Our previous article focused on the people associated with the FiveTwo Network and how they relate to the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS). This time we’ll focus on FiveTwo’s formative influences. The findings are disturbing for Confessional Lutheranism if the FiveTwo organization is allowed to continue hiving within the LCMS as a shadow synod.
FiveTwo’s “Sacramental Entrepreneurship” model is social entrepreneurship glossed with a light Lutheran varnish. Like all social entrepreneurism, it reduces to the fusion of business fads with do-goodism. Corporate strategy and marketing are the business disciplines that most inform social entrepreneurship. They are also the most impulsive and mystical fields in any business school, and whose chief characteristics are change for the sake of change.
At its heart social entrepreneurship is a type of universalism whether it manifests in secular or “faith-based” forms. The secular offshoot is the contemporary social justice movement and all its agonies about race and class. Faith-based versions such as FiveTwo display, alarmingly, many of the traits of last century’s Social Gospel cult that J. Gresham Machen fought tooth and nail. Social Gospel adherents are adamant that Scripture enjoins us to make God’s Kingdom on earth, and have attached a soteriology to acts of mercy. The modernists have attached the language of return on investment and key performance indicators.
Let’s then call this movement what it most is: the Neo Social Gospel (NSG). If the Social Gospel is the formal principle of NSG, then Moral Therapeutic Deism is its material principle.
Although FiveTwo strives mightily to project innovation, relevance, creativity, and leadership, it is actually just the mutation of an ancient pathogen that is lethal to Christianity in the absence of Word and Sacrament rightly delivered.
There are literally dozens of precedents where the word “Entrepreneur” has been paired with something denoting faith or Christianity. For example, “Gospel Entrepreneur” is very common, as is “Faith Entrepreneur“. Interestingly, there is a “Spiritual Entrepreneur” with a link to FiveTwo. This begs the question: should we expect to see Charismatic Entrepreneurs and Word Faith Entrepreneurs at #Wiki15?
One key vector in this specific genre of faith-entrepreneur pairing goes back to 1996 when Mike Slaughter published Spiritual Entrepreneurs: 6 Principles for Risking Renewal. It is worth excerpting Slaughter’s bio in full because it is echoed so closely in the nomenclature that FiveTwo and others like it use (emphasis my own):
Mike Slaughter, lead pastor at Ginghamsburg Church, is in his fourth decade as the chief dreamer of Ginghamsburg Church and the spiritual entrepreneur of ministry marketplace innovations. His life-long passion to reach the lost and set the oppressed free has now made him a tireless and leading advocate for the children, women and men of Darfur, Sudan, named by the U.N. as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today. Mike’s call to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted will challenge attendees to wrestle with God and their God-destinies.
This is the language of the synergist. Word and sacrament ministry in a formal setting is deemed deficient. It is we who must pursue the lost, rather than the Holy Spirit, preferably by setting up shop where unbelievers have built a church out of their own passions and imaginations. Above all, we must “do community”. This is the religion of deeds-not-creeds – the business of feeding men so long as it’s not the bread and water of Life.
Slaughter is a pioneer, but he’s not the motive force behind NSG. That dubious distinction is claimed by the papal office that effectively oversees the NSG enterprise – Leadership Network. That organization is responsible for legitimizing the “ministry marketplace” espoused by Slaughter, and the notion that ministry needs corporatist champions. Ironically, ministry marketplaces are associated with idolatry in the Bible, and Jesus was violently opposed to people making merchandise of church. Indeed, wherever you turn in the Leadership Network ecosystem money is front and center.
Leadership Network even has its own blasphemous creed, entitled “We Believe in the Church”, presumably to displace those dusty old Ecumenical Creeds. Here is the opening of Leadership Network’s creed:
We believe in kingdom innovation.
We believe in kingdom innovators.
And we want to see both multiplied and shared.
The content, sentiment and intent of this creed is replicated and multiplied in FiveTwo and every NSG enterprise. It is language absent from Scripture, but our Old Adam loves the idea that God is pleased with our efforts, and that helping someone is the same as saving them to eternal life.
This is not the occasion to unpack Leadership Network, but please educate yourself about its origins and outgrowth via the genuinely insightful work of Chris Rosebrough (@PirateChristian) on the organization’s ideology. Ed Stetzer has also published an unintentionally revealing article about the movement and its “investment” mentality.
Leadership Network has been very successful in penetrating non-denominational evangelical and Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) churches. We characterize that as First Wave NSG, which took about 30 years to reach full maturity. Second Wave NSG has commenced, and it has an ecumenical strategy.
A hybridized, self-learning and adaptive systematic theology is now well formed (see the Wordle below for the key buzzwords) and starting to infect a broader spectrum of churches. The most appropriate term to use would be Chameleon Theology. Its first line of attack is always orthopraxy because once you evacuate that, orthodoxy falls easily.
It is no surprise that NSG Chameleon Theology should appear in a Confessional Lutheran setting. We have already seen it making inroads with Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism and, even, Islam.
Second Wave Influence
In an attempt to better understand the players in this second wave, we completed an analysis of Amazon Kindle book sales, starting with Bill Woolsey’s Seven Steps to Start. We believe Kindle sales are most likely to reflect the NSG target market which skews to the apprentices needed for replication and multiplication.
Identifying the first six “also purchased” books, and repeating the process for each first ranked book, we were able to generate a scored ranking of the most influential people and books in this theosophical echo chamber within a house of mirrors. The infographic below shows the degrees of influence, orientation and focus, and association with Leadership Network. The Second Wave is confirmed by the absence of books by Rick Warren, Bill Hybels and Ed Stetzer. The young turks are moving on.
Mike Breen is currently at the apex of the influence network, and his work reflects the most distinct traits of NSG – to make the obvious obscure, usually by abusing alliteration, and to apply law only. For example, Breen has a rather pretentious blog about the death of the American church if “our enemy” gets his way through:
- A culture of CELEBRITY (affirmation)
- A culture of CONSUMERISM (appetite)
- A culture of COMPETITION (ambition)
And a Social Gospel closer to beat the sheep with:
“We are now into the second decade of the 21st century and we find ourselves still, for the most part, refusing to sacrifice what we want for what God is asking of us and his Church. Will we have the courage to sacrifice as Christ sacrificed? Will we do the things that cost us so that his Kingdom may advance?”
Three points, obfuscation, alliteration, and a stern word of law. Very NSG. There is nothing very American about those items, and certainly nothing that needs a treatise, or the incorrect application of Law and absence of Gospel. Celebrity, excessive consumerism and excessive competition are simply breaches of the Ten Commandments. Why not just say so?
FiveTwo is incompatible with Confessional Lutheranism, and it has no place within the LCMS. The LCMS must ask Pr. Woolsey to repent of this sinful distraction, and receive the forgiveness Christ won for him in His life, death, resurrection and ascension. Failing that, there are plenty of denominations and organizations were FiveTwo would be an excellent fit and very welcome.
Second Wave NSG Nomenclature