Indiana Wesleyan University
Eddy Shigley, director, Kern Ministry Program
Students and faculty at Indiana Wesleyan University are expanding their understanding of the fully integrated life through internships, retreats, and campus events.
Nineteen of our pastoral ministry students recently participated in a service learning internship with local business leaders. Students experience firsthand how the personal faith of business leaders informs and directs their businesses and, in turn, contributes to economic flourishing. Through this internship, students must develop a theology of work, which is not only critical for those engaged in economic occupations but for pastors; the challenge of equipping the saints includes empowering people for the primary arena of their service to God in the world.
Other outcomes of this internship include:
- Developing a holistic Biblical perspective on life, work, and economics
- Clearly identifying the four central themes and 12 economic wisdom principles found in the “Economic Wisdom Project”
- Learning the related ethical values and guidelines and developing a code of ethics for doing business with others
- Identifying the leadership principles learned during the internship, while evaluating business and leadership performance, and integration of faith in the marketplace
- Developing a better understanding of how to effectively communicate with and relate to business leaders in the local church
Our students loved their internship experiences. Not only did they connect with business leaders who are trying to redeem their communities and increase the economic flourishing of their cities, they also learned valuable business skills that can be applied to pastoral ministry. This is how one of our students described his experience:
Theology and the economy are meant to work alongside each other. The church must begin teaching people to stop viewing their business or job as a way to earn money and make a living. That isn’t what God created economies to be! The entire design of an economy is for people to serve other people. With this in mind, the church must teach people that their job is an act of what Forster calls, “stewardship and service to neighbor.” When the church teaches this, all of a sudden the “theological institution” is no longer considered the only place for people to be discipled, because discipleship will be happening in the middle of the business. If this is fully grasped, then the entire view people have towards work will completely change.
Indiana Wesleyan University also had the opportunity to host a faculty retreat on theology, work, and economics. Our keynote speaker was Chris Armstrong, director of the newly formed Opus, a center on faith and vocation at Wheaton College. Armstrong delivered two stirring talks.
In the first presentation, he gave us a history of faith and work, starting with the God of creation and moving through the history of the church toward modern times. The second presentation dealt with how we as college professors can integrate the Kingdom principles of faith, work, and economics into the classroom. Armstrong explained that not only is the God of the Genesis account a working God, but he is indeed a God who does manual labor. He shapes us out of the dust of the earth, deliberately putting a spirit in a physical body, and he plants a garden (Genesis 2:8). In other words, he works in ways familiar to the craftsman, the construction worker; he shapes and molds the material stuff of the world. Of course, unlike us, he creates that stuff from nothing. But in a sense, all of the kinds of work we do with the material stuff God gave us also create new beauty, usefulness, and value where these did not exist before. So labor of all sorts, including manual labor, is wonderfully good, and it has dignity, both because God does it, and because, as Tim Keller says, “we do it in God’s place, as his representatives.”
We were also blessed to have Greg Forster with us at the faculty retreat. He delivered a presentation on the Economic Wisdom Project and reminded us that we live in the messy middle where the redemptive work of Christ meets a broken, dark world. The church must help people find meaning, hope, and dignity in work because it is where they spend the majority of their waking hours. Work is essential to spiritual formation and character. But if we only work for a paycheck, it takes us in the opposite direction. Work must be centered on the love of God and the love of neighbor.
We also conduct a series of on-campus events for faculty and students, with speakers who addressed the integration of faith, work, and economics. Our Oikonomia Network program began in summer 2013 with events focused on the publication of the Acton Institute’s Wesleyan primer, “How God Makes the World a Better Place,” written by IWU President David Wright. At another event, Ron Blue spoke to hundreds of students about the principles of good financial and economic stewardship. He unfolded how the same principles God intends for individuals and families also apply to businesses and whole economic systems. Our Oikonomia Network program works with the Ron Blue Institute at IWU to help bring in top speakers on issues of faith, work, and economics.
Here at IWU, we are excited to partner with the Oikonomia Network to help our pastoral ministry students and faculty members see the true biblical value of work and how that ties into our economic system. The conversations resulting from our faculty retreat and other activities are helping IWU be more intentional in the classroom.