Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Developing a Theology of Work in Seminary and Church

Over the last few months I have become interested in the Theology of Work. It began when I was working on my commentary on 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 and posted a blog on A Theology of Work. In November I had an opportunity to visit Seattle and meet with a group twelve business areas from that city. We spent two days looking at Paul's letters to the Thessalonians and how those letters are read and applied in the business world. I suspect my interest in the topic has grown from my own life. I come from a working class family with a father who owned a construction company. Trying to run a good business and be a good Christian was one of his desires.

But there is not a lot out there to help business people. Actually, there is, but it is often done without the insights of  theologians and biblical scholars who can work with those in the business world and learn from one another. There is a need for business people and theologians to collaborate, learn from one another and serve the church together.

That is why I am happy to see an article by Chris Armstrong in the upcoming Intrust Magazine. Chris is professor Church History at Bethel Seminary and posts on the Blog Grateful for the Dead. In his article Chris makes some good points about the lack of attention that the church often gives to "work" and he also focuses on how seminaries could do a better job preparing pastors to understand and minster to those who work outside the walls of the church. Here is a bit of what Chris has to say.

“The average person will work 100,000 hours in their lifetime,” says Jeff Van Duzer, dean of the Seattle Pacific University School of Business and Economics. “This seems like an enormous waste if it’s spent doing fundamentally meaningless things whose only value is a paycheck.” To be sure, many Christians develop, at some point in their lives, a sense that daily work does indeed matter to God. And eventually, some come to understand that their own work complements God’s work — the six days of creation, the redemptive love of Jesus, the ushering in of new heavens and new earth. God sustains the world, but God’s creatures do their part in caring for it as well.
But does the church have anything more profound to say about the value of work? And how might theological schools prepare their graduates to help ordinary Christians do their work in light of their faith? Those are questions worth pondering.
Any inquiry into the capabilities of clergy points back to theological education. And surely most ministers who want to engage the working world will find that their theological school left them unprepared. Miller argues that clergy suffer not only from a lack of direct business experience (and thus an insufficient awareness of the issues), but also from “a lack of ministry models to emulate, and even a sense of intimidation by the business world.”
As centers of theological reflection, theological schools today might consider their own responsibility to cultivate in future clergy a robust theological understanding of work. To begin at the beginning: What does God intend for human work and its economic organization? The simplest answer, which reappears in many forms among the lay people who write about the intersection of faith and work, is that God created work and uses it to benefit all people.

You can read the rest of the article here. I look forward to reading part 2. 

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