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.
Nazarene Theological Seminary will soon begin its second class in Ministerial Entrepreneurship. The course was created in partnership with the Kern Family Foundation 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.
The 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.
The afternoon session of the Oikonomia Network (ON) retreat continued with another presentation by Amy Sherman. Amy continued by focusing on congregations that embrace this work. Perimeter Church in Atlanta is a “VILC” (Vocation Infusion Learning Community) thanks in part to the ministry of Travis Vaughn pastor of cultural renewal. The journey included reading the whole of scripture including inviting Michael Goheen. Later the emphasis on faith at work included a five-week sermon on faith and work, creating videos showcasing people in their work, and orienting leadership in the church. In addition, the church began to gather vocational backgrounds as part of congregational demographics, and then creating “forums” focusing on specific vocations (business, education, healthcare), hosting book studies of Every Good Endeavor, as well as encouraging on the “gospel@work day.” Ultimately the church will start a new leadership strategy for cultural renewal for other churches.
Oikonomia Network (ON) Director Greg Forster opened Friday’s retreat sessions with a short history lesson. Forster noted that Dallas Willard’s early presentation in year one cast a powerful vision about the need to connect faith at work to the local church. Willard’s vision created a series of presentations
- Year Two: Embracing the Local Church
- Year Three: Working within the Academy
This year the theme addressed helpful models that connect theological education with the local church. Forster noted that theological education is called to serve the local church as well as the broader community. As a matter of fact, congregations also serve local communities, but as churches. So this year’s theme revolves around empowering churches in their effort to assist in human flourishing.
To help retreat participants, Amy Sherman, Senior Fellow at the Sagamore Institute, and author of Kingdom Calling, offered two presentations around the theme “In and For Community: Helpful Models in Theological Schools”
This year’s Oikonomia Network (ON) gathering took place in San Diego. The beauty of this coastal setting created a great backdrop for a serious conversation on faith, work, and economics. The vision of Avodah, a Hebrew term for work, worship, and service permeated the gathering as the network began to both survey models of successful integration, as well as anticipate new challenges and opportunities to continue the work of the Kern Family Foundation.
ON Director Dr. Greg Forster opened the meeting by reminding the group of the deep need for community among the Oikonomia Network. Rather than seeing each program in isolation: we need a community to strengthen, learn, and maintain integrity within the ON efforts. Forster notes work remains important for schools, church, and world, by focusing on the intersection of those efforts. When we separate the church from the public square, our discipleship suffers.
Forster noted the long-term vision of the Oikonomia Network and the reality that much of the work will take time. Quoting the founder, Mr. Robert D. Kern, Forster noted that “if you are trying just for something just in your lifetime, you are thinking too small.” The challenge is to see each effort as broadly inter-generational, working to develop a new generation of leaders that engage work but primarily from the perspective of Christlikeness.