Wednesday, October 20, 2010

LHP Review: Vocation

Roberts, Bob. Forewords by Rick Warren and Eboo Patel. Real-Time Connections: Linking Your Job with God's Global Work. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010. 247 Pages. Paper. $16.99. (LHP)
This is the second time QBR has reviewed a book by Bob Roberts. Our first was his previous release:

I read that book in preparation for Roberts' presentation at a national annual meeting of our church body's Church Extension Fund. Now, reviewing my notes, I see many parallels between his speech last November and this 2010 release from Zondervan.

"Bob Roberts Jr. shows how present-day disciples of Jesus can find in their daily work the resources they need to transform the world for Christ. Roberts explains how ordinary Christians can embrace a kingdom perspective and watch their global connections become opportunities for fulfilling Jesus’ Great Commission.

"Real-Time Connections, by Bob Roberts Jr., will show you how to use your everyday passions to make a global impact … while staying attentive to your job, your home, and your family.

"The Great Commission is not just for professional clergy; it is a charge to every follower of Christ—ordinary Christians like you and me. Bob Roberts urges you as a disciple of Jesus to reclaim your share in God’s transforming work around the globe. Roberts illuminates the ways that Christians from any walk of life can use the everyday skills of their career and/or passion in service of God’s kingdom.

"Today’s global economy offers you, a follower of Jesus, opportunities to interact with nations and people groups once accessed only by remote missionaries. This book demonstrates the world-changing possibilities your vocation holds when used in service of God’s kingdom" (publisher's website).

I like that Roberts speaks of "making disciples." I like that he is consistent and does what he says! 

However, his exposition of the Matthew 28 source of the Great Commission is lacking. Our grammar school children here in Sheridan can take the English of the famous verses and grammatically prove that disciples are made by baptizing and by teaching. Baptism is mentioned in this book, but not emphasized. That is most unfortunate.

I can hear Roberts' passion for mission. I am impressed at his willingness to engage other religions in dialog without refraining from a clear witness of Christ as the only Savior. I cheer mission work and engagement locally and globally and his encouragement and example. 

Yet, I feel that this book is not all it could or should be. I'm not taking issue with his personal stories that give insight and example of his struggles and how his congregation became what it is. 

I will reject decision theology. 
I will call the author to embrace all that God's Word says that Holy Baptism is and does for the Christian. 
While intriguing, I'm not too sure how helpful either foreword is to his purposes in this book. 
And calling "every member a minister" is not helpful to understanding the uniqueness of congregations and called pastors. The LCMS is still struggling with terminology and theology in this regard.

Roberts ties his discussion of vocation, what he calls in the subtitle "Linking Your Job with God's Global Work," to Martin Luther (54-55), but the reference to the great reformer is little more than a "shout out."  Readers would be better served by buying and reading Luther on Vocation and Gene Edward Veith's God at Work than this volume. Roberts' exposition of vocation sounds similar to what he has previously written and gave me the impression of someone who is still working out the details.

I will also gently yet strongly encourage our LCMS LCEF to reconsider its speaker invitations on the basis of what I heard last year from this and other speakers. I heard much that was contrary to my/our Lutheran confession. I'm not opposed to or unwilling to listen to other Christians, but when teaching is wrong, it needs to be publicly and immediately addressed corrected. One similar example from this book: The "lawyer-pastor" story (66) came off as unnecessarily offensive and should be reworded in a future edition. I understand Roberts' point about vocation, but it denigrates what pastors of smaller congregations do every day. I do not have an exact quote from last November, but my notes indicate that Roberts said something tying dying congregations to a lack of faithfulness. That is troubling at best.

I appreciated what Roberts had to say. Perhaps his critiques of blind political support of Israel (instead of supporting outreach and our Christian brothers and sisters there), focusing more on "converts" than "disciples," and the Gospel-less discussions of the End of the World in American Evangelicalism will be heard because he is the messenger and this book is his passionate message and Zondervan is a respected and widely-available publisher. 

And perhaps, just perhaps, folks will get a taste for Vocation and explore it more deeply. After all, it has been a most helpful way for Lutherans to talk about sanctification and the Christian life for nearly 500 years.

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.