"It's rare to have an opportunity to be able to help members of your congregation to inhabit their vocation as part of a Kingdom calling, much less work with other church leaders to strategize how to transform your church and community. Psalm 104 gave us an opportunity to do both." -Russ Gunsalus
On September 17-19, 2015, The Wesleyan Church facilitated the Psalm 104 Conference with support from the Kern Family Foundation. Located in Battle Creek, Michigan, twenty-nine churches attended with two laypeople from their congregations. Psalm 104 aimed to answer one crucial question: "How do we foster ministry that inculcates faith, work, and economics to produce human flourishing?"
Russ Gunsalus iterated the importance of the event for deepening The Wesleyan Church's commitment to train congregations on work as a Kingdom of God calling: "It's easy to make the pitch for evangelism or discipleship ministries; it's not always simple to do the same with congregational training on economics. However it is of critical importance because vocational stewardship is crucial to a biblically grounded understanding of both evangelism and discipleship. If we believe in the God-given dignity of work, we're responsible to help congregants see how their work contribute to human flourishing."
"If we believe in the God-given dignity of work, we're responsible to help congregations see their jobs as Kingdom-building activity."
Psalm 104 hosted renowned speakers like Ron Blue, Ken Schenck, Elizabeth Knox, Bob Doll, and Christopher Brooks. The final session provided guidance to help congregations understand grant opportunities for the congregations represented. "It's rare to have strategy-building opportunities that help congregations see their vocations as part of a Kingdom calling. The Kern Family foundation gave us that opportunity by funding this event. The speakers touched our hearts and moved our minds, providing new ways to achieve The Wesleyan Church's vision to transform lives, churches, and communities with the hope and holiness of Jesus Christ," Gunsalus reflected.
While the event featured renowned speakers, Psalm 104 was far from just an informational session; it was a springboard for long-term change. Represented churches were encouraged to apply for a Kern Family Foundation training grant, which are awarded to churches displaying commitment to train their congregations on faith, work, and economics. For now, these grants are offered only to churches in attendance at the Psalm 104 event. A projected 50% of churches were expected to work towards a grant. To date, an inspiring 75% of the churches who attended the event have engaged significantly in pursuing one of these grants.
Each church walked away with new strategies to leverage career, calling, and community engagement as agents of change in their communities. As The Wesleyan Church and The Kern Family Foundation continue to partner around faith, work, and economics, pray for your church to become a center of human flourishing—propelled by integration of faith, work, and economics.
Also: if you're interested in seeing how your church could leverage faith work, and economics for human flourishing, find resources at MadeToFlourish.org.
"The Psalm 104 conference invited us into deeper conversations and community with those in the Church that are truly seeking to live out a holistic Gospel that engages all of life with a Kingdom worldview that integrates faith and work. This was an unexpected gift that has led to the opportunity to journey with others forming new relationships, new resources, and inviting us out of what felt like an isolated existence as a church that had been living and leading in this space for the past few years. I am truly thankful to find others to learn from and to count as co-laborers moving forward."
- Local Church Participant Brian Bennett
"The Psalm 104 Conference served as a catalyst for us to dialogue with a few in our congregation about how we can be more aggressive in our campaign to revitalize our community. We've had several conversations since the conference, talking about specific initiatives and programs designed to empower the laity, and to strengthen the families in our community."
-Local Church Participant Steve DeNeff.
Ethan Linder is a staff writer for Education and Clergy Development. A fresh graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, Ethan and his wife Sarah currently live in Marion, Indiana--where Ethan is pursuing a Masters' Degree in Christian Ministries from IWU, and Sarah is a teacher. When he's not writing, Ethan enjoys reading, listening to music, studying cultures, running, and following the Philadelphia Phillies.