The idea of being part of a healthy, robust nation – to ‘flourish’ as communities, families and as individuals – is naturally appealing. And as Christians we often feel a sense of responsibility to be ‘agents of flourishing’. Whether motivated by Jeremiah 29:7, “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you… because if it prospers, you too will prosper” or Matthew 6:10, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” – we want to ‘make a difference’ in this world.
But how do we do this intelligently and sustainably?
Agents Of Flourishing, Pursuing Shalom In Every Corner Of Society offers a useful framework for not only thinking about, but also taking appropriate action, in this regard. It highlights six dimensions of civilisation for effective cultural engagement:
In this timely book, Sherman shows how “Christianity weds doctrinal convictions with social responsibility”.
Because God values what is good and true, we strengthen social ethics and actively contribute to human knowledge and learning. Because God values the beautiful, we invest in ‘public placemaking’, architecture, and media. Because God is committed to a just society, we work toward restorative justice and a well-ordered civic life. And because we share God’s desire to see society prosper sustainably, our business practices seek the economic good of the community while protecting the physical health of people and the environment.
Sherman combines rich theological, historical and sociological reflection with in-depth examples of churches who have successfully taken up the challenges faced by their local communities. The stories are wide-ranging – from running an avant-garde art gallery, to prison reform, to taking on an oil-drilling giant in court to close down a toxic chemical site within a poor residential area.
It is about bringing real change, to real people, facing real issues. But a lot of its value lies in the fact that it doesn’t focus purely on addressing the problems that arise from, for example, family breakdown or unemployment – it offers expert guidance on how to go ‘upstream’ and actually change the factors that cause family breakdown or unemployment in the first place.
And although written primarily with church leaders in mind, the ideas are widely applicable outside of organised church. So if you have been moved by the lack of peace and prosperity in your neighbourhood, and you want to do something about it, Agents Of Flourishing is essential reading.
Review by Lise-Marie Keyser