Monday, October 27, 2008

Churchapreneurs: a profile

As we introduced this series on churchapreneurs, we began with an overview, defining our terms and introducing the concept. So if you are just tuning in to the series, you can go back to the first post and get a better handle on what I am attacking here. However, before we move forward it will be helpful to remind ourselves what a churchapreneur is and what he is up to. A churchapreneur is a pastor of a Christian church who views his church as a product to be marketed and sold to customers. His business plan is a divinely given vision which marks out his market niche, which in turn, provides a strategy and set of tactics to reach potential customers. Of course, all this finds anecdotal confirmation in the poster that hangs outside of Bill Hybels office which says, "What is our business? Who is our customer? What does the customer consider value?”

With that background in view, let's turn to the profile of the churchapreneur.

The key component of the churchapreneur, which enables him to pull the whole gig off, is talent. Make no mistake about it, churchapreneurs are talented. They have charisma, are usually handsome, possess above average speaking abilities, have excellent interpersonal skills and a keen ability to understand what drives people. Basically, they are the kind of guys you would find working at your local car lot. Like good salesmen, they know how to push people's buttons in order to "close" the deal. Now, I don't mean to disrespect car salesmen, that is an honorable profession, and I have no complaint with them. After all, they are just trying to put bread on the table, like any one else. The problem I have is with the church being treated like a new car and these salesmen (pastors) plying their trade in the church as they would at the local car lot.

Of course, to some, this sounds cynical and perhaps overly harsh. I can only wish however, that this were simply an unfounded, harsh caricature, the reality is, it rings all too true. A case in point is "the cool church" in Tuscon, Arizona. The home page for this church prominently displays a picture of the head pastor, David McAllister. He is blond, he is buff, he is cool, and he is the lead salesmen at the church. Click on the links to the four satellite churches, which be broadcasts his sermons to at their various meeting times, and you will again see his picture and the pictures of the other salesmen of these satellites.

It is clear from spending a few moments on the web site that his business plan (divinely given vision) instructed him to hitch "hip" to Jesus, because as you attempt to search out what this church is about, you quickly find that its about being "cool"(no Sherlock Homes here, its in the title). The current web site, which is still under construction, contains numerous references to "cool," but the old site was even more fixed on hip. For instance, it actually had the following question posted on it, "“Why the cool church?" and then listed these reasons among several others: 1) we think God is “way cool”. Because God is so often poorly represented by religious groups, He can seem otherwise – but that, and 2) God's principles that we have in the Bible are cool.

Now, you say, OK, that is way over the top, but surely that must be an isolated example of a fringe group that no one pays any attention to and which cannot be representative of broader evangelicalism. Well, "the cool church" is not a fringe group, it is actually one of the largest and fastest growing churches in North America. Further, this kind of gimmickry is anything but fringe, its mainstream. In order to test this observation simply click on the following websites of a few of the fastest growing churches in America:

Elevation Church
Champions Centre

Everywhere you turn in the church world in America you find examples of this crassly materialistic, consumer oriented, lowest common denominator approach to church. Yes, the personalities are different, the market applications vary, but if you look, and not even all that closely, what you find is a common ideology that binds them together: SALES! They are all about building big, flashy, hip businesses through target messaging and cutting edge sales tactics.

To top it all off -- these salesmen leave nothing to chance in wooing their prey to the bait. A recent article published in the NY Times entitled "The Mystery Worshiper" exposed what is a cutting edge tool in the church growth tool kit, mystery worshipers. http://http// That is right, highly talented ministry consultants, many of whom are former pastors, who are paid to lie about themselves and pretend they are sincere first time visitors to a church, who in turn evaluate their worship experience and then submit it to the consulting agency so the information can be relayed back to the church which retained them. If that is not a business model of ministry, I don't know what is. Churchapreneurs, if they are nothing else, are savvy businessmen who have a single minded focus: growing the business. They will do whatever is necessary to increase sales volume, even if it takes professional liars (mystery worshipers) to help them craft a better sales pitch in order to keep on closing deals.

What is a churchapreneur? A churchapreneur is a pastor of a local church who treats his church as a commodity to be sold to customers. How can you spot a churchapreneur? Well, he looks like the sales staff at your local car lot, he has charisma, above average speaking abilities, excellent interpersonal skills, and he can't wait to close the next deal.


Oscar said...

Right between the eyes. I gotta pass these posts along to my circles. I'm a late comer to this blog, but this "Churchapreneur" thing remains alive and well.

Oscar said...

Here is another thing (and frustrating at that): if you were to send this to every evangelical pastor practicing this churchapreneur method, they would more than likely refuse to identify with any part of your observations and terms describing them. They would say, "it's all about Jesus."

John Sawtelle said...

I realize what you are saying is true. And because it is true, we can draw two conclusions. Ones, the man in question is so utterly deluded by sin and false teaching that he cannot see the truth. Two, he is actually Satan's messenger and is transforming himself into an angel of ligth. Either way, this guy is in a bad spot and is dangerous to God's people. That is precisely why we have to show the foolishness of these ideas.