REVIEW: Connecting Sunday to Monday: Books urge workplace faith
Amy L. Sherman. Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2011.
271 pages, $16.
Tom Nelson. Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2011. 221 pages, $15.99.
Diane Paddison. Work, Love, Pray: Practical Wisdom for Young Professional Christian Women. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan. 256 pages, $14.99.
The average Christian spends a few hours a week in church. However, most spend roughly 40 hours a week at wage-earning jobs.
Three new books suggest that we should be glorifying God and building his kingdom in our work.
“We haven’t done a good job helping people connect Sunday to Monday,” says Amy Sherman, a director of Sagamore Institute’s Center on Faith in Communities in Indianapolis.
Her new book, “Kingdom Calling: Vocational Steward-ship for the Common Good,” provides a rich theological background for emphasizing vocation as ministry. Her theology looks for ways to participate in God’s work of renewal, of bringing justice and “shalom” to our communities.
She starts with Proverbs 11:10: “When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices.” The righteous, or Hebrew “tsaddiqim,” are more than “good” people, Sherman writes. They are completely committed to the Kingdom of God. They focus their “vocational power,” the prosperity and influence afforded through their jobs, for the common good.
Sherman’s primary audience is preachers and church leaders, trying to overcome the secular-sacred divide from the top down, but she recognizes that, in many cases, the real leadership in this area comes from members, not ministers. Christians in the workplace are finding ways to be missional in their approach to their work.
Sherman points out ways that the church can aid members to find ways to serve God through their work. She outlines paths for churches to encourage vocational ministry.
She uses Christ Community Church in Leawood, Kan., as an example. Its pastors make a conscious effort to bridge the gap between worship and work.
Tom Nelson, who serves as senior pastor of the church, is the author of “Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work.”
“Work Matters” is a call to view our full-time work as full-time ministry. Nelson challenges the notion of a distinction between sacred and secular work. In this approach, Nelson and Sherman have much in common.
Nelson’s theology is based in the creation narrative. He points out that man was “created with work in mind.”
“Humans were designed by God to exercise proper dominion over creation,” Nelson writes. Mankind was “designed by God to be his image-bearers, to uniquely reflect who God is in his good world.”
Nelson writes about the changes Christ Community Church made — in practice and in its choice of language — to connect ministry and work. Nelson and the ministry staff at emphasize the sanctity of work, as epitomized by cultivating the garden of Eden, or the work of a carpenter, fisherman or tentmaker.
They celebrate diversity of vocation, making a conscious effort to develop Christians to be faithful within their vocation. They eliminate language that distinguishes “secular work” from “ministry,” “clergy” from “laity” and “church staff” from “members.”
In Nelson’s view, all godly work should be considered ministry. Each chapter ends with a first-person narrative by Christians who have found a calling to God’s work in their secular jobs. These are stories of people who chose a career because of life experiences that led them to God or who designed their business as platforms for ministry or who found ways to use their professional skills to help others.
“Work Matters” is a practical book, intended for individual or group study. It is rich in theology, but even its theology is expressed in a practical, work-a-day way.
“Work Matters” may be the most personally challenging of the books reviewed here — and the most oriented to change within a congregation. It could be used as a study book for a Bible class or small group.
Both “Kingdom Calling” and “Work Matters” are excellent books in their own right, but they are a complementary pair, better together than alone.
“Work, Love, Pray: Practical Wisdom for Young Professional Christian Women” by Diane Paddison provides a motivational message. Written for young professional women by a professional businesswoman, this book narrates Paddison’s experience as a Christian woman in “C-suite” positions (CEO, CFO, etc.).
This book is also designed for individual or group study, with discussion questions and a wealth of resources.
Since Paddison spent much of her career in executive-level positions, some of her experiences may not resonate with the average worker. Yet she provides good advice for dealing with common issues, without seeming “preachy.”
Her advice is partly about how to succeed in the business world and partly about how to be a faithful Christian while in business. It transcends her primary audience; men may find this book as useful as women.
Unlike the other two books in this review, “Work, Love, Pray” takes for granted a division between sacred and secular. Paddison does not see her work as an extension of her faith. Rather, she expresses a need to nurture one’s individual faith and to establish boundaries that keep faith and work in balance.
“Kingdom Calling” will equip church leaders as they look for ways to encourage vocational ministry.
“Work Matters” is a workbook, challenging all Christians to adopt a new paradigm of ministry that transcends the Sunday/Monday gap.
And “Work, Pray, Love” will inspire Christians to do well — and to do good — in the workplace.
RALPH WILLIAMS is an adult Bible class teacher and a communication adviser for a Fortune 500 corporation. He is a member of the White Station Church of Christ in Memphis, Tenn., and a former missionary to Ukraine and among the First Nations People of Canada.