Reflections of a Summit Chair

Throughout the Faith at Work 2018 Summit, people would ask me, “how’s it going?” I responded: “you tell me – how’s it going?”

We had a record-breaking 434 summit attendees, and we’ve sent them a feedback survey, so we’ll find out soon enough how it went! But from what I’m hearing so far, it sounds like I’m not alone in thinking the summit is still being used by God to move the movement forward in unique ways.

I was deeply gratified by the strong support we heard in the audience reaction to our session on “Reimagining Work.” Sandy Richter’s outstanding presentation on the scriptural image of the shepherd – emphasizing that we are to be good shepherds (and what that means) but also that we are under the care of the Good Shepherd – got the loudest applause of the summit. Brian Fikkert’s firm prophetic statement against the “wolves of the marketplace” and DeLano Sheffield’s deeply encouraging reflections on how we can live as good shepherds and as good sheep were also formative. The movement continues to find its way forward from endless repetition of a half-dozen scripture verses to a deeper and wider grounding in the overarching patterns of scripture.

The “Disruption of Work” session established, I think to everyone’s satisfaction, that thinking about the economy is no longer optional for the movement. We are entering a new era of history and the deep social structures that define our work are changing. As a political philosopher this problem has been apparent to me for some time – all our thinking about social organization is predicated on the assumption that the key social problem is survival, but in modernity we have essentially solved that problem. It remains an open question whether the solution is one we can hold on to – we keep trying to undo the good work we’ve done establishing things like the rule of law and human rights – but at least we have the solution. (I’ll offer some thoughts on Universal Basic Income proposals, from which I strongly dissent, another time.)

I was very grateful for Greg Thompson’s emphasis on vocation as communion with God, having said similar things myself, though less thoroughly. And I found the reflections of the “Further Up and Further In” session helpful, though less immediately easy to digest with my heavily deductive rather than inductive wiring. Andy Mills’ emphasis on cultivation of creation as an active, creative calling rather than mere passive, managerial stewardship is important, though needing the leaven of concern for guarding/protecting the creation order.

I’m also delighted we hosted workshops on everything from MeToo to city movements, from college curricula to kid’s curricula. Our workshop on how the church can expand access to health care for those in need, though sparsely attended, was insightful and fruitful for those who were there. I’m proud to have made sure we covered that ground.

I’ll close with a reflection from Mark Greene: if this movement is only about faith and work, it will die on the vine. But Jesus, the vine of whom we are branches, is making it a movement about discipleship in all of life. From heart change to culture change, that’s the only firm foundation.

And now, onward to the big pile of other work that has been waiting for the summit to end, and that I’m blessed with now that the summit is over. Lord willing we’ll see in you in 2020!

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