Flourishing and Social Worlds

0106170912Today’s gathering of the Oikonomia Network began with Greg Forster 0106170914aproviding updates on efforts within and beyond the Network. ON continues to cultivate new partners, such as the LABI College/Latin American Theological Seminary (LABI/LATS) in Los Angeles, as well as seek strategies for 0106171900aproviding sustainability in existing programs. In particular, the Network now partners similar efforts working directly with clergy, screen-shot-2017-01-06-at-11-34-38-pmsuch as the upcoming conference lead by Pastor Tom Nelson on Flourishing for the Common Good, 2017 in Kansas City and at satellite locations. This conference is 0105171626designed for pastors and congregational leaders to discuss how the church participates in flourishing in our neighborhoods. Flourishing in our workplaces. Flourishing in our churches. And flourishing for the good of our cities

0106170913aThe remainder of the day focused on small group presentations addressing several “social worlds” or institutions that intersect with the church: the legal/political world, Wall Street economics, and the life of the family, as well as a discussion on extending the faith, work, economic conversation at different educational institutions.

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Strategies for Hope in the Oikonomia Network

0105171603_hdr0105171603January is always a good time for a faculty retreat, particularly in Tempe Arizona. This week I have the privilege of attending the Oikonomia Network Faculty Retreat. It is a time to see a little of the city but also to network with other faculty and innovators interested in advancing theological education in faith, work, and economics. The Oikonomia 0105171727Network gathering is sponsored by the Faith, Work and Economics initiative at Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 10.05.37 PMthe Kern Family Foundation. The  Network represents a group of scholars and educators engaged in seminary education around the United States, all working on projects to prepare seminarians to take seriously the place of work and economics as part of their ministry.

0105171900Greg Forster, Director, Oikonomia Network and Visiting Assistant Professor of Faith and Culture at Trinity International University, convened this evening’s gathering by noting the title of the retreat “Strategies for Hope.” Forster offered that, in the middle of unsettled 0105171903b-1times, we need to recognize there are a number of encouraging activities occurring so members need fresh, hopeful, eyes to discern those positive efforts and build on their initiatives.  Forster also acknowledged 0105171915dthat the retreat followed a new, abbreviated, format. In part, the change of the retreat is directly related to a new Oikonomia initiative called the Karam Forum that occurs screen-shot-2017-01-05-at-11-26-29-pmMarch 2-3, 2017 at Trinity International University. Still, the retreat remains an important event as it both helps new members gain an initial understanding of the network’s efforts, and also allows experienced Oikonomia Network faculty and administrators ongoing opportunity to build their expertise and look for “the next step” to constructively expand their efforts.

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Neuroscience, Technology, and Christian Formation

perf6.140x9.210.inddMark Maddix and I just celebrated the release of our newly edited book Neuroscience and Christian Formation (Information Age Publishing). While primarily a text on the practical implications of neuroscience research for Christian education, I was also tasked with the chapter that explains the technology “behind” the research.

Blevins TMSOverall that responsibility proved to be a challenge for a guy working in a free-standing seminary with no access to university research labs. Still, thanks to the University of Pennsylvania’s Neuroscience Bootcamp (sponsored by Penn’s cns-logo_xsm-300x42Center for Neuroscience and Society), and a lot of reading and sorting through basic information regarding neuroscience, I think I got a handle on the basics. At least I hope the neuroscientists in the room will not laugh reading the chapter.

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An Honest Conversation about Race

Nazarene Theological Seminary opened the second day of a week honoring Martin Luther King with a serious discussion around of race, privilege, and our responsibility as the church.

Dr. Carla Sunberg, president of Nazarene Theological Seminary reflected on her own privilege growing up; and how she was confronted by that difference while a missionary in Russia. Revisiting her experience, she recounted how Russian police identified international people, and also how stark life remained in rural Russia. Sunberg realized she had access to resources and abilities that often other people would die for. Citing Luke 12:48b, Sunberg acknowledged that some participants had more privilege than others, but asked honestly, what will we do with what we have been given.

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The Power of Entrepreneurship in a Ministry Setting

20151123_180611Nazarene Theological Seminary will soon begin its second class in Ministerial Entrepreneurship. The course was created in partnership with the Kern Family 20150831_194052Foundation Oikonomia Network, MidAmerica Nazarene University’s Center for Entrepreneurship, and the Kauffman Foundation Fasttrac program on Entrepreneurship. Basically, the class serves as one expression of NTS’s acknowledgment of the changing face of ministry in USA and Canada.

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Made to Flourish

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe final Oikonomia Network (ON) session included some “in house” moves among the network including both a new initiative with local congregations as well as institutional relocation. The Oikonomia Network (ON) has moved to Trinity International University as part of the Center for Transformational Churches where Forster now resides. In addition, a new initiative begins with the Made to Flourish network, a collaboration among congregations and seminaries to connect Sunday to Monday, focusing on faith and work, guided by Tom Nelson.

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Interpreting “Faith” in Faith and Work: the next Challenge

The Oikonima Network (ON) continued its retreat on Saturday by addressing some of the real challenges of moving Christians to embrace faith and work as a part of whole life discipleship. The concern had been established the day prior when Amy Sherman noted recent research by the Barna Group. The research noted that people had indeed heard more preaching on this issue, but they still feel undervalued in how they see their role in the workplace. The reason for this may well rest with not only how they see work, but also their understanding of “faith” as taught in the church, including the way they understand scripture. To address this issue, the network turned to Paul S. Williams for additional understanding.

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