By Gideon Strauss

A wonderful tour of PNC Park with David Greusel, thought-provoking presentations like that by Scott Erickson, and engaging conversations with thought leaders and practitioners like Lisa Slayton and Darrin Grove and Kirk Botula – the Faith & Work 2.0 conference hosted by Serving Leaders in Pittsburgh last week inspired and challenged me.

In the weeks leading up to F+W2.0 and in the days since, I’ve been wondering what the “2.0” signifies. Where are we at in the Faith and Work movement. And where should we be heading next?

Where next?

Where next?

A comment by one of the participants that this moment feels like a “springtime” as far as a theologically coherent and spiritually robust integration of faith and work is concerned resonated for me by the observation, a few months ago, by Uli Chi, the vice-chair of the board of the Max De Pree Center for Leadership, that it feels as if we are on the cusp of a Second Vocational Reformation.

Over the past twenty or thirty years, there has been a steady enlivening of the conversation about faith and work . We are certainly no longer in the vocational winter that characterized evangelicals for so long, caught as we were in the sacred/secular dichotomy that privileged the callings of pastors, missionaries, and others in “full-time ministry,” while seeing the work of others at worst as no more than a source of funds for the activities of the church, and at best as a platform for the three E’s – evangelism, ethics, and excellence.

Today we can point to a shelf of great books on faith and work, from Os Guinness’s The Call to Tim Keller and Katherine Leary Alsdorf’s Every Good Endeavor. We can participate in parachurch organizations like the New Canaan Society, Seattle’s Kiros, or our conference hosts, Pittsburgh’s Serving Leaders, and we can benefit from the academic offerings of the Marketplace Institute at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia, or the Center for Integrity in Business at Seattle Pacific University, or our own Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary. But …

1. Vocation discipleship may well be most sustainable when it takes place in the local church.

My own strongest hunch about what is needed next is for vocational discipleship to become a regular part of the ordinary discipleship experienced in the context of the local church. The faith and work movement still feels as if it is in a prophetic phase, with a miniscule minority experiencing its effects through the pioneering efforts of parachurch movements, seminary academics, and evangelical intellectuals. How wonderful it would be if vocational discipleship – catechesis and spiritual direction for the intentional integration of faith and work – was the experience of all Christians, as common in the life of churches as prayer meetings, small groups, or twelve step programs! There are some wonderful pioneering examples of what this might look like, such as the Center for Faith and Work at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, but these are still few and far between.

2. There are probably rich resources for vocational discipleship indigenous to every Christian tradition – not only the Catholic and Reformed traditions.

Dwight Gibson of the Acton Institute has been making the case in conversations all over that the next move of the faith and work movement will need to include its indigenous flourishing in the full array of Christian traditions. Going by the popular books on the topic over the last couple of decades, the key theological insights and impulses have been informed by Catholic and Reformed theologies, even when the authors themselves have been participants in a somewhat wider range of denominations. The movement now needs to be enriched by intentional reflection out of the black church, out of the holiness tradition, from among Anabaptists and Pentecostals – and beyond that, from within the newer church movements emerging from Asia, Africa, and Latin America into global significance.

A springtime?

A springtime?

3. The true potential of the faith and work movement lies in it being truly a movement of the people of God, and not a privilege limited to a white collar bubble of executives and professionals.

My first live encounter with the contemporary faith and work movement was among construction and health care workers in the Christian Labour Association of Canada, and among the Dutch-Canadian farmers, artisans, tradespeople, and small business owners who stewarded the legacy of Abraham Kuyper by — among other things — supporting the extension of the Christian labor movement in North America. I remember vividly conversations with an architectural draughtsman and his railroad electrician father, both thoroughly conversant with this tradition, thoughtfully articulate about its implications for their own trades, for work life in general, and for the economic architecture of the modern world. There is a distance, however, between artisans and blue collar workers like these and the circuit of conferences and set of publications that currently represent the faith and work movement. We can all benefit from the bridging of that distance.

(To be continued tomorrow).

Gideon Strauss is the executive director at the Max De Pree Center for Leadership and also editor of Fieldnotes Magazine.

Fieldnotes Magazine is a publication of the Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary. We would love to hear from you about people, businesses, or other organizations we can interview or feature. Please email the editor at Fieldnotes Magazine.

 

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