Ever since, long ago, I did a seminar for a CU houseparty on the topic of ‘work’, I’ve been interested in vocation and calling and the things that most of us do most of the time. I was quite excited, then, to recieve a copy of Revolutionary Work by William Taylor, from 10ofthose, to review. William is known to many as the Rector of St Helen’s Bishopsgate, a thriving Anglican Church in the City of London. I’ve got friends at the church, who speak highly of William and his preaching, and I’ve heard him preach on a number of occasions. Without fail, as a preacher, William is faithful to the text, inspiring and provocative, and occasionally raises eyebrows. This book, then, the first by him that I’ve read, distills that into written form.
The topic of this book is of vital importance. Most people in the world spend a serious amount of their time ‘working’. Taylor calls it the 9-5, but is well aware of the all-consuming nature of some roles, and also the various other forms of work that require a revolution for the sake of the Gospel.
Books based on sermon series are pretty common – I read quite a few, knowingly and unknowingly. This book worked because that background gave it a clear shape and impetus, as well as the inclusion of some FAQ’s at the back – something I think a lot of books could do with! In these, Taylor clarified quite a few key questions, some of which I’d thought of whilst reading through. The downside of the sermon-into-book format is normally that something is lost in translation. I was pleasantly surprised that Taylor managed to translate quite well into print, with his firm but biblical tone coming through well. There were a couple of points where I winced slightly – imagining how strident it might have sounded from the pulpit – but overall this is a readable and straightforward book.
For the most part, I think Taylor is successful in applying the Gospel and the message of the Bible to the topic of work. Rooting the entire discussion in what the Bible says about being human is immensely helpful, and it is good to see that foundation coming out in a variety of conversations. I was concerned, however, that in order to push back against some perspectives on work, Taylor goes too far in his rejection of particular vocations. This is also seen in the inclusion in the book of a very clear appendix titled ‘A Special Case for ‘The Arts’?’. I think perhaps Taylor is asking the right questions about/against the ‘culture-making’ cohort of theologians, but does so too strongly. I’m not totally personally convinced by Taylor’s argument on these specific cases – but his overall thrust about work having dignity, and needing to be done for Christ, is important and helpful.
Whilst reading this book, I was at times reminded of Tim Keller’s ‘Every Good Endeavour’. The books are different – but also similar, rooted in a similar Reformed evangelical theological worldview, and based on sermon series. I think the ideal book would be a blend of the two – with Taylor’s abrupt and convicting style, perhaps slightly moderated with Keller’s wider set of influences. That said, I would definitely recommend most of this book (just not the appendix on the arts, which I think doesn’t mesh as well with Taylors bit as much as it needs too, and is too brief to really get to the issues touched on) to most people, particularly those who draw a line between their faith and their work. I really appreciated the design and production of the book – little drawings of lego men throughout – and thought the FAQ at the back, distilled from the sermon series, was a nice touch. I’ll keep my eye out for Taylor’s other book from 10Publishing, Revolutionary Sex.