A Prestigious Grant Awarded To Our Work

The Davenant Institute has received a large grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help establish “Congregational Life in a Digital Age.”

The project is being funded through Lilly Endowment’s Thriving Congregations Initiative. The aim of the initiative is to encourage the flourishing of congregations by helping them deepen their relationships with God, enhance their connections with each other, and contribute to the vitality of their communities and the world.

We have been in the digital age for some time now. Yet despite its mounting challenges and ever changing nature, orthodox Christian writers and theologians are steadily producing works which meet those challenges and pin down key principles for the church to thrive within it. There is yet hope for faithful Christian presence in the days ahead.

The trouble is, there is often a gap between these great thinkers and those who are most in a position to shepherd the average Christian through our digital age: our pastors and church leaders. With demanding schedules, and the day to day needs of church ministry, many pastors and leaders struggle to make the time to think about how to help people–including themselves–thrive in an era of digitally exacerbated individualism, misinformation, and anxiety.

“Congregational Life in a Digital Age” is a targeted, practical attempt to bridge the gap between pastoral ministry and the best Christian thinking on this vital topic.

The program will feature some of the best scholars and teachers at Davenant, including Brad Littlejohn, Colin Redemer, Joseph Minich, and Alastair Roberts, as well as visiting lecturers from our broader network. Over three years, it will bring together congregational leaders from across the western Carolinas for regular in-person retreats at Davenant House in Landrum, SC, with three goals in mind:

  • Phase 1 – Diagnosing Our Cultural Malaise: Through guided readings and discussions, participants will explore the cultural changes affecting their congregations, as well as how Christians in the past have responded to similarly seismic shifts in the past. Readings will be drawn from texts such as C.S. Lewis’s Abolition of Man, Oliver O’Donovan’s Begotten or Made?, Carl Trueman’s The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, and Neil Postman’s Technopoly.
  • Phase 2 – Application through Ministry: Participants will discuss how to practically apply the insights from these readings in their own church contexts. Each church will have the opportunity to apply for significant sub-grants to help them design and implement ministries that help congregants understand and address the challenges of living as a Christian in the digital age. 
  • Phase 3 – Analysis and Assessment: Working together as a cohort, participants will reflect on the lessons they have learned through implementing their ministries and create a set of principles and best practices that can be shared with congregations facing similar challenges, summarized in a short guide entitled Congregational Life in a Digital Age: A Toolkit for Pastors and Leaders.

Our President, Brad Littlejohn, comments on this prestigious grant:

The Davenant Institute has always been about retrieving Christian wisdom for the church. While much of our work involves the “retrieval” of historic sources, this is always done in service of the here and now, equipping people to see the intersection between historic Christianity and contemporary culture. Lilly Endowment’s support will enable Davenant to take this effort to the next level by developing a tailored program that uses the wisdom of the Christian tradition to address the unique challenges of living in a digital age—exploring topics such as the opportunities and drawbacks of online community, the addictive nature of social media, and the philosophical dilemmas related to the technologization of human life. 

The Davenant Institute is one of 105 organizations that has received grants through a competitive round of the Thriving Congregations Initiative. Reflecting a wide variety of Christian traditions, the organizations represent mainline Protestant, evangelical, Catholic, Orthodox, peace church and Pentecostal faith communities. 

“Congregations play an essential role in deepening the faith of individuals and contributing to the vitality of communities,” said Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “We hope that these programs will nurture the vibrancy and spark the creativity of congregations, helping them imagine new ways to share God’s love in their communities and across the globe.”

About Lilly Endowment Inc.

Lilly Endowment Inc. is a private foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly Sr. and his sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, it is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion and maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana. A principal aim of the Endowment’s religion grantmaking is to deepen and enrich the lives of Christians in the United States, primarily by seeking out and supporting efforts that enhance the vitality of congregations and strengthen the pastoral and lay leadership of Christian communities. The Endowment also seeks to improve public understanding of diverse religious traditions by supporting fair and accurate portrayals of the role religion plays in the United States and across the globe.