Religion The ideas of management guru Peter Drucker have become the unexpected intellectual foundation of the megachurch movement in America. The giant churches with thousands of parishioners in cavernous halls have applied Drucker’s business principles to their “businesses”: Bill Hybels, the pastor of the 17,000-strong Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois, has a quotation from Mr. Drucker hanging outside his office: “What is our business? Who is our customer? What does the customer consider the value?”54 Churches now routinely employ standard business practices such as advertising, promotional giveaways, and marketing campaigns. Religion, in some sense, has become a product. Some pastors preach the “prosperity gospel” that material success is a mark of God’s favor. The Reverend Troy Gramling, pastor of the Potential Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida is building a global congregation. He says he has tried to copy the success of Starbucks’ branding strategy, and he once attracted new members by giving away $10 Starbucks gift cards.55 Megachurch pastor David Platt questions the commercial direction of contemporary religion in his book, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream. Platt says the megachurches have taken on corporate characteristics in competing for market share by serving as social centers while offering day care and comfortable entertainment. Platt asks his followers to put a cap on their consumer lives, believing that our pursuit of the materialist American Dream cannot be reconciled with an authentic spiritual life.56 To many Christians, Jesus is a pop-culture icon and thus is the inspiration for a vast array of commercial expressions including T-shirts, license plates, dolls, video games, flip flops, perfume, golf balls, scripture chocolates, and much more. The marriage of religion and commerce has even reached the business of sports where “Faith Nights” have become popular promotional devices at professional ball games. Several major league baseball teams have sponsored Faith Nights, but that approach has been particularly successful in the minor leagues where Christian entertainers, player testimonies, faith trivia quizzes, and bobbleheads of Samson and other biblical characters draw big crowds. [For a review of Christianity Incorporated: How Big Business Is Buying the Church, see http://www .directionjournal.org/article/?1301] Questions 1. Do you see any risks to religion in treating it as a product to be marketed and sold? Explain. 2. a. Why has religion increasingly become a product in the commercial world? b. Is everything a product in some sense?
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