Book Review: The Call

The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life  – Os Guinness

My Rating – If you are looking for something

Level – Choppy read, short but reads longer than it is

First of all, if you’ve been recommend this book by a friend or pastor and they tell it is written by a guy named Guinness, no relation to the beer, you should question if they actually read the entire book. He is actually related, though distantly, to the original founder of the brewery.

This is another book about Christians and work. It is probably the most famous and the one many pastors or counselors will mention first. It is not quite 20 years old, and is already the ‘classic’ on the subject. The book is written as somewhat a devotional/study and is broken down to 26 short chapters with a note in the table of contents that the intent is that each chapter be read and reflected on one day at a time.

Probably the best thing you can get from this book is the different in vocation and avocation. That is your work and your calling. They are not necessarily the same thing. He points at the us, as Christians, have forgotten about calling. We don’t really teach about it and help people find theirs.

My Thoughts
This book is often cited by other authors writing books on calling and work, but I didn’t enjoy it all that much. Maybe it was his writing style, but I just could never get into it. To be fair, I didn’t read it as suggested, in the 26 sittings, so that may have affected things. I think the writing was overly wordy and more complicated than needed. Perhaps due to his intention of writing 26 independent reflections, it was at times redundant at times while also being disjointed at other times.

If you’ve already knocked out a few books on calling or work and are still looking for something else, you should put this on your list. Other than that, it probably isn’t worth your time. Many, if not all, of his major points are quoted and discussed by Keller in Every Good Endeavor. I’d recommend reading that book instead. The book is Biblically sound and strong on history, but the writing will likely not appeal to most people.

Book Review: Every Good Endeavor

Every Good Endeavor – Tim Keller

My Rating – Put it on your list

Level – Easy read, medium length

This is another book that is hard to summarize with just repeating the title or copy/pasting the table of contents. I guess the title isn’t super clear, it comes from a quote that he opens the book with. Basically asking, ‘God give us strength in every good endeavor’, so, to prosper and do well in any work or vocation we choose.

The book is broken into three main parts – God’s plan for work, our problems with work, and the Gospel and work. An interesting point in God’s plan is that work is not punishment. We often think we are required to work due to fall, but the punishment is only that it will be hard, not that we will have to do it. The problems section runs down the typical issues people have, be unmotivated and not ‘working as if for the Lord’, or being motivated by the wrong thing (money, prestige, etc.), or making work an idol.

The final section is the strength of the book. Not only are there some practical how-to-ness in there, but it is extremely encouraging. This may be most important part for anyone who does not like their job. You will be lifted up and maybe even be a little pumped while reading this last part. I know it changed my thinking. It caused/challenged me to look at things differently and to find different ways of approaching my job and its issues. Most of all, I was left with a feeling of hope, in that, if doing it for God, it cannot be pointless.

Keller is obviously a great writer, as evidenced by his seven thousand books, most of which are best sellers. The whole book is well written and reads quickly. Most importantly, it is theologically sound and Biblically based. The book’s only weakness (one it shares with almost all of these types of books) is that it is written for white collar professionals. It assumes education, mobility, and choice in careers. There is a passing reference to blue collar work, but I found it lacking.

My Thoughts
The reminder that the curse isn’t the work is an important perspective shift for most people. If you are like me, you remember that the punishments are hard work of the land and pain in child birth. However, we were already called to work and exercise dominion. The reason we don’t like work isn’t because it’s a punishment. It’s that work isn’t what it is supposed to be – it’s hard.

I want to spend a little time reiterating some points for the third section. He does acknowledge that you may not like your job, you may even be stuck there, and in that, he goes on to point out what you can do for the Kingdom while there. Obviously, you can share the gospel. There are other things, though, that I thought were interesting. For one, he discusses just being a good boss. Making your place of employment a great place to work and a place that treats people right, and even more so, being an ethical place. That probably affected me the most as I am stuck in a place that often appears I will never leave. So, what can I do? If you feel this way, this is a good book for you.

I think just about anyone interested in a book regarding the Christian life and work should pick this up. Especially if you are in a white collar field, put it on your list. If not, it is still probably the best book on work out there, but there is just less for you – the only knock I have on the book and the only reason I didn’t rate it higher.