Josh Mathews, director, Faith and Work Initiative
Bert Downs, director, leadership development
Western Seminary is committed to enhancing God’s reputation and advancing his kingdom through gospel-centered transformation. We work with and for the church to train men and women for strategic ministry roles. As an integral part of this mission, we are making progress in bringing careful biblical and theological reflection to bear on the Christian role as agent of redemptive influence in all aspects of life, particularly through work and economic wisdom that leads to flourishing. Now in our third year as an ON partner school, we have been cultivating these principles and this culture of integration primarily through our seminary curriculum and our Center for Leadership Development (CLD).
At the heart of these efforts is the integration of these principles into the curriculum of our graduate degree programs. In core (required) theology, pastoral ministry, and spiritual formation courses, our faculty have included units on topics like work and the image of God, vocation as it relates to ministry calling, and leadership in the marketplace and in the church. Students graduate from Western equipped with the clear message that Christian faithfulness and fruitfulness should extend to all aspects of life in the world.
While we have enjoyed success in curricular integration, we are also looking ahead and seeking to be even more effective in this initiative. Through a systematic process we are developing, the director of the faith and work initiative will work with each faculty colleague in the coming months. We will elicit feedback, concerns, and insights and then work together to discern ways professors might be better enabled to incorporate principles related to fruitful work and economic wisdom in their courses.
Center for Leadership Development
Western’s Center for Leadership Development works alongside the seminary’s main degree programs to equip God’s people for service. We have developed a substantial pool of resources and non-credit training materials for those who might not be able to go to seminary and are otherwise engaged in the workplace and the marketplace; the so-called “lay leaders” of the church. The library of digital video material includes courses and certificate tracks in the areas of Bible, Theology, Leadership and Church Ministry, and Intercultural Ministry. And while all of these areas support the endeavor to equip Christians to integrate their faith with their work, the courses and certificates in the Faith, Work, and Economics area of the CLD library provide the most direct training on these topics. There are courses taught by Greg Forster, Tom Nelson, Gerry Breshears, and others, and they are offered at a reasonable cost and accessible anywhere with an internet connection.
Having built up this supply of resources, we are shifting our focus from development to distribution. We consider our CLD materials to be valuable tools for churches and individuals and aim to extend their reach. We are developing a new website to house the resources, and working to take other technological, infrastructural, and marketing steps to enable broader and more diverse usage. Be on the lookout for these improvements in the coming weeks and months!
In addition to these two main avenues for impact, there are several other ways we are engaging in this initiative at Western. These are just a few examples:
Student Ambassador Program: We are wrapping up the first year of a program involving six current students who were first exposed to principles of thinking theologically about work and the economy, and then they led groups in their local churches through our Faith, Work, and Economics CLD courses.
Canvas Conference: In August, Western co-sponsored an event focusing on the integration of creativity and beauty with gospel-centered theology. The conference featured many speakers and artists who together sought “to build bridges between the artist and the theologian by inviting God to take center stage in every human endeavor… Creativity begins and ends with the God of Christian Scripture. It is our Creator who created us in his image to create. Thus, we should do so for his glory, for our good, and for the benefit of all.”
Networking partnerships: We are building relationships with like-minded organizations to explore various opportunities for collaboration. For example, local leaders in the FCCI are using our CLD resources on work and economic issues, and we are pursuing further engagement with FCCI beyond this initial “beta test.” The Christian Chamber of the Northwest has also indicated a desire to provide some of our resources to their members.
At Western Seminary we are eager to see what the Lord has in store for our institution in the coming years. By his gracious provision we have experienced many years of fruitful ministry here in the Northwest and throughout the West. Through partnership with the ON, and by means of the kinds of projects outlined above, we have seen individuals, churches, and communities encounter the biblically grounded, whole-life impacting message of the gospel. We are eager to build on past successes, learn from and improve upon weaknesses, and transition to a new level of effectiveness and impact in these efforts.