Seminary Spotlight: Dallas Theological Seminary

By Bill Hendricks, reprinted from the Oikonomia Network

The Hendricks Center at Dallas Theological Seminary is the primary department taking leadership for programs that connect faith to work and the economy on behalf of Dallas Theological Seminary. The center is headed jointly by myself and Darrell Bock, along with a highly collaborative team whose mission is: shaping compassionate, courageous leaders.

Leadership today requires more courage than ever: the courage to stand strong for biblical truth and kingdom values, and the courage to speak boldly, clearly and with conviction. At the same time, Jesus demonstrated that the tone of our courage matters just as much as its strength. We must always see ourselves as ambassadors on behalf of Christ. How we treat others, how we say what we say, how we lead – our whole manner of living and working – needs to reflect, and reflect well on, our ultimate boss, Jesus.

The center works with three categories of leaders: leaders in training (students); leaders in churches and vocational Christian work (pastors/church leaders, missionaries, parachurch ministry leaders); and Christians in leadership at everyday workplaces (in business, the professions, education, government, etc.).

By design, programs on work and the economy at Dallas are co-curricular. Instead of a course of study or a curricular emphasis, connecting our faith to our work and our economies is a core value that informs the larger culture of Dallas. That strategy allows the center to engage in a wide variety of related initiatives in some interesting and remarkably effective ways, both on and off campus.

The Table Podcast

The Table posts weekly podcasts on topics related to God, Christianity and culture. The name itself reflects the value that tone matters. Christians run into many complex issues at work every day, and they often must address those issues alongside people who hold different worldviews. Rather than fight culture wars, believers have an opportunity to represent Christ as his ambassadors. The Table provides insight on engaging others in constructive dialogue, especially with difficult conversations.

In addition, The Table enables the center to directly address workplace matters. Recent podcasts have included:

Chapels

Dallas’ daily chapel services are one of the most important gatherings of the seminary community. Twice a semester, the center brings a presentation with a theme related to work and the economy, and students are invited to ask questions of the speakers. This past year, chapels included:

Student Dinners

The center hosts two student dinners each year highlighting the integration of faith with work and the economy. One of the most well-attended dinners took place this year, when Tom Landis, a restaurateur and founder of Howdy’s Homemade Ice Cream, came to present. Howdy’s is entirely staffed and managed by people with special needs, and the event showcased Landis’ passion to see the church take the lead in finding meaningful employment for folks like them.

Church Leaders Luncheons

Once a semester the center invites pastors and church leaders from the North Texas area to lunch. This past spring’s lunch provided an opportunity for Tom Nelson of the Made to Flourish network to present a theological perspective on human flourishing from Genesis 1-2, and then challenge the leaders to equip their congregations in creating flourishing workplaces.

One Church’s Initiative

As a direct result of her interaction with the center, one recent Dallas grad created a well-received initiative at her church this past year. It involved 40 workplace Christians meeting over eight weeks to take deep dives into topics such as the dignity and meaning of their work, vocation and calling, relationships on the job, ethics and integrity, and evangelism in the workplace. Now she is pursuing her M.Div. with the intention of doing hard research comparing how pastors and workplace Christians perceive faith and work integration.

The William N. Garrison Faith & Work Fellowship

The 2017-2018 academic year was the second year for the center’s Garrison Fellowship, which gives a future teaching pastor firsthand exposure to the issues and realities of the day-to-day work world. Half a day each week for two semesters, the fellow visits a local workplace under the sponsorship of a Christian leader there. The fellow’s assignment is to learn about the work taking place there, reflect on the theological issues raised by that kind of work, and then consider what would be needed to pastor the people doing that work. The aim is make that future pastor’s preaching and teaching ministry more relevant and sensitive to everyday Christians.

Faculty Meetings

Once each semester, the center is invited to make a presentation to the entire faculty on work and economic issues. This past semester, that presentation featured Th.M. student Tristan Tenney, our 2017-2018 Garrison fellow, who described his experience in the fellowship and what he was learning through his visits in a wide variety of workplaces. That led to a lively discussion of how work is perceived by faculty, and how they might address workplaces themes and topics in their courses.

Leader Board

Leader Board is 2-1/2-hour working breakfast for Christians who are leaders in the business and professional world. It features a seasoned workplace leader with a proven track record for integrating their faith into their work. Recent speakers have included top executives from Chick-fil-A, Southwest Airlines and General Mills, along with entrepreneurs, government officials, sports figures and other leaders. Members are able to interact with this person and ask specific, practical questions about how things work in the real world that they represent. Many Leader Board members use this venue as an opportunity for mentoring up-and-coming leaders under them. And an area pastor uses it as a way to invest in his elder board.

Whole-Life Discipleship

In addition to all these activities, the center has numerous conversations and initiatives in play that connect in some way with work and economic issues. The exciting thing has been to see the synergies that all of these efforts are creating, such that this is becoming part of the way people think at Dallas Theological Seminary.

30th Anniversary Gala

The center recently completed our 30th year of work, and to mark that milestone we are hosting a gala on March 26, 2019 to look back on our rich heritage and then cast new vision for the center’s future—what we like to call Hendricks 2.0. We are thrilled that Tim Keller has agreed to be our keynote speaker. He will also join us earlier in the day, along with Tom Nelson, for a conference for pastors and church leaders on how churches can equip workplace Christians for their everyday work. This promises to be a landmark day for Dallas Seminary. Other details of the event will be released soon.

The overall objective in all of these efforts, of course, is whole-life discipleship: following Christ in every sphere of life, representing him well in every place and with every person, and seeking to establish his kingdom values on every inch of his created order.

Bill Hendricks is Executive Director for Christian Leadership at the Hendricks Center and a board member of the Theology of Work Project.

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