The Gospel of the Kingdom and Vocational Stewardship

In the first appendix to her excellent book Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common GoodAmy Sherman outlines several key theological themes underlying the concept of vocational stewardship.

Vocational stewardship is the intentional deployment of your vocational power–your knowledge, networks, skill, authority, influence, and reputation–to bring foretastes of God’s kingdom. It is something all of us are responsible to do–and it is exciting!

One might think that by orienting our vocations around bringing foretastes of God’s kingdom, we are falling back into dualism–seeing only ministry activities as important, rather than all types of work.

But that would be to misunderstand the nature of God’s kingdom. Bringing foretastes of God’s kingdom does not just mean doing evangelism. For God is redeeming all things, and that means any act that does good for others, when done for his glory, brings a foretaste of the kingdom.

Which leads to the first theological theme that undergirds vocational stewardship, which is a proper and comprehensive understanding of the gospel of the kingdom. Sherman writes:

To steward their vocations well, Christians need to have a big conception of God’s redemptive work. At the heart of the gospel is the glorious message of new life in Christ, made possible by the atoning sacrifice of our Savior Jesus, who lived the life we ought to have lived and died the death we deserved for our sins.

Yet this good news is even bigger: God’s salvific work is not limited to individual salvation but concerns his mission of restoring the whole of the created order (Col 1:19-20; Eph 1:9). The gospel of the kingdom is about making all things right. It’s about the creation of the new world–what Revelation 21:1 calls “a new heavens and a new earth”–a place without suffering, pain, tears, war, hunger, oppression and death.

Jesus’ kingdom has been inaugurated and is now in definite ways because of his life, ministry and resurrection (Lk 4:21, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing”). As Christians, we have entered this kingdom and become citizens in it, and that citizenship is to shape us in every way–including in our work lives.

She then gives three reasons this matters for vocational stewardship:

  1. Because it helps us avoid the mistake of thinking that the only important vocations are “full-time Christian ministry” (pastors, missionaries, and so on).
  2. Because it helpfully directs our attention to God’s “short list” of priorities (preach the gospel to the poor, bring recovery of sight to the blind, set the oppressed free–that is, evangelism, compassion ministry and justice mission).
  3. Because it offers us the general goal–relevant to all vocational work–of doing that which serves as sign and foretaste of the coming kingdom.

Related Resources

Matt Perman is co-founder of What’s Best Next, an organization dedicated to helping Christians understand and implement gospel-driven productivity. He is also the author of What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done and is a frequent speaker on the gospel, work, and productivity.