Recently I read several dozen articles from the Chronicle of Higher Education from the past few years, diagnosing “the moment” at which faculty find ourselves.
At the same time, I was re-reading my notes from a recent gathering of theological educators (people forming the next generation of pastors) I hosted–also to “diagnose this moment” at institutions with such programs. I asked about theological educators’ current sense of their vocations and their careers. Where are faculty in this specialized area finding themselves these days? Early on the first day of conversations, these factors emerged:
Anxiety with changes, transition to virtual work – is this real education? Am I doing it well? Not as satisfying. Missing potential for formation?
Sense of living and working in a time of transition – everyone knows education is ripe for disruptive innovation
Identity: am I simply a professor or also a mentor, coach, something else? – transitions in teaching [and I’d add: student needs and preferences in education] lead to questions of identity
The need for rest, with some burnout: schools have tighter budgets, are asking people to do more
New opportunities, flexibility to relocate, work from home, be near family, flourish in new ways, get in front of new audiences and address issues, needs, concerns beyond the traditional seminary (etc.)
As I read these notes, I was getting a strong feeling of déjà vu – where had we seen a combination of factors similar to this before? And it dawned on me: this was reminding me of David Miller’s characterization of the 1980s-90s in America, the rise of the “third wave” of the faith and work movement, and his description of the factors and pressures that led boomers to turn to questions of spirituality related to their work (both new age and traditionally religious), in search of a revived and restructured identity and a recovered satisfaction in work [in his book Got at Work]. I went back and re-read the main section of Miller that dealt with this and that made the link between vast changes in the business sector (in particular) and an increased focus on “spiritual” issues related to work. I’m pasting it below, then I want to draw out the parallel with today’s higher ed situation and faculty’s experience.
This is the second half of a two-part article that appeared in the Winter and Spring 2013 issues of InTrust magazine. Both parts, with full graphic treatment, appear here. This half focuses on what seminaries and churches can do to help heal the divide between faith and work in many Christians’ lives today.
Theology for Workers in the Pews
In the last issue of InTrust, Chris R. Armstrong wrote that churches are good at helping people find meaning on Sunday morning, but during the “other 100,000 hours”—the lifetime that people spend earning their daily bread — pastors often have little to contribute. This is unfortunate, because when people labor, it’s possible for them to be co-laborers with Christ who both build up the world, helping it flourish, and also grow in grace, learning new disciplines.
In this companion article, Armstrong describes how schools and organizations are making connections between faith and work. In some cases, organizations are helping business leaders to think ethically and theologically. In other cases, they’re helping clergy to engage more intelligently with business leaders in congregations.
Let’s take as given that work matters—it matters to God, and it is most people’s primary arena of discipleship. And let’s agree that the primary role of seminaries and theological schools is to form pastors and scholars who teach and lead people in discipleship. Therefore, it makes sense that theological education should serve a vital role in making the connection between faith and work.
This conversation was really fun to have. And maybe even has some light to cast on, as my colleague Kyle Roberts says, “the present and future of evangelical theology, the challenge of globalization and postmodernity, the prospects for the evangelical church in the days ahead, and the role of seminary education in all of this.”
Kyle (a rising theologian, like Christian Collins Winn, who also speaks out on this podcast) explains: “The dialogue participants were John Franke, of Biblical Seminary (on campus to lecture at Bethel University and Seminary), Chris Armstrong, church history professor at Bethel Seminary, Christian Collins Winn, historical theology professor at Bethel College of Arts and Sciences, and myself. Enjoy this discussion and please add any comments or questions of your own for further discussion. We view this as the beginning of a conversation, not the end.”
Enjoy the podcast, and (we hope) many fascinating posts to come on Kyle’s blog.
As far as I can tell, evangelicalism right now, here in America, could really use a re-infusion of the spirit of the 17th- and 18th-century German Pietists. And it is up to a school like Bethel University (truth in advertising: my employer), whose founding denomination is a Pietist one, to position itself under the fountain of historical Pietism and get a good, thorough soaking in that movement’s spirit. For though Pietism is our heritage, we don’t know what it was any more. That’s a sad loss.
Specifically, we stand to learn from such Pietist leaders as August Hermann Francke, the subject of this post, how to overhaul education, social action, and the Christian life along Pietist lines. If this sounds intriguing, then read on . . . Continue reading →
Alister McGrath and Timothy George’s book For All the Saints came out a few years ago and didn’t get nearly the attention it deserved. As a historian, I am not deterred from lauding something just because it is a few (or a few hundred) years old, so here we go:
You should read this book if you are concerned with the “sanctification gap” in evangelical culture–that is, if you think evangelical thought and evangelical life have become woefully separated, favoring either thought over life or life over thought, to the detriment of both:
Christian History Corner: For All the Saints A fascinating book reminds us to get our heads and hearts together, in the company of the cloud of witnesses. By Chris Armstrong
“Evangelicals,” gather round. Fellow-travelers and outsiders, lend an ear. For we are about to talk about evangelicalism’s “dirty little secret.” It’s what historian Richard Lovelace has called “the Sanctification Gap.” And it was the subject of a conference held in October, 2000 at Beeson Divinity School, Birmingham, Alabama, which has now resulted in a book worth reading.
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