Stewardship Resource

Living on Purpose

Book Review  Book Review
  • Author: Tom & Christine Sine are co-founders of Mustard Seed Associates.
  • Updated: 06/21/2006
  • ISBN: 0-8010-6388-4
  • Copyright: Published by Baker Books. Tom and Christine Sine assist organizations in adapting to the 21st century. Tom is a consultant in futures research and planning. Christine is a doctor with a background in international health and travel medicine.

Living on Purpose helps the reader develop a mission statement that forms a strong connection between Sunday faith and daily life. 

Although there are many other books on mission statements, this is one that "seriously uses Scripture to help believers find purpose for their lives ... (We) start with the question, 'What kind of people does God want us to be both as individuals and families in the work of God's kingdom?'"

The authors encourage a reflective and purposeful journey. The book serves as a path for the pilgrimage. Each chapter is part of a progressive roadmap designed to encourage you "to reinvent your lifestyle and time-style to more authentically reflect the purposes and rhythms of God's kingdom."


Living on Purpose

In the forward to Living on Purpose, Les Parrott reflects, " ... the greatest sin of busyness is how it disrupts our capacity to live life on purpose" and claims, "This book offers people a practical step-by-step process to create a more focused, less stressed way of life with a difference."

With the loss of "Sabbath," we have become extremely busy and very stressed. In our hurry we allow others "to define what is best for our lives ... " The Sines say, "The tragedy is that too many of us settle for less and less, and we miss God's best ... Many of us wind up exhausted and unfulfilled ... we fail to ask, 'Why does our faith seem to have so little influence in defining both the direction and the tempo of our lives?'"

Living on Purpose helps you develop a mission statement that connects Sunday faith and daily life.

Although there are many other books on mission statements, this is one that "seriously uses Scripture to help believers find purpose of their lives ... (We) start with the question, 'What kind of people does God wants to be both as individuals and families in the work of God's kingdom?"

The authors encourage a reflective and purposeful journey. The book serves as a path for the pilgrimage. Each chapter is part of a progressive roadmap designed to encourage you "to reinvent your lifestyle and time-style to more authentically reflect the purposes and rhythms of God's kingdom."

"Off-ramps" are encouraged. You are invited to quit reading, take "alone" time and respond to a series of questions in a journal or notebook.

Stories from others who have made the journey and have experienced a difference in their lives aid the reader along the way.

A brief summary

Chapter 1. Looking for God's Best in All the Wrong Places

The journey begins by encouraging the reader to be aware of the story of "Boom City," a story that defines our lives.

"Boom City" ...

  • "stresses us, exhausts us and inflicts us with 'hurry sickness.'"
  • "has branded us and defined, even for people of faith, what is important and what is of value"
  • "writes the mission statement for our lives."
  • "is above all else a global shopping mall open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and on-line all the time."
  • "architects ... are committed to persuading us to be chronically disoriented."
  • "marketers ... have convinced many of us that we are what we own and the more we own, the ore we are."

Boom City comes with a high price tag: longer working hours, marketing that encourages teens and children to be consumers, kids spending 37 hours a week on television, CDs, video games and internet chat rooms. This "curriculum ... teaches that the solutions to life's problems lie not in good values, hard work or education, but in materialism and the purchasing of more and more things." Boom City's message is all about "individual gratification."

Chapter 2. Looking for God's Best in an Ancient Story and a Future Hope

The authors "argue that as followers of Jesus Christ we will find God's best by heading for a new destination that has a very different character ... (It is) called the City of Shalom, and the only way to find our way there is to do what Christ did: Place God's purposes at the center of our lives. If we make God's purposes our purposes we will find God's best -- life with a difference."

The Sines insist that the reason faith has so little impact in many peoples lives is because it "isn't connected to God's 'transcendent vision' -- too many of us have settled for a very small, compartmentalized faith that is disconnected from our daily lives and God's hurting world."

Our life is compartmentalized. We haven't understood that faith is for the whole of our lives, not just a corner of it, and that it is for the whole world and not just for ourselves.

Furthermore, our faith is compartmentalized by a dualistic worldview that divorces the spiritual realm from the physical world in which we live.

"Too often our spiritualized faith ... (is) reduced to little more than a devotional lubricant to keep our gears from jamming as we race to get ahead in our careers or in our suburban communities."

The alternative is to journey to the City of Shalom. "In essence, shalom embraces God's desire to restore all things to the wholeness and harmony of relationship in which they were originally created."

The participant is invited on a journey characterized by the biblical story of a "shalom vision." Numerous helpful biblical references are cited. Reflective questions are asked, fostering a desire to want God's best for your life and the world around you.

At the end of the chapter you are urged to "draw a picture of how the coming of God's shalom might transform both your life and those areas of need that most urgently touch your heart."

Chapter 3. Living on Purpose: Putting First Things First

At this stage of the journey you are encouraged to draft "a beginning life mission statement that flows directly out of the shalom purposes of God."

People need a strong sense of purpose that calls us beyond ourselves. The authors state, "If we really want to find God's best, we need to do what Jesus did and give ourselves to a dream that calls us beyond ourselves. If we follow Jesus in making God's purposes our purposes, we will discover all the possibilities a whole-life faith, which is more festive than the stress race, can offer."

Examples of mission include one by Ivan, who wrote "I commit my life to partnering with God in projecting God's love to the unloved."

The authors have a "compelling desire to see something of God's kingdom come among our poorest neighbors." Their mission statement is "To become a voice for those who have no voice and bring glimpses of God's shalom kingdom into people's lives."

They recommend an 11-step "off-ramp" process for "Listening to God's Best."

  • Step 1 -- Retreat from the distractions of Boom City
  • Step 2 -- Listening for the call of God in stillness
  • Step 3 -- Listening for God's voice in your past
  • Step 4 -- Listening for God's call through Scripture
  • Step 5 -- Listening to God's call through prayer
  • Step 6 -- Listening to God through the needs of others
  • Step 7 -- Listening to your gifts and talents
  • Step 8 -- Listening to God's call on your life through the broken places
  • Step 9 -- Listening to God's call on your life through your dreams
  • Step 10 -- Listening to God's call on your life through your imagination
  • Step 11 -- Listening to God through picturing new possibilities

Chapter 4. Living on Purpose. Setting Goals for a Whole-Life Faith

A mission statement is not the end but the beginning. The next part of the journey is to "put wheels on the mission statement and get rolling in a new direction."

Goals serve as the doorway to a whole-life faith. An outline and process encourage goal-setting. The outline includes:

  • setting goals for your spiritual journey
  • setting goals for your kingdom vocation
  • setting goals for your intellectual disciplines
  • setting goals for your relationships
  • setting goals for your creative disciplines
  • setting goals for your physical disciplines
  • setting goals for the use of your time and money

Chapter 5. Living on Purpose: Creating a Way of Life You Can Love

The authors point out how a Boom City lifestyle comes at the expense of the vitality of our faith and the viability of the church. It "gobbles up our time and resources, it is undermining the vitality of the church and undercutting our support for missions around the world. We are witnessing the slow but steady hemorrhaging of time and money invested in the work of the church."

They suggest that, first, "the church at large is working from some seriously flawed notions of what biblical stewardship looks like. (The church) ... uncritically accepts as a given the affluent lifestyle and workplace demands of modern culture and simply tries to help believers be good stewards of whatever time or money is left over."

Second, "churches are working from three flawed models of stewardship: 1) the myth of the blessing model, which promotes the idea that wealth, success and status prove God's faithfulness; 2) the myth of the tithe model, which suggests that once you give a certain percentage of income, you are off the hook; and 3) the myth of the downscaling model, which encourages reinvesting time and money to help those in the margins.

However, "we are called to biblically reinvent it (the American dream), to create a more festive way of life where we not only cut back but also add celebration to our lives in a way that reflects some of the jubilation of God's created order."

But there is another, better, model: a whole-life stewardship model. The Sines say "whole life stewardship is the biblical call to intentionally steward our entire lives in a way that more authentically reflects the values and rhythms of God's new order and frees up more time and money to be invested in advancing this new order." To implement this vision they propose creating a liturgy of life you can love.

Chapter 6. Seeking First the Kingdom in Community

The Sines believe that the first and foremost work is to incarnate the gospel by creating communities that reflect a very different vision of "the good life and a better future."

Boom City creates two groups. The first is one in which marketers place us according to our tastes and preferences. The second is composed of people who "actually join a community of consumption."

The biblical community is a pulling together, not to have our individual needs met, but to be part of a new family with a mission. "We are called to flesh out something of God's new order and to advance the purposes of that new order in the world." The church needs to be reinvented as God's first family.

This community would probably be "more relational and less institutional ... a place where we are known, loved and held accountable. It would not reflect the values of the Boom City culture but would both "challenge them and become a new incarnational example of God's kingdom. It would no longer be a place we go to have our individual needs met but rather a place where we are being conformed to the image of Christ ... the church would become much more of a missional community, finding creative ways to involve all members in extending God's love to the world."

The authors conclude the chapter by giving a series of creative and challenging snapshots of what that would look like.

Chapter 7. Seeking First the Vocation of the Kingdom

The emphasis in this chapter is a call for every believer to "commit single-mindedly to a mission that calls us beyond ourselves ... we are persuaded that the Bible calls us all to incarnate God's kingdom in every part of our lives in community, including doing what Jesus did and making God's mission purposes our purposes too."

The authors preach that "decision number one for all generations is, 'How does God want to use my life to make a difference in the world?' Then we make all our other life decisions in light of life decision number one including where to work, how long to work, and where to live ... Jesus was deadly serious when he called us to seek first the kingdom and trust God for our beans and jeans."

Conclusion: Living on Purpose -- The Beginning

To summarize, Christine and Tom Sine identify desired outcomes for those who participate in the journey outlined in the book.

If you made the journey you will have:

  • "Diagnosed some of the reasons for your hurry sickness."
  • "Decoded some of the seductive values of Boom City."
  • "Gained a clearer sense of God's loving purposes for a people and a world."
  • "Written a mission statement showing how God might use your life to advance those purposes."
  • "Drafted goals that describe how you might give expression to that mission statement in every area of your life."
  • "Reinvented your timestyle and lifestyle to authentically reflect your faith in your weekly rhythm and free up more of your time and money to invest in the advance of God's new order."
  • "Explored ways you can find people to join you in new forms of community that incarnationally reflect some thing of God's new order and provide the support and accountability we all need to be whole-life disciples, stewards and servants."
  • "Created specific ways you could invite God to use your life to make a difference for his kingdom either through your work hours or your discretionary time."

-- Reviewed by Jerry Hoffman

During 2005-2006, this book was widely distributed and continues to be used at St. Philip the Deacon Lutheran Church in Plymouth, Minn. Go to Living on Purpose at St. Philip the Deacon for more information.

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