Grand Rapids Theological Seminary
Darrell Yoder, program director
At Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, we are working hard to lead students, pastors and ministry leaders to thoughtfully reflect on the integration of faith, work and economics. Our goal is to encourage ministry that leads to flourishing churches and communities in a way that centers on Jesus Christ and is authentic to our increasingly multicultural character as an academic community. We have several projects and events in the works that are contributing to this effort.
Thy Kingdom Come
On October 7, we held a conference for pastors on the theme “Thy Kingdom Come” from the Lord’s Prayer. The question driving the conference was, When we pray “thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven” what are we praying for? This video captures a taste of what we were after. Our speakers included Michael Wittmer, professor of historical and systematic theology at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary; Cornelius Plantinga, president emeritus of Calvin Theological Seminary; Douglas Moo, professor of New Testament at Wheaton College; and others. We discussed the importance of “new creation theology” and its emphasis on our future physical resurrection and eternal life with Christ on the new earth.
New creation theology provides critical theological perspective for work and economics. Christ-followers are not called to leave behind in the future, and therefore ignore in the present, the tangible human realities all around us. We are called to live out our discipleship to Christ in every sphere of life, including our work and economic activity. Furthermore, if our future hope is a new earth filled with peace, righteousness and justice, we are called to embody those values now.
The Everyday Works Project
Last year, we launched a two-year project called “Everyday Works” which seeks to introduce pastors to faith, work and economics, and develop a video-based curriculum they can implement in their small groups. We invited pastors to a series of four live events on our campus that featured knowledgeable speakers and roundtable discussion. Each attendee went away with a seed library for further reading and an opportunity to join the Made to Flourish Pastors Network. The events focused on four consecutive topics: faith, work, economy and caring for those in poverty.
The feedback we received on these events was very positive. Pastors appreciated the opportunity to engage a world of thought they hadn’t considered but knew to be relevant to their ministries. This video highlights some of their testimonies. From February to May of 2016, we will take a second, larger group of pastors through the same series of events and bring in a professional video crew to produce them for video. Local pastors are registering for these events now.
We are excited about the Everyday Works Project for a couple reasons. First, the curriculum we are developing will be a significant resource to our churches. The video crew we’ve teamed up with is experienced in video curriculum development, and the creative process has pushed us to communicate the concepts of faith, work and economics with even greater clarity and impact. In addition to recording the presentations themselves, the team is developing a series of creative video pieces that will help us highlight the topics in a visually compelling way. We look forward to releasing this curriculum in fall 2016.
Secondly, we are excited about how this project is giving special focus to issues related to poverty and racial reconciliation. We feel strongly that if every human has been created to work and to serve their neighbor, naturally that is also true for those who are poor. Therefore, our efforts to embrace whole-life discipleship must address both immediate needs and the structures and systems that cause and perpetuate poverty. All too often, those structures and systems have a racial element that followers of Christ are called to address. We desire to help churches pursue relationships that cross cultural barriers and contribute to greater unity and mutual support in Jesus’ name.
Other Efforts at GRTS
We have other ongoing efforts as well:
- Economic Wisdom Enhancement for Kern Scholars: Since all Kern Scholars graduate with an invitation to join the Made to Flourish Pastors Network, we are providing them an opportunity to explore work and economics in an academic setting. Through a program enhancement that wraps around the standard curriculum, they meet each semester for workshops and conclude their four years at GRTS with a mini-grant-funded capstone project to take their learning further.
- Acton University: For the last two summers, we have taken a group of GRTS students to Acton University to expose them to the broader conversation about work and economics. Each year, they express how the conference is a highlight of the year.
We are thankful for the opportunity to participate in the Oikonomia Network, and we trust that our efforts will contribute meaningfully to the conversation. These topics raise difficult questions, but we pray that our Lord will be pleased to guide us as we place ourselves at his feet in dependence on him.