Peter Drucker’s Mega-Church Legacy

The post-mortem accolades are pouring in for the managemant giant, Peter Drucker, who passed away a week ago at age 95. His influence spanned nearly a century and reached far beyond big corporations into the private sector. Previous Herescope posts have examined some of his influence over key individuals and movements in neo-evangelicaldom. Today’s post covers just a few more examples of his far-reaching influence:

“Some of Mr Drucker’s most innovative work was with voluntary and religious institutions . . . . Mr Drucker told his clients, who included the American Red Cross and the Girl Scouts of America, that they needed to think more like businesses—albeit businesses that dealt in ‘changed lives’ rather than in maximising profits. Their donors, he warned, would increasingly judge them not on the goodness of their intentions, but on the basis of their results.

“One perhaps unexpected example of Druckerism is the modern mega-church movement. He suggested to evangelical pastors that they create a more customer-friendly environment (hold back on the overt religious symbolism and provide plenty of facilities). 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 value?‘” (“Trusting the teacher in the grey-flannel suit” The Economist, Nov 17th 2005 []) [emphases added]

Business Week’s cover story for November 28, 2005 is entitled “The Man Who Invented Management: Why Peter Drucker’s ideas still matter” []. These ideas have become commonplace in the modern mega-churches:

“Whether it’s recognized or not, the organization and practice of management today is derived largely from the thinking of Peter Drucker. His teachings form a blueprint for every thinking leader. . . . In a world of quick fixes and glib explanations, a world of fads and simplistic PowerPoint lessons, he understood that the job of leading people and institutions is filled with complexity. He taught generations of managers the importance of picking the best people, of focusing on opportunities and not problems, of getting on the same side of the desk as your customer, of the need to understand your competitive advantages, and to continue to refine them. He believed that talented people were the essential ingredient of every successful enterprise. . . .

“In his later years, as his health weakened, so did Drucker’s magnetic pull. Although he maintained a coterie of corporate followers, he increasingly turned his attention to nonprofit leaders, from Frances Hesselbein of the Girl Scouts of the USA to Rick Warren, founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif. Warren, author of The Purpose-Driven Life, considered Drucker a mentor. ‘Drucker told me: “The function of management in a church is to make the church more churchlike, not more businesslike. It’s to allow you to do what your mission is,”‘ Warren said. ‘Business was just a starting point from which he had this platform to influence leaders of all different kinds.” [emphases added]

Despite Warren’s claims that Drucker’s ideas helped his church become more “churchlike,” Drucker believed that non-profits needed to act more like business. The Economist article, cited previously, continued:

“Mr Drucker went further than just applying business techniques to managing voluntary organisations. He believed that such entities have many lessons to teach business corporations. They are often much better at engaging the enthusiasm of their volunteers—and they are also better at turning their “customers” into “marketers” for their organisation. These days, business organisations have as much to learn from churches as churches have to learn from them.” [emphasis added]

The Market-Driven Church

Drucker was not only influential in training evangelical leaders in his social management philosophy, but he also was the man behind the modern marketing extravaganza going on in evangelicaldom. For example, Rick Warren’s brand name “purpose-driven” reflects the “results-driven” philosophy of Peter Drucker. “Master of Marketing” is the title given to Peter Drucker by the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in a recent tribute posted at

“Wide-ranging as Drucker’s contributions were to the field of management, his writings about marketing are as important, say Wharton professors. Stephen J. Hoch, chairperson of the marketing department, describes Drucker as ‘the Warren Buffett of management gurus. His analysis of management and marketing issues always was pithy and to the point. No pandering to buzzwords and fads, but a constancy of message, with straightforward reasoning and clearly articulated ideas. The following statement attributed to Drucker is today still the essence of marketing: “The aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous. (It) … is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself. Ideally, marketing should result in a customer who is ready to buy.”‘

“Marketing professor David J. Reibstein says . . . . ‘Drucker considered a business’s most valuable asset to be its people. Generally, he is considered the father of management, but I also consider him the father of marketing. He said the role of business is to create a customer. He always emphasized focusing on customers and understanding what they valued.'” [emphases added]

The Truth:

Psalm 119 is probably the least popular of the psalms in today’s neo-evangelical environment. Yet, it is one of the most wonderful source of meaty food to the believer who is seeking the Lord with the whole heart and earnestly desiring to stand firm on the Word of God in these perilous times.

Verse 33 states: “Teach me, O LORD, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end.” Matthew Poole’s Commentary adds, “That I may persevere; for the apostacy proceeds from the want of a good understanding.”

Verse 36 states: “Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness.” Matthew Poole’s Commentary comments on “covetousness” (which is the source of all market-driven evangelism):

Unto thy testimonies; to the love and prctice of them. Not to covetousness; not to the inordinate love and desire of riches: which particular lust he mentions, partly, because this lust is most spreading and universal, and there is scarce any man who doth not desire riches either for the love of riches, or upon pretence of necessity, or for the service of pride or luxury, or some other lust; partly, because this lust is most opposite to God’s testimonies, and doth most comonly hinder men from receiving God’s word, and from profiting by it; see Matt. 13:22; Luke 16:14; and partly, because this lust is most pernicious, as being the root of all evil, 1 Tim. 6:10, and is most mischievous in princes and governors, such as David was, and therefore in a special manner forbidden to them, Exod. 28:21.”