Imagine the scenarios: Now imagine a parade in the streets for each event. That's the vision of Proverbs 11:10, in which the --the people who see everything they have as gifts from God to be stewarded for his purposes--pursue their vocation with an eye to the greater good. Amy Sherman, director of the Center on Faith in Communities and scholar of vocational stewardship, uses the as a springboard to explore how, through our faith-formed calling, we announce the kingdom of God to our everyday world. But cultural trends toward privatism and materialism threaten to dis-integrate our faith and our work. And the church, in ways large and small, has itself capitulated to those trends, while simultaneously elevating the "special calling" of professional ministry and neglecting the vocational formation of laypeople. In the process, we have, in ways large and small, subverted our kingdom mandate. God is on the move, and he calls each of us, from our various halls of power and privilege, to follow him. Here is your chance, keeping this kingdom calling in view, to steward your faith and work toward righteousness. In so doing, you will bless the world, and as you flourish, the world will celebrate.
Kingdom Calling stands out as one of the best works on faith & vocation that I've come across. I read this as a part of a work book club, and am so glad I did. Amy Sherman does a lovely job giving both big picture vision & practical application. She doesn't fall into the pitfalls many books I've read on the topic have fallen into - her examples are diverse, her focus global, and she doesn't propose one-size-fits-all solutions for the problems she names.
Reading a woman on this topic was more refreshing than I can even put into words. Her work is grounded in a meta-narrative about the upside-down kingdom of Jesus, and highlights a stunning variety of ways people have put these kingdom values into practice across the world. She speaks quite a bit to churches & church leadership, but I felt it was still a really applicable read as an individual. It was well organized, well written, and thoughtfully done.
"Vocational Stewardship For the Common Good" was a perfect subtitle, as her book is really aimed at helping bring restoration and healing to our cities. I LOVED her emphasis on the call for Christians to use their vocational skills for the good of their neighbors - her approach was well-rounded and I believe would be palatable even to those skeptical to calls of social justice.
Highly recommend, very excited to read her forthcoming book, Agents of Flourishing, soon!
My expectations were so high for this book that I finished it deeply disappointed. Maybe I had already bought into the premise that the author belabors (we should use our vocations to bring foretastes of the Kingdom) before even picking up the book and wanted more ideas for how to do it.
I still can't answer the question about what the difference is between doing your job with excellence and stewarding your vocation for the Kingdom. At certain points in the book, it sounds like one and the same thing (i.e. Pathways 1 and 2 are "do your job well" and "do your job well in your free time for a good cause"). At other points it sounds like there is a big Other Way that can't be grasped or articulated, but even Pathways 3 and 4 don't really have a different foundation than "do your job well."
Dorothy Sayers' "Why Work" in her Letters to a Diminished Church makes the same argument (that our work matters whether it is "secular" or "spiritual") more succinctly and more clearly.
Kingdom Calling has a more thorough theological foundation and extensive anecdotes. Unfortunately, these anecdotes and theological truths (unless newly learned) do not make practicing Kingdom calling in one's own work any easier or more practicable.
I first read this book for my “Calling, Vocation and Work” class at Covenant Seminary a few summers ago. It was my favorite of the four books we had to read that week, and I’ve since read it a second time. In the book, the author discusses “vocational stewardship”, which she defines as “the intentional and strategic deployment of our vocational power-knowledge, platform, networks, position, influence, skills and reputation-to advance foretastes of God's kingdom.” She writes that for missional congregations that desire to rejoice their cities, vocational stewardship is an essential strategy. To accomplish their big vision, they need to capitalize intentionally on the vocational power of their members. This book is intended to help missional leaders do just that. While this is a book primarily for pastors and ministry leaders, the author’s hope is that these leaders will hand it out to individual congregants who are struggling to integrate their faith and work. The book is divided into three main sections: Part One: "Theological Foundations" provides the biblical underpinning for both the "foretaste-bringing" mission of the church and the strategy of vocational stewardship. Part Two: "Discipling for Vocational Stewardship" provides practical how-to guidance for church leaders. Part Three: “Pathways of Vocational Stewardship” gets into the meat of vocational stewardship. The author tells us that the average Christian professional sitting in the pew hears little from the pulpit or in Sunday school about how her life with God relates to her life at work. She states that we must do a better job of inspiring our members about the role they can play in the mission of God and equipping them to live missionally through their vocation. What I most enjoyed in this book were the examples from churches that the author included, and the lessons they had learned. She tells us that any church serious about vocational stewardship needs to designate a specific individual or team, paid or unpaid, that devotes time and energy to the work of equipping the laity. She states that pursuing the journey of vocational stewardship as a church is not about "three easy steps and you're done." It's an evolving process that looks different at different times and contexts. And it's not one-size-fits-all, and it takes time. The author includes helpful appendices on key theological terms undergirding vocational stewardship, as well as a discussion guide for congregational small groups. There is much to learn from this excellent book. It would be a good selection for churches to read in book clubs, and then apply what they have learned. Below are some of my favorite quotes from the book: • Congregants in our pews need to know that they should-and can-connect their workaday world and their faith. • The righteous ask God to help them maintain "clean hands" on the job by refusing to lie, cheat, steal or engage in a workplace sexual affair. • Pastors need to remind their people that they can indeed, though Christ's power, be different kinds of workers than the nonbelievers around them. • A vital part of vocational stewardship for the common good is a focus by believers on transforming the institutions in which they work. • Work-pleasurable, fruitful, meaningful work-will be an eternal reality. • Church leaders should inspire their congregants to choose jobs that, to the greatest extent possible, offer them the best opportunities for directing their creative talents toward the end of advancing shalom for the common good. • The sweet spot is that place where our gifts and passions intersect with God's priorities and the world's needs. To the greatest extent possible, Christians should seek to work there. • To inspire people with a robust understanding of work, church leaders may need to exhort congregants to examine whether they're in the right place vocationally. • Our work is fundamentally about serving others. Congregants who deeply grasp this are more prepared for vocational stewardship than those who don't. • Made in God's image, we have talents from him and authority to use them. We have vocational power. And it is God's gift. • Congregants need to understand that wherever they are, regardless of their status, they can probably do at least one thing that advances kingdom values like justice or beauty or compassion or economic opportunity or creation care. • In all the spheres where we work-education, business, government, media, law, arts and more-we are agents of restoration. • Believers who participate intentionally, thoughtfully, strategically and creatively in the missio Dei through their daily work taste more deeply of God.
This is a remarkably applicable book on a theme that just doesn't get enough attention--vocational stewardship. We are reading it for our task force to create a track for upper classmen in InterVarsity right now. Sherman's Pathways to deploying vocational power are very insightful and filled with many real and good examples. Dimensions of vocational power is also really helpful moving the discussion beyond the obvious. What righteousness looks like is also helpful. Very appreciative for this book.
This book laid out a useful a theology of work that was Biblical, helpful, and robust. However, the examples, while inspiring, left me a bit exhausted - most were of remarkable people who'd had remarkable impacts both in a kingdom and earthly sense. Examples of steadfast faithfulness in ordinary work (without great earthly success, or even with earthly failure) were not really given; a future work might take up the theology of frustration in work. The language and writing quality were distracting at times.
Review In Kingdom Calling by Amy Sherman, she makes an important case for God’s kingdom agenda. She says: “The kingdom Gospel…leads us to invest more thought and energy to the missional work of enacting and demonstrating the heart of God in the world” (p. 84). This means that believers must be involved in social righteousness, acting “in concert with God’s will for the shalom of the community’s well-being…as part of God’s creative justice establishing efforts” (p. 55). She believes that the emphasis on personal justification omits Jesus’ Gospel of the Kingdom, “about the cosmic redemption and renewal of all things,…our reconciliation of one another and with the creation itself” (p. 71). In fact, her research showed that “most [contemporary] worship music and ‘Christian living’ books reinforces the Jesus and Me mindset (p. 69). She challenges Christians to “thread their lives into those painful places where the social fabric is unraveling…Social righteousness is nurtured when we look out at our neighbors near and far and deliberately consider how to advance their good” (p. 56). Her book provides needed correction to western theology and Christian practice. Five stars.
Excerpts “Thousands of Christian professionals sit in the pews, wondering ‘Can I participate in Jesus’ mission—and do so using the gifts and skills God has given me? The answer is a resounding yes…God has a plan that includes your work, and that your faith can help inform how you approach your work” (pp. 91, 92).
“As author Frederick Buchner says in his pithy definition of vocation, ‘the place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet’…Some may need to…be encouraged to ask whether the way they are investing their work time reflects what really matters in light of God’s priorities and the world’s needs” (p. 106).
“A holy discontent is that passion that ‘wrecks’ a person—that issue that ‘keeps you up at night, something in the world you want to fix,’ says the Well’s pastor Brad Bell” (p. 127).
We read this in our church’s reading group for the liturgical season of Pentecost. During Pentecost, we celebrate the power of the Holy Spirit to equip each one of us to live out the gospel. One key way we get to do this is through our work, and this book helps us explore the intersection of faith and work. It’s a theologically-sound treatise on the goodness of work with inspiring examples of the ways Christians are working for the common good of their communities and workplaces. One glaring omission (as is the case for so much that’s written on the subject of faith and work) is the kingdom work in “blue collar” jobs. We need to continue more robust research and conversation on all forms of labor!
If for nothing else, read this book for the preview passages in which the author skillfully and eloquently integrates her research and premise with Tim Keller’s teaching that the “righteous” (Hebrew tsaddiqim) is the just, the people who follow God’s heart and ways and who see everything they have as gifts from God to be stewarded for his purposes. Sherman beautifully calls us to the Scriptural vision of a “rejoiced city” where the two, closely related features of the consummated kingdom: justice and shalom. I love that I am called to work in this kingdom!
I found Sherman’s book to be extremely enlightening. She made me think about this topic in so many ways I had not encountered before. Sherman summarizes the basics of a theology of work. It confirmed what I had already known from earlier readings and my own understanding of God as a worker, humans as His co-workers, and how the fall impacted work. She shares a unique concept of God as our vocational model, crediting author Robert Banks from his book "Faith Goes to Work", where Banks describes the different kinds of work that God does and how our human vocations can fit into this model. This was the most powerful section of the book. You can easily take almost any job that is worth doing and put it into one of these categories. I find this very helpful to explain the instrumental value in all kinds of what most would call “secular” work. I found her call to vocational stewardship to be practical, biblical, and challenging.
This one was a Uni text book for which I had to write an assignment. I found it an interesting read full of evidence of how personalities are as varied as the examples of calling we may find ourselves moving into. Not the worst or most dry academic text by any means. Amy Sherman offers some interesting terminology based on Old Testament understanding to help us form more of a biblical picture of calling, such as the wealthy 'tsadiqim' who owed it to poorer people to use their wealth for the advantage of all. And I like her idea that we could begin to consider ourselves as sample spoons, offering smalls tastes of the different flavours of kingdom people. Yet it was fairly long, and could possibly have been condensed without losing much appeal.
A book that can increase the relevance of your church in today's culture
Dr. Sherman knocks down the walls separating church and work showing how, with great and plentiful examples, your church can be God's hands and feet bringing in His kingdom. Ideas will blossom on how you can and should be moving your church from Sunday bench warmers to the true body of Christ without kicking and screaming. An example of why God made each of us unique with special gifts.
Sherman has some really helpful and convicting things to say about vocation. This book has really helped shift the way I think about vocation and how we, as God's people, are to properly steward our work as part of God's mission. My only complaint is that, at times, her "examples" felt really forced and out of place. I thought there were just way more of them than there needed to be.
A great book on how every person can make a difference for the kingdom of God- not just clergyman. Good for pastors who want to encourage the people in their church to live out their faith in the public square. The nature of the subject makes it a little dry, but this is balanced with stories throughout.
Comprehensive and well researched book for pastors and staff regarding the importance of whole-life discipleship. Highly recommended, but probably better for people who spend most of their life working for a church or a para-church ministry.
I was put off by the odd ball pronunciation by the reader of various theological terms. Also, environmental stewardship seemed to supercede caring for people. However, it had many merits when sticking to the subject of integrating vocation as a part of Christian living.
This book made me think more deeply about how I understand and view work in light of being a child of God. Not sure I agree with all principles presented, but I am definitely thinking and praying through how God wants me to work in his name!
Awalnya ga berekspektasi banyak pada buku ini. Tapi setelah membaca lebih jauh, buku ini menolong gereja dan umat Allah agar memperhatikan bahwa panggilan kerajaan Allah ga dapat dipisahkan dari iman serta pekerjaan.
Finding ways to serve with the skills God has uniquely given us is critical and this book shares many great ideas and frameworks for doing just that. The book was a bit long at parts, but overall a worthwhile read.
Theologically rich with captivating stories of laypeople using their vocations to further the kingdom of God. Belongs in the library not just of every church leader, but every Christian who desires to bring shalom to their city.
Solid look at what it takes to get a congregation to use their giftings/skillsets to further kingdom work. Honest assessment that while everything isn't necessarily smooth, the efforts can have long-term positive results for those served as well as those serving.
I read this book more than a year ago, but it still has had a deep impact on me. I think what I liked most about the book was Amy Sherman's enthusiasm about the ability of Christ-followers to make an impact in the world through their everyday work. Her enthusiasm is infectious and made me feel as though, with God all things truly are possible - the sky's the limit!
Now, having said that, as other reviewers have commented on this site and elsewhere, the book is somewhat geared toward ministry leaders and helping them to realize that the callings of lay people needs to cultivated and unleashed. So some aspects of the book may seem somewhat less than applicable for a layperson.
However, I think any layperson will find him or herself greatly inspired just by reading the various examples and methods of how to have a deep impact for Christ in their workplace. Speaking of methods, she examines in part three of the book four ways to engage in vocational stewardship: by making a difference where we already work, by using our vocational skills in volunteer and ministry efforts, by using one's entrepreneurial abilities to start a social enterprise, and by participating in a church's target initiative. The last option can be where a church seeks to make an impact in a particular community or by making a difference in a particular issue (i.e. some churches seek to target sex trafficking).
The first part of the book is also very important. It really lays the foundation for what it looks like to "rejoice the city" as found in Proverbs 11:10 - "When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices". So Amy Sherman looks at biblical realities of a rejoiced city. Then she explains who the righteous (in Hebrew tsaddiqim) are by examining the characteristics and work implication of righteous people in their relationships with God, within themselves, and with others. Finally, in part one she looks at why so often Christians fail to be tsaddiqim in their communities, tracing the issue to an overemphasis on individual salvation and not enough on "the cosmic redemption and renewal of all things". This negatively impacts our worship and our discipleship and, perhaps most important, leads to a false eschatology whereby we fail to take seriously the importance of Scripture's promise of a "new heaven and new earth."
Lastly, part two seemed the part that was most geared toward ministry leaders, showing how they can help congregants to become inspired, to discover, and to be formed in the area of vocational stewardship. Still, it does contain some important points on the integration of faith and work. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in faith-work integration or wondering how they can make a difference by using their knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) for the glory of God. I look forward to reading InterVarsity's forthcoming book by Steve Garber, Visions of Vocation and hope that it is even more targeted toward laypersons than this one.
To read more reviews and similar thoughts and ideas about calling, community, and culture, feel free to check out my blog at stadtmenschblog.wordpress.com/.
Sometimes, when you're in the choir, you don't need to be preached to. I've read a lot of books on work and faith, business and theology. So Amy Sherman's addition to the canon, "Kingdom Calling" was not full of many surprises for me.
Sherman starts in an interesting place however. She begins her discussion of vocation with Proverbs 11:10 "When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices." The Hebrew word translated as "righteous" is tsaddiqim, an idea that encompasses more than just those who are morally upright. Much as the Hebrew word shalom would be better translated as "flourishing," so tsaddiqim probably has more in common with the idea of a "pillar of the community," describing those who are widely admired because they bring flourishing to the body politic and not just success to themselves. From this definition, Sherman makes a connection theologically to what the goal of our work in this life is, describes why most Christians are not the tsaddiqim already and then goes on to talk about how we can get there.
The first section of the book provides a theological background on the spiritual significance of our work in light of the concept of the Kingdom of God. The second section of the book speaks about steps that individuals (and congregations) can take to help themselves (or their members) find their God-given talents, gifts and sense of calling. And the final section of the book describes several paths to application of these principles, both in the workplace and in other venues (e.g. volunteer work, targeted church ministries). Throughout their are stories and anecdotes of Christians who have found their path to a "kingdom calling" in a variety of ways.
This book could be extremely helpful to pastors looking to help their parishioners understand the importance of so-called "secular" work and who are looking to build structures within the church that provide opportunity and venue for these conversations. It might also be useful to laypeople who want to understand the theological case for why their work matters to God and are looking for ways to pursue becoming the tsaddiqim in their own communities.
If you have done a lot of reading and thinking on these issues already, the theological framework may not be as useful or innovative to you. But the anecdotes and examples might still prove intriguing as case studies.
From the earliest days of the New Testament church, Christians have struggled with the question of how their work can be done in a God-honoring way. It is often difficult to see how our menial occupations can have a permanent impact on the world and serve toward the advancement of the kingdom. Our jobs feel mundane and futile, and we wonder whether they have any long-term impacts at all.
As a response to these doubts, Kingdom Calling offers some degree of comfort. Amy Sherman's focus on productive work for the kingdom is commendable. Rather than throwing our hands up in despair at the state of the world, we should be eager to contribute our talents and abilities toward ministering to its needs. To this extent I appreciated the perspective Sherman offers in her work.
However, I was greatly confused by Sherman's understanding of the nature of the kingdom. She seems to underrepresent the corruption this world has experienced as a result of the Fall. Our society is not merely ill; it is dead. Without the saving grace of Christ, the culture of this world can have absolutely no permanence. "Common grace" cannot serve for the "common good" if it is not accompanied by the salvation Jesus came to accomplish--real, spiritual, enlivening, life-changing salvation. No amount of serving as the tsaddiqim of this world will ultimately benefit it apart from this saving work. At many points in this book I found myself alarmed at Sherman’s readiness to cheapen the wonder of saving grace for the sake of emphasizing common grace.
Further, the application points of Kingdom Calling distort the roles of the participants in God’s kingdom. If we believe the Lord is the one who saves, entirely apart from human effort, how can Sherman declare so confidently that “King Jesus has many hammers ready” but is waiting “for church leaders to nurture their members and for those members to take up those hammers and live missionally in and through their work” (231)? We serve Christ out of gratitude for what he did in saving us, not out of a sense of guilt for not working harder to transform the culture. The Lord will evaluate our hearts, not our kingdom quotas. Misunderstanding this crucial part of the Christian life leads to a very different view on vocational living than the Bible teaches.