As an amateur economist, with interest in the Austrian school, I often find myself attempting to reconcile spiritual truth with economic realities. Often, personal convictions, such as against alcohol or prostitution, have to be understood in light of the difference between what a person should do, and what they CAN do as an individual with free will. Just because a thing is a vice (see Lysander Spooner’s “Vices are Not Crimes”) does not mean that the State should outlaw it. I hate alcohol and think that no one should consume it, but that does not mean that I think that it should be illegal. We’ve seen what happens when the government attempts to outlaw a substance, and the results are always worse than the previous state.
So, while thinking about church choice and the importance of the local church, it occurred to me that “choice,” as a market mechanic, is vital when it comes to local, “Bible-believing” Baptist churches. Why? Well, for the same reason that choice is good in every other area of life.
This idea came to me as I was looking through an online church directory, and noticed one listing that said “The only Independent Baptist church in (town).” I got to thinking: with that being the case, obviously there’s no other place for people to go to church if they happen to dislike that church, or perhaps disagree with them to the point of not being able to attend. That will leave a lot of people without a church, which is never a good condition to be in. Without choice in where to attend church, people are often forced into uncomfortable situations of either attending a church they do not like or agree with, or refraining from attending at all, which is a serious spiritual discouragement. In other cases, they will have to drive great distances at considerable personal expense, considering the price of gasoline these days, in order to attend church as they should.
So, in a “spiritual” free market, where multiple churches are available, every individual and family has a choice where they serve in a church. Now, obviously, this can lead to “church-hopping,” where people jump around from church to church every time they get their feathers ruffled. However, when viewed from a different perspective, this also provides an incentive for perhaps less desirable church members to find another place to worship. The distinction is similar to the difference between Target shoppers and Walmart shoppers. Walmart offers a lower price on things, which attracts a certain class of clientèle, and while not all Walmart shoppers fit that stereotype, you’re much more likely to run into a man wearing a woman’s thong and high heels at Walmart than you are at Target. Thus, different venues, due to different criteria, attract different types of people.
In a solid, dedicated church where the Scriptures are plainly preached and taught, certain folks might be uncomfortable. And while likening less-dedicated folks to the thong- and heels-wearing Walmart shopper isn’t very flattering, perhaps another church in the area might be more suitable to their level of spirituality. Not every individual can handle everything that other believers can, and the simple reality is that some are not willing to grow up and reach the next level. So, it’s best if they stay in church somewhere, but perhaps that somewhere would be best somewhere else.
So, choice in the market works in every situation, from Walmart and Target, to Ford, Chevy, Hyundai, and Toyota, to churches and serving God. It’s a natural discriminator that allows for individual choice to make everyone happy, even if they’re wrong in the meantime.