Seminary Spotlight: Asbury Theological Seminary

By Jay Moon, reprinted from the Oikonomia Network.

Note: Appropriately for the new pandemic reality, this spotlight update comes to you via Zoom video. A transcript, with links to the resources discussed in the video, is provided below.


Hello, I’m Jay Moon, one of the directors of the Office of Faith, Work and Economics at Asbury Theological Seminary in the Wilmore Campus. It’s my pleasure to give a summary of the activities for this year for the ON update. We started the year like everyone else, with our objectives and our plans laid out, and everything was going along fine. We didn’t expect the things that would come up with the COVID situation, and as soon as the COVID situation came about, things had to change. But we started off like we had before, with our fall Marketplace Summit. Now I’m going to share my screen here, which is one of the benefits of having the Zoom technology that we can work with. And in light of the signs of the times, this time I’m going to use Zoom to provide a video of our summary as opposed to a written update.

The Marketplace Summit, sponsored by the Office of Faith, Work and Economics, is a joint venture with the Howard Dayton School of Business at Asbury University and the Office of Faith, Work and Economics as Asbury Seminary. And like the last six years, we had ten people provide business pitches, and these business pitches would provide both financial capital, but also spiritual capital and social capital in order to launch a social entrepreneurship. So $10,000 of cash prize was awarded to the top five winners, who were then given some guidance and accountability as they launched their businesses this year.

Everything was moving along great, and then COVID-19 happened. Early on, as COVID-19 occurred, our Florida campus convened a webinar that was from the front lines in order to give a faith, work and economics perspective on the COVID-19 crisis.

So Charisse Jones as well as Peter Rios, from the Florida campus, conducted this webinar, where they collaborated with business leaders and ministry leaders in order to provide insight for both amidst this crisis. Now, if you’ve been to the Karam Forum, you would have met Charisse Jones there, and you’ll recognize what a gifted and talented young lady she is. Peter Rios is the most recent addition to the OFWE team, as he comes to us and provides a unique perspective, particularly from the Hispanic perspective.

Once the COVID situation happened, we had to redo things that we had been doing before. So we had to rethink through and re-engineer, how would we go about this basically, kind of tricky opportunity to provide and meet for our objectives while thinking through the different opportunities that we’re encountering?

One of the first options we did, which was actually led by a student, which – I love student-led projects. We developed a not-for-profit seminar series, and this is a six-part video series that provides videos for the topic of organization of nonprofits, as well as board governance, then a theology of fundraising, followed by the art of the ask, and then four principles for effective long range communication. And then last, aligning fundraising with the mission and vision for strategic growth.

Now we combined both internal resources as well as external resources in order to provide this seminar series. And this was like a harbinger of things to come, because it turned out that this seminar series was an idea that would launch into further activities.

One of the areas that we have been exploring and doing research in is alternate financial models for churches that are in financial crisis. Or for church plants that cannot depend upon tithes and offerings alone. So one of the webinars we participated in is with the Mosaix Global Network, and we discussed, along with several other leaders, about these different financial models. Those financial models, and that discussion, was very interesting, and it actually led to further podcasts with the Path One Church Planting Network for the United Methodist Church. And this podcast is now available, and it engaged, with question and answer, several of the church planters that were on the phone call.

Another area that we did a webinar [for] was in the area of entrepreneurial church planting. This is utilizing an entrepreneurial approach to engage the marketplace. We conducted a webinar to talk about the topic of entrepreneurial church planting, and then discussed some of the options, some of the objections, as well as some of the possibilities with particular denominations. The one here you’ll see on this screen [note: use password FWBNAM1 to view] is with the Free Will Baptist North American Ministry, but we’ve also engaged other ministries like the Brethren in Christ and United Methodist, et cetera.

We’ve also been conducting research. There’s a research project that some students are working on that – the title of the project is, “John Wesley, Compassionate Entrepreneur: A Wesleyan View of Business and Entrepreneurship.” So if you’re familiar with John Wesley, you may recognize that he was an astute theologian, but also a businessman that made in today’s money about $4 million. So our students read through all of his journals, read through his diaries and all of his sermons, in order to elicit from those sources anywhere he talked about his business and his entrepreneurial thinking, and how that engaged the faith world. So we’re pretty excited about this paper that’s coming out. And when it does, we’ll post this on our website.

Another area of publication we’ve worked on is a book with the Exponential Church Planning Conference. It’s called A Missional Approach to the Marketplace, an on-ramp to entrepreneurial church planting. It’s answering the question: Suppose people are not going to come to your church, no matter how great your preaching is, your programs or your buildings; where can we find where they are gathering, or will gather, in order to plant churches in those venues? And this looks at the marketplace, i.e. business venues, for church plants to consider. That approach has been getting some traction, and people have been asking us for additional information about that.

One area that we’ve explored with additional insight is what’s called the 2:10 Leaders Program. This is in Lexington, Kentucky, where they’ve come to us and asked our faith, work and economics office to help in the development of their curriculum. This “2:10” is based upon Ephesians 2:10. “For we are God’s handiwork created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” These are business leaders that meet in groups of 10 to 12 every other week. And they’re in practical business ventures, but each week, or every two weeks, they talk about how their faith is active and engaged in the marketplace. So we’ve been involved for the last few months with these different meetings, but also in helping in the curriculum writing, so that we will invite students in the fall, hopefully when things start to open up again, that they can participate in these types of things.

Lastly, we’ve done some long-range planning in the past, and with all the shifting due to the COVID situation, Dr. Tom Tomlin, our dean, has provided great insight to think through a shift – a pivot – in our strategic planning. We’ve spent a lot of time and energy thinking through how can we carry out the mission of OFWE amidst these uncertain and unchartered times. So while we don’t know what the future has to hold clearly in front of us, we are clearly directed in the mission that God’s put before us.

And as a result, I hope that in the future, we’ll have another summary that may take us out of this COVID situation. But for now, I hope this Zoom video provides an update for you. Thank you.

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