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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Who will care for our souls? Not The Four.

Written by: on November 29, 2018

One of the newest texts on global consumerism will hit readers like a punch in the gut. Why? Because the author speaks of a reality much of the world lives in but does not check or often question. This reality is that of the inundation of the largest tech companies in the world into everyday life and modern society’s codependence on them.

Scott Galloway’s new text, The Four: The Hidden DNA of Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google is gaining a lot of attention. To watch a video version of his text and feel the emotion behind his written work, watch his TED talk from November 2017. As a professor of marketing at NYU’s Stern School of Business, Scott Galloway has spent the last decade studying what he calls “the four horsemen.” Galloway is not frustrated with the four tech giants, though he does write and speak and teach with the hope that they be held accountable. In the Q&A after his TED Talk, Galloway shares his belief that the people working at the four are no better or worse than people at other companies. “But when you control ninety percent points of share in a market search that is now bigger than the entire advertising market of any nation; and you are primarily compensated in trying to develop economic security for you and the families of employees, you can’t help but leverage all the power at your disposal. And that is the basis for regulation and it is the basis for [the] truism throughout history, that power corrupts. They are not bad people, we have just let them get out of control.”[1]  Galloway advocates for electing leaders who will force corporations to be subject to the same scrutiny that the rest of business endures.

It is important to note, Galloway has not only studied these titans of industry, he has also started his own research and analytics company, L2 Inc., helping corporations around the world to capitalize on digital marketing techniques.[2] So, although he has much to say about The Four, Galloway also has much to gain from his research of the industry in helping others profit from the success of The Four. Specifically, the latter sections of The Four emphasize a “don’t beat them, learn from them and make all the money you can” mentality, focusing on personal growth in areas such as emotional IQ, continuing to education, and pimping one’s career.

Naming the Four horsemen as the lords over humanity, our modern-day gods, Galloway connects each of the four to an organ in the body. The following picture is the first and last image Galloway shows in his marketing courses at NYU. Galloway explains it as the central organs targeted in the marketing of the online giants. Google reaches the brain as is the newest god we confide in, Facebook connects us with friends and loved ones and thus emotional needs, Amazon satisfies our needs for consumption, and Apple as the luxury brand, makes us look and feel sexy.

As a consumer of all four brands, I hate admitting the truth of Galloway’s text. I use Google to find remedies, recipes, and so much other random content. Facebook is something I am tethered to by the events I host, the groups I am in, the family that lives far away, and the connections (and comparisons) of life between me and my peers. From diapers to soap to books, Amazon is the first place I look for much of what we buy because it is cheap, quickly accessible, and arrives in two days or less. And finally, we have had Apple products since the iPhone first came out. Each of The Four are housed in apps on my phone and screens on my laptop.

What does it mean for me and the rest of the world that we are so attached to the Four?

The ease of use and seemingly free access to each of these brands makes them seem innocent and harmless. However, as Galloway has recognized, the aim of the Four is not benevolence. As he puts it, the four dominate the whole of the online experience and corporate world, utilizing the best and brightest with their sole mission being to sell. “It’s not their fault, it’s our fault. They are for-profit companies. They are not concerned with the condition of our souls.”[3]

Consumer’s must take back our brains, bodies, and souls. Differentiation advocates we not blame these corporations for our behavior. We must own our part. The gift of Galloway’s text is creating awareness. Once we are aware, we have the opportunity to be discerning in our choices of consumption.

Caring for souls (and ultimately helping those souls to care for their bodies as well) is the job of the church, not corporations. And it is the role of the church to help people learn to care for their own soul, and the soul of their neighbor. John Wesley and the early band of Methodists were concerned with the state of the soul. Asking, “How does your soul prosper?” (or translated into slightly more modern language, “How is it with your soul?”), Wesley was concerned that disciples knew the content of their own heart and tended to it.

Jesus, in mentoring his disciples, cautioned them about temporal gain focused on the self, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life (soul)? Or what will they give in return for their life?”[4]

How will the church innovate to tend to people’s souls in an era of the internet and mega-online brands? There is a temptation to ignore the effects of The Four on our churches, while at the same time allowing market economics to drive our vision. For a tax-exempt non-profit with a mission of caring for souls to first care for economic security, the church will inevitably have diminishing returns, especially upon the souls of its parishioners. It will also lose its prophetic voice to society. Maybe it’s time for the church to become aware of how it’s being co-opted by the market and learn from The Four on how to best live out its mission in the age of tech.

 

[1] Galloway, Scott. TED Talk https://www.ted.com/talks/scott_galloway_how_amazon_apple_facebook_and_google_manipulate_our_emotions

[2] https://www.l2inc.com/about

[3] TED Talk https://www.ted.com/talks/scott_galloway_how_amazon_apple_facebook_and_google_manipulate_our_emotions

[4] Matthew 16:24-26

About the Author

mm

Trisha Welstad

Trisha is passionate about investing in leaders to see them become all God has created them to be. As an ordained Free Methodist elder, Trisha has served with churches in LA and Oregon, leading as a pastor of youth and spiritual formation, a church planter, and as a co-pastor of a church restart. Trisha currently serves as leadership development pastor at Northside Community Church in Newberg, OR. Over the last five years Trisha has directed the Leadership Center, partnering with George Fox and the Free Methodist and Wesleyan Holiness churches. The Leadership Center is a network facilitating the development of new and current Wesleyan leaders, churches and disciples through internships, equipping, mentoring and scholarship. In collaboration with the Leadership Center, Trisha serves as the director of the Institute for Pastoral Thriving at Portland Seminary and with Theologia: George Fox Summer Theology Institute. She is also adjunct faculty at George Fox University. Trisha enjoys throwing parties, growing food, listening to the latest musical creations by Troy Welstad and laughing with her two children.

19 responses to “Who will care for our souls? Not The Four.”

  1. mm Jason Turbeville says:

    Trisha,
    Great focus, I too watched the TED talk and searched Galloway’s L2 site, did you see his blog post on Bezos’ HQ2 “scam” as he put it. All four of Amazon’s new announced HQs are within biking distance of a house he owns. He calls Bezos out for his disingenuous “search”. It was a good read.

    How do you use these techs in your church, I have found I can take advantage of some, but they make me pause most of the time.

    Jason

    • mm Trisha Welstad says:

      Jason, I did not! Woah! I did read via L2 that Apple products are going to be sold on Amazon soon, which is a pretty big deal for both of them.

      Regarding our church, we don’t do as much as we could we use what I call an average amount of tech in the way of our kids curriculum, planning center, and communication via facebook. I think most churches could benefit from an IT/tech savvy person on their team, even if just a volunteer from the church with a passion for it.

  2. mm Jay Forseth says:

    Trish!

    Your Matthew reference is so right on. I was going to use that verse, then I got distracted on my i-devices. Anyway, you used it way better than I would have.

    I so much appreciate your talk on the soul as it relates to all this. I wonder, have we sold our souls in the name of speed, convenience, and more stuff? I am convicted! Thanks for bringing it out into the light.

    • mm Trisha Welstad says:

      Thanks Jay. I was convicted too. I had to subtly use our book in my sermon this morning too as I couldn’t avoid it – speaking on Hope for Advent I mentioned how Facebook, Amazon and Google curb our need to wait on God because we live in the era of the quick fix. My church has no clue Galloway or Friedman were referenced…and that’s ok. 🙂 As long as we are turning ourselves back toward Jesus to help us discern how to live day to day.

  3. mm M Webb says:

    Trisha,
    Yes! The world, and even a bunch of Christians do not “check or question” the world they live in. People do not see the Four Horsemen as agents of evil or schemes of the devil, yet what are they really? I think the Artificial Intelligence aspect of the 4 is what creates a lot of future concerns for me. People are also willingly implanting chips under their skin to make it easier to be “connected” to the 4.
    This is an awesome time to be Christian leaders. We must get much better at connecting to the Holy Spirit instead of the 4. Just like with Solomon, we have access to the most powerful, most knowledgeable, most everywhere God (the one true God) in the Universe. PTL! Exciting times ahead for sure!
    Stand firm,
    M. Webb

    • mm Trisha Welstad says:

      Mike, I did not know about people implanting chips to access the four. That’s wild!

      Yes, these are interesting days…and we have so much opportunity as Christ followers to have an impact if we are willing to creatively engage.

  4. Your post made me think of one of ht emost recent apps I’ve downloaded onto my iPhone: the Prayer 24/7 app that Jason Clark posted about on Facebook. Google it!

    Anyway, I have acutall anjoyed using this app in my prayer life, as it allows me to upload photos of the people for whom I am praying, and one of the things I’m trying to be better about is praying on a regular basis for the people that I mentor. This app is helping me to be better about that.

    How does that fit with with the church “living out mission in the age of technology?”

    • mm Trisha Welstad says:

      Jenn, I tried to find that app and an not sure I did. Maybe you will have to send me the link. It sounds really interesting.

      I think that would be a great way to use tech as part of the church…I actually think there are so many ways we could do things but we are still trying to figure out how to market ourselves with signs and flyers and mailers (at least in the US). 🙂

  5. mm Dan Kreiss says:

    Trisha,

    The soul is the one part of humanity that ‘The Four’ do not reach according to Galloway’s description. Unfortunately it seems it is also an aspect of humanity that goes unnourished much of the time due to the seemingly esoteric nature in comparison to the 4 organs. The Church has insight into that which ultimately makes us human and transcendent but finds it difficult to communicate that in the midst of all the other noise and distractions. Have you gained any insight into means of communication, particularly with young people, that help clear the air and permit introspection regarding soul care?

    • mm Trisha Welstad says:

      Dan, I am not sure if this is hip with the kids but my new favorite app is Marco Polo which is essentially a video walkie talkie. It creates the opportunity to be introspective while having a conversation with someone else or in a group. Part of it is because you are literally looking at yourself while creating a video (which is weird to me). I think more curiosity and boundaries which have little to do with tech are helpful in communicating with younger people…and communicating with them in their own modes, even if that is via media. So, I text my niece things that are important to her soul and hand write letters to my other niece because we live far apart and it is novel to her.

  6. Shawn Hart says:

    Trisha…great post. I had a conversation with my son about this book and came to a very similar conclusion; the problem is not so much the companies as much as it is the people using them. There was an old song that went, “looking for love in all the wrong places;” which I think sums up the message to be gleaned here perfectly.

    So how do you take a book like this and use it to mold people in ministry?

    • mm Trisha Welstad says:

      I know that song Shawn! Ha! Now I have the tune in my head.

      I think we use some of the book and warn about it too. It’s important for people to be aware and make their own decisions but we can also leverage tech for helpful discipleship means. That’s my opinion.

  7. mm Jean Ollis says:

    Hi Trisha! Such wise words to challenge the church to meet the needs of people like the four do. Ultimately, people are intrinsically seeking the connection and convenience that they’re getting from technology. So, do you have an idea how on earth to do that? It’s the blinding question in almost every congregation in my community!

    • mm Trisha Welstad says:

      Jean, I do not! I have musings but I think it’s totally a need and very few people are actually doing much about it besides what we have always done – Sundays and small groups. Online groups are good too but there’s more.

  8. Hi Trisha,

    Beautiful connection to highlighting the role and purpose of the local church and caring for souls that cannot happen well digitally. We are human beings and made for physical relationships. We need to be face-to-face for our deepest, life-changing connections. Yes, a lot can happen in the digital space, even distance education like with GFU. But the best kinds of soul care and spiritual friendships for transformation must be rooted in physical presence IMHO.

  9. Chris Pritchett says:

    This is great, Trisha. So much more thoughtful and academic than my post this week (hah). You gave Galloway a fair shot at highlighting the warnings that benefit us all as we become aware of our relationship with these four giants, and then you take it where the author obviously does not and offer theological reflection with application for Christians today. Very clear and well done. Thank you.

  10. Dave Watermulder says:

    Trisha,
    I’ll echo Chris’ comments. This is an excellent post– really well written, well reasoned, presented in a crisp style and MUCH better than what I was working on :). I suspect you will be well-positioned for your dissertation writing as that begins, given your fluency and clarity in writing. It’s easy and interesting to read!

  11. mm Kyle Chalko says:

    great point Trish. One thing that Craig Groeschel said at the last leadership summit was challenging the church to up their game in the IT world. He encouraged pastors to use their laypeople who work in IT to build better church websites including location tracking while visiting the website and other preference to help bring a better experience to the church searcher. It was very challenging and a little off-putting to. The church is wayyyyyy lagging behind in this sphere

  12. Great post Trisha! It is interesting and ironic how much we are attached to the Four, even though they seem to have very little concern for our society, let alone the souls of people. I’m tired of reading about these billion dollar companies not investing in the welfare of the people who gave them this great wealth. I think Microsoft is setting a good example. Jenn and I hope to meet Bill and Melinda someday, their vision for an equal world is inspiring. I also think it is interesting that currently Microsoft has a higher market cap than all of The Four. https://www.gatesfoundation.org/

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