Blog reflection: Agents of Flourishing book review
Seeking the Flourishing of the City to Which You’re Called
Book Review: Agents of Flourishing: Pursuing Shalom in Every Corner of Society, by Amy L. Sherman (IVP: 2022), 339 pages
God’s promised shalom has always come with a caveat: the well-being of God’s people is integrally bound up with the well-being of their neighbors. “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jeremiah 29:7). For those pursuing Jeremiah’s prophetic call to seek the spiritual, psychological, social, and physical flourishing of their city, Amy L. Sherman’s new book, Agents of Flourishing, is a robust and timely gift. Sherman directs Sagamore Institute’s Center on Faith in Communities in Virginia, a capacity building initiative for congregations and faith-based and community-based organizations.
“My purpose in this book is to encourage and equip congregations to seek the
flourishing of their communities,” Sherman writes, “based on a conviction that this is a central mission of the church in our time” (5).
Written with the attentive care of a researcher and the biblically informed imagination of a seasoned church leader, Agents of Flourishing is built around the six community endowments identified by Thriving Cities Group’s Human Ecology Framework: the Good (social mores and ethics), the True (knowledge and learning), the Beautiful (creativity, aesthetics, and design), the Just and Well-Ordered (political and civil life), the Prosperous (economics), and the Sustainable (natural environment). Sherman’s work provides a biblical, theological, and historical consideration of each of the above community endowments, as well as their malformations, followed by an in-depth case study of contemporary U.S. congregations striving to live into each endowment in ways that directly contribute to the common good of their city.
“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,” writes Josh J. Yates, executive director of the Ormond Center for Thriving Congregations and Communities at Duke Divinity School. “Amy has given us a great gift in doing just that.”
From a generous endowment funding a multi-pronged approach to supporting healthy marriages in Jacksonville, Florida to an innovative effort to bring Black farmers’ products to respond to the manifold health effects of urban food deserts in Baltimore, Maryland, and much more, Agents of Flourishing offers up-close and inspiring stories of church leaders working for mutual flourishing in tangible and captivating ways. Concluding with a concise and practical summary of six essential next steps, Sherman’s well-researched work offers a clear, actionable, and Jesus-centered roadmap for leaders in the church, the business community, and beyond who are committed to co-laboring to bring about God’s promised shalom.
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