S.H.A.P.E. & the Sweet Spot
"How can we best participate in a task so huge and idealistic?… Books arrayed in bookstores proclaim a better way to love, to lead, to live. Seminars and support groups keep us working on ways to improve ourselves, practicing spiritual disciplines…. But somehow, still, we don't seem to be hitting the sweet spot, the miraculous key to turning the world around."
(Marianne Williamson, The Gift of Change: Spiritual Guidance for a Radically New Life (HarperCollilns, 2004) [emphasis added]
"The P.E.A.C.E. Plan is a lay movement designed to mobilize average church members to do normal task that can make a difference in the world.
"…to stop debating and start doing
"…for the church to be known for love, not legalism
It is time for the church to be the church!
Warren Smith, an ex-New Ager, in his newly updated on-line book ReinventingJesus Christ: The New Gospel, spends considerable time examining the strange phenomena of what he calls "overlapping language" between Rick Warren and his cohorts and that of the popular New Age leaders -- one of whom is Marianne Williamson, who is quoted above.
This perplexing terminology isn't just a matter of using similar vocabularies. Many of the words and symbols also seem to have the same underlying semantics.
For example the term SWEET SPOT. According to Wikipedia, this term means:
A sweet spot is a place, often numerical as opposed to physical, where a combination of factors suggest a particularly suitable solution. When used in the context of a racquet, bat or similar sporting instrument, sweet spot is often believed to be the same as Center of percussion. [emphasis added]
Erik Rees, author of S.H.A.P.E.: Finding and Fulfilling Your Unique Purpose in Life, which was discussed in the previous Herescope, defines "sweet spot":
"When you are able to serve in a setting that best expresses your strengths
and allows you to meet the needs of the people you are most passionate about,
you are in your sweet spot." [emphasis added]
Max Lucado popularized this term recently in his book Cure for the Common Life: Living in Your Sweet Spot (W Publishing Group, 2005). Lucado defines the term as:
"A zone, a region, a life precinct in which you were made to dwell." (p. 1) [emphasis added]
Interestingly, Marianne Williamson elaborates on this term in her 2004 book The Gift of CHANGE: Spiritual Guidance for a Radically New Life (HarperCollins, 2004). This quoted material below illustrates some disturbing overlapping semantics with the neoevangelical authors cited above:
"Eternal things become our compass during times of rapid transition, binding us emotionally to a steady and firm course. They remind us that we, as children of God, are still at the center of divine purpose in the world.…" (p. 9)
"…When I am centered within myself, I become part of the solution. And that phenomenon, multiplied many times over, is the force that will save the world." (p. 10)
Williamson's comments indicate that one meaning for "sweet spot" is "centering," a New Age contemplation and meditation practice. Of particular relevance to this definition is the Chapter 5 update to Reinventing Jesus Christ, in which Warren Smith explores the overlapping language and practices of New Age leaders and Christian business leadership gurus.
Pertaining to "sweet spot" and Max Lucado's new book, it seems no accident that his book's theme complements the launching of 40 Days of S.H.A.P.E., the media/training campaign accompanying the release of Erik Rees' book. Max Lucado has been associated with Rick Warren and Ken Blanchard for a number of years, significantly in 1999 through a joint connection with Bob Buford's Leadership Network. Max Lucado joined Rick Warren at a "Purpose Driven Church National Seminar" in April 1999. And in September he spoke with Ken Blanchard at a significantly named "Celebrating the Emergence of a Lay-Mobilized Church."
It seems more than coincidental that this same 1999 NEXT, a publication of the Leadership Network (Vol. 5, No. 1), contained a lead article by C. Peter Wagner launching the New Apostolic Reformation, entitled "Another New Wineskin… the New Apostolic Reformation." This information places the launching of S.H.A.P.E. into a broader context of the overall Leadership Network and its pervasive influence upon neoevangelical culture. Wagner details the marketing strategies for the NAR that would be used to sort out those "traditionalists who are threatened by these changes." He also wrote about "change" and the "shape" of the church:
"The greatest change in the way of doing church since the Protestant reformation is taking place before our very eyes. I have come to label this phenomenon the 'New Apostolic Reformation.'
"The New Apostolic Reformation is an extraordinary work of God at the close of the twentieth century, which is, to a significant extent, changing the shape of Protestant Christianity around the world.…
"In some aspects, these change in the life and ministry of the Christian church are more significant than anything we have seen since the days of the Protestant Reformation. This is not only radical change, but the change is also coming more rapidly than many think.…" [emphasis added]
And Wagner, who has invented more doctrines than perhaps any other neoevangelical leader these past several decades, disingenuously remarked that:
"The radical change in the sixteenth century was largely theological. The current reformation is not so much a reformation of faith (the essential theological principles of the Reformation are intact), but a reformation of practice." [emphasis added]
This statement above is parallel to that of Rick Warren, noted in a Discernment Ministries newsletter (July/August 2005), which reveals the comprehensive nature of this entire global P.E.A.C.E. Plan:
"The Global Day of Prayer appears to be a chief mechanism for launching a “Second Reformation” in Christianity. The GDOP provides a convenient vehicle to transition the church from the old order to a new global order. Rick Warren is quoted as saying at the Global Day of Prayer event, “The first Reformation was about belief; this one’s going to be about behavior.” (www.pastors.com/article.asp?ArtID=8280) [emphasis added] An official press release from Saddleback Church states that if 'Christians mobilize to confront the five ‘global giants’ of spiritual emptiness, egocentric leadership, poverty, disease, and lack of education, it could spark a second Reformation.'"
Yesterday's Herescope explained how S.H.A.P.E. is the prelude to the P.E.A.C.E. Plan. It is an assessment mechanism to sort people and position them into their respective roles (ranks?) in this emerging "army of believers." In the same 1999 Leadership Network NEXT newsletter, C. Peter Wagner described the new "shape" for Christianity, which is the apostolic/cell hierarchical structure that most closely resembles the Amway-type multi-level marketing pyramid. This particular structure gives new meaning to the term "sweet spot," particularly as defined by Max Lucado above. Because after one takes the S.H.A.P.E. vocational-style interest inventory, one may be plugged into a "zone, a region, a life precinct."
This particular "shape" of the church as a whole, which will happen as people become catalogued, databanked and defined by the assessment, appears to be regimented and utilitarian. And this "shape" is, as C. Peter Wagner suggests, a perfectly designed vehicle for marketing the New Apostolic Reformation's agenda.
"Woe unto them who … put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" (Isaiah 5:20)
"And I took the little Book out of the Angel's hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter." (Revelation 10:10)