By Nathaniel Williams; reprinted from Oikonomia Network
A pastor, an administrative assistant, a PhD student and a legal assistant would typically have little in common. But they do share one thing: they, like thousands of other believers, have been challenged to integrate their work, culture, faith and concepts of economic wisdom via the resources of the Intersect Project.
The Genesis of the Intersect Project
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) joined the Oikonomia Network in 2015 with its new initiative, the Intersect Project. An equipping ministry of the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture, the Intersect Project began with a clear goal: to help pastors and church leaders engage the intersection of faith, flourishing, economics and culture, so they could lead believers in their churches to do likewise. In short, the Intersect Project sought to take this growing conversation to the pulpit and the pew.
To achieve this goal, SEBTS developed three electives to train current and future pastors to lead their congregations toward a robust and healthy view of the workplace, economics and culture. These electives were then repackaged into Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) so others could benefit from them. The course material was then adapted into three easy-to-read discipleship books: Every Square Inch, Every Waking Hour and Every Good Thing.
SEBTS also hosted special events. An Intersect Pastor’s Conference in 2016 connected issues of faith, flourishing, economics and culture to pastors, church planters, parachurch staff and students. The Wisdom Forum, hosted in 2015 and 2018, brought together leading Christian thinkers like James K.A. Smith, David Kim, D.A. Horton and Esther Meek. In both Wisdom Forums, guest speakers delivered brief, compelling presentations to answer vital questions about the relationship between faith and culture, work and economics.
SEBTS has also aimed to move the conversation forward in the academy. Targeted chapel services and PhD colloquia sought to deepen the conversation on SEBTS’ campus. A PhD symposium challenged doctoral students to integrate ideas about economics and flourishing into their scholarship. In addition, a Faith, Work and Economics Curriculum Project has brought together a group of SEBTS scholars and teachers to brainstorm and write articles about how these topics intersect with their various disciplines.
To expand the reach of these efforts, the Intersect Project’s website serves as central hub for these resources and more. The website publishes daily articles from key faculty, students and alumni to engage everyday readers. These articles reach new audiences through social media, and they offer a chance for readers across the globe to be exposed to the Intersect Project’s resources.
In the flurry of activity, SEBTS’ goal with the Intersect Project has been the same: to take the conversation about faith, culture and economic wisdom to the pulpit and the pew.
Taking Intersect to the Pulpit
The Intersect Project has equipped pastors to engage this important topic. More than 2,200 people, many of them church leaders, have taken the electives either in person or online. Hundreds of pastors, students and church leaders attended the 2018 Wisdom Forum, either in person or via livestream. In addition, the Intersect Project website has published articles targeted specifically to pastors to give them tools to engage relevant topics in their congregations.
These efforts to equip pastors are bearing fruit. Matthew Brogli serves as the Senior Pastor of Eagle Springs Baptist Church in Eagle Springs, N.C. He finds the Intersect Project’s resources helpful in his ministry.
“The Intersect Project is helping me to see how faith, culture, economics and work can all touch,” he said. “As a pastor, the articles equip me to communicate with people in my congregation on important issues from perspectives outside of my own.”
Zach Jones agrees. Jones is Worship Pastor at Seven Lakes Baptist Church in West End, N.C., a PhD student at SEBTS and an adjunct professor at a local community college.
“The Intersect Project is proving to be a relevant resource for me in my ministry as a pastor and aspiring theologian,” he explains. “The intersection of theology and culture is of immense importance, and this site is proving to be a good resource in assisting in thinking well about that intersection.”
The Intersect Project is making a difference not just on the SEBTS campus, but for pastors serving local churches across the country.
Taking Intersect to the Pew
The Intersect Project has also sought to take the conversation about faith, culture and flourishing to everyday Christians in the pew.
The MOOCs and discipleship books were designed to be accessible to lay Christians. In addition, the Intersect Project website has become an increasingly respected resource for information about these topics. More than 383,000 people have visited the website, and 2,300 email subscribers receive weekly updates. Some of these subscribers are pastors, but others are everyday Christians who desire to know how faith impacts the rest of their lives.
Lesli Corbin of Concord, N.C., is one such reader. An administrative assistant, she regularly accesses Intersect Project resources. “I often share the articles with my family, friends and small group members. They are an awesome tool for not only starting tough conversations, but they assist in offering insight and clarity that I often find myself in need of as a believer,” she said.
The Intersect Project resources have also influenced Samuel Blevins. Blevins works as a legal assistant. Intersect Project resources have challenged him to integrate faith with his everyday life, and he drove more than three hours to attend the 2018 Wisdom Forum.
“I have been following the Intersect Project and many of the professors from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary online,” he said. “I have learned that Christians should have a biblical worldview through which to view news, our culture and our decisions, and I felt the Wisdom Forum would provide me even more knowledge with which to be culturally relevant while maintaining biblical integrity.”
Blevins departed the Wisdom Forum with a new perspective on his work and life. “I was reminded that true wisdom will produce godliness, humility and authenticity that can be seen at work, at home and in my interactions with culture,” he said.
At SEBTS, faculty and staff daily seek to equip believers in all spheres of life to serve the church and fulfill the Great Commission. The Intersect Project has become an important part of that mission. With the Intersect Project, Christians – from the pulpit to the pew – are being encouraged to point others to human flourishing, bear God’s image in all of life and proclaim the gospel message with all its personal and cultural implications.
“God calls us to be ‘salt and light’ to the world,” says Intersect reader and South Carolina educator Dawn Mitchell. “Intersect has been a wonderful resource for helping me to think about how my faith intersects with the issues of the modern world.”
Nathaniel Williams is marketing specialist for Intersect Project.