A worldwide evangelistic organization was facing a problem in a country officially closed to the gospel. This ministry didn’t know how to impact the country’s leaders, its elites. Most of the evangelistic success of this organization was in the rural countryside. Mike was brought in to solve this problem.
This organization’s problem was rooted in: 1) its understanding of the gospel and 2) its strategic approach. Mike’s challenge was helping the 50+ staff in this country (working in a registered company) to see that both are based in the Didactic Enlightenment (1800-1815). This is the Enlightenment that believed in the power of right thinking to change rapidly and influence the conduct of large numbers of men.
After staff recognized this Enlightenment thinking as the source of their ineffectiveness, the objective was to develop resources based on a better theology that would result in impacting the country’s leaders, its elites.
Mike’s solution was a three-year coaching curriculum. This organization’s staff discovered that their faith tradition dates from 1816. It enjoyed popular success in terms of conversions, humanitarian work, missions and church planting. But historians say that this success was often “purchased by surrender of meaning.”
Meaning is making sense of things. Mike introduced staff to faith traditions before 1816, when religion provided “shared public meanings.” It was a public faith, making sense of things for everyone, including elites. After 1816, American evangelicalism mostly sense of sin, salvation, and sanctification. The large number of conversions was purchased by surrender of meaning – meaning it could impact the down-and-out (rural folks) but not the up-and-in (urban leaders).
Clapham Institute Solution:
Mike then taught the staff a “wider” gospel that made sense of travel, technology, education, entertainment, eating, drinking, vacation, the trades, sleep, singleness, shopping, consuming. Historically, the public learned the mystical purpose of work, worship, wealth, business, professions, guilds.
This “wider” gospel made sense of poverty, pollution, politics, pets, race, racism, responsibility, reading, rewards. Historically, the public learned the mystical purpose of marriage, sex, music, hobbies, festivals. The gospel made sense of sports, society, sleep, sickness, recreation.
Mike taught the gospel made sense of aging, advertising, ambition, art. Historically, the public learned the spiritual purpose of beauty, our bodies, cities, citizenship, civil disobedience, comedy, commuting, competency, conscience, craftsmanship, competition.
Within three years, this organizations saw conversion double in the cities because the staff had a gospel that could explain almost everything to anyone.