Category Archives: economics

A Time for Repentance and Reflection

In the wake of the events following the murder of George Floyd, Made to Flourish issues the following statement. I think it is a clear, fair, and wise expression and I hope you will pass it on.

We join a chorus of voices in the unequivocal condemnation of the brutal killing of George Floyd, which followed the recent tragic killings of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. Of course, these are only the most recent examples among the long scourge of institutional and systemic racism and brutality against black and brown brothers and sisters who bear God’s image. We lament in the fullest biblical sense the injustice that has been perpetrated towards people of color which events like the killing of George Floyd continue to expose.

Above all, our righteous God is angered by injustice. And because the church is the visible representation of his voice and work in our world—the body of Christ—the church has a responsibility to offer prophetic critique and model a new way forward. Many churches have understood this calling, especially among our African American brothers and sisters. For many others, there is much work that needs to be done, undergirded by humble listening and sincere repentance. Corporately, we confess not only our sins of commission, in ways that the church has been complicit in racism, but also our sins of omission, as we have not loved justice and sought change that is consistent with God’s character and will.

As an organization, we exist to empower pastors and their churches to integrate faith, work, and economic wisdom, for the flourishing of their communities. Safe to say, our communities are not flourishing, and they haven’t been even long before the unrest of these past few weeks. Why? In part, we believe that the church has not been all that it is called to be in society. We say this not merely as a critique, but in humility, realizing that we have not embraced the totality of God’s mission in our world, the reconciliation of all things to himself, which entails reconciliation to one another.

While there are many ways to frame our current moment, one could say that our current crisis is a crisis of work, vocation, and economics. How will the people of God respond and live in their work environments? Will city government workers seek to build bridges in their communities? Will police chiefs and departments continue to inspect every system and incentive that leads to injustice? Will workers in unions not only protect their own but also embrace accountability? Will pastors and churches seek unity and partnerships, first among themselves, and also among the many non-profit, governmental, and for-profit companies engaging in redemptive work in our cities? Will each individual recognize and act on their responsibility to seek the common good of all in their community?

And of course, economics. Much has been written on the racial wealth disparities in our country, and how they undergird many of the challenges we face in our communities. The causes are myriad, some as old as the founding of our country. But how might the church embrace and call for expanding economic opportunity, rooting out bias in hiring and promoting, support for those looking for jobs, expanding access to social and financial capital, and calling for equal pay for equal work? In the model of sphere sovereignty, the institutional church is not always or even usually the final actor. But the scattered church, followers of Jesus deployed in every sphere of society, bring the aroma of Christ wherever they work.

We long for churches, alongside so many other important initiatives, to embrace the integration of faith, with work, and economic wisdom, for the flourishing of their communities. And we need to hear your stories of creative response and engagement. God’s Spirit is not done with his church. Through repentance and in humility, the church plays a central role in God’s redemptive plan, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.

We end by praying for justice in our communities, that God’s justice would be made known in our cities where there has been rampant injustice. We pray for peace, not merely the absence of conflict, but the holistic flourishing of our communities under the reign of God. We pray for conviction in the face of our apathy and the seeming entropy of our concern. And we pray for hope, among what seems like a hopeless situation. Our God is more than able.

“And now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

A Peaceful Revolution in Discipleship: Living in 5-D

Praying for a peaceful revolution in Christian discipleship, with millions of “ordinary” believers awakening to God’s presence and power in the midst of daily life. It is possible to enjoy God, become more whole, have healthy relationships, live with purpose, and do today’s tasks as worship. We have more resources than ever before for growth, but often see believers living emaciated lives. We need a fresh vision of “normal” that can inspire hope and propel institutional and personal transformation. Thank God for all our fine pastors and good resources. But there is an “Aha!” moment that must capture our imaginations for real progress.

Here is the revolutionary key: reconceiving the Christian life in terms of dimensions and outcomes instead of categories and classes is the key to fruitfulness. Sermons and Sunday schools, Bible studies and small groups, online and print programs: all of these are the means to a desired end, not the end in themselves! Check out this special Assessment for further understanding: www.discipleshipdynamics.com.

Life is dimensional and integrated, not just a “to do list” of boxes to be checked (yes, it is good to order our day’s activities!). The challenge for each person is understanding what “there” looks like. In other words, what are we aiming for, in principled and practical terms? Hebrews 13:7 offers this advice: “Consider the outcome of their (spiritual leaders) way of life and imitate their faith (both belief and action).” The next verse says, “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.”

Being a follower of Christ means imitation Jesus’ attitudes and actions, dispositions and disciplines, with a desire to love God, love our neighbor and make more disciples from every culture. What does this look like in real life? There are five dimensions to our lives that are all part of God’s plan and therefore they are all “spiritual” there is no sacred/secular divide, no separation of Sunday ecstasies and Monday’s ethics. Here are the five dimensions:

  • Loving God with all our being: enjoying and growing in intimacy with the Trinity. This is true spiritual formation and includes all the classical disciples of prayer and Bible study, church attendance and Sabbath-rest, etc.
  • Personal wholeness is an organic fruit of true intimacy with God. We lean to overcome our painful history with hope, manage our negative emotions, see ourselves as loved by God, forgive others and discover inner peace.
  • Healthy relationships are the implication of “loving our neighbor as ourselves.” This include healthy boundaries, sexual purity, good friendships and much more…think of all the great “one another” texts of the Bible.
  • Vocational clarity is the fulfillment of Ephesians 2:10: we are designed for a purpose and we are always more than our current job. Knowing our natural and spiritual gifts, the dignity of our labor and serving with humility should inform our lives daily.
  • All of these dimensions are worked out as we live in a world of economics and work each day! Whether paid or unpaid, labor or leadership, private or public, almost everyone spends their waking hours actively doing something. This is not our secular life nor are our activities merely a means to an end…our work matters to God.

Imagine millions of God-fearing friends awakening to the fullness of God’s intentions and offering all daily activity as worship to God. Imagine seamless integration of evangelism and compassion, for-profit and non-profit efforts, and prayer and the pursuit of justice. A peaceful and powerful revolution indeed.

Rightly Ordered Loves, Part 1 Understanding Our Challenges

In these contentious days, it is hard for voices of sanity to be heard about the name-calling and ideological noise. In this four-part series, I want to present a new vision and voice for public dialogue that offers hope for both peaceful engagement and prudential solutions to our seemingly intractable problems.

It is my conviction that underneath all the anger and insults are disordered human affections. Our “loves” are confused. “Passion” has replaced principle and emotions seem to triumph over ethics. When politicians argue that, “facts do not matter if you are moral” we have a serious confusion of categories, a loss of critical thinking, and signs of inner chaos.

Ancient sages often speak of at least four kinds of love: familial bonds, brotherly/sisterly affections, the comradery of soldiers and workers, and romantic attractions. Whether the stories come from China or Greece, Africa or India, such affections and their proper ethics are universal.

There is another type of love that the Hebrew Scriptures and Christian theology have brought to the world: the covenantal love of the Almighty (Hebrew: hesed) the unconditional and self-donating agape love embodied in the person and work of Jesus. This altruistic, holy, and sacrificial love helps all other loves find their proper place. Familial and friendship love are now rooted in sacrifice, and comradeship is more than suffering together – it can take on nobility. And erotic attractions – powerful as they are – have boundaries of behavior and loyalty.

So much of contemporary confusion comes from eros overtaking agape and the perversion of other categories that arises when self-fulfillment overtakes service. Whether it is sexual attractions and actions, economic policies, political discourse, or cultural expression, disordered loves subvert the common good and leave everyone ultimately impoverished.

We need visions and voices rooted in agape that considers others before self, and refines actions according to their long-term consequences and not immediate power and success. Stay tuned for the applications of agape to the challenges of our day. There is hope – but not in the lowest denominator of human passion, but the highest aspirations arising from the image of God in humankind.