The Fellows Initiative
Micah 6:8 Conference: Digging deep into God’s timeless mandate
by David Calhoun and Evan Norfleet
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? -- Micah 6:8
In a year that has brought many changes and challenges to our daily rhythms, the words of Micah 6:8 provided a familiar foundation for The Fellows Initiative’s annual Micah 6:8 Conference.
More than 200 fellows across the country joined one another in virtual and socially distant settings to consider not only the charge of Micah 6:8, but to wrestle with issues embedded in injustice, racism, poverty, and power through the lens of individual stories tied to the Kingdom of God. This blog post is a brief update on the conference, including some of the reactions from fellows.
The time of discussion with my fellows class gave me a safe and encouraging space to wrestle with tough questions regarding what it means to do kingdom work in the world. We had the opportunity to pursue the heart of God and of each other. – Nikki Sullivan, Atlanta City Fellows Class of 2021
The Fellows community had the privilege of hearing from three distinguished guest speakers: John Richmond—Ambassador-at-large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Denine Blevins—Executive Director of Parakaleo, and Dr. Brian Fikkert—Founder and President of the Chalmers Center for Economic Development at Covenant College. Each of these speakers brought their own unique experiences to the event to show fellows how Micah 6:8 can and should be lived out in our current context.
Setting the Stage: Walking Humbly with God
To open the retreat, John Richmond spoke powerfully about how walking humbly with God is the foundation for living out the command to do justice and love mercy. If we better understand our standing in God’s eyes, which is both that of mist (James 4:14) and beloved children (Galatians 3:26), we are able to take ourselves less seriously and take God more seriously.
Christ-centered humility is the foundation for doing justice and loving mercy as a spiritual act of worship done without fear and full of hope. Although we are undeserving on our own, Christ’s life, death, and resurrection enables to stand humbly before God, recognizing that we are his beloved.
I can't mess up enough for God to leave me or not want to use me for His purpose. – Carly New, Muncie Fellows Class of 2021
Kingdom v. Empire Mindset in Racial Reconciliation
Denine Blevins gave the fellows a personally and Biblically rooted framework for seeking justice and mercy in the area of racism. To better fight the complicated ways racism manifests itself we need to seek a “Kingdom” mindset in our posture towards privilege, power, racism, and allyship. All Christians must seek out those who are different from them by fleeing from partiality, entering uncomfortable conversations, using our power to come alongside those with less, and remaining open to different perspectives.
She contrasted the “Kingdom” mindset that stands opposed to the far too prevalent “Empire” mindset that embraces sinful partiality, retreats from uncomfortable conversations, uses power out of self-righteousness, and judges those with different perspectives than their own. Denine’s words gave the fellows a mental framework to guide us along the patient and Christ centered path of being a part of the redemption of racism in this world.
I need to ask myself daily whether I am operating in an “Empire” mindset or a “Kingdom” mindset and for God to grant me the humility to do so. – Nick Kokoropoulos, Memphis Fellows Class of 2021
Biblically Holistic Approach to Poverty
Finally, Dr. Fikkert, detailed the ways Christians can fight poverty by sticking to a holistic Biblical narrative. The Bible calls us to pursue both the King (Jesus as salvation for sinners) and the Kingdom (the restoration of creation). Without a well-developed understanding of how God is calling us to seek the establishment of the kingdom of God right now, the cultural narrative of Western naturalism can become our model of happiness. This leads to material handouts to the poor or promotion of economic empowerment as our primary solutions to poverty.
Since our heart, soul, mind, and body are beautifully integrated, material wealth is not a guarantee that someone is flourishing. For true poverty alleviation to occur the flourishing of the whole person needs to be considered. This means that we should seek to serve the poor not only by helping materially or spiritually, but also by encouraging rich community. Jesus didn’t just feed or teach the poor but he also broke bread with them and invited them into relationship with him. Christ’s example should inspire us to develop meaningful community with the poor as a primary means to fight poverty.
I hope to live out Dr. Fikkert's holistic approach to poverty alleviation by remembering to want the King AND the Kingdom. – Carly New, Muncie Fellows Class of 2021
As fellows move forward with our year it is important for us to continue reflecting on these talks and the rich discussions that followed them. The overarching exhortation to pursue justice and mercy while remaining humble before God set the stage for a lifelong journey. Because of what we explored at the conference, this journey is not a reluctant one, “but a gift to be enjoyed” – Nick Kokoropoulos of Memphis Fellows.
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