Category: Faith and work

leaders_edition_-_flow letters to exiles1The Acton Institute’s seven-part film series, For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles, was created for a wide-ranging Christian audience, whether Baptist or Catholic, Orthodox or Presbyterian. As Andy Crouch says in his review, “this series is marvelously catholic, in the small-c sense,” appealing across political and theological divides while still proclaiming a specific vision of creativity, beauty, and service in the Christian life.

But while the series is highly enjoyable for any viewer, it is particularly suited to more intimate explorations, whether in a college classroom or a church small group. Churches, colleges, discussion groups, and dinner parties have already been using it in this capacity. But now, in order to further empower such explorations, a special Leader’s Edition is now available.

Designed to equip leaders with tools and resources to navigate discussion and education around the themes of the series, the Leader’s Edition includes everything anyone would need to bring this resource to your community, whether to small-group discussions or even sermon bumpers or illustrations.

The Leader’s Edition includes the following:

  • DVD and Blu-ray — All 7 episodes of the film series are included in both formats.
  • Field Guide — This companion Field Guide jump-starts group and individual investigation and includes additional content to enhance the film experience.
  • Extras Disk — The extras disk includes many never-before-released digital resources including:
    • Digital Field Guide broken down into 7 episodes
    • One-page discussion guides for each episode
    • Digital files to help church promote a church-wide campaign or a screening event on social media or produce mailers, post cards, banners, flyers, bulletin inserts, PowerPoint slides, and radio spots.
    • Modular components — Each episode has 5-6 modular components (e.g. All Is Gift). We have lifted these out and put them on the extras disk to be used as teasers, event promoters, and/or sermon illustrations.

Watch the trailer below, and order your copy today(more…)

“We view autism as one of our key competitive advantages,” says Tom D’Eri of Rising Tide Car Wash in Parkland, Florida, which employs 43 employees, 35 of which are on the autism spectrum. “Our employees follow processes, they’re really excited to be here, [and] they have a great eye for detail.”

Hear more of their story here:

Among adults with autism, the unemployment rate is around 90%, and yet, if you were to ask D’Eri, whose brother has autism, the market is simply not recognizing the enormous potential and unique gifts these people possess. “Typically people with autism are really good at structured tasks, following processes, and attention to detail,” he says. “So we saw that there are really important skills that people with autism have that make them, in some cases, the best employees you could have.” (more…)

monkIn a lecture on markets and monasticism at Acton University, Dylan Pahman gave a fascinating overview and analysis of the interaction between Christian monasticism and markets. He’s written on this before and has a longer paper on the topic as well.

In the talk, he highlighted a range of facts and features, from monastic teachings on wealth and poverty to the historical realities of monastic communities and enterprises. Over the centuries, monasteries have contributed a host of products and services to civilization and culture, often countering the common assumption that all such communities are flatly against trade, production, and wealth creation.

One point that stood out in particular was Pahman’s summary of a recent study by Nathan Smith, in which Smith ponders how these communities have managed to succeed for so long, particularly given their many (internally) socialistic traits. According to one study, the average longevity of monasteries is 463 years(!), which is far longer than the lifespan of most companies and states, never mind your run-of-the-mill secular commune (Portlandia variations included).

There are a variety of forces that may contribute to this, including unique pressures of lifelong commitment, corresponding theological reinforcement, etc. But when it comes to some of the more universal traits that help monastic communities thrive, they may offer some lessons to help orient and affirm our broader thoughts about community in the context of work, trade, enterprise, and worship. (more…)

One day, while riding down the Colorado River, Amber Shannon suddenly realized her vocation. “I really wanted to row little wooden boats down big rapids with big canyon walls,” she says. “That was the life dream.”

Although it may sound impractical to some, tour guide John Shocklee calls being a boatman in the Grand Canyon “the most coveted job in the world.” “It’s definitely easier to get a PhD than it is to get a dory here in the Grand Canyon,” he says.

Learn more about Shannon’s story here:

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lonely-workerWhen it comes to free trade, critics insist that it hurts the American worker — kicking them while they’re down and slowly eroding the communal fabric of mom-and-pops, longstanding trades, and factory towns. Whether it comes from a politician, labor union, or corporate crony, the messaging is always the same: Ignore the long-term positive effects, and focus on the Capitalist’s conquest of the Other.

Trouble is, the basic logic of such thought leads straight back to the Self.

I recently made this point as it pertains to immigration, arguing that such notions of narrow self-preservation give way to our basest instincts and are bad for society as a whole. But it’s worth considering a bit more broadly, as well. For if the point is to defend the Small and the Local for the sake of The Great and Enduring Bubble of American Industry, at what point is this community of workers too big, too specialized, and too diversified for its own countrymen?

At what point are the Texans getting “unfair” growth compared to the Californians, or the Californians compared to the Oklahomians? If this is all as dim and zero-sum as we’re led to believe, what must we do to prevent our fellow productive citizens from harming their fellow countrymen via innovation and hard work? What bleak, self-centered reality dwells at the end of such logic? (more…)

new-york-cityLarge cities in the northeast like Boston, New York, Newark, Philadelphia, and so on, are often caricatured as wastelands of non-religious, unchurched, overtly secular theaters. Caricatures of this type seem odd given the fact that many of America’s oldest religious institutions are actively operating in those regions. One of my friends is quick to point out that every week people sit on church pews in northeastern churches that older than many states out west. For example, by looking at the Christian presence in the New York City area alone, research shows that the northeast might not be as religiously barren as many believe.

I recently contacted Tony Carnes, editor and publisher of A Journey through NYC Religions, to set the record straight on the New York City area. Since 2010, Carnes and his team have visited thousands of religious houses of worship, from all religious traditions cataloging the religious activity in New York City. In light of what he and his team have seen on the ground, Carnes has come to the conclusion that the best description of New York City is that it is a “post secular” city—a condition somewhere between a secular and sacred.
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alfonso-mechanicAlfonso was looking for a “fast life,” and as a result, he got mixed up in illegal drugs and landed in prison.

For many, that kind of thing might signal the beginning of a pattern or slowly define and distort one’s identity or destiny. But for Alfonso, it was a wake-up call.

While in prison, he began to realize who he really was, and more importantly, whose he really was. He began to understand that God created him to be a gift-giver, and that the work of his hands was a form of worship to his Creator.

When he was released, he started an automotive repair shop, where he continues to meet the needs of his community in a variety of ways, material, spiritual, and otherwise.

Hear more about his story here:

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globe-fabricIn Leonard Reed’s famous essay, “I, Pencil,” he highlights the extensive cooperation and collaboration involved in the assembly of a simple pencil — complex coordination that is quite miraculously uncoordinated.

Reed’s main takeaway is that, rather than try to stifle or control these creative energies, we ought to “organize society to act in harmony with this lesson,” permitting “these creative know-hows to freely flow.” In doing so, he concludes, we will continue to see such testimonies manifest — evidence for a faith “as practical as the sun, the rain, a cedar tree, the good earth.”

In his book, Work: The Meaning of Your Life, Lester DeKoster explores the theological aspect of this phenomenon, noting God’s grand design in these webs of service and exchange. For DeKoster, this “practical faith” points rather clearly to a Creator, and when we recognize it, we begin to see how His purposes might manifest through our work in ways out of our immediate control or humanistic intent.

Echoing Reed’s essay, DeKoster refers to this web of exchange as the “fabric of civilization,” stitched together with the “countless tiny threads” of human work, each dependent on the other, but each mysteriously guided by an independent source. (more…)

pentecost12Pentecost Sunday: The Holy Spirit comes with tongues of fire and an “incendiary community” is empowered for mission.

Pentecost is not the birth of the church. The church is conceived in the words and works of Jesus as he gathers followers and promises, “If any one is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believers in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (John 7:37-39)

The church is born when our Resurrected Lord appears to the fearful disciples and breathes new life into them and sends them out in mission (John 20:21-23).

There was one more moment to come in this drama of unveiling a missional people reflecting the manifold wisdom of God: empowerment for witness and the formation of heterogeneous communities of faith, hope, and love (Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:8). (more…)

Have you been inspired and influenced by the Acton Institute’s film series, For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles? What have you learned? How has it changed your perspective on work, culture, and whole-life discipleship?

As Evan Koons explains, we’re interested in hearing your stories:

Your story may get used in a blog post or a video, and if it does, you may even get some free stuff! (more…)