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Mike hopes to see the world turned upside down through local communities banding together for social change, especially churches which have recognized the radical calling to be good news to the poor, to set free the prisoners and oppressed, and to become the social embodiment of the reign of God on earth as it is in heaven. He lives with the blessed memory of his wife, in Durham, NC, and has three adult children living in three different states. He also shares his life with the Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, the faculty and students of Shaw University Divinity School in Raleigh, NC, and the faithful fans of Duke and Baylor Basketball in his neighborhood.

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

An Outsourcing Strategy for Customer Service in Prayer

Not long ago, a friend from Atlanta, Guy Pujol, passed on a bit of information:
I just learned the funniest thing from a friend employed at a call center handling the customer service calls for AT&T, Verizon, and other major companies: they also handle the prayer request lines for TD Jakes, Eddie Long, and Creflo Dollar! If you call those toll-free televangelistic numbers, you aren't talking to someone with that ministry; you're talking to an outsourced employee reading a script off a computer.
It's a little disorienting. When we call for assistance or service with a business, we still think of it as calling that business. Slowly, many of us have become aware that service calls to outsourced call centers mean that we may not be talking with someone who works directly for the company we are trying to reach. Call centers are a business unto themselves, and they don't necessarily have specific people assigned only to AT&T, Chevrolet, Sony, or Exxon.

What Guy has pointed out that many of us have not thought about is that a person in a call center responds to the caller by following a script on a computer screen. That computer screen can give a script for computer problems, auto warranty information, cell phone plans, airline reservations, credit applications, or an almost infinite number of products and topics. It is not an idea that I have really gotten used to.

So it is shocking at first to consider the notion that Creflo Dollar has outsourced his call center to people who may be selling a phone package to one caller then making a pitch to someone needing prayer. It's shocking until we realize that such ministries have long ago left being modeled around theological convictions about the church. They have come under the discipline of the market and adopted the rationality of corporate finance. Therefore, efficiency of processing the paying customers is far more important that sincere and caring listeners for people needing prayer.

The scales of unbridled capitalism blind us so often to the distortions and corruptions of what goes by the name of church in our time. Apparently the fourfold ministry should be revised: some are CEOs, some profiteers, some entrepreneurs, some passers and teasers.

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