Dr. Amy Sherman directs the Center on Faith in Communities at the Sagamore Institute, and likes to describe the work of the Center as that of being “a minister to ministries.” She provides training and consultation to churches and nonprofits seeking to transform their communities for the common good. Through this book, Sherman hopes to provide food for sermons and illustrations as church leaders seek to inspire their flock to catch a vision of being the righteous, or as she so eloquently refers to it in the Hebrew, the tsaddiqim.
Sherman opens her book up with the vision of Proverbs 11:10, which reads, “When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices; when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy.” This scripture helps to create a vision of a “dancing-in-the-streets” rejoicing which occurs when the tsaddiqim spread justice and shalom or peace in the city, causing the weaker ones at the bottom to no longer be oppressed and to start enjoying full prosperity. She describes the “rejoiced” city as a place where ever-increasing foretastes if justice and shalom are experienced realities.
According to Sherman, the church should consist of tsaddiqim or the just, people who follow God’s heart and ways and who sees everything they have as gifts from God to be stewarded for His purposes. She points out the brokenness that often neglects a huge part of our existence, and how contemporary Christian music reinforces and celebrates a very narrow gospel that focuses believers only on the work of soul winning or getting a ticket into heaven, but doesn’t say much about what their life in this world should look like.
I believe, trying to live as the tsaddiqim requires tremendous effort and intentionality. It doesn’t just fall in place because you’ve decided that you would like to be the righteous. It requires power from God’s Holy Spirit. Sherman says, “Pursuing the journey of vocational stewardship is not a one-size-fits-all process.” Church leaders must be willing to help their members to identify their individual spiritual gifts, vocational skills, and opportunities in the kingdom. Believers who take vocational stewardship seriously should begin to see their reliance on the Holy Spirit become more of an authentic daily practice. We should all be reminded that through Christ’s power, we can be different kinds of workers than the surrounding nonbelievers.
God blesses each of us with skills, opportunities, education, networks, and other blessings in order that we might bless others. Understanding this concept allows us to focus on glorifying God while being faithful to our callings, our jobs, our family, and our service in the church. According to Sherman, God wants us to position our time, talents, and tenth in such a way that people all around us will get a glimpse or a foretaste of His kingdom.
Sherman discusses four pathways that church leaders can use to equip their members for vocational stewardship. First is the “bloom where you are planted” pathway, which promotes finding ways of honoring God and serving others as an employee or manager through your daily work. The second pathway is to donate or volunteer work skills outside your day job your work. Third is to invent or launch a new social enterprise. And the fourth pathway is to invest or participate in a targeted initiative or project by your church. She discusses how the church might encourage and support its people on each of these pathways.
God’s plan is to bring shalom or peace to this broken world, but He wants to do that in partnership with us. It’s not that God needs us, but He chooses to partner with us through His invitation. We now have this calling to join Him in His kingdom work, but we are unable to do so apart from our total reliance on Him. We all have a God-given vocation to partner with God in His work of restoring all things.
In my current position as an administrative assistant with a large corporation, I often come into contact with hundreds of people. And although faith and religion are corporate no-no’s, I have a way of gently working God into my conversation daily. A simple question about my weekend is usually a sure starting point for me. I lead with the fun and relaxing part of a Saturday with my family and end with my Sunday morning worship experience. Most of my coworkers tend to be a bit intrigued by the conversation because they know me to be this quiet, reserved assistant, who follows the orders (per se) of others, but boldly and proudly leads and speaks God’s Word to a congregation of followers.
My pastor teaches us weekly that we may be the only God that others may encounter during the work week. He also teaches us that people are watching at all times just to see if you are who you say you are. When your relationship with God is for real, you are mindful of what you allow others to see. You’re even more mindful that God knows what others don’t and may never know. So taking on a tsaddiqim mentality in the workplace becomes a vital part of your ministry.
I believe there are several things that I can do to improve on my “vocational stewardship” in the workplace. One way is when the daily “roundtable coffee talk” turns into a gossip session about another employee or the employer, I can opt to be that voice of reason and combat the gossip or just simply walk away and choose not to be a part of the talk at all. I can also make valuable use of the company’s resources and time by not using most of my downtime on social media sites.
Looking at my life today as an individual Christian seeking a deeper purpose for my life, I can look to some of the practical models in my life to see what it actually looks like to steward my vocational power in ways that advance the kingdom. I can be intentional about applying those modeled practices and principles to my daily life one day at a time, one practice at a time. Learning how to steward vocational power is a major component of growing as the tsaddiqim who rejoices our cities.