Target Audience

Here is a blogger who represents my target audience for my soon to be released, “Don’t Stop Believing:  Why Living Like Jesus Is Not Enough”  If you have a moment, read his post, my initial response, and his reply.  Judging from his review, how successful do you think I will be in reaching people like him?  I’ll give my take after I hear from you.

His post is at http://taddelay.wordpress.com/2008/10/30/dont-stop-believing-by-michael-wittmer/#comments.  It was also picked up by the Ooze, sans my reply, at http://www.theooze.com/articles/article.cfm?id=2157.

22 Comments

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  1. In reading Tad’s review, I get the feeling that he’s a thoughtful guy. Now, maybe I’m projecting and he’s perfectly happy living in ambiguity, but he seems to be looking for a place to land on some key doctrinal issues. It seems you have given him some new things to chew on.

    But is that what you’ll define as “success”?

  2. Pam:

    I am hoping to help this group see where they are at and turn back before they fall into liberalism. I don’t know where Tad is personally, but at least on the issues he mentioned–homosexuality and hell–he seems able to more or less agree with my points and not change his position.

  3. Mike,
    I’m definitely glad you decided to join the blogosphere. I have something new to RSS

  4. He’s clearly more into your book than Carson’s or Why We’re Not Emergent by DeYoung and my boy Ted Kluck (http://www.tedkluck.com/blog1), which he savaged in a 3-part farce of a review. I mean, when you consider that Tad actually wrote this:

    “I feel a bit arrogant/condescending for saying this, but if this is what passes for solid theology, then I could have bested these guys when I was 10 years old. It feels overwhelmingly gnostic in it’s prioritizing of life-after-death over and above anything here and now.”

    …in that review, I almost wonder if you should even *care* what this clown thinks of DSB. I can tell you that I had to weigh very carefully whether or not to track him down and beat him with a pillow case full of batteries when I read about his desire to “reach through the book and punch [you] in the face.” (I ultimately decided that I’d have taken him down before I became a father, but not anymore.)

    Anyway, it’s clear that your respectful-yet-humorous, acknowledging-the-strengths-while-critiquing-the-differences approach clearly resonates with PIs a lot more than the purely polemical stuff out there. Especially since so much of it is downright mean.

    BTW…
    Just a reader’s perspective: when reading DSB, I imagined the target audience to be less already-entrenched in postmodern innovation. Riddlebarger always says that The Case for Amillennialism was written for people who were raised dispensational and were now just starting to discover the Reformed faith. Your book, it seems to me, would be very valuable for people who have been raised in seeker-sensitive, consumerist churches (almost all of which are now embracing elements of Emergent…even Willow Creek and its franchisees who “bought the kit”). Also, a lot of college students and twenty/thirty-somethings are wrapped up in Emergent but increasingly discontented with the dearth of absolutes and lack of doctrine (see Young, Restless, Reformed). Your book will be VERY helpful for such people (I have several in mind who will be receiving DSB as a stocking stuffer).

    I do think you have a shot at changing some minds (or…er…”furthering the…conversa–BLEH! I can’t even talk like that!) of actual PIs, but they’d first have to actually HAVE the “open mind” they so badly want to force on others.

    -Z

  5. Zach:

    Thanks for your perspective (though I don’t condone calling someone a clown, even if they arrogantly dismiss a solid book which I like and demonstrate an incomplete understanding of Gnosticism–which, as you know, is my favorite heresy to hate). I did think that getting punched in the face was a bit much for having only written a book–especially from a reviewer who claims to be non-violent and wishes that my book had addressed non-violence! (given this reaction, now I also wish I had). It also struck me that no one on the right speaks of smacking others in the face, but now your sack of batteries comment ruined that for me. So thanks very much!

    I think you are right that my target audience may not be this far on the left–and maybe I am praying for too much–but I really do want to reach them. We’ll see.

  6. whoa guys, i think you might be getting to hung up on the “punch in the face” thing. that would be a joke. let’s try to not get too worked up about that.

    And on another note, i was using the term “gnostic” in the loose way it’s often used as in small g adjective form (referring to the prioritizing of the spiritual over the physical). I wasn’t referring to the Gnostic heresy per se.

    Zach sounds angry. I guess that’s his perogative. Thanks for the perspective

  7. Tad:

    Maybe a punch in the face as humor is a generational thing. It just doesn’t sound very nice, or terribly helpful to the conversation.

    As for the term, gnostic, if Zach is quoting your critique of “Why We’re Not Emergent” accurately, you are using it incorrectly. You say that you meant it in a “small g adjective form” to refer to “the prioritizing of the spiritual over the physical.” But in your critique you accused Kevin and Ted of being gnostic for the “prioritizing of life-after-death over and above anything here and now.” Your critique only works if they envision life after death to be a non-physical existence. While this may be true for many Christians, and the main reason why I wrote “Heaven Is a Place on Earth,” this is not true for them. They certainly understand their next life to be an embodied existence on a restored earth. So you were unfair to them.

    In short, while I am against Gnosticism more than anyone I know, I do get tired of it being charged against anyone who says that life after death matters or that certain beliefs are necessary for salvation (the latter is not your claim, but I have heard it from others who conflate the necessity of some knowledge for salvation with the Gnostic notion of “secret knowledge” for salvation). In sum, we should be careful before we label charges of heresy against others, or it might come back to bite us in the butt (or punch us in the face!).

  8. At the same time, Tad, you have to admit Mike has a point. I understood you were speaking hyperbolically, as was Zach above, but I see a sharp contrast between a commitment to nonviolence and the willingness to use violent language.

  9. Yeah, I don’t quite get how someone can dismissively say, “The punch in the face was a joke,” but not get the pillowcase full of batteries joke…especially not when that someone is emergent and hip and relevant and SHOULD catch the Arrested Development reference therein. Good grief.

    As for, “though I don’t condone calling someone a clown, even if they arrogantly dismiss a solid book which I like and demonstrate an incomplete understanding of Gnosticism…” That’s why you keep me around…for the rough stuff.😉

  10. Zach:

    You mean I missed a reference to Arrested Development? That’s almost as embarrassing as being a never nude.

    So if you are hanging around for the rough stuff, then we should run for president and vice-president. You can call the other people names and I can ride above the fray–which of course, requires that I publicly disassociate myself from said rough stuff.

  11. By “reaching people like him” do you mean getting them to buy/read the book or getting them to agree with you/change their minds?

    I think because of your tone they will read the book–as said above it is more helpful to have a book in a conversational tone than a combative tone when you’re trying to get people to engage with your ideas and not immediately write you off.

    As far as actually changing minds, I think you have to trust that God will honor your intentions and your hard work by working in people’s hearts. Also, don’t forget that you reach people who are on the fringe of your views through people who are already in your camp and read the book and exercise influence on their friends and fellow churchgoers. Giving someone like me a clear understanding of how to talk about a particular issue with an Emergenty friend is very helpful in the effort to combat dangerous ideas (or what may grow up to be dangerous ideas) in the church.

  12. E.

    Thanks for this encouragement. I mean that I really want to be used by God to change minds (anyone can sell books). I like your point that it may sometimes be indirectly, too–I hadn’t thought of that.

  13. Ted Kluck, too, is above the fray or something. But he said I could post this message here…

    Hey Bro,

    Thanks for goading me into these blogosphere dust-ups. And I somehow missed Tad’s “three-part farce of a review” of WWNE…though after reading your assessment of that review, I’m struck that Tad must have been one hell of a ten year old. I wish I’d known him then.

    As for people punching other people in the face. I wholly support that, in fact, I’m regretful that Tad wasn’t a key combatant in Evangelical Smackdown over at my blog [Check it out, everybody– http://www.tedkluck.com/blog1/?p=42 I’m totally uncredited, but I helped a little in concocting one or two of the match-ups over cigars and coffee…WOW, it almost sounds like he is emergent -Z]. He could have really cleaned house in the pacifist/emergent division.

    So I’ll leave you pastor types (and Tad, apparently) to handle the theology…keeping in mind that people rarely have their minds changed by anything, and that also this type of blogosphere sparring is good for the book business but often bad for my conscience/overall feelings about humanity (see also: face punching).

    Ted

  14. Rev Z.,

    You said, “Also, a lot of college students and twenty/thirty-somethings are wrapped up in Emergent but increasingly discontented with the dearth of absolutes and lack of doctrine”

    I think you hit the nail on the head. This is, to an extent, where I fall. Having come out of a fairly fundamentalist background, there were a lot of things that resonate with me about the emergent movement because of things about the church that grated against me growing up. However (perhaps thanks in part to studying under Dr. Wittmer), I think I’ve been able to see through some of the wrongs the fundys have committed and recognize that doing bad things does not necessarily make your theology bad. And on the flip side, the emergent church doing good things certainly does not mean their theology ISN’T bad.

    We need a middle ground.

    Hence I’m really looking forward to reading DSB! I might just have to wait for the semester to end first though.

  15. Steve,
    You will not be disappointed by DSB. That’s exactly what it does/ I’d read it as soon as you can; forget the end of the semester. Mounce and Sailhamer can wait. Also, if you’ve got Wittmer for anything right now, what better excuse is there than, “I didn’t do the Barth abstract, because I was reading your book. I especially liked the part when you said…” How could he not cut you some slack?🙂
    -Z

  16. I’m a little concered about how you expect to reach a generation you do not understand enough to know when they are joking and when they are serious. When I read the “punch in the face” bit of the review I thought how stronge Tad felt about what you said, not about violence.

    Also if you want the youth to listen to you don’t speek as though you have all the answers. This comes of as arrougant and makes me want to dissregared what you say iregaredless of the validity of what you have to say. Listen to what we have to say because if you are not willing to listen to us then why should we listen to you?

    I hope this has helped you understand your audience a little bit.

  17. Thanks Keegan. As I said previously, the humor is probably a generational thing. I will say that I am not the only one who misunderstood it, though. So it may not simply be a matter of me being out of touch.

    I don’t know why you think that I think that I have “all the answers.” I clearly think that I have some very important answers, grounded in the revelation of God, but I’m happy to admit what I don’t know. Also, I believe that Tad said that my book does demonstrate that I listen closely to what your generation is saying, so again, I wonder why you think that I am not. And without having read the book, on what basis are you making your claim?

    One more thing: listening does not necessarily equal agreement. Just because I disagree with something you say does not mean I am not listening. Tad disagreed with my conclusions about homosexuality and hell, but does that mean he didn’t listen to me? Of course not. I am only asking that you extend the same right of disagreement to me that you rightly extend to yourself.

  18. mike,
    actually, i pretty much agreed with where you stood on homosexuality. I didn’t think you approached the issue nearly as well as you could have, but i think i pretty much lined up with your conclusions.
    It was the hell thing that i disagreed with. And it’s not so much that i think i’m right and you’re wrong… it’s more that the issue seems to vague in scripture and easy to interpret many different ways depending on the worldview you’re working out of. Sure, there is a correct answer, but if God was content to leave it vague, then i’m content with a bit of ambivalence.

    As far as reaching the audience, i’m a bit torn. Mike, you definitely sound more eager to listen than Rev. Z does, but your thesis essentially still that emergents are wrong and need to come back toward the conservative side. So, even though you go to great lengths to build you cases well (and i do think you generally do), isn’t the medium still a key part of the message? If the whole book is about telling emergents why they are wrong and need to move back toward the conservative side, does it really matter how nice you are in the process?

    I thought E (#11) made a good point in that this book might be more helpful, not for emergents, but for those that dialogue with emergents (since this is one of the only anti-emergent books i’ve read in which the author seems to understand the ‘why’s’ behind most of the emergent stances on things).

  19. I think Keegan demonstrates a major weakness of my generation’s world viwe (mine? I dunno… I’m a thirty-something…between you and Tad). The idea of the “new tolerance” has been so strongly pounded into our heads that most can’t operate apart from it. The idea that hearing = agreeing comes (I would argue) from the idea that WHO I AM = WHAT I BELIEVE/DO. This is why I can love and tolerate (in the true sense of the word) my homosexual neighbor, but if I don’t condone his homosexuality, most people of my generation will say that I’m not tolerating him. McDowell of all people actually has a pretty good book on this subject. This agreeing stuff only goes one way, though, of course. They can truly listen to us and disagree. But if we don’t agree with them, we’re not listening…

    Frustrating. I don’t know how you could accommodate this generational idiosyncrasy without neutralizing your writing. Why write if you have to agree with everyone?

    I think this is a worldview flaw, borne out of a faulty epistemology.

    The most ironic part to me is that these are the people who champion the word “conversation.”

  20. Tad:

    There are many people, including the vast majority of the church’s tradition, who do not think that the Bible is as vague on hell as you believe.

    Regarding homosexuality, I am tied to the clear teaching of Scripture, which probably does limit my ability to say whatever it is you were looking for.

    You may be right that Emergents won’t listen to someone who tries to humbly hear, appreciate, and then help them. But that makes me very sad. And I wonder then how they are any different from fundamentalists who also dig in their heels, but on the other side?

  21. mike,
    regarding hell (not that i aim to steer this conversation in that direction), consensus doesn’t prove much as far as validity in an idea goes. For instance, the quasi-traditional doctrine of hell was pretty firm by the time of Augustine, but we know there were all sorts of other doctrinal assertions that were becoming firm orthodoxy at that time that had very little to do with scripture as well (much of it would remain “the majority opinion” until the refomation).

    Regarding homosexuality, it’s weird because i agree with you. It’s “clear” to me, but it’s obviously not “clear” to people who read from different perspectives than i have. So even though i believe i’m right and they are wrong, the issue is not “clear” in the typical sense of the word (obvious, hard to deny, plain, not needing any further study or depth, etc.).

    You say: “You may be right that Emergents won’t listen to someone who tries to humbly hear, appreciate, and then help them.”
    Not so. That’s not what i said. In fact, humility is the most important part. But emergents aren’t used to hearing much humility at all in their critics, so you can really win with a bit of humility.

  22. Tad:

    Agreed that humility is needed all the way around. May we all agree to humbly and truly listen to one another and not be overly sensitive!

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