Day two of the Oikonomia Network retreat. Today’s focus revolves around the pastoral pathways that seek to express the emphasis on faith, work, economics. Kern acknowledges that the dissemination of this vision requires a collaboration between seminaries and local congregational ministry so established a model of “pathways” that reflect different pastoral practices. The organization provides a rationale in their Economic Wisdom Project
In a rough sense, the five types of leaders Paul names in verse 12 might suggest five ways the task of the pastor intersects with economics. The apostles defined the message that pastors are sent to preach, contextualize, and practice (theology). As shepherds, pastors carry out the command to “feed my lambs” (John 21:15) (pastoral care). The prophetic witness of the church is bound up with its special care for the needy and marginalized (compassion). Evangelism rests most centrally on verbal proclamation of the Gospel, but the credibility of the message depends upon the church manifesting the work of the spirit in how we treat our neighbors and become a positive force in the community (common good). And as teachers, pastors are called to join with parents in raising children in the way of the Lord (youth and family).
The sessions today (which I will summarize in one blog) reflect this pastoral vision.
The first speaker was pastor Tom Nelson from Christ Community Evangelical Free Church in Kansas City, author of the book Work Matters: Faith, Work & Economics. We recently had Tom on our NTS campus where he raised specific challenges to communicating the value of work. Tom opened with a story of pastoral visitation in the workplace and the remarkable response of people in that setting. Nelson notes that, while grateful for his education, he was guilty of pastoral malpractice early in his ministry since he did not have a larger view of salvation that narrowed the gap between Sunday and Monday. Nelson offered three steps that were taken to close that gap.
- Developing a robust theology that informs work
- Highlighting a liturgical regularity that affirms work
- Including a relational investment that applauds work
Nelson provided both a biblical overview that undergirds the theology (from Genesis to Revelation) but also recounted the kind of exceptional stories of ministers as they engage the workplace with phenomenal insight.
What steps are Nelson taking now? Nelson admits, based on his engagement with pastors of all size churches, that many pastors maintain a confused, if not defensive posture, seeing faith, work, and economics is a fad. In part Nelson admits is the nature of economics (contradictory perspectives and struggles with prediction).
However, Nelson admits he now works more closely with economics and economic theory (such as John Bolt’s Economic Shalom), so that his church can translate into principles. Nelson knows we have to have more “on ramps” to teach economics to both congregants and pastors to move beyond a compartmentalized view. So he is trying to nurture a culture through set principles such as:
- Moving from merely individual contribution to mutual cooperation.
- Expanding a robust theology that speaks to economic flourishing (for instance, connecting neighborly love with brotherly love in scripture).
- Connecting compassion and capacity (Good Samaritan possessed the capacity for compassion)
- Developing pastoral competency that enhances human flourishing (focusing on neighborly love) so pastoral competencies include
- Affirm free market
- Cultivate awareness of human flourishing
- Confront slothfulness
- Confront economic injustice
- Intentional teaching of economic principles
- Encourage entrepreneurship including seamless connection to life
- Steward economic power
- Provide Pastoral Care in stressed economic world
- Model contentment without anxiety or complacency
Our second speaker was Jay Slocum of Jonah’s Call Anglican Church in Pittsburgh. Slocum opened with Dorothy Sayers emphasis that discipleship for a carpenter is not just prayer, but also woodwork.
- Place: the church is named after Jonah 4:11 which exists in the heart of Pittsburgh’s intellectual community so the church represents a move from the garden to the city (as Tim Keller also notes) so the church is intentionally parochial that intends to worship God,, love neighbors, and shape culture.
- Participation: Slocum attempts to move parishioners from consumers to disciples by providing “salt & light” liturgy (bread, wine… and meatball sandwiches) that compels participation but incorporates both sacred and community themes in some setting. Though communion is an exclusive act, for the sake of koinonia, the church also includes community meals. Slocum noted the Greek term for hospitality is “brother/stranger” that connects both specific fellowship and outreach. So Slocum emphasizes vocation as both “salt” (shaped in congregational discipleship) and “light” (in vocational engagement). So membership includes information on work and how they might contribute.
- Partnership: As a smaller church the congregation still partners with other city agencies and local ecumenical groups that provide leadership and engagement. The church newsletter is known as “the calling” to connect secular and sacred, as well as partner with organization like Jubilee Professional.
- Production: Often the church has to create its curriculum such as developing an Apprentice Series to catechize youth, or provide resources for mothers.
- People: While Slocum did not have time to elaborate on this theme the question and answer session noted that he prefers a gospel liturgy that takes people where they are and then lead them to transformation, rather than expecting them to arrived transformed. This view offered a clear insight in the love he has for people.
The final speaker was Walt Nilsson, Cornerstone Presbyterian Church
Reverend Nilsson is part of a new network exploring mercy/compassionate ministry within a very professional, affluent, community with high turnover due to a military influence. Nilsson noted the church’s approach to mercy ministry was reactive (responding to a need) or “surgical” (as in a military surgical strike) in that often it was a problem to be solved from a distant… without “boots on the ground.” Nilsson noted that compassionate ministry is often shaped in affective terms but rarely includes sustained engagement unless one identifies empathetically with people in plight. The problem is that people who are less “inclined” emotionally toward compassion often opt out, rather than recognize the biblical mandate.
Nilsson called for developing a model of convictions shaped in the Jeremiah 29:7-11 passage of seeking the welfare (shalom) of the city knowing that God has plans for that welfare. He also uses Bryan Meyers’ model of understanding mercy emerges out of a form of relational poverty.
Recognizing the high transiency of his congregation, Nilsson argues that the church should take an exilic mindset that people arrive at this church not just to advance themselves personally but also to make use of the time they in “in transition” to minister to the city. Nilsson invoked Isa 58ff as an example of living out the church for the sake of the community (following Harvey Conn’s idea that the church is the only institution that exists exclusively for others). He notes that Acts 6:7 indicates how the Holy Spirit converted professionals. Overall the church changed its ministry including moving from relief to development models (including development plans from recipients), and ultimately fostering community partnerships like WARM which provides shelter for homeless.
He provided an amazing narrative of partnering with local social services by providing relationships, developmental programs and spiritual instruction to those requesting. This partnership resulted in referrals to the church (on a limited basis), a short class on faith & finance for those receiving community assistance, and the creation of IDA’s (Individual Development Accounts) for people trying to move from support to growth.
Overall three key principles drive the ministry:
- A biblical conviction to equip the saints
- A perseverance to “figure it out” what this mean (ongoing discernment)
- A commitment to time and resources
Nilsson did note key challenges for this form of compassionate ministry:
- The cultural difference between class are far greater than race.
- There is a real difference between the current understanding of “traditional” families and the “maternal-centric” family structure rising in the country (with 41% of American children now born to unwed mothers).
- It is hard to provide a clear picture of success in compassionate ministry, which often frustrates results oriented professions
- Can developmental, dignity-affirming, ministry occur when surrounded by relief oriented ministries and a culture of relief when other agencies and services “do” for people?
Nilsson raised a real challenge by asking “if our church ended tomorrow… would anybody the community care?” This vision raised a powerful reflective question for all churches. However, I believe his congregation’s ministry would now be able to answer in the affirmative.
However, Nilsson noted that faculty do have an opportunity to shape the next generation of leaders through educational institutions that include chapel, classroom, personal relationships… so the next generation will follow how we live.
These presentations created an opportunity to discuss the Pathways in small groups. Overall I believe this framework provides a helpful means for engaging congregational practice as well as pastoral leadership… and should open doors for future explorations.