Futureville by Skye Jethani
It’s so easy to make a marked distinction between full-time Christian workers in jobs of ministry at the local church/para church ministries and Christians in the workplace of any stripe. Skye Jethani in his new book Futureville, takes to task those who wish to denigrate the place of mothers, cleaners, dentists, and every area of work that is not labeled full time Christian service. By reimagining and helping us get acquainted with the Biblical storyline, Skye reinvigorates our minds to see vocations in the service of the King as full of value and dignity. By also looking at the way Christians of the past have sought to draw away from the world to remain pure from corruption, Skye points a finger at how this proposal ultimately fails as well. What we need is not a removal from culture but a future looking approach that takes serious the present failures and hopes of this age.
Early on in the book Skye points to a wrongheaded evacuation theology that has given rise to harmful applications of the Christian faith. He writes, “We have been shaped for more than a century by the assumption that God cares about one thing – saving souls. “ (69) This rise of salvation as being the one thing God cares about leads to an elevation of the clergy or evangelists and a denigration of those in other work fields. This communicates to “the majority of Christians that their work in the world does not matter.” (68) If the entire world is going to burn, then the argument is that you better start doing kingdom work by working for a local Christian ministry. Now, I think there is some exaggeration of Skye’s part, but the evidence is everywhere, believing that Christian ministry is the only worthwhile task distances us from the situations of most everyday believers. I believe one of the ways the church can play against this spiritual/secular divide is to invest its time listening to the stories of those in its midst who are working in the trenches of society. This might look different from church to church, but one way through is by allowing members of the church to speak regularly about their passions, vocation, and how God is using them in His service.
Skye deftly sees the way forward for the church to recognize all kinds of followers of Christ in their fields by equipping them not just in church based programs but in the arts, medicine, education and every other field (112). The distinction between saving souls and social justice (think conservative and progressive) are not either/or labels. The church is not a saving soul institution but a robust gospel centered body that exhibits justice for the wronged and mercy for those in its midst. By engaging in the community where people live and live out their passions, the church is able to fulfill God’s work in the world. People need to read this book because they need a fresh voice that gives them encouragement in the day to day struggles to provide for our families when at times our work seems like drudgery.
I am really encouraged by this book and wish there were more out there like this one.
Thanks to Book Look Bloggers and Thomas Nelson for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.