The Land Center for Cultural Engagement coordinates Oikonomia Network programs at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. As part of our faith and work initiative, we plan student events, conferences, colloquia and other activities that seek to bring attention to the themes of work, vocation and human flourishing.
Highlights from 2016
Last year was very busy for the Land Center as we continued some of our most successful programs. Our student reading colloquium experienced some of the most spirited discussion we have seen in three years of hosting the colloquium. Students read works by Miroslav Volf, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Allan Carlson, Marty Stevens, Christopher Wright and others. The students participating in the colloquium represented three different continents. Their international perspective on vocation and flourishing generated lively discussion around the readings.
Our fall Land Center Luncheons also provided wonderful training for our students and faculty. These luncheons invite students and faculty to hear a lecture on vocation and flourishing. During the fall semester, two of our speakers were Mark Greene, executive director of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, and Ryan Childress, general manager of Steel City Pops in Fort Worth.
Greene’s presentation focused on empowering Christians for mission in all of life. Rather than focusing on equipping believers to use their leisure time to join paid ministers and missionaries in kingdom work, Greene encouraged our students to equip believers to be on the frontlines advancing the Kingdom in every aspect of life. This focus on whole-life discipleship helped our students recognize how they can reach the world for Christ and how to equip others to do the same.
Childress is the general manager of Steel City Pops, a popular gourmet popsicle store in Fort Worth. Childress told the story of Steel City Pops and how his faith impacts the way he does business. As part of his presentation, he noted: “We had really big plans about what we were going to do one day for the kingdom, but where we began to see the Lord work most was through the small things; through the very ordinary; through things that we weren’t even aware could be used for kingdom impact. I have seen the Lord work the most in our small business context through daily faithfulness in meetings, emails and simple interactions with employees.” Childress concluded by encouraging the future ministers in the audience to help their people see the value of their vocation, build relationships at work and see how God works in the ordinary.
Within the classroom, we continue to see progress with integration of themes related to work, vocation and flourishing in our theology, Bible, archaeology, ethics, stewardship and undergraduate classes. Through attending Land Center events, many of our faculty have discovered how these themes neatly fit within their disciplines. In addition, we have discovered that several of our faculty were already integrating these ideas in their curriculum and have encouraged others to do the same.
Utilizing ON Resources
Already this semester we have been able to integrate ON resources into the classroom by using Economic Wisdom Talks. Students enrolled in the Family and Church Financial Stewardship course watched Darrell Bock’s talk, “Luke and Money” and then participated in a discussion about what the Bible teaches about financial resources. Throughout the semester, these students learn to view the management of their finances not as a secular matter but as a part of discipleship. They gain insight into what it means to be a steward of the resources that God has entrusted to them. Once they understand how to be an effective steward and disciple regarding their own financial resources, they will be better prepared to take responsibility for the finances of the churches they serve. The lessons learned in this class will also aid them in equipping people in their churches to view their own finances as a matter of discipleship.
Future Classroom Integration
We are excited to announce that a new course has been approved for our undergraduate curriculum. Keith Loftin will teach “The Theology of Work and Vocation” in the summer of 2017 at the College at Southwestern. After this first offering, the course will become part of the regular rotation of undergraduate courses. Loftin has been an active participant in many Land Center activities, including presenting a lecture at one of our Land Center Luncheons. While we have seen curricular integration in pre-existing classes, this will be the first time that an entire course has been devoted to accomplishing the ON student outcome goals.
The Land Center for Cultural Engagement continues to keep issues of whole-life discipleship, vocation and flourishing before our faculty and students. Beyond the classroom, we have coordinated with our communications team to make many of our lectures and conferences available on the seminary’s YouTube channel. We strive to keep innovating in how we present these ideas, so our students will be better equipped to pass along what they learn to those whom God has entrusted them to serve.