At the 2011 District Conference each church was presented with complimentary access to the resources of The Mission Exchange. I hope you benefited from their services during the year and renewed your subscription with them. If you didn’t, let me encourage you to. Since then, The Mission Exchange and CrossGlobal link merged, forming Missio Nexus. You can visit their website here. Access for individuals starts at under $30. The services include:

  • 52 book reviews (electronically delivered – 1 per week)
  • 36 book summaries (electronically delivered – 3 per month)
  • 24 live webinars (average 2 per month)
  • 12 author interviews (monthly mp3 downloads)
  • 6 Global Issues Updates (bi-monthly downloadable webinar)
  • 3 Web Workshops (4-6 week training series)
  • discounted access to the most extensive library of mission-focused webinars in the English language
  • discounted access to three annual live conferences

Accessing their services just for the book summaries is well worth the cost. Below is a sample from the April edition of Leader’s Edge Book Summary of Amy Sherman’s recent book Kingdom Calling. Each book summary includes the content of the book by category of:

  • Best chapter
  • Best quotes
  • Best illustration
  • Best idea
  • Best take away
  • Recommendation

Kingdom Calling, Vocational Stewardship For The Common Good

Authors: Amy L. Sherman

Publisher: IVP Books, 2011

ISBN: 0830838090

Summary

The book is written for the purpose of informing Christians how to connect their workaday world with their faith. It shows that vocational stewardship produces newfound joy, meaning, and intimacy with Christ. Sherman deals first with how cultural trends related to our professions threaten our work and faith and contribute to the erosion of our sense of vocation. She then demonstrates how the people of God can steward their faith and work toward righteousness, in turn blessing communities and the world.

 Best chapter

Chapter 2: What do the Righteous Look Like

The chapter clarifies the main premise of the book: that the average middle-class Christian in America has been blessed with much from God. We are prospering and the purpose of all these blessings is to be a blessing to others in return.

Sherman then presents a simple chart illustrating that “righteousness” has three clear dimensions: up (God-ward), in (personal holiness) and out (social justice). After an explanation, she makes application to each dimension in our work lives. She then draws the point of how each of these is to be lived out in community – the church.

Best quotes

“Instead, the flourishing of the righteous is a cause for rejoicing. Because the tsaddiqim (Hebrew for “Righteous”) view their prosperity not as a means of self-enrichment or self-aggrandizement, but rather as a vehicle for blessing others, everyone benefits for their success. As the tsaddiqim prosper, they steward everything – their money, vocational position and expertise, assets, resources, opportunities, education, relationships, social position, entree, and networks – for the common good, for the advancing of God”s justice and shalom.” (p. 17)

“Clearly, living as the tsaddiqim isn”t easy. It requires tremendous effort and intentionality. More importantly, it requires power from God”s Holy Spirit. It also requires understanding what a tsaddiq looks like.” (p. 45)

“Relatedly, the tsaddiqim do their work “heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men” (Col. 3:22). That is, they know their audience. They offer up their work – whatever it involves, whether great tasks or small – in worship to God. They resist slavish devotion to people-pleasing.” (p. 49)

“Without some exposure and engagement with the oppressed, the hungry or the impoverished, we can easily lack the heartfelt splagchnizomi compassion of Jesus. Culturally distanced from the poor, we become emotionally distant as well. And sometimes we”re not even conscious of it.” (p. 54)

“In many of our churches, our gospel is too small. While it is rightly centered on the vital atoning work of Jesus on the cross, it fails to grasp the comprehensive significance of his redemptive work. Consequently, it fails to direct Christ-followers into the righteous lifestyle of the tsaddiqim, who gladly join Jesus on his grand mission of restoration.” (pp. 64-65)

“The story told of the Christian”s life in the too-narrow gospel does not capture this awesome reality and privilege that we – saved sinners – are part of God”s plan to heal the world. The too-narrow gospel tells us what we”ve been saved from: sin, hell, and death. And that is very good news indeed. But the gospel of the kingdom tells us not only what we”re saved from, but also what we”re saved for. We have a purpose, we have a sacred calling, we have a God-given vocation: to partner with god in his work of restoring all things.” (p. 87)

“Because we are fallen, we sometimes act as though success at work equates to a successful life. It doesn”t. Sometimes we make an idol of our careers. We need to repent. Sometimes we make decisions about jobs as though the ultimate purpose of work were self-fulfillment. It”s not. Sometimes we judge people”s worth based on their career positions or status. We should seek God”s forgiveness. Sometimes we allow work – which is just one dimension of our lives – to crowd out family or worship or relationships or pay or Sabbath. We must resist.” (p. 105)

“Faithful vocational stewardship is not only about doing, it”s also about being. To deploy their vocational power for the common good, believers must possess a character that handles this power humbly and eschews its misuse. This is why discipling of vocational stewardship involves not only the work of inspiration and discovery but also an emphasis on formation.” (p. 129)

“The primary and most important avenue of deploying vocational power is in and through one”s present work. The first place believers should look to conduct their foretaste-bringing mission is right at the current job they hold. I call this “blooming where you”re planted.” (p. 144)

“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…. No matter what our particular season or context, though, what we can be utterly confident about is God”s promise to help us on this exciting but messy journey.” (p. 226)

“As we take up our place as agents of restoration, we also become instruments through which our neighbors taste more of God”s goodness. As we faithfully do our part on the section of the “wall” we”ve been called to, we promote the common good. Depending on our circumstances, our efforts to steward our vocational power can cause transformation at a variety of levels – among individuals, within local organizations or neighborhoods, or throughout institutions and different sectors of society.” (p. 229)

Best illustration

“From this day forward, I would like you to think of your local church as an aircraft carrier. Unless our churches assume the rightful and biblical positions in the battles we face in the workplace, we cannot fully advance. It”s only as the carrier arms, equips, briefs on the battle plan, fuels the jet and then launches the pilots out on their mission that they assume their maximum dominion…. Unfortunately, many of our churches operate like a cruise ship. Think about it, what do you do on a cruise ship? You go to be entertained, you eat a lot, there”s very little accountability. And think about a cruise ship: it goes out, hits a couple of points and comes back to the very same place – rarely advancing forward into new territory. If the enemy of our souls can disarm the carrier, confuse the pilots, break the catapult system, then we essentially continue to function as a cruise ship…. God may very well be asking you to be a catalyst for work life reformation in your church. The church is not a cruise ship but an aircraft carrier.” (p. 101)

 Best idea

“The purpose of all these blessings is simple to state and difficult to live: we are blessed to be a blessing. Our generous heavenly Father desires us to deploy our time, talents, and treasure to offer other foretastes of the coming kingdom. Those who do so are called the tsaddiqim, the righteous.” (p. 45)

 Best take away

“Work is central in Genesis 1 and 2. There it is – right in the midst of paradise, right in the picture of God”s intentions for how things ought to be. Work is a gift from God. Work is something we were built for, something our loving Creator intends for our good. Work is not evil, nor is it a side effect of sin.” (p. 102)

Recommendation

The book is useful in helping congregants understand their purpose in life as it relates to the stewardship of their vocation. Kingdom impact should be the goal of all work, bringing about “restoration” to the world through a proper understanding of “righteousness.”

Visit Missio Nexus to learn more about their Leader’s Edge Book Summaries and their other resources.

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