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on May 9, 2012
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.

Excitement surges through readers as they encounter story after story after story about how believers are enacting their giftedness for the benefit of others. Accounts of daily work for The King pulse through every chapter, every page. "Christian architects, engineers, business owners, historians, entertainers, photographers, chemists, dancers, sales reps, lawyers and real estate appraisers" (91) have their stories told.

What the individuals and church leaders profiled in this book have accomplished is not outside the realm of possibility. These are people like you; these are congregations like yours (224).

But Kingdom Calling supplies the reader with biblical-practical tools to engage any community. Part 2 identifies how to disciple for vocational stewardship: the integration, inspiration, discovery, and formation of faith with work. God's intention for work has not changed since Genesis 1 and 2. Sin's corruption is overcome by salvation's redemption. Sherman offers the collaborative best of many vocational stewards as they enact their `dimensions of vocational power' (120-26). Seven facets of stewardship are much more than leadership lessons baptized with Bible verses; they comprise the thinking-being-doing of Christians dedicated to missio Dei per imago Dei. We have been given a time and place to live with vocational giftings to be God's hands in God's world.

Sherman gives `four pathways' empowering those hands to deploy their vocational power: blooming, donating, inventing, and investing. The biblical concept of place is given short shrift in biblical theology until recently. "Bloom where you're planted" takes on its original meaning in a Christian context. We should be who we are, where we are, with what we have. "Volunteering" retains its others-centered focus with others-connected partnerships in the gospel. "Inventing" sees peoples' needs and seeks ways toward "investing" where intentionality cushions the poor instead of padding bank accounts. Vocational stewardship, it must be warned, is no panacea. There are pitfalls and temptations to be overcome. Sherman's honesty with each story's difficulties reminds us that we enact our vocational intentions within a fallen culture. Yet the joy of `the city' resounds in each community where Sherman finds believers who engage their calling.

Since reading Kingdom Calling I've been texting and emailing church and academic leaders around the country to encourage the addition to reading and syllabi. Indeed Sherman's book has now been included seminal courses where I teach. We can thank Amy Sherman for a book which demonstrates true biblical praxis: common grace for the common good. And if you come by my office, I'll give you a copy from the box full I ordered. Kingdom Calling should be given to Christians so they can give themselves away. [...]
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on December 6, 2011
In Kingdom Calling, Dr. Sherman addresses a fundamental problem: the disconnect many Christians feel from what they learn and hear about on Sunday mornings in church, and the reality of their worklife Monday to Friday. In many ways, our Christian leaders are responsible: too many either ignore questions of vocation, continuing to perpetuate the "sacred/secular divide;" or teach an anemic approach to faith/work integration that focuses only on ethics and evangelism. With her book, Dr. Sherman addresses church leaders and instructs them on how to inspire, equip and deploy their members to live missionally in and through their work.

Dr. Sherman's book is distinct in a number of ways. First- while many books on vocation are often directed to lay people, her book is purposed foremost to church leaders. Second, while her book is theologically sound, it is also incredibly practical- Dr. Sherman has interviewed literally hundreds of men and women in all sorts of vocations, telling their stories and highlighting how they have practically lived out their faith through their work.

Although I am not a church leader, I found this book incredibly inspiring. It has helped me to see why my work matters- the answer is not simply because it can fund missions or because I'm working ethically and sharing my faith. While those things are important, my work matters because God created me with my unique gifts and passions in order to do the specific work I am currently doing- work that advances the Kingdom and benefits the common good. My work has lasting Kingdom value that I will see evidence of in the new heavens and new earth.

Kingdom Calling serves to address the 'Sunday to Monday' divide. It lifts vocation to the high ranking it deserves, and serves to help church leaders understand how to equip the congregants for the "good work prepared in advance" for them. This is a must-read for church leaders and lay members all.
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on December 12, 2011
Dr. Sherman's book Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good inspires readers to overcome the sacred/secular divide that is so prevalent in our Christian culture today. With sound theology and countless real-life examples of vocational stewardship in action, Dr. Sherman crafts a book that convicts the hearts of those of us who have too often separated Sunday teaching from Monday work. This book provides excellent tools and wisdom for pastors and church leaders in how they should lead their congregants into lives of vocational stewardship. Even though the audience of this book is intended for pastors and church leaders, I, as a recent college graduate, found this book extremely helpful. As I look to start a career, this book provided me with new insight on how I can use my work and vocation to further the kingdom of God. Kingdom Calling opened new doors into realizing that my work matters because I am using the gifts and talents God has given me to promote the common good and advance his kingdom.
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on December 30, 2015
I first read this book in a “Calling, Vocation and Work” class at Covenant Seminary a few summers ago. It is a book about vocational stewardship that is primarily written for pastors and ministry leaders, particularly those already committed to leading missional churches (those that seek to follow King Jesus on the mission of making all things new). It would be an excellent book for these leaders to recommend to those they lead to help them integrate their faith and work.

Below is an outline that the author follows in this helpful book, which I have now read twice:
• Provides the biblical foundation for both the “foretaste bringing” mission of the church and the strategy of vocational stewardship.
• Describes the tsaddiqim who try to undertake this labor.
• Looks at the obstacles that have kept many Christians from living as the tsaddiqim, and how churches can respond to those obstacles.
• Provides practical “how to” guidance for church leaders by first looking at the current state of evangelical thinking on the integration of faith and work.
• Discusses a concise biblical theology of work that provides a firm basis for a vocational stewardship initiative.
• Provides the task of discovery, helping those in the church to identify their passions, “holy discontents”, and the dimensions of their vocational power.
• Addresses the task of formation, the shaping of the inner life of those in the church that enables them to be effective, humble and wise stewards of their vocational power.
• Looks at each of the four pathways for deploying those in the church in the stewardship of their vocations.
I found this to be a book that was very helpful in my journey to integrate my faith and work. The author includes several practical examples/case studies that the reader will benefit from.
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on June 13, 2014
This is a good book, focusing on the idea of "the righteous." and how that translates to the workplace. A couple things bothered me in the read - some of the points were simplistic and did not seem well-thought out. For example she credits individualism with the poor perception of vocation, and yet wrong perceptions of vocation are widespread including in more collective cultures. Also some of the issues presented in examples seemed to be more issues de jure, which takes aware from really seeing the prophetic possibilities. But overall, still a good book and worth the read.
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on April 29, 2014
The good:

Dr. Sherman's work references, supports and supplements concepts from pastor Tim Keller's Every Good Endeavor, - which I found to be a generally sound and insightful treatment on the subject of Vocational Stewardship. Her critiques regarding the dissonance between biblical/historical Christianity and modern/western "Christianity" is spot on and well taken. She gives many good examples of the righteous christian life as it should reasonably render, in the holistic sense, into all aspects of life - including vocation. She absolutely nails the quick and dirty "fire insurance" gospel issues on pages 69 and 70. "But the gospel of the kingdom tells us not only what we're saved from, but also what we're save for." (KC - P 228). I would also give her kudos for giving many examples of every day people "blooming where they are planted" to advance the kingdom. This latter part is the greatest value of the book. That said...

The bad:

Dr. Sherman's left leaning academic is showing as she engages a very worth subject only to frequently conflate biblical concepts and terminology with modern social progressive dogma.

(KC-P18) In the Intro the concept of righteousness and the "righteous" in the biblical book of Proverbs are suggested, by the author quoting Rev. Tim Keller (who wrote Every Good Endeavor as noted above; this quote is evidently from Keller's, "Creation Care and Justice," Sermon delivered 01/16/05) in saying "The righteous in the book of Proverbs are by definition those who are willing to disadvantage themselves for the community..." I have only read the EGE title from Keller and am not familiar with the sermon and context of the statement. Because this review is regarding Kingdom Calling, I will engage Sherman's use of the statement (which was liberal in every sense) rather than Keller's use in the referenced sermon. I think it more biblically accurate that the righteous, are those who are in "right standing with God" under the, then (when Proverbs was written), Mosiac covenant of Exodus 19-24. Interestingly, the selflessness as described above could certainly be argued to be a property of the righteous, but it is by no means a *means* of righteousness, much less a defining element. Since this statement received a prominent and early mention in establishing foundational concepts for the text, it gives me potential concern as to the rigor and scriptural fidelity with which the author examines vocational stewardship. (KC-P28) "The tsaddiquim seek to bring into reality three dimensions of justice that mark the consummated kingdom." Ok...since the texts invokes the concept of "tsaddiquim" using the Proverbs 11:10 use of the term, it begs justification as authority for the nature, scope and detail of the tsaddiquim's relation to justice. There is none. The three items mentioned in the quotation are just an unsubstantiated "just so" throw-down that the author seems to extrapolate from. (KC-P30) Regarding equity, Sherman suggests that: "It is about promoting public policies that do not favor the rich over the poor, but treat people equally. It is about avoiding policies that unfairly burden the poor and weak." No, from Websters definition A: Equity "justice according to natural law or right; specifically : freedom from bias or favoritism." I would say that by definition, equity is about impartiality without ANY special attention to any type of party including the poor, rich, minorities, blacks, whites, Celtic Druids or any other voting block. Again, this author is conflating scripture, Christianity and the English language with modern liberal progressive theory. (KC-P31) promotes the virtues of "fair share" housing for the poor [check] (KC-P40) "...encourage racial reconciliation and build diversity and cross-cultural sensitivity" (this = say racial reconciliation out of the left side of our mouth and then constantly highlight racial and cultural differences, which - however intended - fundamentally work against unity and promote and extend racial and cultural strife conflict. ) ...same old divisive "diversity" diatribe [check]. (KC-P43) global warming scientist held up as a model "tsaddiquim" [check]...

(KC - P45) Quoting Sherman: "What we saw from examples in Michael Lindsay's book, though, is that it is possible to be the prospering without being the tsaddiquim. Clearly living as the tsaddiquim isn't easy. It requires tremendous effort and intentionality." Square that with Rom:3:10.

Speaking of the "tsaddiquim", I would suggest that the author remember that she is writing her OWN book and get over Michael Lindsay's book (which she seems to go a little over the top on by way of references). Since we are discussing righteousness here ("right standing with God) I think Sherman needs to be much more impressed with The Book and operate from it as as an authoritative opinion on what constitutes righteousness. I would submit that, given the foundational role this concept plays in Kingdom Calling, that Sherman was AWOL on building a scriptural (or any) case establishing the tsaddiquim = "righteous = do good social works to be a member precedent. This book seems to hold up the "tsaddiquim" as some kind of exclusive elitist group rather than reflecting the concept of righteousness as it was rendered in the bible. I think it is instructive that the author uses "tsaddiquim" throughout the book rather than its english translation. If the working translation: "the righteous" were substituted in her text, we would be constantly reminded that we have to reconcile the ascribed properties of tsaddiquim/righteous and behaviors of the "righteous" with our understanding of the nature and source of biblical righteousness. But....that approach would not support the author's extremely extrapolative treatment of Proverbs 11:10 (where she get's *her* concept of tsaddiquim) - which, when read in its native flow of context - suggests none of this to me. Go read it yourself and see if you can come up with her definition of righteousness. Or, to illustrate my point, try this rephrasal of the author's quote "Clearly living as the righteous isn't easy, it (living righteously) requires tremendous effort and intentionality." ...Now square that with justification by grace through faith with works as natural, an unvarying *consequence* of an entirely spiritual event (which, unlike many of the authors positions is highly biblically defensible). The author tries to square this dissonance a bit on page 59, but I don't think she does so effectively or, given the clear volume extra-biblical political/social agenda that she is injecting in this discussion - with balance, efficacy or seriousness. To my point, on the immediate heels of her attempt at dealing with her injecting a righteousness by works (apparently with special mention and merit to those works which align with the politically left), the author renews her beating of the tsaddiquim drum on page 62 & 63.

Perhaps this will help to support the above point: From (KC - P65) "Consequently, it fails to direct "Christ-followers into the righteous lifestyle of the tsaddiquim...who gladly join Jesus on his grand mission of restoration." If they are *really* "Christ-followers", how could there be a righteous lifestyle problem? Why the distinction between Christ-followers and tsaddiquim as a discrete group who would gladly join Jesus?

In summary, while Sherman addresses some great concepts and provides a few valid insights, I would respectfully suggest that she does so on the foundation of bad doctrine, and in a Christian title, that matters! I would also suggest that while she is strong on volume of information, her support for key rational in her book is academically sloppy.
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on January 6, 2015
I work at a Christian non-profit with college students and buy this for every graduating senior we send off. This is an incredible book about vocational stewardship, and majors in both the theology and the practical. It is a multi-faceted look at what it means to be people who are a bright light in our work environments.

The stories are inspiring! Whether you are a janitor, a teacher, a data analyst or a CEO, this book will inspire you to live out your vocational life intentionally in ways you would have never imagined.
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on June 7, 2014
I have been so motivated by this book to look more closely at how I am using my vocation to serve the Kingdom. This is a great resource for both church leaders and church attendees, like myself, since we are all called to be on God's mission. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone who is feeling the call of the Spirit in their lives to be doers of the Word and not hearers only.
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on August 25, 2013
So many books cast a personal vision or experience of God's mission and then say, "You, too, can be like me!" Helpful insofar as they go; however, Dr. Sherman's work here is careful and faithful to the Biblical revelation of God's glory made visible in the life of the new kind of people God has created for himself in the death and resurrection of Jesus. She then studiously refuses to say, "See how i've done it? You can, too.". But takes a careful look at all kinds of ministries and people who are stumbling forward in faith-filled obedience. in doing this, she provides helpful word-pictures to help us faithfully answer the questions: What does it look like for God's people - both individually and corporately - to faithfully embody in their lives the resurrection of Jesus in our horribly broken families, workplaces, neighborhoods and beyond? What does the life of a people who have been justified through the death and resurrection of Jesus look like? Amy Sherman gives a clear and concise recap of the Story, and then very helpful testimonies of how that fleshes itself out in real lives among real people in the real world.
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on April 30, 2014
I found Amy's thoughts to be quite helpful as I begin to change my own view of work and how it relates to discipleship. She does a great job showing that the workplace is one of God's key areas of spiritual growth, ministry and outreach for the disciple of Jesus Christ. The theme of vocational stewardship resonates with me and gives me a good place to stand as I re-think my own theology of work.
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