Conversations, Reading Guides

Deepening Congregational Life – 10 Authors You Should Be Reading

Here at the outset of 2020, it seems that a good deal of my energy this year will be devoted to several projects focused on helping churches deepen their congregational life …

As I’ve been preparing for these projects, I’ve compiled this reading list on some of the most essential thinkers who guide us into the work of deepening our congregational life together in our local churches. I chosen to focus on authors/thinkers rather than books because most of these authors have written more than one relevant book. 
 
 

Amy Sherman

Although Amy Sherman has written substantially on Christians doing community development work in their places, it is her book on vocation that I believe is most vital to the work of deepening our congregational life together:

Deepening Congregational Life

Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good

Imagine the scenarios:

  • a CEO successfully negotiates a corporate merger, avoiding hundreds of layoffs in the process
  • an artist completes a mosaic for public display at a bank, showcasing neighborhood heroes
  • a contractor creates a work-release program in cooperation with a local prison, growing the business and seeing countless former inmates turn their lives around
  • a high-school principal graduates 20 percent more students than the previous year, and the school’s average scores go up by a similar percentage

Now imagine a parade in the streets for each event. That’s the vision of Proverbs 11:10, in which the tsaddiqim―the people who see everything they have as gifts from God to be stewarded for his purposes―pursue their vocation with an eye to the greater good. Amy Sherman, director of the Center on Faith in Communities and scholar of vocational stewardship, uses the tsaddiqim as a springboard to explore how, through our faith-formed calling, we announce the kingdom of God to our everyday world. But cultural trends toward privatism and materialism threaten to dis-integrate our faith and our work. And the church, in ways large and small, has itself capitulated to those trends, while simultaneously elevating the “special calling” of professional ministry and neglecting the vocational formation of laypeople. In the process, we have, in ways large and small, subverted our kingdom mandate. God is on the move, and he calls each of us, from our various halls of power and privilege, to follow him. Here is your chance, keeping this kingdom calling in view, to steward your faith and work toward righteousness. In so doing, you will bless the world, and as you flourish, the world will celebrate.

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