David Mills over at Touchstone raised the flag on this article in WSJ. It's all about the new thing called G-12 (which is short for "government of 12" -- we'll let go, for now, the illuminati frisson).
And, you guessed it, the flag I'd like to raise about it is black indeed (please bear with the shades of TJ here: a week ago, I was at the Guinea Station shrine where he lay).
The idea is simple. Get twelve people, just like the Lord did. Train them. And then tell those people to repeat the process. And get them to repeat as well. Etc. Etc.
A little math here will make any numbers-minded church-grower salivate (well, at least spiritually). Lessee, one, then thirteen, then (omigosh) 157, then (OMIGOSH) 1885 (remember to add in the prior levels for the cumulative register).
I don't doubt for a moment that there are real live successes that get pulled out of the hat from these numerological hokey-pokey's. The article gushes over one instant in the Bronx that has 1400 attendees. I guess that would put them at the OMIGOSH level, but obviously some of the G's did not make their 12 quota.
Oh well, c'est la vie.
There are 380 churches, most of them in South America, that have signed on to the G-12 world plan. It's not surprising that this movement is rooted in Pastor Yonggi Cho's Yoido Full Gospel Church. This "largest church in the world" has 800,000 "members."
Cesar and Claudia Castellanos of Columbia chivvied over to Cho to study the "cell concept" of the Korean movement (I really don't like the term "cell" for people, especially church people, because it has an ugly pedigree of sedition -- but I'll let this pass, too).
They took the cell idea, and merged it with the pyramid idea. Stir carefully, boil and simmer. Say this: Double, double toyle and trouble, Fire burn and Cauldron bubble.
And, voila, G-12.
Oh, pay no attention to the Amway/Mary Kay/Tupperware/LGAT guy behind the curtain: G-12 is the wizard, look only to him.
It is interesting that the article, though mostly -- and inanely -- positive in its regard, throws in at the end the suggestion that G-12 isn't so effective for the rest of the world. For some odd reason, it seems here in the benighted north, presently, only Hispanic-friendly.
Is it possible that Hispanics hail, almost 100%, from a Catholic background? Sure, a lot are Protestant/Evangelical/Charismatic. But the background still obtains. The dogmas still reverberate in the holidays and (I betcha) at funerals. The doctrinal package of Christ and His Bible, and the whole idea of salvation, was delivered by the Catholic Church in the Spanish Main (and inland). The "evangelization" and "church growth" that we see now in those lands are capitalizing on the sure-fire success that every liberalization of a conservative culture can expect.
Of course a lot of Catholics are going to do the buck and wing dance when they get told they don't have to do fish on Fridays. And there's a lot of buck and wing at G-12.
The Protestants and now the G-12 thing is succeeding, mainly, because they are picking up people who like the friendliness, the easiness, and the excitement that they don't get at Mass. At G-12 you don't get the Eucharist or mind-bending doctrine, but you do get friends, even sponsors. You don't get a spooky cathedral, but you do get someone's living room.
To me, this is another shtick in the lengthening list of church growth gizmos, which have included, over the years, taping dollar bills under randomly selected seats, giving prizes for "packing your pew," handing out S&H Green Stamps if you brought a friend on Rally Day, bringing in a hot Gospel quartet, sending out junk mail, and -- my favorite disaster -- Phones-For-You (a particularly wretched infestation from the telemarketing world -- first tried out in 1987 on the Quakers, of all people).
But it's shtick with a special ick. G-12 has that weird "government" word in the acronym. What does "govern" mean in the Cho/Castellano universe? And what's the magic about "twelve"? Is it really a belief that 12 is a kabbalistic "completion" regimen, an abracadabra that kinda "forces" God to pay attention? to bless?
And finally, don't they know that all pyramids go bust? Do the math.
But G-12, for all its apparent Wharton-worthy growth-model sexiness, is just a new and improved gizmo in the neo-pentecostal mega-church craze. I wonder why, heretofore, few have paid much attention to the blisteringly obvious correspondence between G-12 (and the whole pente-mega trend) and LGAT (Large Group Awareness Training). The old (and hardly worth seeing) movie Semi-Tough seems to predict, along with Seraphim Rose, a lot of the modern gluttony for the mass (lower cap's for sure) appeal of the mega's and the emergents. G-12 has simply completed the scheme by going pyramidal.
It doesn't surprise me in the least that the article, gushing again, rhapsodizes over the "promise" of G-12's conceptual application into other realms like Hispanic politics and Hispanic business. Of course it will work. A business model that is effective in one venue will probably work in others.
This means, to me, a cranky soul, that the workability of G-12 is all about business (and psychobabble), and probably very little about Church.