By Evan Lenow
Reprinted from the Oikonomia Network
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is located deep in the heart of Texas in Fort Worth. The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex enjoys a bustling economy and steady population growth. As a result, we have a great opportunity to address the integration of faith and work within our community. Through the work of the Land Center for Cultural Engagement, SWBTS has invested into the hearts and minds of both students and faculty to prepare them to minister to the people in their congregations.
One of our most successful programs through the years has been our Land Center Luncheons during which we host speakers to lecture on various aspects of work, business and the economy. During this last academic year, we hosted Craig Bartholomew, Allan Carlson, John Cortines and Richard Land. John Cortines, co-author of God and Money: How We Discovered True Riches at Harvard Business School, shared his journey of connecting his faith to his work. At one point in his life, he was so focused on making money that his computer password was “retireat40.” While working on a project for his MBA at Harvard University, Cortines discovered God’s design for his work and money. As a result, his perspective shifted. No longer did he want to retire at 40. Instead, he wanted to use his work to teach others how to be generous stewards of the resources and abilities God had given them. His testimony inspired our students to think about their own work as stewardship and to help people in their congregations see how their faith connected to their work.
A new student-focused program during this academic year was our first Land Center Lecture Series. For this inaugural lectureship, we invited W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, to lecture on the economic and social impact of marriage upon American society. Wilcox delivered three lectures in October that brought together aspects of marriage, work and the economy. In one of his lectures, “Marriage Makes the Man: How Marriage Makes Men Work Harder, Smarter and More Successfully,” Wilcox connected the changes in mindset that occur in a man after marriage and how that affects his work.
In addition to investing in students, the Land Center launched a new initiative aimed at investing in faculty to integrate work and flourishing into their classrooms. We held our first faculty retreat with Scott Rae last summer. Rae challenged us to look within our own fields of teaching to see the natural fit for these themes and then intentionally integrate them within our existing curriculum. As part of his challenge, he focused questions to each individual faculty member in attendance related to his specific discipline.
These guided discussions helped our faculty see the place of faith, work, vocation and flourishing within biblical studies, systematic theology, church history, ethics, education and archaeology. One practical result was a lecture by Ethan Jones, assistant professor of Old Testament, at a Land Center Luncheon in the fall semester. Based on some of the ideas Rae planted during our retreat, he explored ways that he could integrate these concepts in his Old Testament classes. Part of the culmination of that process was his lecture, “Women, Foreigners and Famine: A Theology of Work in the Book of Ruth,” which he shared with his classes and attendees at a Land Center Luncheon. We plan to have a second faculty retreat later this year to extend this faculty investment to more professors on campus.
Beyond the seminary campus, the Land Center has been able to reach people within the Fort Worth community. We have a group of attorneys and business leaders who regularly attend our luncheons and communicate with the Land Center staff about how they continue the conversations from those luncheons in their workplaces. In addition, as director of the Land Center, I have met with business leaders and political officials, locally and across Texas, to discuss how we can be a resource to them on the integration of their faith with their public lives. Such opportunities continue to grow, and many of these leaders have sought further information and resources about faith and work.
The Land Center website underwent a major overhaul this year, so all of our resources would be readily available. Articles about Land Center initiatives, videos from lectures and information about upcoming events are now easily accessible. Videos from all Land Center Luncheons and lecture series are free to view, and articles with summaries of the events are also available. We also publish short articles about issues related to the Land Center initiatives, including faith and work.
The Land Center will continue to be a resource to students, faculty and the community so believers can see how vocation, work and flourishing are part of their own personal discipleship. We strive to keep equipping students and faculty so that they will be able to pass along to others what they have learned.
Evan Lenow is Associate Professor of Ethics, Bobby L. and Janis Eklund Chair of Stewardship, Director of the Center for Biblical Stewardship, and Director of the Richard Land Center for Cultural Engagement at SWBTS.