From 3 D’s to 6 C’s – The ON Faculty Retreat:
The annual retreat of the Oikonomia Network, held in Phoenix on Jan. 2-4, kicked off with a powerful talk on “The Church and Economic Renewal” by Chris Brooks, senior pastor of Evangel Ministries and campus dean of the Detroit campus of Moody Theological Seminary. Brooks spoke about “three D’s – Detroit, Dependency, and Dads.” He offered a powerful vision of gospel hope for Detroit: the church bringing people together around work, family, entrepreneurship, and responsibility, in contrast to dysfunctional systems that create dependency while removing dads. View the talk here.
The next day was dedicated to integrating theology and economics, centered on the four themes of the Economic Wisdom Project. Gerry Breshears of Western Seminary addressed the first and last themes – Stewardship and Flourishing, and Responsible Action – with a workshop on “Gospel Flourishing and Hope.” Unpacking Acts 2 in detail and illuminating a number of other scriptures, Breshears showed why a concern for flourishing is a central imperative of the church. Read his notes here, with supplemental articles here and here. Jeff Van Duzer of Seattle Pacific University addressed the second and third themes – Value Creation, Productivity, and Opportunity – with a talk on “The Purpose and Limits of Business.” Van Duzer described how business plays a key role in God’s plan for the creation order by creating economic value, and discussed some of the conditions that help businesses do their jobs well without exhausting the natural and cultural resources they rely upon. Read his notes here.
That afternoon, retreat participants divided into groups and discussed a case study focused on a business leader who approaches a pastor to seek counsel about a situation he faces at work. The groups formulated responses and then met with Phoenix-based Christian business leaders with the help of Marketplace One, a local business ministry. Read the notes from those sessions here.
In the evening of Jan. 3, the retreat focus switched from thematic integration to practical application, concentrating on the five Economic Wisdom Project pathways. Katherine Leary Alsdorf of Redeemer City to City spoke to the retreat about “The Church and Entrepreneurship,” part of Pathway 4, Common Good. She pointed to the broad congruence of entrepreneurship with Christian faith – if our identity is in Christ, she argued, we should be more willing to try risky endeavors – and also spoke candidly about the challenges involved in persuading her church to adopt an entrepreneurship initiative. View her talk here.
Practical application continued the following morning with a talk from Pastor Tom Nelson of Christ Community Church on how a theology of work and economics (Pathway 1, Theology) shapes pulpit ministry. Titled “A Helper for What?” Nelson reviewed his experience introducing the topic of work into the life of his church; he also offered his thoughts on why this must be expanded to include economics, and how this can be done in an accessible and winsome manner. View his talk here, and his notes here and here.
In one of the retreat’s most lively talks, “Reforming the Local Church for Vocation,” Pastor Jay Slocum of Jonah’s Call Anglican Church described the reforms his church has adopted to embed similar ideas deep into the DNA of his church’s regular practices and programs (Pathway 2, Pastoral Care). Read his notes here. And in “Unlikely Compassion,” Pastor Walt Nilsson shared the amazing story of how his church, Cornerstone Presbyterian, has broken down cultural barriers in order to create a very unlikely program that models the principles found in books like Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert’s “When Helping Hurts.” Read his notes here.
The retreat ended with Greg Forster’s talk on “The Stewardship Mindset and the Entrepreneurial Economy.” He argued that one reason people often love their neighbors across racial, religious, and class boundaries in modern society – in sharp contrast to the ancient and medieval worlds – is because modern culture is characterized by a “spirit of stewardship.” The entrepreneurial economy, characterized by value creation, productivity, and opportunity, provides the necessary economic context to support and sustain this spirit of stewardship. Drawing on Tom Nelson’s talk, he explained this in six C’s: the entrepreneurial economy prioritizes contribution over compensation (though compensation is good); it prioritizes cooperation over competition (though competition is good); and it gives people capacity for compassion. Look for a revised version of this talk to become available in the coming year.
We are already hard at work digesting your feedback from the evaluation forms and planning next year’s retreat. In the meantime, we’re grateful to everyone who invested the time to join us!