Serving Christ or the Market?

In
his book Another City, Barry Harvey mentions two places in modern societies
where the Church seeks legitimation—the state and the market.  Regarding the state, Harvey argues that
most post-Reformation churches continue to embrace some form of
Constantinianism, proclaiming with joy the end of that era, yet…never hesitating
“to issue advice to the states as if they were Christian kingdoms.”

            If
a church turns to the market for legitimacy, it accepts the role of providing religious
goods and services to individual consumers.  The modern understanding of religion was a good fit for
America, says political columnist George Will: “The founders wished to tame and
domesticate religious passions…by establishing a commercial republic –
capitalism."  Persons seeking religion are
“encouraged to pick and choose from a vast inventory of religious symbols and
doctrines, to select those beliefs that best express his or her private
sentiments.” The obvious danger to any
American church lies in measuring its legitimacy (success) by consumer response, by the popularity of the product.  

 

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About Corey Sharpe

Where do we get our beliefs? Three theological perspectives have significantly shaped my Christian identity: Evangelicalism, the early Methodist tradition and liberation theology. From my coming to faith in a Baptist church and throughout my education in a Baptist school and college, I was nurtured by convictions that emphasized a spiritual rebirth, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the centrality of the Bible. Even when I disagree with certain aspects of evangelicalism, it has deeply influenced my sense of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. My seminary studies spawned my interest in early Methodism, particularly its approach to spiritual formation. Its leaders were convinced that only a foundation of doctrine and discipline would lead to a meaningful transformation of the heart and mind. In other words, having the mind of Christ enables me to be more like Christ. Life in a suburban culture obscures the increasing gap between the poor and rich, as well as the Bible’s close identification with the poor. My doctoral work in socio-cultural context exposed me to liberation theology, which helps me see redemptive history as a history of oppressed groups, written from the perspective of the powerless, about a God who is actively involved with the poor in their struggles. I am now the pastor at Huntingtown United Methodist Church in Calvert County, Maryland. Together my wife and I are raising 4 young theologians.
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