AGTS has been part of the conversation about academic integration of whole-life discipleship, vocation and economic wisdom for about ten years now. Starting with a small initiative, we began to conceive what might be possible for a Pentecostal seminary to embed itself in this milieu. Early on, the conversations occurred among just a few of us who already had much of the DNA of these issues ingrained in our pastoral and academic lives. Like the leaven in the parable of Matthew 13 & Luke 12, these conversations began to permeate both our formal and informal faculty gatherings. All three of our primary academic disciplines – biblical, intercultural and practical theology – weighed in to provide a wonderful balance of perspectives and insights on what this whole-life discipleship vision looks like in local and global contexts.
From these relatively simple beginnings, AGTS has progressively worked toward academic integration. The core curricula of four master’s degree programs contain these elements. The Oikonomia Network’s Student Learning Outcomes provided a significant resource to aid our faculty in determining what works best in their particular disciplines and courses. The end result is that all AGTS faculty are now actively engaged in using these ON outcomes as part of their syllabi and course preparation. Integration of whole-life discipleship and its applications is no longer an innovative idea at AGTS, it is now a normative component of our academic conversations.
AGTS is also a partner with ON & the Theology of Work Project (TOW) in a special faculty development seminar that occurred in March. Representatives from TOW worked with four key faculty members to facilitate further thinking on how to take integration to the next level in key course syllabi and teaching content. We anticipate these faculty will then be even more able to equip and empower other AGTS faculty toward excellence in this integrative task.
Moving beyond the master’s level curriculum, our Doctor of Ministry program has integrated issues of whole-life discipleship, vocation and economic wisdom into some of its curricular offerings. As a result, several of our program participants have chosen to focus their dissertation projects on these issues. Among the project topics, a few distinctly stand out: models of entrepreneurial empowerment, children’s discipleship curriculum and integration of vocational discernment in a primarily blue-collar socioeconomic setting. We anticipate that these models will continue to occur in D.Min. projects.
There are two dimensions of this work that continue to move us beyond the walls of our classrooms and our student populations. The first catalyzes the work of several faculty colleagues in the development of a whole-life discipleship assessment tool. The Discipleship Dynamics Assessment (DDA) is a web-based tool not only available to the AGTS faculty for classroom use, but also accessible and usable by other schools and local churches. Focused on the five major dimensions of Spiritual Formation, Personal Wholeness, Relational Integrity, Vocational Clarity and Economics & Work, the assessment evaluates 35 outcomes and provides a feedback report to the one being assessed. Professors and pastors may use the assessment for a classroom/small group setting that provides the feedback report to each individual, as well as a dashboard report on the collective average of the group in all five dimensions and 35 outcomes. Another exciting element of the DDA is the development of a revised version of the assessment for college students. This revision focuses on the unique personal formation elements and processes of the average college student. It thus works for college-level formation courses as well as local church ministries. This Student Version of the DDA is the next step in a progression toward a Youth and Children’s level version that may be used in a variety of ministry settings.
The second dimension has centered on a series of regional conferences to which we invited regional pastors and educators into the whole-life discipleship conversation. Over the course of over four years, we have been able to welcome several hundred of these ministry and thought leaders into the whole-life discipleship conversation. The feedback has provided AGTS with micro- and macro-perspectives on how this impacts congregational life. This in turn leads us into deeper conversations about our understanding and articulation of a Pentecostal ecclesiology and missiology.
As we engage in this journey, two primary questions continue to emerge: 1) How do we articulate a fresh and full-orbed understanding and practice of whole-life discipleship, including but not limited to vocation and economic wisdom, in our curricular offerings? And 2) How do we further expand the conversation beyond the walls of the seminary into the ministry marketplace?
Both of these questions are part of the raison d’être behind a newly constituted Center for Faith, Work & Economics at AGTS. Though the center is still on the drawing board and working out structural issues needed for implementation, its primary task will be enhancing the learning experience of every seminary student and providing resources for local churches. As an embedded seminary in Evangel University, we anticipate the center becoming the nexus for co-curricular, cross-curricular and extra-curricular learning opportunities and experiences for our university and seminary students. Utilizing our regular faculty as well as guest lecturers and speakers, we anticipate publishing resources for both the academy and the church. We also have a long-range goal of creating certification seminars for local and national business leaders, through whom we hope to create a funding stream for the ongoing work of the center.
And so, with its Pentecostal distinctive as a driving force behind all of its initiatives in whole-life discipleship, vocation and economic wisdom, AGTS hopes to contribute to the national conversation on creating flourishing communities.