Last week, I noted that I’m reading James Twitchell’s Shopping for God(New York: Simon and Schuster, 2007). Twitchell describes himself as a “cold Christian,” or better yet, an “apatheist” (p.33). As a review, this book is Twitchell’s comparison of megachurches to marketing strategies. He calls megachurch pastors “pastorpreneurs” of “McChurch.” Here are a few more snippets.
“…A case could be made that the most important influence on modern megachurch delivery is the rock concert. Successful churches have one thing in common: They are entertaining. Fun! And in an entertainment economy, the most successful product is the one with predictable sensation delivery. Religion has become, since the dour 1966 Time magazine cover asked, “Is God Dead?” nothing if not entertaining. Not only is God alive, He rocks” (p. 46).
“…Until recently, Protestants could always claim that, OK, they had lots of Bibles, but that was only because the Word was so important. Times have changed. American low-church Protestants, who once railed against the shallow materialism of their no-longer-kissing cousins from Rome, are now shopping at the indulgence and relic markets. They are the ones who are now selling the pig’s knuckles. Where they once enjoyed invoking the story of Christ throwing the money changers out of the temple, today the megachurches clearly welcome the merchants into their temples. The souvenir store is front and center, right next to the sanctuary, selling all kinds of logoed stuff. If you are a doubting Thomas, check out any of their websites” (p 64).
“The mantra ‘I’m into spirituality, not religion’ often means, I want the feelings without the overhead. While much of spirituality is pure nonsense – marketing, packaging, psychobabble – it is more practical and personal, more about stress reduction than salvation, more therapeutic than theological. It’s about feeling good, not necessarily about being good. It’s as much about the body as the soul. It’s health masquerading as belief, the Church of Dr. Phil, the Chapel of Oprah” (p. 139).
You should read what he has to say about 19th century Revivals! Maybe next time…