur is a pastor of a church who treats his church as if it were a business that has products to sell to consumers who have felt needs. He is guided in his business plan by a divine vision which discloses both the target audience and means for reaching them. If you think this is an all too cynical assessment of contemporary North American churchmen, then I close by pointing you to a poster hanging just outside Bill Hybel's church office, who in case you were unaware of it, is the guru who stands atop the pyramid of evangelical churchapreneurs for the last 35 years in America, which says:

“What is our business? Who is our customer? What does the customer consider value?”



Mesa Mike said...

Well, it looks like if a church puts all its eggs in the "seeker sensitive" basket, it'll be mostly populated by immature Christians.

On the other hand, I'm not quite sure what it is that Greg Hawkins thinks that the more mature believers are looking for that can't be found at Willow Creek.

Maybe support (financial and otherwise) for para-church activities that the more "mature" find interesting?

Hmmm. One wonders.

Oscar said...

Good stuff...