Assemblies of God Theological Seminary
By Charlie Self
The Assemblies of God Theological Seminary (AGTS) hosted a Flourishing Churches and Communities event on January 29 highlighting the integration of faith, work, and economics for discipleship and mission both locally and globally. More than 70 faculty, students, and others attended this cornerstone moment sponsored by the Acton Institute; featured presenters included Stephen Grabill and Dwight Gibson of Acton, and Greg Forster of the Kern Family Foundation. I joined our three guests in a lively panel discussion. The receptivity of the AGTS community and related academic and ministry organizations made this an important moment, as well as the culmination of several years of growth in awareness and wisdom.
The event was the most public expression of a genuine movement toward integration that is touching many facets of life at the seminary as a result of its involvement in the Oikonomia Network. Over the past five years, several AGTS professors have enjoyed the annual Action University (AU) conference; the people and principles encountered at AU are making their way into the curriculum, programming, writing, and co-curricular activities of the seminary. More recently, the growth of on-campus Network activities at AGTS is helping to: improve classroom instruction; publish outstanding student papers; open venues for faculty learning and writing; and create a new strategic conversation with denominational and broader network leaders. These efforts are endorsed by the AGTS leadership, including president Byron Klaus, and welcomed across the faculty. Levels of direct engagement vary with time and domain of study, but there is genuine enthusiasm among all concerned with the academic and spiritual life of the students.
Here are some highlights of our current Oikonomia Network activities:
The finest student papers connecting discipleship with economics are being published (A+ defined as publishable) in e-book form. The connections between excellent exegesis and the theology of work, along with economic wisdom, are being made by a new generation of scholars. Biblical studies and exposition professor Debbie Gill is leading this effort.
- Our core social ethics class – Pentecostal Perspectives on the Church, Justice, and Society, taught by professor of community psychology Johan Mostert – includes significant material on enterprise, wealth creation, and the connectedness of truth, virtue, free economy, and social flourishing.
- Several professors across all disciplines are integrating faith, work, and economics (FWE) into their curriculum. New Testament professor James Hernando and Old Testament professor Roger Cotton, both Kern Fellows at AU, are including FWE wisdom in both introductory and advanced courses. Dr. Gill and Doug Oss, AGTS Director of the Cordas C. Burnett Center for Biblical Preaching and a New Testament scholar of repute, are both helping students prepare sermons with economics and work in mind.
- Professional development and co-curricular innovations are being fostered by the ON ethos. Improved resources for personal money and time management, pastoral understanding of congregational life, and insights for church planters and revitalizers are all part of this maturation of understanding.
AGTS is delighted to contribute to and receive from the riches of the Oikonomia Network as we fulfill our seminary’s mission “to shape servant leaders with knowledge, skill, and passion to revitalize the church and evangelize the world in the power of the Spirit.”
The largest development in our program, however, is still in the earliest stages. The Assemblies of God Theological Seminary is taking the lead in creating a significant conversation in Pentecostal and evangelical circles concerning the need for evidence- and outcome-based curricula that integrate four traditional foci of discipleship (spiritual, psychological, relational, and vocational aims) with the “fifth dimension” of economics and work. Several AGTS faculty are engaged with denominational and other leaders in creating fresh ways of envisioning, assessing, resourcing, and celebrating Christian growth. And all of this growth takes place in people who work!