For four very interesting years I worked closely with Crane MetaMarketing Ltd. as a writer and editor for educational and nonprofit marketing programs. Working with such wonderful clients as Calvin and Houghton colleges, the Washington Christian Academy, and similar institutions, I became convinced that marketing, properly understood, is as appropriate for Christian concerns as it is for those in the secular world.
Crane's "values-based" marketing philosophy basically says that ethical marketing equips potential customers (for example, students and their families) to make a decision that is in their own best interest--and that the interests of the institution and the customer are best served when the choice to affiliate with each other is based on shared values. This kind of marketing means that the institution's communication resources can concentrate on the engaging, creative, and transparent presentation of who they really are, what they really promise and can faithfully deliver, and make those presentations to those likely to respond intelligently, rather than wasting resources on futile and unethical exaggerations or scattershot marketing.
Before any creative work was started, our relationship with a new institutional client would begin with a huge research effort--as I knew firsthand, having participated in several such projects as the writer/editor on the team. Using all the disciplines of marketing research, including confidentiality, we did everything we could to figure out what the institution's values were (no matter how deeply embedded or perhaps incompetently expressed), how well they were known, how well they were communicated internally and externally, and how their community and the public judged their success in living by them.
In an earlier corporate configuration, Crane's team worked with a whole Christian denomination--the Church of the Brethren--which is why I first found out about them back in the early 1990's. Later, they did some consulting work with Friends United Meeting's board, and made a national study (article one, article two) of Friends which is still available. I'd still love to see Friends (or at least Friends United Meeting) go a step further and engage this kind of consultation in helping us shape more effective communication with non-Friends. I'm convinced that now we only communicate with a tiny fraction of those who might well see Friends as their spiritual home--or to put it another way, with whom we share important values. I also want those values to be advocated more creatively and persistently, because they are so badly needed.
But however urgent the "marketing" task is, we Friends don't need to add another layer of generic evangelicalism or subtle antiquarian progressivism to the spiritual spam already in the culture. We need to do what the first generation of Friends poured their lives into doing: publishing Truth.
But what is "Truth"? This is where the discussion among Friends often breaks down: some of us probably meet that question with a formula answer based on whether we're from the liberal or evangelical end of the Quaker spectrum. But at the moment I am not asking for propositional truth, no matter how beloved our own evangelical or liberal camp's well-worn phrases might be. Propositional truth is absolutely crucial for shaping and perpetuating our identity as Christians and Quakers, but it has little persuasive power in the wider post-modern market. When, late in his career, Karl Barth was asked to sum up his theology, he said, "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so." This was powerful language within the community, but for non-Christians, it was made credible (if at all) mainly by the life testimony of Barth himself, not because the statement was self-proving.
Let's take a core Quaker testimony: "Christ has come to teach his people himself." If "publishing Truth" involved saying anything verbal at all, this would seem to me to be a prime candidate for the status of "Truth." It's the core assertion around which we base our testimonies (that is, our discipleship) and our concentric ecclesiology. But, just as with Karl Barth's summary, the theological importance of naming Jesus Christ, and the theological implication that he is alive and active today, is not self-evident truth to a non-believer. One of the most important Quaker "values" (using that word in the sense we used it at Crane) is truthful speaking, so how do we "prove" that this central Quaker conviction is publicly, objectively true?
This is how I think we do it:
- By creating and upholding communities where we experience being taught by Jesus;
- by the way we trust the Holy Spirit to lead our worship (and not pre-empting the Spirit with our own programming to hide our fear);
- by the way we choose our leaders (by their gifts, not their social status);
- by the way we pray and sweat our way through the Bible, including its hard teachings on economic discipleship, nonviolence, radical hospitality, and forgiveness;
- by the way our internal messages to each other are coherent with what our external communicators say to the wider world (as in the diagram above)--for example, we observe the same disciplines of ethical conflict among ourselves that we urge upon the world;
- by the way we treat visitors with hospitality, neither exaggerating nor minimizing our role as host;
- by the way we work together in mutual forbearance, realizing that gifts and temperaments and maturity levels vary, so we'll sometimes get on each other's nerves, but we're all needed!!
- and by the way we hold each other tenderly accountable, even risking being wrong as we try to express the way Jesus is teaching each of us how to live with him at the center.
Query: Is my Friends meeting or church experiencing Christ coming to teach us himself?
Righteous links: Taizé's representatives greet the new Russian Orthodox patriarch--article at Taizé's site (thanks, Mary Kay Rehard) and at the Moscow Patriarchate's site, with photos). ~~ How happy is your country? Check this site and particularly this frame. ~~ An interview with Richard Foster. ~~ Bishops blocked at Gaza checkpoint. ~~ Let's dialogue with the Christian right (this page links to PDF book; thanks to John Lamoreau). ~~ Simon Barrow on being Christian in a skeptical climate. ~~ Those of you who are without sin, apply RIGHT AWAY for jobs in the Obama administration. (A thought provoked by this Frank Rich op-ed.) ~~ Paul Oestreicher, Friend, pays tribute to Sergei Haeckel, Russian Orthodox--scroll down within Issue 4 on this page for the link to the PDF-format article--and browse the other interesting titles as well. ~~ On Afghanistan: Don't say we (specifically Engelhardt) didn't warn you.
Buddy Guy proves he's still red-hot with this updated classic:
BUDDY GUY - HOOCHIE COOCHIE MAN - LIVE 2010 HD по THE-GRAND-WAZOO