I am excited today to review a resource that not only promotes the integration of faith and work, but provides an opportunity for learners to think very practically about their faith along with the activities of their life. Don’t just take my word for it; check out my friend Amy Sherman’s review of Reintegrate here.
Bob Robinson is the author of Reintegrate Your Vocation With God’s Mission. Bob himself is a leader in the faith and work movement. His passion is to “invite people into the life and purposes of Jesus, and then equip them to live out what God intends for them in every aspect of their lives, especially in their callings.” Bob has served as Pastor of Adult Discipleship in a large church, as a church planter, and as Area Director for the Coalition for Christian Outreach (CCO). He is a candidate at Covenant Theological Seminary for a D.Min. in Faith, Vocation, and Culture. His dissertation is based on research he has done with pastors around the country who have made vocation a major part of their discipleship paradigm. He also holds a business administration degree from the University of Akron along with an M.Div. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
Bob Robinson was a top Account Executive at a Fortune 100 company when he felt called to church ministry. He now reaches out to college students at Kent State University at Stark, Malone University, and Stark State College with CCO. and is Founder and Executive Director of The Center to Reintegrate Faith, Life and Vocations, also known as (re)integrate. This non-profit organization provides teaching, curriculum, resourcing, and networking to equip God s people to reintegrate the Christian faith with all of life, especially their vocations. .
As a relatively new member of the faith and work conversation, I see immense value to this book. Let me underscore this by sharing a little bit of my story.
I was raised in a conservative Baptist church in the suburbs outside Cleveland, Ohio. I am deeply grateful for the rich heritage of theology and Bible study I received from this church, but as I look back now, I realize where there was deep theology there was equally deep dualism. As a church, we prided ourselves that more than 30% of our budget went to overseas missionaries. There is nothing wrong with supporting overseas missionaries, but there is something wrong when this emphasis leads to the implicit communication that those who are not pastors or overseas missionaries are not important. Those who chose to go into “full time ministry” were praised and put on a pedestal, but what about the janitor, teacher, lawyer or stay-at-home mom? What about their work? Unfortunately, it only appeared to be valuable when it supported those in “full-time ministry.”
When I met the leaders of this movement through my work, I discovered that all of our work matters. I learned that God cares about every aspect of our life. Therefore, you can understand my excitement for Bob’s book. There is a seemingly never ending stream of great books on faith and work. Bob’s book, however, takes this material a step further. It helps the reader intentionally think through each aspect of their life and how their faith can infuse it, through practical thinking and exercises:
This Bible Study has been created to give God’s people the biblical foundation for reintegrating their faith back into every facet of life, especially in that aspect of life in which we invest a huge amount of time and energy: our work. Work is not some
supplementary part of being a Christian; work is central to our purpose as we participate with the mission of God. As Steven Garber says, “Vocation is integral, not incidental, to the mission of God in the world (the missio Dei).”
Bob describes how everything was originally created with complete integration. Adam and Eve worshiped God as they worked the Garden and cared for each other. Our challenge is to move our lives back to this original state of flourishing and shalom.
After an excellent description of vocation, sacred and secular, Bob brings the reader methodically through the four chapter Gospel. Amy Sherman often says that you will get the story wrong if you don’t have the bookends right. He invites the reader to consider how their work connects with the “very good” of creation, “rebellion” of the fall, the “accomplished and applied” of redemption, and “restoration” of consummation. At each step of the process, Robinson encourages the reader to connect the discussion with their institution, city, and community. This helps to underscore and cement the connection between our theology with every aspect of our life.
You are not oiling the wheels of a machine that’s about to fall over a cliff. You are not restoring a great painting that’s shortly going to be thrown on the fire. You are not planting roses in a garden that’s about to be dug up for a building site. You are — strange though it may seem, almost as hard to believe as the resurrection itself — accomplishing something which will become, in due course, part of God’s new world. Every act of love, gratitude and kindness; every work of art or music inspired by the love of God and delight in the beauty of his creation; every minute
spent teaching a severely handicapped child to read or to walk;every act of care and nurture, of comfort and support, for one’s fellow human beings, and for that matter one’s fellow non-human creatures; and of course every prayer, all Spirit-led teaching, every deed which spreads the gospel, builds up the church, embraces
and embodies holiness rather than corruption, and makes the name of Jesus honored in the world — all of this will find its way, through the resurrecting power of God, into the new creation which God will one day make. – N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church as quoted in Reintegrate
The book concludes with a wonderful chapter on calling. Bob immediately addresses the common misconception that each Christian has one calling. The reality is we all have one primary calling to follow Jesus as His disciple, but we each have differing personal and service callings which may change throughout our lifetime. Robinson invites the reader to consider and identify their callings and then identify the tasks required of each calling on a weekly basis.
Reintegrate has justifiably received some wonderful endorsements from many leaders in the faith and work movement.
Utilizing a robust theology of vocation, a coherent biblical framework and a transforming pedagogy of interactive dialogue, Reintegrate has the potential to truly change your life. I highly recommend it!
-Dr. Tom Nelson, President, Made to Flourish
Reintegrate is a compelling study, shaped by Scripture, for seeing seamlessly, for a way of life where everything that matters, really does matter.
-Dr. Steven Garber, Professor, Marketplace Theology, Regent College; Author, Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good
Reintegrate is an engaging, thoughtful, well-organized curriculum. By providing practical, interactive exercises, the study helps users see the big picture and reframe their own identity and work in ways that will be both encouraging and energizing. Highly recommended.
-Dr. Amy L. Sherman, Author, Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good
This is one of the finest study guides I know for people who are eager to align their personal vocation with God’s mission in the world.
-Dr. Mark Roberts, Executive Director, The Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary
I heartily encourage you to pick up a copy of this book and use it for your small group or Sunday School class. This is a great tool to use if you know folks who are new to the faith and work conversation. My friend, Byron Borger at Hearts & Minds Books will be happy to sell you a copy.