I recently purchased Holy Mavericks: Evangelical Innovators and the Spiritual Marketplace, by Shayne Lee and Phillip Luke Sinitiere (New York University Press, 2009).
It's very readable, but poorly argued. If you enjoy reading about Christian “celebrity” pastors (Joel Osteen, Paula White, T.D. Jakes, etc.), you'll find a lot of interesting background. (Better books on Joel Osteen and T.D. Jakes have come from the pen of Richard Young, which I've reviewed here.
Their overall thesis is intriguing. Years ago a mainline writer named Dean Kelley penned a widely quoted book titled Why Conservative Churches Are Growing. He argued that strict religions (conservative ones) thrive while lenient ones decline. By contrast, the authors of Holy Mavericks say, “We uncover little that is strict or demanding in our subjects' messages or ministries, and yet . . . their churches are among the largest in the country.” If these churches haven't raised the bar with high expectations, what have they done instead? According to the authors, the churches they selected have grown so wildly more due to effective marketing, meeting psychological needs, and appropriately addressing “the cultural tastes of potential clients.”
They don't argue their case well, which is why I feel it's poorly written. But the book does get me thinking: are the standards that churches today hold up for followers of Christ higher or lower than 50 years ago? What are your thoughts?
By the way, Christianity Today wasn't big on the book either, though for other reasons. Here is Mark Galli's take.
Warren Bird, Ph.D., is Research Director at Leadership Network, and co-author of 21 books on various aspects of church health and innovation.