Kingdom Calling

We’ve been doing a series on Ecclesiastes in our evening series at Grace this quarter. A few weeks ago we thought about the subject of work. As part of my prep I read Amy Sherman’s Kingdom Calling. This is certainly one of the best books I’ve read on the subject of vocational calling. Here’s a snippet:

“American workers, on average, spend forty-five hours a week at work. That’s about 40 percent of our waking hours each week – a huge amount of time. If church leaders don’t help parishioners discern how to live missionally through that work, they miss a major – in some instances the major – avenue believers have for learning to live as foretastes.”

Sherman’s basic thesis is that the ecclesia – the community of the righteous (tsaddiqim) – should be living out missional lives in every area (including the workplace) to bring shalom to our communities. There’s a number of great quotes in there from the likes of Miroslav Volf, N.T. Wright, Dorothy Sayers, and Lesslie Newbigin, as well as a host of tools within the book to help people consider their vocational ‘sweetspot.’ I would definitely consider using it as a resource for a series of homegroup studies – there’s so much packed into it.

I did have a couple of reservations. First, it felt as if vocation was continually being viewed as paid employment. It seems to me (see 1 Cor 7:20ff) that calling is more than just about paid work – calling and vocation can include voluntary unpaid work, raising a family, caring for a dependant family member etc. The situation we’re currently in is the one we’re called to right now, even if it may not be a permanent state of affairs. Second, it also felt at times as if only ‘high-flying’ careers could make a real difference, while packing dog-food is trivial and insignificant. Here I fear Sherman hasn’t worked out the implications of her ecclesiology and missiology far enough. I want to say the bin-man, bringing order out of chaos, making our streets pleasant and safe is doing something wonderfully redemptive – certainly those who lived through the middle-ages would think so.

All in all, it’s an excellent book, well worth reading and pondering, that we might consider how to apply and teach some of the crucial issues raised.


5 Replies to “Kingdom Calling”

    1. yes – I was being slightly provocative. I agree with Don I think. There is a danger that if you talk about redeeming culture, you might in a generation or two stop talking about redeeming souls from hell. That’s a danger, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong to talk about redeeming culture. Even the great Don can fall foul of the ‘thin end of the wedge’ fallacy. I think we’d agree that the story of redemption is a cosmic story – Christ will restore all things (acts 3), reconcile all things (col 1), liberate creation (Rom 8) and turn the damaged garden into a garden city. Further the community of the redeemed are to live as citizens of the inaugurated kingdom, in anticipation of the consummation of that broad redemptive story now in the way we treat people and creation – we are salt and light, a city on a hill, light to the nations, winning the favour of the people (Acts 2) that people may see and glorify God (Matt 5; 1 Pet 2) – all the sorts of things the old covenant people were supposed to be (deut 4) but weren’t because their hearts weren’t circumcised (Deuth 10, 30, Jer 9) and the law wasn’t impressed on their heart (Deut 6, Jer 17; 31; Heb 8). [Incidentally, none of that downplays the importance of proclamation – the community grows and lives as people hear and believe (Rom 10)]. So now even the bin man, when he does what he does in faith, obedience, and to a God glorifying end, in union with Christ, is witnessing to the fact that it’s God’s world, the kingdom is inaugurated, the birth pains have begun, we’re going from glory to glory, the mustard tree is growing, the yeast spreading, – people, structures, societies, creation is being redeemed – the bin man is acting in his new creation, new man/adam, cultural mandate fulfilling kind of way. He is an outpost and a witness to the Lordship of Christ, and the kingdom he is building. Push back bro?

      1. loads that’s helpful there. you should be a preacher.

        i’m just struck by the way that redemption, as far as I can see, is not in process in the NT.

        – we have been redeemed and that redemption is by the death/blood of Christ (Rom 3:24-25, Eph 1:7, Tit 2:14, 1 Pet 1:18-19, Heb 9:12, 15) and relates to the forgiveness of sins (Col 1:14, Heb 9:15)

        – and we will/our bodies will be redeemed on ‘the day of redemption’ (Rom 8:23, Eph 1:14, 4:30) which will also be the day of liberation for creation itself.

        So we have been redeemed in order to do good works (Tit 2:14) and your emphasis on the new covenant in relation to that warms my heart, but they are not, i think, redeeming works.

        so yes: “the bin man is acting in his new creation, new man/adam, cultural mandate fulfilling kind of way”. but would Paul agree that creation is being redeemed in the process? I’m not sure. Would he be concerned that we and not Christ are said to be agents of redemption (albeit in dependence on God etc etc)? maybe…

        anyway, love to all. and thanks for the book – Jo was at homegroup the other week looking at Acts 2 and wanted to think some more so it’s blessing us already!

      2. thanks for this David – as ever very helpful clarifying comments.
        just did a quick bibleworks on redeem/redemption and interesting to note that we have been redeemed (past), but await the day of redemption (future) – a sort of now/not yet kind of thing. But you’re right to say you can’t find anything about redemption of creation happening in the ‘now.’
        Perhaps it’s a semantics thing, and being a good biblical studies boy you (rightly) want to make sure we name things rightly – loving that!
        So now I’m left with the question of what i do call the work of the bin man – good works, working out salvation, heavenly citizenship – any suggestions?

      3. And just found this in Oliver O’Donovan’s Ressurection and Moral Order: “Redemption suggests the recovery of something given and lost. When we ask what it is that was given and lost, and must now be recovered, the answer is not just ‘mankind’, but manking in his context as the ruler of the ordered creation that God has made.” So perhaps our theoretical refuse collection officer is acting redemptively in the sense that his action is a consequence and testimony of redemption (and in anticipation of ultimate redemption), rather than a means (though whether God uses such activities in his ultimate redemptive economy I’m less sure). Further question to self – is this stuff in any sense missional? Does it in any sense communicate the gospel? Answers on a blog-card – tx.

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