We are reading Agents of Flourishing: Pursuing Shalom in Every Corner of Society by Amy Sherman. Sherman is also the author of Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good, a book I first read in my “Calling, Vocation and Work” class at Covenant Seminary.
Every corner, every square inch of society can flourish as God intends, and Christians of any vocation can become agents of that flourishing. In this book, Sherman offers a multifaceted, biblically grounded framework for enacting God’s call to seek the shalom of our communities in six arenas of civilizational life (The Good, The True, The Beautiful, The Just, The Prosperous, and The Sustainable).
Here are a few helpful quotes from The Introduction:
- My hope in this book is to help pastors and Christian leaders live deeply and wisely into the call of Jeremiah 29:7: “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
- In this book I try to bring together a vision of the church’s missional identity—including its rich, two-thousand-year legacy of advancing the common good—with a holistic, biblical, and sociological understanding of the dimensions of societal flourishing.
- I hope to offer a guide for congregational leaders willing and ready to live into God’s call to seek their neighbors’ thriving.
- This book focuses on local outreach, not overseas missions
- My purpose in this book is to encourage and equip congregations to seek the flourishing of their communities—based on a conviction that this is a central mission of the church in our time.
Chapter 1: All About Flourishing
- The problem isn’t that we want to flourish. God wants that for us too. The problem is our definitions of human flourishing fall short of God’s.
- Shalom signifies spiritual, psychological, social, and physical wholeness.
- God designed us for flourishing.
- True biblical flourishing involves the good of others as well as our own good. Flourishing is meant to be a shared experience.
- Throughout the Scriptures this vocation of flourishing others is described as the work of the royal priesthood.
- We were made for a purpose. Humans were created to image God in the world, offering up our worship to him alone, and to reflect his character in the world. We were made, in short, for worship and mission.
- We were made to be with God and to work in the world as his royal priests, bearing his image.
- What are we made for? Flourishing. How has God designed that to happen? By giving us the vocation of the royal priesthood.
- When we live in Christ as the priest-kings we were always meant to be, we experience flourishing ourselves and we contribute to the flourishing of others.
Chapter 2: The Good Flourishing in the Realm of Social Mores and Ethics
- God invites us to participate with him in his work in the world. This work is designed by God for men and women to undertake together cooperatively.
- There is a missional quality to ethical living: it is both a sign of God’s presence and a foretaste of his coming kingdom of righteousness.
Chapter 3: A Strategy for Cultivating the Good: Strengthen Marriage
- Preventing the harm of divorce on children is a moral good and provides sufficient motivation for churches to be engaged in marriage ministry.
- When marriages are strengthened, churches are strengthened.
- Christ-followers know that healthy relationships are at the center of human flourishing.
Chapter 4: The True Flourishing in the Realm of Human Knowledge and Learning
- Churches should be vigorously engaged in education, including via partnerships with public schools.
- Pursuing knowledge is one avenue for learning more about God, his multifaceted creation, and his present work in renewing all things.
- God’s vision for the world is shalom—universal flourishing. He has called us to join in his mission.
- In his graciousness God supplies common grace to humankind, enabling even those who have turned away from him to possess insight and creativity.
- God cares that all children are educated, not just the children of believers. It is not a stretch to assume that God cares about the state of our public schools.
- Supporting quality education of all children (believers and nonbelievers) is a matter of justice.
- Christianity’s history in the story of the spread of education is largely a positive one. Christ-followers have opportunities now to live into that legacy as well as to redemptively repair the harm that has been done in more recent decades.
Chapter 5: A Strategy for Cultivating the True Partner in Public Education
- Education matters deeply for human flourishing; not caring about it isn’t an option for Christ-followers.
- Developing friendships with non-English speakers can also be an avenue for more holistic ministry, including introducing those unfamiliar with Christianity to the love of Jesus.
- Of all people, Christ-followers should be passionately committed to and engaged in education. We serve a God who is the fount of all wisdom and knowledge.
- Christians’ support of high-quality education for all is also rooted in our mandate to create healthy communities.
Chapter 6: The Beautiful Flourishing in the Realm of Creativity, Aesthetics, and Design
- God is the Beautiful and the ultimate source of all beauty.
- We are made for God; thus, we are made for beauty. And we were designed to delight in, dwell upon, and meditate on that beauty.
- Beauty is neither frivolous nor an optional add-on in the Christian life and witness.
- God created art as a means of communicating his truth.
- Art is designed to be a vehicle for expressing human creativity and imagination, but it is also meant to be more than that. It is designed to point (ultimately) to truths about the world and to offer something to the viewer.
- It must be acknowledged that contemporary Christians have sometimes ignored or even disdained the realm of aesthetics and design.
- We are creation and new creation people, and we are called by a beautiful God to create and extend beauty in God’s world. We can do so both inside and outside the four walls of our churches.
- Engagement with the arts is needed because the church must show the alluring beauty of Jesus Christ alongside his goodness and truth.
Chapter 7: A Strategy for Cultivating the Beautiful: Invest in the Arts
- For Christ-followers uninitiated in the arts, the gallery shows and artist talks nurture thoughtful engagement about the realm of aesthetics and the role it plays in human flourishing.
- CC-Downtown’s investment in the arts has also created a context for nonbelievers in the arts community to consider the claims of Christianity.
Chapter 8: The Just and Well-Ordered Flourishing in the Realm of Political and Civic Life
- Injustice is fundamentally about the abuse of power.
- God’s will is that his people deal with one another and with others in justice.
- Justice is a central, irreplaceable component of a flourishing community.
- There is no shortage of arenas today where the Christian church can seek to encourage needed reformations in the sphere of politics and civic life.