In her stellar book Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good, Amy Sherman calls the body of Christ to embrace a more robust theology of vocation in its gospel mission by erecting persuasive scaffolding around Proverbs 11:10, “When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices.” Employing thoughtful exegesis, the author nudges the reader to assume a posture of reflection regarding how this easily overlooked biblical text speaks prophetically to our affluent, yet impoverished American context. Sherman, senior fellow at the Sagamore Institute for Policy Research and director of the Center on Faith in Communities, particularly emphasizes the church’s responsibility to further the common good, what the prophet Jeremiah refers to as seeking the shalom of the city.
The author’s well-placed concern is that many church leaders are woefully inadequate at equipping their congregational members to connect Sunday worship with Monday work. Even though ministry leaders seek faithful gospel ministry, many are overlooking a vital stewardship in the comprehensive outworking of the gospel in this already, but not fully yet moment in redemptive history. Sherman writes,
American workers, on average, spend 45 hours a week at work. That’s about 40 percent of our waking hours each week—a huge amount of time. If church leaders don’t help parishioners discern how to live missionally through that work, they miss a major—in some instances the major—avenue believers have for learning to live as foretastes.
Ministry leaders often use the language of stewardship when addressing financial wealth, but they seldom talk about vocational stewardship so passionately or seriously. Sherman calls Christian leaders to become more theologically informed and intentional about vocational stewardship. The author methodically mines a robust theology of vocation from several biblical texts emphasizing how vocation is not incidental, but integral to the misseo Dei. Employing the language of vocational stewardship, the author skillfully weaves a persuasive thread of thought in a multicolored fabric of gospel ministry. It doesn’t take long for the reader to not only encounter the theological depth and breadth of the author’s argument, but to also be deeply moved by the beautiful picture of what an intentional vocational missiology looks like in a local church that is committed to gospel faithfulness and advancement of the common good.
After establishing theological foundations that support a vibrant vocational missiology, Sherman then devotes a significant portion of her book articulating four pathways for deploying congregational members in the stewardship of their vocations. Sherman’s four pathways are:
- blooming where we are planted by strategically stewarding our current job;
- donating our vocational skills as a volunteer;
- launching a new social enterprise; and
- participating in a targeted initiative of our congregation aimed at transforming a particular community or solving a specific social problem.
The author devotes a chapter to each one of these pathways, providing numerous stories and examples of churches from a variety of denominations and places that are becoming more intentional about equipping their members with a theology of vocation. Sherman opens windows of insight, encouraging practical ways that vocational stewardship can be lived out and celebrated by the local church community. The reader has a captivating and unforgettable front row seat observing followers of Jesus in various walks of life who are becoming more intentional in their kingdom callings and vocational stewardship.
Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good
Amy L. Sherman
Amy Sherman, director of the Center on Faith in Communities and scholar of vocational stewardship, uses the tsaddiqimas 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.
Sherman points out a wide range of individuals who inspire enthusiastic vocational engagement. There is Tom Hill, a businessman in Oklahoma who in an economic downturn is employing his vocational power in creative and innovative ways for the common good. Then there are the engaging and informative stories of comedian Carlos Oscar, as well as dancer Jeannine Lacquement, that particularly capture the imagination of how Christian faith informs all of life. In story after story Sherman deftly displays how vocational stewardship exhibits common grace for the common good.
Kingdom Calling is a very helpful read for pastors and ministry leaders who desire to learn specific and tangible ways on becoming more intentional in equipping congregational members for being a faithful presence for Christ in the world through their vocations. While some readers may feel the author’s emphasis on the gospel of the kingdom and the common good overshadows the centrality of propitiatory substitutionary atonement, Sherman’s literary purpose and scope must be kept in mind. The author brings important and helpful illumination on the comprehensive outworking of a gospel-centered faith.
Sherman encourages Christian leaders to come to grips with the importance and practicality of vocational stewardship in local church mission, reminding them that a primary work of the church is the church at work. As a local church pastor who desires both theological integrity as well as ministry effectiveness, I am grateful for Sherman’s timely and practical contribution. Kingdom Calling provides a clarifying glimpse into what the fruit of human flourishing and the advancement of the common good look like when the gospel takes deep root in the life of a local church congregation. It is my heartfelt longing that many gospel-proclaiming, Christ-exalting local churches would become more beautiful in their expression and more effective in their mission because of the truths so capably articulated in Kingdom Calling. Sherman’s fine book will be at the top of our pastoral staff reading list this year.