Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good by Amy L. Sherman. IVP Books. 273 pages. 2011
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, Amy Sherman 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 the 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 their life with God relates to their 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.