Is There an Alternative Vision to the Market-Oriented Church?

How do we resist the placement of religion in the private sphere and
subvert the impulsive focus on the needs of the individual?  What shapes our conversations about what the
church is and should be – the Gospel, or the all-encompassing market?   What
does it means to be the people of God in the world?


I believe that
framing our conversations in such a way may help us resist the tendency to seek
relevance and legitimacy in the market.  This
is quite a contrast to seeing local churches as functional housing for a set of
“spiritual” experiences or community activities that are offered as such to the
consumer market.  Barry Harvey offers
another direction:

that articulate an alternative identity do not stand alone, but are set within
a set of social practices that place this identity beyond the reach of either
the persecutor or the seducer.  Baptism,
table fellowship, disciplines of forgiveness and reconciliation, prayer and
fasting, and habits of hospitality that nurture friendships with the poor and
outcast enable the followers of Jesus to withstand the pressure of both overt
persecution and the subtle seduction of the postmodern risk culture (the


’s vision is for
the church to constitute an alternative “public,” or “the people of God.”  The forces of the market will not so easily
eclipse such a people, as they are empowered and able to stand in contrast to
it.  Harvey here seems to reflect a vision for the
church not apparent in contemporary United Methodism or Evangelicalism.  Unfortunately, it appears we are still attractional in
our thinking. 

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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2 Responses to Is There an Alternative Vision to the Market-Oriented Church?

  1. Dave Jarvis says:

    [this is good] Being an “alternative public” sounds like having the church withdraw from the world so that it doesn’t have to meet people on their own ground.

  2. Corey Sharpe says:

    [this is good] Harvey intentionally uses the word “public” to avoid the conception of the church as the religious equivalents of gated communities.  Harvey also uses the word “alternative,” so that the church stands out as a contrast society.  The ancient church used the word alteras civitas (another city, thus the title of Harvey’s book) when referring to themselves.  It’s an exciting concept for the church to seriously consider.    

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