The Talbot School of Theology at Biola University is continuing with classroom integration of faith, work and economic wisdom as well as integrating new thinking about economic issues with our faculty. Meanwhile, the Talbot Center for Faith, Work & Economics is working with local churches and other partners to move out into culture and the marketplace as a voice of practical integration.
Work and economic wisdom; theology of work; and calling are only a few topics that have been integrated into course curricula. The Talbot School of Theology and the Crowell School of Business partner in an Organizational Ethics class taught in the undergraduate and master’s programs in the business school. As part of the course, students consider and work through Christian engagement in business and the broader topics of calling and theology of work. Organizational Ethicsis now a required course for every business student, and is a Bible elective for other majors on campus. The students see the “Business as Ministry” floor-to-ceiling banner in the lobby of the Crowell School, shaping purpose beyond a slogan.
One key distinction for The Talbot School of Theology is Talbot’s Institute for Spiritual Formation. Seminary education should do more than equip students with head knowledge. At Talbot, we believe that a student’s time in seminary should also further their transformation into Christ’s likeness and deepen their relationship with God. Over the last nine years, the Institute for Spiritual Formation has led seminary students to intentionally explore a more complete understanding of not only their pastoral calling, but also of vocation and calling outside the local church.
Talbot students are required to take a sequence of three spiritual formation classes that form the Spiritual Formation Core, with the final capstone course being Spiritual Formation, Vocation and the Disciplines. In their final semester before graduating, with their cohorts, students attend a two-day retreat at Hilltop Renewal Center in Idyllwild, Ca. During this retreat, they spend time alone in prayer and reflection. In small groups, they share what God has been teaching them about their spiritual life and their growing understanding of calling and vocation as Christians. The course concludes with a Call and Vision Report summarizing their experiences, theology and understanding of calling.
One student writes: “The church needs a more robust theology of work and I will be coming back to this material in future ministry efforts.”
Another seminary student illustrates the life transformation of the ISF courses: “Every part of my time in the [spiritual formation] classes have been so spiritually and personally impactful. Even as I write this, I am welling up in tears of gratitude because these classes have profoundly changed my perspective on my identity, purpose, calling and life.”
The Institute for Spiritual Formation is developing plans and partnerships to bring the best of these programs to the church. Mini-courses are available on the web. The topics of spiritual formation and work/calling are taught by John Coe and Scott Rae, the same professors who teach the Talbot course on spiritual formation and vocation.
This spring, we held our fifth annual economics reading group, primarily for seminary faculty. We regularly invite a professor from the Crowell School to join the group, and they always accept. To date, approximately 40% of Talbot faculty have participated and almost 50% of the business faculty have done so, including the dean of the business school. Many Talbot courses and curricula are now infused with a work and economic wisdom emphasis. An unexpected impact of these reading groups is that all undergraduate students are being exposed to Christian perspectives on work and economic wisdom in their Bible classes, since every undergraduate Biola student is required to take 30 Bible credits.
The Talbot Center for Faith, Work & Economics works with local churches and church leaders. It offers a three-part strategy: establish, develop and grow.
Establish a transformative biblical understanding, with a sense of urgency and mission aligned around a broader vision. Establish a foundation integrated into the culture and calling of the local church addressing the barriers and deeply held beliefs holding churches back.
Develop a cohesive team within the local church creating systemically, strategically and biblically-based plans that are intentional, sustainable and fruitful. Developing organizational competency, understanding marketplace realities, successful discipleship strategies and effective application.
Grow the church’s vision for work and economic wisdom by equipping and assisting in the creation of tools, knowledge and resources. Grow church engagement by assisting in the communication of strategies, plans and initiatives to empower their congregations.
The Talbot Center has partnered with RightNow Media to bring an integrated perspective and practical application for one’s everyday work life. RightNow Media is hosting on their global platform the videos produced by the Talbot Center which are currently available on the Talbot Faith Center YouTube Channel. Almost a hundred short, one-minute Legal Q&A videos lead the channel. Faith, Work and Consumer Behavior; Faith, Work and Business Ethics; Faith, Work and Money; Faith, Work, Calling and Women; and Faith, Work, Calling and Vocation round out the playlist. Speakers include Scott Rae, various business professors, myself and Biola’s president, Barry Corey.
As director of the center, I have spoken at RightNow Media’s pastors ONE conference. With a topic of “Faith, Work and the Local Church – What Pastors Are Not Taught in Seminary,” the room was overflowing for both sessions. RightNow Media has extended to me the privilege of speaking at the 2019 Work as Worship Conference. I have also been a guest on the Houston Baptist University Center for Christianity in Business podcast.
The Talbot Center continues to reach out into culture, bridging the gap between the local church and the marketplace. In partnering with organizations such as Convene, pastors are experiencing marketplace realities and gaining wisdom to lead their own church organizations.
The Talbot Center was profiled in the June issue of the Talbot Magazine. For the Talbot alumni, work and economic wisdom, calling and vocation is more visible as they reflect on their own journey to understand this for themselves in their capstone spiritual formation course in the mountains of Idyllwild.
The Talbot School of Theology and the Talbot Center continue to grow in our understanding of what God is doing through this faith and work connection and its broader application to economic issues and human flourishing. We’re grateful for the opportunity to partner with the ON.