Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good

Sherman stretches Proverbs 11:10 to a big conclusion, suggesting that the church’s mission is “to rejoice our cities by offering our neighbors foretastes of kingdom realities.” What does that kingdom look like? And what does it have to do with our occupations? It’s revealed in “preview passages” (Isaiah 61, for example) that speak of rescue, equity and restoration. The very things every believer should be working for, and not just in the few hours a week we spend at church.

Why don’t we think of our work life as something to steward? Why is our best hope on the job to be a witness to co-workers? Sherman gives these reasons: a too-narrow gospel, one that focuses on the individual and ignores the reality of the kingdom announced by Christ; a view of heaven that takes place only in the future; a mindset that between sacred and secular occupations, a great gulf is fixed, that only pastors and missionaries are “called.”

It doesn’t have to be that way. The church that has a “high view of members’ daily work” will challenge and equip them to use their vocational power. Sherman identifies four avenues for integrating faith and work: bloom in your current occupation, donate professional skills, start a new business or begin a targeted initiative in the church. She cites real-life examples of each path, ideas that alternately intrigue and overwhelm. Could your church adopt an elementary school or start a nonprofit to teach photography to teens living in slums?

Sherman knows it can be done. Founder of a community development ministry in Charlottesville, Va., that’s going strong after 16 years, Sherman is director of The Center on Faith in Communities at the Sagamore Institute, is active in research and policy-making and has served as an adviser to the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. Sherman doesn’t make light of the cost. It takes time, often years to figure out what to do and how to do it. Still, her stories are lit with enthusiasm. She knows what the outcome will be when Christians begin to practice vocational stewardship – “newfound joy, meaning and intimacy with Christ.”

Kingdom Calling” is intended for pastors and ministry leaders, but it’s also validation for those of us who always suspected there was a stronger connection between our work life and our faith than being a conscientious employee or giving money to missions. An appendix fleshes out the theological themes Sherman bases her work on, such as the intrinsic value of work. A list of sources for further study, a Web site and a study guide for groups give ample opportunity to start exploring.

That how we make our living matters shouldn’t be such a novel idea. We sing about seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. We recite verses about being living sacrifices.

Kingdom calling? We should get up and answer the door.

 

JANICE HORTON is a freelance writer.

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