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PyroMarketing Hagiography

“The pastor’s partners at Reader’s Digest aren’t worried about readers being turned off by a Rick Warren overload. On the contrary, they’re counting on his global appeal. “He’s a powerhouse,” says Alston in explaining the publisher’s decision to take on the new title.”
TIME, 3/11/09

hagiography: (noun) A biography that idealizes or idolizes the person (especially a person who is a saint); the writing and critical study of the lives of the saints.

In a March 11, 2009 TIME magazine article titled “Rick Warren’s Magazine: A Publishing Leap of Faith,” it describes the next step of Rick Warren’s massive global marketing campaign. Rick Warren has his own magazine, Purpose Driven Connection, which is compared to Oprah Winfrey‘s “O” magazine, which is all about self-promotion for the well-known New Age TV celebrity. In fact, the same Reader’s Digest executive who launched Oprah’s magazine now oversees Rick Warren’s magazine. Commenting that one article on Rick Warren’s ventures in Rwanda “veers toward hagiography,” TIME explains:

The premiere issue features a softly lit, smiling Warren on the cover (though his spokesman Larry Ross is quick to make clear that the cover images will change – “this isn’t going to be like O”). Inside, no fewer than seven articles are written by Warren or his wife Kay.

What is significant about the launching of this magazine is that it is to MEMBERS, not mere customer SUBSCRIBERS. Rick Warren is still following the PyroMarketing strategy laid out by Greg Stielstra in his book of that title, which we reviewed in an article series called “The Dopamine-Driven Church” in 2007 here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. The TIME article explains how this membership formula works:

The idea is to market the magazine through Warren’s existing pastor networks. Reader’s Digest has already sent out “pastor kits” (with copies of the new issue and DVD) to 100,000 churches that have worked with Warren in the past and contacted an additional 130,000 pastors with e-mail pitches. . . . What Warren and Reader’s Digest have created is essentially a new marketing and distribution network for Christian small-group materials, packaged in a glossy newsletter-on-steroids that features full-spread ads from groups like Compassion International and Regent University. [emphasis added]

The idea of “membership” it not unrelated to the concept of “Manifestos, Declarations and Covenants” that we covered several posts ago. By becoming a “member” you are not just a simple “consumer” or “customer,” but someone who has joined up — a psychological mechanism to get you on board with the whole global plan and agenda.

As we pointed out in May 4, 2007, in Part 6 of “The Dopamine-Driven Church” entitled “The Goals for Coals,” each part of this slick network marketing model is based on the previous media campaign. Here is what we summarized and predicted:

PyroMarketing summarizes the steps of Rick Warren’s first successful campaign:

  • Rick Warren collected the “driest tinder” – the thousands of pastors who had logged onto his www.pastors.com website and registered as members.
  • “When it was time to launch the Forty Days of Purpose Campaign, he sent a message to the pastors on his list and twelve hundred signed on.” (p. 207)
  • At the end of this very experiential campaign, the final purpose was evangelism where “people were told to share the gospel with others.” This turned into people recommending The Purpose-Driven Life book to others. (p. 207)
  • The Forty Days of Purpose Campaign kept a database of people (“save the coals”) who read the book and logged onto www.purposedrivenlife.com, and also maintained a database of over 20,000 churches that participated in the campaign. (p. 208)

Knowing this successful format, it can therefore be imagined that the next stage will utilize the saved coals from the previous campaigns to launch the forthcoming campaign. This is a no-brainer. Even political candidates “save the coals” from previous campaigns to build a contact list of potential voters and donors in their future campaign, often building on a precinct-level cellular operation. Many non-profit and political action groups do the same. In fact, when Tim Challies’ website documented the troubles that Greg Stielstra was having with Rick Warren over the publishing of PyroMarketing two summers ago here and here, he concluded that:

“But why does Warren fear this book? From all I could find, Stielstra has never written anything negative about Rick Warren or The Purpose Driven Life. If anything, he has praised both the book and the author and appears to respect Rick Warren as a pastor and as a church leader. After two rounds of changes that were subsequently approved by Warren’s agent it seems clear that the book will be likewise positive in tone. What would cause a person to knowingly risk interfering with a contract made between two other parties? Based on the comments made by his representatives, it would seem that the explanation lies in Warren’s fear that his critics will misinterpret the book and twist Stielstra’s words to prove that Warren is not a pastor, but a marketer. He feels that people will come to view The Purpose Driven Life as a marketing success rather than a ministry success. This may also impact Warren’s global P.E.A.C.E. plan which is in the beginning stages even now. Perhaps when people become aware of PyroMarketing techniques they will come to see themselves as ‘glowing coals’ and realize they are part of a larger marketing campaign.” [emphasis added]

The TIME magazine article concludes with skepticism about whether this new Purpose-Driven Connection magazine will fly. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. But one thing is for sure — Rick Warren will have saved a whole new bag of coals with which to light the next stage of his global marketing campaign.

The Truth:

“…I will spread My net upon them…” (from Hosea 7:9)

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