The Oikonomia Network at Moody Theological Seminary
Sajan Mathews, Professor of Systematic Theology, Moody Theological Seminary
Though Moody Theological Seminary (MTS) is only in its first year as an Oikonomia Network school, it has already taken significant steps toward helping pastors, faculty, students, and (through Moody Radio) the general public integrate faith, work, and economics, leading to whole-life, 24/7 discipleship.
Pastors attending Moody’s Annual Pastors’ Conference in May 2013 had the opportunity to attend two insightful and thought-provoking workshops led by Scott Rae of Biola’s Talbot School of Theology: “A Theology of Work and Ministry” and “Connecting Sunday and Monday: What Every Pastor Needs to Know about Work and Economics.” Faculty training and reorientation took place at the August 2013 Faculty Institute, led by David Gill of Gordon-Conwell. He challenged and motivated faculty from across Moody’s three campuses (Chicago; Spokane, Wash.; and Plymouth, Mich.) through three sessions titled “Workplace Theology and Discipleship: What and Why,” “Faithful Workplace Disciples . . . and Faithful Pastors of Workplace Disciples,” and “Seminary and Bible Institute Faculty and Leaders: Our Critical Role.”
Newly enrolled in MTS students are being challenged to think about the 12 Elements of Economic Wisdom from the Economic Wisdom Project as part of their first two courses in all programs. MTS has also launched a certificate program in Vocational Stewardship, creating tracks in the Master’s in Ministry Leadership program and M.Div. program. These tracks seek to train pastors and ministry leaders on the theology and practice of vocational stewardship, stress the significance of morality, integrity, and ethics in vocations, and encourage active participation in social entrepreneurial ventures leading to economic flourishing.
In collaboration with Moody Radio, MTS is impacting the general public not only in Chicago but nationwide through its syndicated programming. In August, I joined David Gill in an hour-long discussion of “Bringing Your Faith to Work” on “Chris Fabry Live.” In October, Greg Forster of The Kern Family Foundation will be a guest on “Morning Ride” hosted by Mark Elfstrand. In January 2014, MTS and Moody Radio will partner to host a major event that brings together leading businesspeople, the general public, students, and faculty to discuss key elements of the Economic Wisdom Project.
The Faith, Work, and Economics Initiative at MTS is beginning to bear fruit. One student had this to say: “I have decided to take the Vocational Stewardship Track in the Ministry Leadership Program. I thought of the secular workplace as an ungodly place that fosters evil. Now I have a different view. Perhaps God is telling me to overcome evil with good in the secular workplace.” This is only the start of still greater things to come as MTS spreads the message of responsible stewardship.
The Oikonomia Network at Beeson
Mark DeVine, Associate Professor of Divinity
Last spring, inspired by my experience attending the Acton University conference, I offered a course titled, “Wealth, Poverty, and the Church” at Beeson Divinity School. We discussed how aid to the poor can be affected by the physical distance between providers and receivers. Whether the aid comes from a public or private source, we noted an array of factors that commend keeping the helper and the helped as close to one another as possible.
The class soon discovered that one of our very students was a living demonstration of this principle of proximity. Reginald shared with the class how he had lapsed into crippling poverty and homelessness as a young man. Two families and a little cluster of individuals reached out and, in a way, made Reginald their project. Reginald could have abused, misused, and squandered the help they provided, but the prospects for such irresponsible behavior were greatly lessened by the intimate proximity between the giver and the receiver. As Reginald explained, he shook the hands and peered into the eyes of those who reached out to him in his time of great need. He became acquainted with the children of those who helped him. He found himself not only longing to help himself, but also caring about his caregivers. He desperately wanted to make sure that their generosity would not be in vain. The man-to-man, eyeball-to-eyeball factor spurred Reginald’s sense of responsibility and gratitude, energizing him to claw his way out of poverty.
There is no fail-proof approach to helping the poor. Proximity between Reginald and his helpers, however, surely infused the situation with an atmosphere of incentives and disincentives superior and contrary to what prevails when distant and faceless people sign checks. The outcome in Reginald’s case was bound to retain a strong relational and communal authenticity, due to the personal contact between the parties. That means that whatever the outcome, the potential for all sides to learn and grow was much increased by the face-to-face dynamics of the situation.
While I was teaching this class, Beeson received our first grant as part of the Oikonomia Network. The program is just starting, but I’m excited about the opportunities it is creating. In the coming year, we have plans to hold a major conference on faith, work, and economics; gather influential pastors for a private symposium on this topic; plug it into our school’s existing pastors’ conference, web outreach, and other platforms; provide our students with a series of chapel speakers and other opportunities; and more.