Dallas Theological Seminary
Darrell Bock, executive director of cultural engagement at the Hendricks Center
Dallas Theological Seminary’s Faith, Work, and Economics program included a variety of activities in the 2013-2014 academic year. The program engages business leaders, church members, pastors, and seminary students on issues tied to discipleship, leadership, God, and culture. Its programs reach into Dallas’ alumni network and the public square, spreading these themes beyond the seminary classroom.
Podcasts. We have recorded four, one-hour-long interviews of Greg Forster speaking about the document “Theology that Works,” and we hope to complete this series next year. These podcasts are part of our “The Table” podcast series, posted on the Table website. Our goal has been to provide detailed commentary on this document that will help people grasp its direction and logic.
Chapels and Faculty Meetings. We held two campus-wide chapels on faith, work, and economics as part of this year’s chapel series on cultural engagement. One chapel event was with Forster, and the other featured Scott Rae of Biola University. These 40-minute events began with a short interview, but focused on interaction with student questions. We also hosted two presentations on faith, work, and economics in the seminary’s full-faculty meetings. These interactive events allowed both students and faculty to explore ideas, presenting fresh possibilities for growth.
The Table Conference. The highlight of our program this year was the Table Conference, titled “Your Work: More than a Paycheck,” held at Irving Bible Church on April 4-5. Its prime goal was to challenge the secular-sacred divide in our work. Rae examined the intrinsic value of work in Scripture. Henry Cloud discussed how we should think about our work in ways that lead us to do it well and nurture the soul. Bill Pollard provided a paper on how effective work should generate spiritual capital Tom Nelson covered how churches can teach that work matters, while I gave a broad overview of what Scripture says about work and how it should be done.
A number of themes ran throughout the presentations:
- Work is a part of the call of God, in cooperation with the creation mandate to have dominion over the earth.
- Work is a way to serve others and reflect the character of God.
- Work helps human life flourish, developing our character and virtue, and providing meaning and spiritual capital.
- Work builds monetary capital that we can use to help those in need share in the activities of creation and service.
There was very practical discussion of how to effectively bring these themes to the local church, as well as how to create the space for such discussion in both sermons and a church’s overall teaching program.
Numerous workshops were led by the plenary speakers, as well as by Bill Peel of Le Tourneau University and Bill Hendricks of the Giftedness Center. We also showed episode one of the Acton Institute’s new For the Life of the World video series. This stunning visual presentation of the call to stewardship in creation impressed the attendees.
The conference engaged over 100 people this year, but we are working on plans to continue our growth. Our marketing for the conference brought our message about work to a much wider audience than ever before, and included interviews on two nationally syndicated radio programs, the Janet Mefford Show and Kerby Anderson’s Point of View. In upcoming years, we hope to take the conference around the country. We plan to start in Los Angeles in 2015, in partnership with Biola University and its Talbot School of Theology.
Results. The program has challenged students, laypeople, and pastors to consider how they discuss work in their ministries, and has engendered much campus discussion of the topic. The entire effort has opened many eyes on campus and in the Christian community to the importance of the relationship between faith and work. It has helped people see how one can treat the 9-to-5 part of the weekday as an integral part of the life of faith. We are grateful for the opportunity to start filling what has been a hole in our overall curricular program. Our sense has been that our focus on extracurricular opportunities has allowed the ideas to penetrate across our entire community more effectively than if we had selectively focused on classes and majors.