Christian churches’ responses to marketization

Comparing institutional and non-denominational discourse and practice

Authored by: Marcus Moberg

Routledge International Handbook of Religion in Global Society

Print publication date:  November  2020
Online publication date:  November  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138182509
eBook ISBN: 9781315646435
Adobe ISBN:


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Accelerating processes of marketization—understood as the permeation and proliferation of market exchange as a social and social-organizational principle—are having a notable impact on Christian churches worldwide. This chapter highlights the different ways in which the ideational and discursive dimensions of processes of marketization have come to affect the present-day character and modus operandi of long-established institutional Christian Protestant churches on the one hand, and independent ‘non-denominational’ churches on the other. On an international level, the independent non-denominational Protestant field has increasingly become molded in accordance with market models and consumerist discourses, values, and sensibilities. Independent Evangelical, Charismatic, and Pentecostal congregations ranging from North America and Europe to the Global South have since long embraced the language of market and consumer society, along with practices such as advertising, marketing, and branding as tools for proselytization and church expansion. For these types of churches, new marketized realities generally appear as the taken-for-granted, natural state of affairs. Indeed, these types of churches often view themselves as players in an extended marketplace of religious ideas and lifestyle choices. The situation with regards to long-established institutional Protestant ‘mainline’ churches in Europe and North America remains notably different. Following decades of continuing decline, most institutional Protestant churches are currently struggling to retain or regain their historical societal and cultural positions. Due to their high degrees of bureaucratization and historical embeddedness in national-statist structures, the impact of ongoing processes of marketization on these churches has mainly come in the form of mounting pressures, both external and internal, to adapt to new social organizational realities in the form of new public management, and new forms of ‘governance’-inspired church–state partnerships. Following these developments, these churches have increasingly adopted and internalized market- and new public management-associated discourse and organizational values as central elements in the construction of new church imaginaries.

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