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Agents 246Agents of Flourishing - pursuing shalom in every corner of society

From a talk at Q Ideas

In her book called 'Agents of Flourishing - pursuing shalom in every corner of society', Amy Sherman has written about how we as believers, both individually and corporately, can be agents of shalom or people of peace, who contribute to the flourishing of their communities. Here is a summary of her talk:

It's a very positive book because it has a lot of stories about what Christians in the past and some churches today are doing in terms of bringing greater Shalom into their communities. I hope the book will be a big encouragement to believers or just reminding us all the rich legacy of the Christian Church and the enormous contributions it has made over the centuries to human flourishing.

I especially want young Christians. who feel disillusioned with the church or who feel that the church is irrelevant or that it is tone deaf to the issues of the day, to be encouraged by the contemporary stories that I tell about how different churches are addressing educational inequities, or advancing restorative justice, pursuing racial reconciliation in their communities, seeking to promote the arts.

On the other hand, it does voice a lament, which is simply that these positive stories I tell about churches today are unfortunately not the norm. These churches are kind of outliers. I desperately wish that that wasn't the case. We have in the church an enormous amount of latent capital, financial capital, human capital, social capital, that has not been activated for the common good.

I find myself encouraged by younger church, pastors and planters, because they tell me that they want their churches to be Jeremiah 29v7 churches. That text of course is familiar to many of us. It's the text where God calls his people who are in exile in Babylon, to pray for and seek the peace and prosperity the shalom of Babylon. This theme of God calling his people to be his hands and feet in the world to honour and glorify Him by pursuing Shalom in every corner of society to glorify God. By being salt and light in the world, Loving their neighbours. Comprehensively pursuing spiritual, relational, economic, physical, mental Shalom for themselves and for their neighbours.

Of course that does beg important questions which are, "What does a flourishing community actually look like? How should we be thinking about how to advance the shalom, the peace and prosperity of our communities?"

I have found a framework from the Thriving Cities group called the Human Ecology Framework to be a really helpful tool when it comes to answering that question. This framework argues that in order for a community to be truly flourishing, it needs to be strong in six realms or domains of society. These are:

  1. The True: The Realm of Human Knowledge. Resources & Practices: Research, innovation, teaching, transfer of knowledge, cultural and historical preservation, etc.
  2. The Good: The Realm of Social Mores & Ethics. Resources & Practices: Parenting, early childhood development, moral formation, charitable giving, volunteering, community conversation, etc.
  3. The Beautiful: The Realm of Aesthetics. Resources & Practices: Design of the built environment, city planning, public art, festivals, cultural entertainment, creative placemaking, etc.
  4. The Prosperous: The Realm of Economic Life. Resources & Practices: Work, investment, capital exchange, land development, philanthropy, production/consumption, technology, innovation, etc.
  5. The Just & Well-Ordered: The Realm of Political & Civic Life. Resources & Practices: Political deliberation, civic engagement, law and order, community organizations, protest/demonstration, city planning, zoning, etc.
  6. The Sustainable: The Realm of Natural Environment. Resources & Practices: Management of energy and land, air quality, public/human health, environmental regulations and advocacy, emission, waste, sanitation, etc.

As I studied what the Scriptures had to say about human and community flourishing, I saw an enormous amount of resonance between what the Bible has to say about flourishing, and this frameworks conception of flourishing and these six domains. God obviously cares about work. He made us creative beings like himself and gave us various senses. He cares about the realm of the beautiful and the aesthetic life. God made us intellectual beings and gave us curiosity. He cares about the realm of the true, the realm of of knowledge and learning, and God is a God of justice.

I was encouraged to learn that throughout the church's history, Christians and coalition's of Christians and congregations have been both thought leaders and pioneering implementers in each of these six domains of society. It reminds us of what we are here for. We have God's mission to extend his kingdom of shalom into every corner of our societies. This Framework can help us live into this call of Jeremiah 29v7, by giving us some handholds for that work of community flourishing. It helps us to think where to invest our efforts. For example, if a congregation is particularly populated by a lot of people who work in the healthcare field, that may be a clue that God wants that congregation to especially focus its efforts in the realm of the sustainable or if the church is filled with educators, then that mihgt be the true.
This call is not supplemental. It is not incidental. It is central to our faith. It is central to the church's mission. I believe that God has placed into our hands what we need for living into that mission and these can be strategically and effectively deployed for the peace and prosperity of your community.

Listen to the full 15 min talk here.

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From a talk at Q Ideas, 03/01/2023

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