Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good
by Amy Sherman
IVP Books (2011)
FES Library book call number: 248.413 SHE
A Book from a graduate to a graduate: Kingdom Calling
Understanding work from a Kingdom perspective will enable us Christians to view work as more than just a means to an end. The book described herein is an excellent volume on vocational stewardship, which highlights how our work fits in the grand narrative of the Kingdom of God and challenges the way we Christians regard work.
Dr. Amy Sherman began her book by quoting Proverbs 11:10, “When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices.” The basic premise is that when the righteous (tsaddiqim in Hebrew) thrive in their work, the impact of their work results in rejoicing of the community. The righteousness described here encompasses all aspects of life: toward God (upwards), toward self (inwards), and toward others (outwards). This holistic righteousness results in shalom, a familiar word that describes holistic peace which manifests itself in peace with God, ourselves, other people, and even with creation. With this understanding, the idea of being impactful is not limited to certain distinguished individuals with sterling credentials; rather, every believer can live as a tsaddiq who is moved by gut-wrenching compassion for the world around them, and thus sees their work as the way God blesses His people.
Unfortunately, this important truth has not been widely embraced and lived out. Plenty of believers today put great emphasis on a personal relationship with Christ who has guaranteed us a place in heaven, but that is where it ends; faith eventually becomes a personal matter that has no place in public engagement. Furthermore, not all churches are ready to equip their members to live as tsaddiqim. Dr. Sherman thus calls for a more holistic understanding and preaching of the Gospel, which not only proclaims individual salvation (what we are saved from) but also social justice (what we are saved for), because all the work we do will be perfected in the new heaven and new earth. Additionally, churches should also seek to equip their members by affirming their day-to-day calling as ministries through which they participate in God’s Kingdom work. Importantly, each member should seek to find their “holy discontent”—issues that uniquely capture their attention and ‘punch them in the gut’—and “vocational sweet spot”, where their gifts and passions overlap with God’s priorities and the needs of the world.
In the second half of the book, Dr. Sherman presented four pathways to deploy one’s vocational power, each having multiple stories of people who serve in such manner. The first pathway, arguably the primary way for every believer, is to “bloom” in one’s current job as a faithful witness that promotes Kingdom values. The second pathway is to “donate” one’s vocational skills, i.e. to volunteer outside of one’s day job in church, nonprofit ministries, or other agencies. The third pathway is to “invent” a social enterprise, which can be pockets of change in addressing social problems. The fourth pathway is to “invest”, i.e. participate in a church’s targeted initiative towards a certain issue or group of people. Among the myriad of powerful stories in this book, one that inspired me was the story of Perry Bigelow, the founder of a suburban homebuilding company, whose faith not only influences his business practices but also inspires home designs and neighbourhood planning that promote sustainability (peace with creation) and flourishing of communities (peace with others). His story shows that by living out kingdom values at all levels, you could impact others at all levels.
While this book tends to be rather dense with information, the ideas are presented clearly and coherently. It is perhaps best to study this book in a group to help crystallize the ideas and ensure accountability in learning together. I first studied this book with a group of friends from NUS ISCF right after earning our undergraduate degrees. Revisiting this book years later right after graduate school, I find it a timely occasion to again reflect upon the lessons of this book and incorporate them in my career plan. Now that I have been called to bless God’s people and equipped with a specific set of skills, how should I best deploy them to honor God’s priorities? This question is relevant today as it was back then; I pray that we always seek to discern our call and calibrate our direction according to God’s purposes. Specifically for me, I look forward to discovering how God could use my skills as a chemist to bring justice and shalom to His people.
A review by Kevin Timothy Fridianto.
Kevin graduated from NUS in 2014 with a degree in chemistry. After working as a research assistant in Duke-NUS Medical School, he returned to NUS Chemistry in 2017 for graduate school and completed his doctoral program in 2021. He now works as a research fellow in the same institution, where he is working on the development of catalysts for green and sustainable synthesis of chemicals.