This morning I was out raking leaves from our back lawn (it’s that time of year again!) when my neighbour called over the fence to me: do you eat tomatoes? We do; and he gave me a tub of tomatoes he had grown in his greenhouse. Three varieties: a small orange one; a medium-sized yellow one; and a larger red one.
That’s an example of the social economy at work.
The foundational question underlying the market economy is: how can we maximise our profits?
The foundational question underlying the social economy is: what do we need, and who can we share our surplus with?
[Note that the market economy is willing to give stuff away, but as a ‘loss-leader’ to generate a new customer base: the driving force remains profit.]
[Note also that the social economy is willing to sell stuff, but it is always looking for what it can give away to those who cannot (re)pay: the driving force remains the sharing of surplus.]
Churches can operate according to the principles of market or social economics.
Churches that operate according to the principles of the market economy are concerned to enlarge the customer base (bums on pews) who will pay for (through tithing) their product (worship experience, sermons, children’s work, etc.). They are essentially inward-looking, or attractional, in their relationship with their neighbours. The greater the number of products they can develop (programmes, niche interest groups, etc.) the wider the potential customer base they can appeal to.
Churches that operate according to the principles of the social economy are concerned to bless those beyond their fence, without expectation of anything in return (it is not that they do not hope for a response, but that they do not hope to benefit from any response: rather, they hope for responses that in turn benefit another). They are essentially outward-looking, or incarnational (i.e. taking the nature of a servant), in their relationship with their neighbours. The more content they are with living within their means, the more they have to give away to others.
[Note that the difference between a market economy church and a social economy church may not be so much in what they do as in their motivation for doing those things.]
Do the values of your church reflect market economics, or social economics?
And how might we effect a change of fundamental attitude, from market economic to social economic values?