American evangelicals have always been innovators. They reimagined what a church could be, whether it was a humble tent in a rural field or a high-tech urban megachurch. They embraced new forms of media to spread their message to the masses. They thrived in a fiercely competitive religious marketplace.
In Soul Winners, journalist David Clary argues that this entrepreneurial spirit has indelibly shaped evangelical ministries and their worldview. For generations, evangelical leaders have partnered with tycoons to pay for their churches, crusades, and campuses. In turn, evangelicals adopted the pro-business, anti-government values of their conservative benefactors. White evangelicals evolved into the Republican Party’s most loyal voting bloc.
The close relationship between business and evangelicals has produced the growth-oriented megachurches that dot the nation’s landscape. Pastors such as Rick Warren used market research and management theory to create their “seeker-sensitive” churches. Televangelists and “prosperity gospel” preachers, most notably Joel Osteen, tell their audiences that faith will be rewarded in this world as well as in the kingdom to come.
Clary’s narrative approach brings to life colorful characters such as the ballplayer-turned-preacher Billy Sunday, who condemned the “godless social service nonsense” of liberal churches, and Billy Graham, who brought evangelicalism into the highest precincts of business and politics.
Soul Winners offers a fresh, balanced perspective on evangelicals and the consequences of their enduring influence on American life.