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.