Inter-Varsity Press, 2014, £8.99, Pbk., 202p., ISBN 978-1783591251
This is an apt book for a Christian workplace organisation. Fruitfulness on the frontline is about taking your Christian life out to work, or to whatever your frontline happens to be. The theme of the book is that whatever we are doing, even if we are not going to work, we will be ‘in the world’ at some point and we are to work in those situations as if we were doing it for God. Although the workplace features strongly in Mark Greene’s examples, he makes it clear that less obvious scenarios, such as having tea with a grandchild who never has anything to do with Christian people otherwise, is just as much a frontline as the workplace. He also makes the point that whilst sharing the gospel is included, it’s actually just one aspect of fruitfulness. Greene has six guidelines which form the framework of the book: Modelling godly character, Making good work, Ministering grace and love, Moulding culture, Being a mouthpiece for truth and justice and Being a messenger of the gospel. He calls these the 6’M’s, which, he acknowledges, overlap quite a lot.
The style of the writing makes it very easy to read. It is light, positive and humorous, without being trivial. More significantly, Mark Greene gives the impression that you as an individual could do similar things that occur in the stories in the book, because virtually all the examples are about people doing things in their immediate area of influence, often starting small. In some ways it is so easy to read that you can gallop through it, which would be a shame because there are numerous examples and illustrations which are worth taking time to reflect upon. Moreover, the chapters conclude with some questions to ponder. In the chapter on the final ‘M’ I did have a slight sense that the point was being laboured, but never enough to make me want to stop reading.
What did I like the most? Firstly, the outward-looking focus is refreshing. Being fruitful could imply soul-searching, but even the chapter on modelling godly character is more about action than self-examination. Secondly, there are plenty of suggestions for ministering in the workplace and what that might involve; this includes being supported in your ministry, and he advocates getting frontline work on church agendas. Church prayer meetings, he says, rarely touch on our workplaces or related frontlines. (Members of CLIS might like to know there is an anecdote about a librarian on page 27.) Thirdly there is a holistic approach which challenges the view that if you haven’t seen conversions in your workplace you are not being fruitful. As the 6 ‘Ms’ indicate, all aspects of life come into play.
If your frontline regularly involves the more philosophical debates then this book won’t give you much to work on in that respect. You aren’t going to find many tips for taking questions on world events or national news either. But in any case, such matters often require a whole book or some larger kind of study.
This book has a lot to commend it, and would be a good buy for any church library or perhaps even a training college library.
Contributed by: Robert Foster, BA, DipIM, MCLIP, who works as Senior Library Assistant at King’s College, London, and is a member of the CLIS executive committee.