Setting The Pace At Gordon Conwell

IMG_0381

Faculty Retreat On Cape Cod

It was an invitation I simply couldn’t resist, it was a time I simply will not forget. Liz and I had the privilege of being part of the spring faculty retreat of Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. The faculty retreat was held in a serene and beautiful setting on Cape Cod, perfectly suited for deepening friendships and thoughtful conversations on matters of significant importance to an institution devoted to the formation of Evangelical church leaders across the United States and around the globe.

The faculty, staff and alumni of Gordon Conwell have always impressed me in the brightness of their minds, the warmth of their hearts and the devoted service of their hands. I can only say that having spent two days with the Gordon Conwell Faculty, my respect and affection for such an extraordinary group of scholars has only increased. We were graciously invited by Vice President for Academic Affairs; and Dean of Hamilton Campus; Dr. Richard Lints to address the faculty on the matter of faith and work as well as how the local church and seminary might collaborate more effectively in the training of a new generation of clergy through a local church-based teaching hospital model.

I greatly enjoyed getting to know Gordon Conwell’s president, Dr. Dennis Hollinger and his kind and gracious wife, Mary Ann. An unexpected delight was meeting Mrs. Joanna Mockler whose warmth of spirit and generous investment has endowed the The Mockler-Phillips Chair in Workplace Theology and Business Ethics. I also enjoyed seeing again Dr. David Gill who gives very capable and enthusiastic leadership to the Mockler Center for Faith and Work. While many Evangelical seminaries are beginning to embrace the vital importance of better connecting Sunday to Monday, Gordon Conwell is setting the pace.

IMG_0373

Our Gracious Hosts–Richard & Ann Lints

Dr. Richard Lints and his wife Ann were the consummate hosts offering us the finest Christian hospitality imaginable. While we began these few days together as warm acquaintances, we said goodbye as friends. Liz and I were also able to take a day after the faculty retreat to enjoy some fun exploration of Cape Cod. While I speak a great deal about how our work matters, I also believe rest matters too. God created us for both.

The BallPark That David Built

IMG_0337

PNC Park In Pittsburgh

I can’t remember a day devoted to the conversation of faith and work that was more seamless than the one I recently had in Pittsburgh with my gifted friend and Christ Community member David Greusel. David is the architect who designed PNC Park which is considered by many as the most beautiful baseball park in America.

We were in Pittsburgh for the Redeeming Work conference where both clergy and marketplace leaders gathered at PNC Park for a day of thoughtful conversation about faith, work and seeking the common good of a city. I had the privilege of giving a talk on why neighborly love involves both Christ-like compassion and economic capacity. I also enjoyed doing an interview with David Greusel and my friend Skye Jethani regarding how local churches can nurture more healthy cultures and better equip their congregations in their every day life and vocational callings.

IMG_0349

David leads the tour of PNC Park

Truly the most exciting part of a very full day was experiencing David Greusel giving a breathtaking tour of PNC Park. Getting a personal tour of a building as grand as PNC Park from the lead designer was a rare experience for all of us and we gained a greater appreciation of all the thought and intention that goes into designing a gathering space for human flourishing and the common good of a city.

IMG_0353

Skye Jethani and David Greusel at PNC Park

We also had the opportunity to hear Pirates manager Clint Hurdle tell his story of faith in Christ as well as insights from his vocational calling in professional baseball.

Our day of conversation was topped off with a beautiful starlit evening to take in a Pittsburgh Pirates game. Though I am a true Kansas City Royals fan, I was pleased the Pirates broke a 5 game losing streak. There are a lot of wonderful people and things to see in Pittsburgh including the ballpark David Greusel built. Thanks David for your good work!

Get A (Real) Summer Job

Tom Nelson

With the winding down of the school year many teenagers are planning out their best possible summer adventures. So what decision matrix will guide these young men and women as they approach those hazy crazy days of summer? In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Get A (Real)Summer Job, Dave Shiflett looks back to his own summer job experience and challenges parents of an emerging generation to think more positively about the importance of exposing their children to less than glamorous summer work.

Highlighting the many invaluable life lessons offered by a hard-working summer job, Dave Shiflett writes, “…there is value in recalling the grit and glory of traditional summer work, which has taught generations of teenagers important lessons about life, labor and even their place in the universe–which turned out to be no where as close to the center of the universe as we had imagined.” 

While I applaud the many exciting summer opportunities available to teenagers today, I believe Dave Shiflett is speaking a word of wisdom into our current cultural context. My own summer experiences of working long and hard and often thankless hours in a fast food restaurant during my teenage years was one of the most formative experiences of my life as well as one of the most impacting laboratories for my character and leadership development. While my main goal as a teenager was expanding my bank account balance, what I didn’t realize at the time was how my summer employment was expanding my personal maturity. Perhaps the ancient writer of Proverbs offers us some timeless wisdom. “In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.”  

In addition to fun summer vacations and enriching travel, perhaps getting some dirt under our teenager’s fingers, or having them wait on difficult customers or encouraging some beads of sweat on their brows is one of the best ways we can make their summer a profitable one.

The Sun Is Shining At Biola University

IMG_0238

Laguna Beach, California

Southern California is known for its warm sunshine and beautiful beaches, but recently I discovered some fine work going on there too. I was invited by my friend Dr. Scott Rae, Dean of Faculty of Talbot School of Theology to give the annual Robert Saucy Lecture Series. Dr. Scott Rae had asked me to speak on the crucial importance of embracing a more robust theology of vocation within the seminary experience and curriculum. In addition to the seminary chapel addresses, I also had the joy of speaking to the Talbot faculty regarding my own seminary experience. I wanted these dedicated and esteemed scholars to consider an important corrective that I believe is needed in our seminaries to better prepare pastors to be more faithful in their pastoral vocation.

It was a delight to meet so many of the outstanding Talbot faculty and to sense their openness to consider some possible changes in their teaching and curriculum. Reconnecting with Dr. Don Sunukjian who was a homiletics professor at Dallas Seminary when I was a student was a special joy. Over the years, Dr. Sunukjian has profoundly shaped many seminarians in communicating effectively God’s Word.

IMG_0224

Biola President, Dr. Corey and Talbot Dean of Faculty Dr. Rae

Another highlight was the privilege of speaking at the undergraduate chapel of Biola University. On a day devoted to campus-wide prayer, I was delighted to give a message on prayer from Isaiah chapter 61. It was a privilege to meet and serve with Biola President Dr.Corey. I found the Biola students, intellectually curious, spiritually engaged and warmly welcoming.

The sunny Southern California hospitality will always be a treasured memory. Dr. Scott Rae and his lovely wife Sally were the consummate hosts including a magnificent dinner watching the brilliant sunset over Laguna Beach. Biola University is a beautiful place, but also a special place doing a great work.

Facing Matters Of The Heart

As a pastor it is not uncommon for me to spend time visiting parishioners who are hospitalized, but this week I made a hospital visit of another kind. I went to the University of Kansas Medical Center to learn about the work of a member of Christ Community, Dr. Matt Earnest whose vocational calling is an interventionist cardiologist.

Dr. Matt Earnest

For several hours I had the privilege of shadowing and observing Dr. Earnest and his highly skilled medical team as they diagnosed and performed delicate procedures aimed at arresting heart disease and extending the length and quality of life of fellow image bearers of God. During every procedure, Dr. Earnest coached younger physicians who were observing and learning from him as they continued their medical training to become board certified cardiologists. Observing this hands on training and coaching by Dr. Earnest reminded me how much the training of younger pastors would be improved if we had more churches like Christ Community that embraced a teaching hospital model and were committed to pastoral residencies.

IMG_0204

Connecting Sunday To Monday

It was also a delight to observe the gentle and Christlike bedside manner Dr. Earnest displayed with patients and their families. When facing matters of the heart, patients and family members inevitably come face to face with their own mortality. On one occasion, as Dr. Earnest introduced me as his pastor, a worried family member asked me if I would pray. As we prayed a sense of peace flooded the hospital room and I could not help but marvel at the seamlessness of the moment where work and worship were truly one reality.

I left Kansas University Medical Center thanking God for the privilege of serving parishioners like Dr. Earnest who are deeply committed to connect Sunday worship with their Monday work. I am most grateful to Dr. Earnest and his highly competent team for their wonderful hospitality and willingness to endure my myriad of questions. I think we were all amazed I didn’t even feel light-headed once with all the needles and blood. Dr. Matt keep up the great work!

A Little Neighborly Love In Boston

Tom's TED Talk In Boston

TED Talk In Boston

In October I was privileged to be in Boston for the Faith@Work Summit. A wide variety of Christian leaders from the academy, the church and the marketplace gathered to consider the current progress in what is being called the faith at work movement. The format of the summit consisted of a variety of TED style talks on various aspects of the integration of faith and work. The TED talks from the Faith@Work Summit are now available. The leaders of the Faith@Work Summit are planning to publish a book based on the TED talks that were given. I am hopeful that the forthcoming book will be a helpful resource for many in better connecting Sunday to Monday.

At the summit, I spoke on the importance of rethinking Jesus’ teaching on The Great Commandment focusing on the need to understand neighborly love not only in terms of Christlike compassion, but also economic capacity.  For a pastor who usually gets 35 minutes for a sermon, being limited to speak only 15 minutes was quite the challenge, but hopefully it will move the national conversation forward on a matter of significant importance.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/116314037″>Neighborly Love: Why Both Compassion and Capacity Matter | Tom Nelson</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/centerfaithwork”>CenterFaithWork</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>Neighborly Love: Why Both Compassion and Capacity Matter | Tom Nelson from CenterFaithWork on Vimeo.

Is Motherhood A Job?

Tom Nelson

One of my biggest surprises since Work Matters was published is the number of stay-at-home mom’s who have expressed their heartfelt appreciation for reframing work as contribution and not merely compensation. In a world with many increasing good choices for women to make a vocational contribution, there still lingers a great deal of foggy confusion regarding the good work stay-at-home mom’s do each and every day in the rough and tumble vicissitudes of domestic life.

Perhaps this is why I was so delighted to read a recent article by Rachel Lu, entitled, In 2015, Resolve To Stop Comparing Motherhood To A Job. I don’t know Rachel Lu’s worldview or faith commitments, but she is making an important point we all need to hear. Rachel makes the persuasive case that motherhood shouldn’t be thought of as a job or seen through the myopic lens of career development or job analysis. For even if we attempt to bolster stay-at-home mom’s with terms like Domestic CEO or Household Engineer we are setting ourselves up to actually diminish the vocational calling of motherhood and the important and invaluable contribution they make to the common good.

Rachel asserts that in our society we must broaden our understanding of valuable work. She astutely writes, “But motherhood is not a job. It’s a vocation and a way of life. Some women who stay home to raise their children could succeed brilliantly in careers, but they value something else more than money or worldly success.” Rachel is not taking to task mom’s who go back to their jobs, but what she advocates for is a badly needed cultural attitude change about mom’s who choose to stay home and raise their children. Rachel puts it this way, “In any case, we certainly should not stand for the prejudice that at-home mothers are little more than unpaid janitors. Just because they aren’t paid for their expertise doesn’t mean they don’t have any.”

As thoughtful people who embrace God’s design for human flourishing let’s affirm and applaud Rachel’s remarkable cultural insight. Let’s stop calling the work stay-at-home mom’s or stay-at-home dad’s do, a job. Instead let’s refer to these important contributions as vocational callings affirming that human work is measured by much more than compensation. As we embark on a New Year, may we enthusiastically affirm the important callings and contributions stay-at-home mom’s and stay-at-home dad’s make each and every day. While jobs are really important, let’s remember we are all called from cradle to grave to Glorify God and make a contribution to the common good whether or not we receive a paycheck.