Agents of Flourishing
God calls Christians to participate in his redemptive mission in every sphere of life. Every corner, every square inch of society can flourish as God intends, and Christians of any vocation can become agents of that flourishing.
Amy Sherman offers a multifaceted, biblically grounded framework for enacting God's call to seek the shalom of our communities in six arenas of civilizational life (The Good, The True, The Beautiful, The Just, The Prosperous, and The Sustainable). Because we believe in what is good and true, we strengthen social ethics and contribute to human knowledge and learning. Because we value beauty, we invest in creative arts. Because we are committed to a just society, we work toward restorative justice and a well-ordered civic life. And our desire to see society prosper sustainably means that our business practices seek the economic good of the community while protecting the physical health of our environment.
This comprehensive volume showcases historical and contemporary models of faithful and transformational cultural engagement, with case studies of all kinds of churches advancing human flourishing. It provides a roadmap for leaders wanting to participate in Christ's mission of holistic renewal. Discover how being God's agents of flourishing can change our communities for the better and offer a winsome witness to a watching world.
"Narrowing the perilous Sunday-to-Monday gap may be the most urgent and compelling need for the church in our time. In Agents of Flourishing, Amy Sherman brilliantly presses into the implications and opportunities for organizations and local churches that are embracing a transforming vocational mission for the glory of God and the common good. Sherman's theological rigor and storytelling prowess prompt my imagination to soar and my heart to skip a beat in considering the wide-open door of gospel impact available to the church in our time. This is a book every pastor and Christian leader needs to read. I highly recommend it."
"Amy Sherman does it again! She lands squarely on critical issues and practices that should demonstrate what it means to be Christ's people in the world for the common good. She always motivates and inspires me to follow in the Jesus way, to which she so ably points. Don't just read this book, let it guide you to live out its compelling, Jesus-shaped vision."
"The kingdom of God is his primary mission on earth: providing life as he intends—true, beautiful, just, abundant! Dr. Sherman has delivered a masterful tome of how the church has partnered with God in his kingdom work throughout history, along with contemporary examples of this partnership at work and practical strategies and insights for those who want to get in on what God is up to. What a gift, Amy!"
"Amy Sherman has done it again! Her thesis this time is that the good news is way bigger than we could have imagined. And the church—those who collectively find themselves following Jesus of Nazareth—has the best chance of helping each person flourish in every area of life: spiritually, relationally, economically, educationally, artistically, and vocationally. Throughout history, parts of the church in different parts of the world have gotten parts of this flourishing framework right, which led to the abolition of the slave trade, the adoption of children, care for the sick, the establishment of public schools and public spaces, and job creation for the common good. Today we can see the complete ecosystem of a flourishing community and the role we can play in helping to bring that about. I believe Agents of Flourishing can serve as the systematic theology for advancing shalom in every community and will be the go-to source for those who find themselves captivated by Jeremiah's word to 'seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you.'"
"When history looks back on the church in America at the start of the twenty-first century, it won't be a pretty sight. Division, scandals, unbelief, materialism, individualism, theological drift . . . the list goes on and on. We've simply lost our way. Fortunately, this latest work by Dr. Amy Sherman provides a road map to help us get back on track. Amy rightly focuses our attention on the central message of Jesus—the good news of the kingdom of God (Luke 4:43)—and provides readers with helpful prompts to improvise this story in their cities and neighborhoods. Miraculously, we are to do this—not by exercising worldly power but from a posture of humility, grace, and sacrificial love. This is the way of King Jesus, and it needs to be the way of the church once again."
"Agents of Flourishing is a timely book loaded with expert guidance and amazingly practical insights for local churches (agents of God's inbreaking kingdom) seeking the flourishing of their communities. It presents captivating examples of local churches' engagement with six community endowments—the good (ethics), the true (knowledge), the beautiful (creativity), the just and well-ordered (political), the prosperous (economic), and the sustainable (natural environment)—as congregants carry out their priestly work of restoring shalom: rightness of relationships with God, self, others, and creation."
"The flourishing of the whole creation, including the entire life of humanity, is the purpose and intention of a good and generous God. Our sin has corrupted and polluted every aspect of creation leading to curse instead of blessing, but one day God will restore that blessing fully. Until then we are called to be agents of God's original intention. Sherman has offered a wonderful blueprint for what that flourishing might look like in our time. What I really laud is her attention to the rich creational diversity of human flourishing—marriage, justice, art, education, business, and more. In a time when idolatry is destroying the witness of the church in America, these words are welcome and timely."
"In an age of political division and a shrinking Western church, Amy Sherman gives pastors, scholars, and students a comprehensive vision for equipping the saints to work toward the healing of our cities. Sherman bridges the gap from Scripture to praxis and gives readers both theological frameworks and practical examples of how our work and churches once again show our culture what the gospel looks like in the ordinary, everyday movements in our lives. I highly recommend Agents of Flourishing for anyone longing to see a reintegration of faith and work, private and public, church and city."
"Agents of Flourishing offers an expansive, inspirational, and profoundly biblical vision of how churches can contribute to the flourishing of their communities in the name of Christ. This book does what few others do, combining rich theological and sociological reflection with down-to-earth, practical examples of churches acting as agents of flourishing for the sake of their neighbors. I'm delighted to add this outstanding book to the reading list for my DMin seminar on vocation and ecclesiology; I would also recommend Agents of Flourishing to all church leaders who are committed to helping their congregations seek first God's kingdom and righteousness in tangible, world-impacting ways."
"Wanting to seek the shalom of your community is one thing; knowing how to actually go about it is quite another. Amy Sherman's Agents of Flourishing offers one of the best operating manuals for the church that I know of. It is at once accessible, scripturally wise, ecumenical, and most importantly chock-full of case studies of actual congregations seeking to answer the call to shalom in real-world contexts. Ever since I developed the Human Ecology Framework as a way to operationalize shalom in practice, I've been hoping someone would translate it for the ministry of local churches. Amy has given us a great gift in doing just that—and she does it as one of the most sure-handed guides to the role of the church in community out there today."
"Thinking between two worlds, rooted in a life lived between two worlds, Amy Sherman is as comfortable in the academy as she is on the streets, as committed to the good work of think tanks as she is to good lives in the neighborhood. Morally, sociologically, and theologically intelligent, she draws on years of taking the world seriously, listening carefully wherever she goes to the deepest questions that matter for human flourishing. At the same time Sherman insists that her work always be grounded in research-based analysis about what is, what could be, and what should be. She's a unique human being who has embodied a vocation given for the common good."
1. All About Flourishing
2. The Good: Flourishing in the Realm of Social Mores and Ethics
3. A Strategy for Cultivating the Good: Strengthen Marriage
4. The True: Flourishing in the Realm of Human Knowledge and Learning
5. A Strategy for Cultivating the True: Partner in Public Education
6. The Beautiful: Flourishing in the Realm of Creativity, Aesthetics, and Design
7. A Strategy for Cultivating the Beautiful: Invest in the Arts
8. The Just and Well-Ordered: Flourishing in the Realm of Political and Civic Life
9. A Strategy for Cultivating the Just: Advance Restorative Justice
10. A Strategy for Cultivating the Just: Be a Reconciling Community
11. The Prosperous: Flourishing in the Realm of Economic Life
12. A Strategy for Cultivating the Prosperous: Redeem Business for Community Good
13. A Strategy for Cultivating the Prosperous: Deploy Assets to Build Assets
14. The Sustainable: Flourishing in the Realm of Natural and Physical Health
15. A Strategy for Cultivating the Sustainable: Combat Environmental Health Hazards
16. A Strategy for Cultivating the Sustainable: Address Food Deserts
17. Next Steps: A Road Map for the Work of Flourishing Your Community