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The International Theology of Work Grant Team Reflects on the Panama Conference

I’ve gone to lots of conferences.  Sometimes they are tailored for inspiration, sometimes for information, sometimes for indoctrination, sometimes for integration---of peers and ideas. 

The ICETE Conference held on the plush beaches of Playa Bonita, Panama, this November, had some of all of this, but with a supreme purpose of struggling with one singular theme---“How do we address the ‘secular-sacred’ divide that has seduced many evangelical Christians into posturing a religious bent on one day of the week, or consigning Christian professionals into the metaphoric airline “first class” of evangelism while lay people are relegated to the “economy class” of so-called “secular occupations”

ICETE, deciphered, is the International Council of Evangelical Theological Education that brings together hundreds of bible colleges and seminaries that are networked into a dozen or so formal accrediting associations, that extend around the world   The conference itself meets every three years to tackle a contemporary theme.   This year, 460 theological academics, book publishers, and Christian trainers gathered, representing 75 nations, and over 200 institutions to tackle this very contemporary theme.

Drs. Oladotun Reju and Fletcher Tink - TOW Team
Dr Oladotun Reju of Jos, Nigeria and I, a North American, teaching in the Philippines, shared the key address on the first day to introduce our commission to teach “Theology of Work” and “Business Ethics” in many venues in Africa, Asia and beyond, thanks to the financial grants of Mustard Seed Foundation.   Using the metaphor of “Left-Handed Warriors” (Judges 20:16), as a motif similar to “lay people”,  we reviewed the theological premises of “work”, noting that God introduces Himself as a worker, and then creates human beings to expand on His work as the meaningful basis of worship.  We talked about the “Creation Mandate” of Genesis 1 and 2, that stands equal with the “Redemptive Mandate” of the New Testament.   We discussed the profound influence of the Theology of Work initiative as presented by Mustard Seed Foundation, noting that it is now eleven years old, and allows us to teach in some of the most restricted countries of the world.  Within the joint presentation, a theological framework was offered, and numerous resources referenced.  Our own participation from many countries fed case studies into the address. To see our presentation, click here.

We noted that the MSF TOW program has awarded 414 grants to institutions that have engaged 59 lecturers and professors, in sessions have exposed 55,000 participants to the themes. 

However, a new major shift in the allotment of grant funds was introduced, encouraging local ICETE-related organizations to find qualified teachers who would be mentored by core MSF-assigned professors, tutored through a formal course, in an arrangement that would credentialize them to receive scholarship funding, and a commission to formally teach these courses under Mustard Seed auspices.   A detailed description of this new initiative was made available to all participants and can be downloaded here.

Overall, there were ten “take-aways” for me from the five days in Panama.

New Focus

 Mustard Seed Foundation, in conjunction with Bakke Graduate University, has made the decision to focus a significant part of the TOW grant program to resource and train ICETE School faculty to integrate TOW (Faith and Work) concepts into their curriculum. 

The course: How to Teach Marketplace Ministry in Your School offered by Bakke Graduate University and the International Theology of Work Grant Program for Seminary professors will help facilitate this transfer the knowledge of TOW from the classroom to the street.

 The pilot class will begin January 14, 2019and conclude on March 10, 2019

How to Enroll

TO ENROLL IN THIS BGU COURSE, go to https://www.bgu.edu/about/ contact-us/to fill out a short application. When you get to the message box at the end of the application type in: 

  • The name of the ICETE School where you are teaching. 
  • The country where that school is located. 
  • The discipline of study you currently teach at the school. 

The class is limited to 25 people.

Our Invitation

We invite ICETE Schools to participate in sending their faculty members to take part in the course.

See details about costs and MSF granting here.

The plan is to work with three regions a year for each of the next three years. In 2019 we would focus on: 

  • ACTEA-The Association for Christian Theological Education in Africa 
  • ATA-Asian Theological Association 
  • E-AAA-Euro-Asian Accrediting Association 
  • Schools from other ICETE regions are welcome to take this course as well if there is room in the course.

If they have any question, contact:

Lowell Bakke - Director International Theology of Work Grant Program


Direct Phone Number: 214-347-8420

New Resources in Spanish

These are the Theology of Work/Faith & Work books available in Spanish. For each book, hover on the book cover and click on "Read book description" to learn more or to purchase the book. We will be adding more Spanish resources as they become available. These books are also listed in the Resources page.