“Holy Mavericks: Evangelical Innovators and the Spiritual Marketplace” by Shayne Lee and Phillip Lukesinitiere
Summary: In their book “Holy Mavericks” Shayne Lee and Phillip Luke provide readers with a description and explanation about the success of evangelical leadership in the competitive American religious arena. The authors take a firm religious economies theoretical approach in their book and provide the readers with a very typical example modern day successful religious innovator. The book contains a study of five particular evangelical leaders that Lee and Sinitiere conducted book in order to put together the essential traits of the example they present in their book. By studying these five evangelical leaders, the authors demonstrate that they possess the ability to address the cultural tastes and religious needs of the evangelical subculture to extend their share in the religious arena. The authors propose that it depends on the leaders and their religious groups as a whole whether the group will grow or decline. If the leader and the group are able to recalibrate their message to make it more appropriate and relevant than their competitors, then the religious group is more likely to grow. The effectiveness of such an innovation depends on the right social place, which is being created by the free, unrestricted market mechanics of the religious economies perspective.
Holy Mavericks is truly an innovative book, and reading it makes you feel as if you are listening to sermons in different congregations, and they are transforming you. The authors have used various means of media to captivate the reader and you cannot help but unconsciously absorb everything that they have written in the book. The overall thesis of the authors is quite fascinating to say the least. In the book Why Conservative Churches Are Growing Dean Kelly’s thesis was that which religions flourish when they are rigorous and wane when they are lenient. On the contrary, the authors of Holy Mavericks “uncover little that is strict or demanding in our subjects’ messages and ministries, and yet four of their churches are among the largest in the country” (Lee and Sinitiere). Then what have these churches actually done if they have not used high expectations to raise the bar. According to the authors, it is adequately addressing the cultural needs and tastes of religious consumers, effective marketing, and meeting psychological needs that has allowed these churches to grow so rapidly. The authors explain religious vitality by using economic language, something that may trouble many Christians, and they argue their case quite well.
The authors present a winsome overview on the personal history and style of the five evangelical leaders, and also the niche they fill within the American religious arena. The authors regret the fact that they were not able to personally interview the leaders. This apparently weakens the methodology used by the authors and makes the book appear poorly argued. However, the lives of the five evangelical leaders are so “open book” that the authors mostly manage to overcome this weakness. The authors write about the accountability, confession, and transparency that are a part of each leader’s product. However, the authors observe the leaders from the same point of view as the rest of the religious arena, which is relevant to the goals of the book. The book also contains considerable qualitative data collected by the authors through interviews, and the analyses of the books and other publications of the leaders. Magazine articles and television interviews of the leaders served as secondary data for the authors. Overall, the book is far away from what has been explained about the growth or decline of religious groups in the past. For instance, the authors believe the traditional explanations of how religious suppliers secure their favored places within the American evangelic subculture and the broader culture.
The authors believe that religious strictness or sub-cultural identities do not entirely explain how certain religious suppliers manage to secure esteemed places within the American evangelicalism and the broader culture. Instead, the authors argue that religious suppliers must be skilled enough to react to changing conditions if they want to survive in a competitive religious arena. According to the authors, these religious suppliers are decisive, flexible, quick, and savvy, which allows them to evoke the needs and tastes of religious consumers when marketing their ministries. The authors also point out that successful religious are those who are adept at sensing the niches in the religious market that have not been reached yet and tap into those niches by formatting their product accordingly. Despite mentioning this “innovation thesis,” the authors do not explicitly discuss the implications of the thesis and how it denies the truth of past explanations of religious vitality. Keeping in mind that Lee is a sociologist and Sinitiere is a historian, it is not a surprise that Holy Mavericks can be regarded as somewhere between the frequent critically opposing position that theorists generally take and stance of historians related to religion and its position in modern culture.
Reflection: Have the standards that churches held up for Christians 50 years ago grown or declined? Reading Holy Mavericks: Evangelical Innovators and the Spiritual Marketplace by Shayne Lee and Phillip Lukesinitiere will really get you thinking. The book is a quick, straightforward read, and the authors closely analyze the major ideas and innovations of the religious leaders in each chapter. The authors’ belief regarding the need for more studies crossing disciplinary lines is agreeable. The book itself is accessible and is written quite clearly. Theoretical issues have been raised in the book, and the analyses of the five different evangelic leaders that have been presented in the book are quite descriptive and vivid. In an undergraduate sociology of religion course this book could be a valuable read. Moreover, the book should also be read by those who want to understand the religious arena and understand the reason behind the success of these evangelical leaders.
In conclusion, “Holy Mavericks” by Shayne Lee and Phillip Luke provides an answer to an integral question in the sociology of religion: “What is the reason behind the growth or decline of religious bodies?” The answer that Lee and Sinitiere present is that religious groups grow quite rapidly when their leaders are able to fulfill the most current religious demands, and they decline when their leaders are not willing to transform their methods and adapt to the changing tastes of the religious arena. The best way to understand how Lee and Sinitiere argue their case in their book is by tending to the myriad of analogies that the authors have used in the book. Anyone who wishes to take a delightful journey with some of the most famous religious leaders of present day is encouraged to read Holy Mavericks: Evangelical Innovators and the Spiritual Marketplace.
Lee, Shayne, and Sinitiere. Phillip Luke. Holy mavericks : evangelical innovators and the spiritual marketplace. 1st. New York: New York University Press, 2009. Print.