The church’s position in the new economy?

I have written before about Ross Dawson and his insights which disturb me, albeit in the best way. This morning he did it again, and directed me to an article on recent trends in the jobs market. In that article Martin Bryant talks about people “selling themselves” and their skills, rather than selling products. He goes on to say that ‘There’s no telling what the future of the economy holds, but peer-to-peer transactions look set to be a big part of it, simply by necessity.’ Particular start-ups featured in the article include skillshare, where people offer their skills to train people off-line in anything from business practice to painting, and TaskRabbit, where customers post a task, and then select from registered ‘taskrabbits’ who bid to perform it for them.

It is the latter which particularly caught my eye. In the earliest days of the church, as it grew up in an often unforgiving environment, it was renowned as an expanding family which ‘looked after its own’. The statement in Acts 4 v. 34 that “there were no needy persons amongst them” does not imply that the early Christians were wealthy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Rather, their generosity of time, skill and money towards each other meant that all needs were met. Some refer to this as Christo-communism.

Today churches have banks of skills which could be offered not only within but outside the church. Reductions in government spending mean that some forms of practical help are no longer available to those members of  society who once drew upon them. That said, there is a reluctance to accept something for nothing from the church in case it comes with a burden of spiritual expectation.

Here is a challenge to the churches. Since they should be full of people who operate by the highest ethical principles, could they not start offering the kind of practical skills offered in a service like TaskRabbit or Skillshare? The only difference would be that instead of the money going to the individuals concerned, it goes to the church to then be ploughed back into its service to the community.

Heads wiser than mine would have to work out the practicalities – but it must be worth investigating, don’t you think?