A Feature Review of
Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good.
Reviewed by Mark Eckel.
As a reviewer, I decided to put my money where my mouth is: I ordered a box of Amy Sherman’s books and am giving them away. Amy L. Sherman’s latest volume, Kingdom Calling, is a catalyst for generational change. The subtitle Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good is the accelerant needed for the catalyst to ignite the transformation. Countless talk about socio-economic concerns, but Sherman tells the stories of many who are doing, not talking. The full title also explains Sherman’s belief. The King is king of the whole kingdom. The Church’s focus often centers on itself and its work, whereas the work of The Church’s people is who they are, where they are. ‘Calling’ is that of folks changed by The Call, practicing agents of redemption as janitors, doctors, trades-people, lawyers, coaches, philanthropists, and all the multi-colored gifts of God’s people (1 Peter 4.10). ‘Vocational stewardship’ means the “intentional, strategic deployment” of a believer’s full person and place “to advance foretastes of God’s kingdom” (20). Far from programmatic, Christian work in the world is missional only insofar as it is personal: missio Dei per imago Dei, the mission of God through the image of God. ‘The common good’ involves everyone within our sphere of influence who benefits from our God-given gifts. Inspired by a Tim Keller sermon on Proverbs 11.10, Sherman now inspires us to help communities flourish by the giving of ourselves to justice.
Sherman’s biblical-theological mindset gives Kingdom Calling its strength. Scripture sets assumptions. Authors ere when practice drives principle, where what one does cancerously morphs into pragmatism. Scripture teaches, on the other hand, that hearing drives doing. Sherman frames her arguments within the parameters of God’s words. Her exegetical introduction alone is worth the price of the book. The words of Proverbs 11.10 ripple impact across waters needing to be stirred. Chapters one and two unpack the key ideas of ‘justice’ and ‘peace’ enacted by the ‘righteous’ and ‘The Church’. Sherman allows biblical definitions correlated across The Bible to radiate their impact. Justice, for instance, is not simply standing against a problem or for a person. Biblical justice aims to rescue through opportunity finding its target in restoration. Biblical peace is a proposal across the quadrants of our lives: with God, ourselves, others, and creation. Sherman redefines what it means to be a “justice of the peace.”
However, the marriage of justice with peace is sometimes obscured by those overseeing the ceremony. The ‘righteous’ can subtract from the meaning of the gospel.
A context in which much Christian preaching, music and books emphasize a highly individualistic understanding of the gospel does not provide rich soil for the nurture of believers who will live as the tsaddiqim (righteous ones). . . . Put differently, it focuses only on what we’ve been saved from, rather than also telling us what we’ve been saved for (70-71).
So theology matters. As R. C. Sproul has said for years, “Right now, counts forever.” Heaven does not mean much if earth means little. The gospel impacts the present for the future. Highlighting the Four Circles illustration by James Choung (78-82), Sherman refocuses the Christian mindset. God’s original intention, damaged by our inherent corruption, finds earthly restoration in our gospel participation. Christians should contribute to God’s cosmic plan through wholistic work: a dedication of our vocational selves to evangelism, compassion, and justice. Incarnational theology should be our response to brokenness wherever we are in whatever we do with whomever we meet.
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