Summer 2012, Vol.
Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good
Amy L. Sherman
(Downers Grove, Il: IVP Books, 2011)
Reviewed by Johan Mostert, Ph.D., Professor of Community Psychology Assemblies of God Theological Seminary
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My late father was an entrepreneurial businessman his entire adult life, but he was vocationally (and passionately) devoted to kingdom agendas. He had a Kingdom Calling, and he lived out that calling as he conducted business on three continents. Toward the end of his ministry he came to an insightful conclusion. He concluded that the primary difficulty with church membership today is that most Christians are spiritually unemployed. In my mind, Amy Sherman’s 270-page, well-researched and documented book is a significant contribution to address the problem of global spiritual unemployment!
Kingdom Calling makes three valuable contributions to deal with spiritual unemployment. First, it lays a solid theological foundation for one of the central tenets of the Protestant Reformation that we seem to have lost: the priesthood of ALL believers. All children of God need to experience a sense of Kingdom Calling, a connection with the missio Dei, so they can live missionally through their vocation. Sherman calls it vocational stewardship or, “the intentional and strategic deployment of our vocational power-knowledge, platform, networks, position, influence, skills and reputation-to advance foretastes of God’s kingdom” (p. 20). She makes a cogent theological case for the proposition that when the righteous prosper, because of their commitment to the common good, the nation rejoices. “When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices” (Prov. 11:10). She suggests that if we develop a proper biblical theology of work, the presence of God’s people brings light, upliftment, insight, understanding, and grace to the nations. As ambassadors of the kingdom of light we bring a foretaste of God’s shalom into the kingdom of darkness!
Second, Sherman provides a theoretical framework that helps the person who is not a vocational pastor or missionary to begin to develop a sense of how pursuing vocational stewardship could serve kingdom outcomes. In this section she provides four pathways for deploying congregants and devotes a chapter to each of these. Some can “bloom where they are planted” in their vocation. Some can donate their vocational skills to promote kingdom agendas. Some can learn to launch social enterprises that serve the common good. Others can participate in the targeted initiatives of their congregations to address a specific social problem.
Her final valuable contribution is in the solid research that she and her team bring to the discussion, providing dozens of case studies to illustrate how vocational stewardship has actually been deployed in dozens of contexts. Building on her definition of vocational stewardship, she illustrates how vocational power is used to advance foretastes of God’s Kingdom. There is the example of how a gourmet chef used his knowledge to coordinate the feeding of 1200 homeless people per day on an annual budget of only $10,000. How a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer uses his platform as a journalist to draw attention to community issues. How a radiologist in Illinois used his networks to recruit doctors and health care professionals to volunteer at an inner-city Christian health care clinic in Chicago. How an employee of a school for youth with emotional difficulties used her influence to use her own certified pet therapy dog to bring smiles to hardened teens in group homes in her area.
How a baroness in Britain’s House of Lords uses her position to draw attention to the plight of Christians persecuted for their faith. How a Nashville professional singer used his musical skills to minister to people who have suffered great loss and tragedy, and, how a Christian comedian uses his reputation/fame to raise money and awareness to fight against child sex slavery. Reading through these dozens of examples of vocational deployment is instructive and inspiring and is sure to strike a chord with readers working through the volume to discover their own calling.
The book confronts us on various levels. It asks the individual to deal with his or her personal character issues because each believer serves as a representative of God’s Kingdom of righteousness in this world. It challenges every disciple to respond to the Holy Spirit’s call to develop his or her own vocational stewardship: to find out how they can use their platform, their networks, their influence, their position, their skills, and their reputation/fame to promote the common good. Kingdom Calling challenges pastors (the main targets of the book) to reexamine their ecclesiology and to refocus their task to the ultimate purpose of “equipping the saints for the work of the ministry” (Eph. 4:11-12). It also challenges those of us in the theological academy to ensure that we are faithfully and adequately training future pastors and missionaries to promote the sub-title of the book: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good!
I would suggest that Sherman’s Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good is a significant contribution to counter global spiritual unemployment.
Monday, October 29, 2012 9:51 AM