I came across an interesting excerpt on a blog from a recently released book by David Wells called The Courage to be Protestant: Truth-lovers, marketers, and emergents in the postmodern world. I haven’t read the book (yet), but the excerpt deals with the section of the book related to church marketers, and the backlash against them thanks to “studies” and “polls” by George Barna and others. I’ve always had beef with Barna – not 100% because of his polls necessarily (though I’m sure Neil Postman would), but because of the conclusions he draws from polls (i.e. his conclusion in Revolution that “real” Christians should leave the “fake” churches en mass). Wells (and Barna for that matter) isn’t talking about the emergent movement specifically, but there are similarities.
“George Barna was one of the primary architects who designed this new approach to ‘doing’ church. He was in on the ground floor three decades ago. As the church’s most assiduous poller, he undoubtedly expected by this time to be the bearer of good news once his marketing strategies were widely adopted, as they have been. It has not turned out that way. It has fallen to him to be the most important chronicler of his own failure. “Leaving behind this long trail of failure as if it had never happened, Barna has nevertheless struck out in a new direction with the same old panache, bravado, and undented self-assurance. The evangelical world has neither gasped nor even blinked. In 2005, he published his book, Revolution, which predicted that the church in the coming decade would lose much of its “market share” but, never mind, because now it could climb aboard a different cultural trend and succeed even more spectacularly. Now, serious spiritual revolutionaries can simply cut themselves loose from every local church. Just walk away! Permanently. And find biblical Christianity elsewhere.
“What is resulting from Barna’s approach is barely recognizable as Christian today. And that is what makes the desire of some of the leading American marketing pastors to export their experiment to the rest of the world almost incomprehensible.”