If you haven't been reading Michael Kruse's analysis of Bill Bishop's book "The Big Sort," click on the link, and this post will make a lot more sense to you. In this post, Kruse reviews the catastrophic error that the leaders of the Church in North America made about 25 years ago.
Only, Bishop and Kruse don't quite get to the heart of the error. Like attracts like is a natural truism in sinful humanity-- using it to bring people together does not necessarily lead to the disastrous spiritual condition of the Church in North America. The statement that "mission morphed into marketing" is closer to the heart of the problem.
Marketing became the last "iron lung" for the paralyzed Christendom Church to be able to exult in its empty gospel of fellowship, numbers, and influence. But like all drugs, its efficacy was short-lived in treating the symptoms of what has been killing the Church. Worse, it not only has not treated the underlying disease, it has metasized it, making it worse by several orders of magnitude.
Christendom had already divided the Church into competing shops, each subgroup with its own "brand;" marketing took this to its logical extreme by enshrining it as gospel. Sam Saddleback and Sally Saddleback are the only icons in Saddleback Church. Before, it felt vaguely wrong to separate from those who were different from us; now, after marketing, it is a commandment to separate. What was once vaguely wrong has been transformed into the ultimate good.
Whoever disagrees with you is now a roadblock--an obstacle. Success, justice, happiness, growth (whatever your word for the ultimate good is) requires that the obstacle disappear. This is the same spirit that breathes through our debates for when we win, "and it will all be over." Those who disagree with us will simply spontaneously combust, or the ground will open underneath them, and all will be well. Marketing took a broken Church and turned it into a childish broken Church, where fear of differences is the actual organizing principle.
But the Church that Christ founded was built on a different principle: "love one another as I have loved you," Jesus said. That love has nothing to do with whether we agree or not, whether we look/dress/act alike or not. Christendom, even hepped up on marketing steroids, is a weak and dying thing. But the Church that loves with Christ's love ("greater love hath no man than this: that he lay down his life for his friends") has transforming power that can change the world with 12 people. Nothing-- not the fall of empires, the death of languages and cultures-- can stop the love of Jesus Christ.
What would that Church look like in this culture at this time? What would happen if we put aside marketing, and our own control-oriented anxieties, and did what Jesus Christ commands us to do? The big mistake is not irrreversible, if we get about our Father's business.