Book Review: Ordinary by Tony Merida

OrdinaryBy: Mark Etheridge

The American church culture loves the extraordinary. We love the big conferences, the flamboyant concerts, and the rock star pastors. Yet, when it comes down to it, will these be the factors that will make the most impact in our world today? In his book, “Ordinary: How to Turn the World Upside Down” Tony Merida challenges the contemporary ideas of how the church will impact the world, and provides insightful alternatives to answer this question. Merida explains the answer is not to become more “extraordinary” but rather to become more “ordinary” by showing gospel intentionality within the ordinary rhythms of life. I found this a very challenging and insightful book to read, so here are a few takeaways from this helpful book:

  • This book encourages the church to live ordinary by extending their arms of mercy ministry for the sake of the gospel: I will admit that I often get nervous when I hear people speak about ministries of mercy or social justice. I tend to assume the primary motives are simply for the physical well-being of individuals instead of their spiritual well-being. However, Merida helps explain this is not an either/or issue, but is instead a both/and issue. God is concerned for both the physical and spiritual needs of people, and this should be the concern of the church as well. Merida says, “Let’s embrace mercy ministry under the shadow of the cross” (pg. 28).
  • This book promotes hospitality as one of the most effective means of living the ordinary life: In the times I’ve spent overseas and interactions with people from other cultures, I began to notice American culture is not very keen on allowing others into their homes. The home is seen more as a right of passage to Americans, and only those who are considered close friends will be granted the opportunity into one’s home. However, this concept of hospitality was very important in the Bible, and is exemplified by Jesus in the gospels (particularly the book of Luke). Inviting others into your home for a meal opens up a wide array of opportunities to serve others, and show them the love of Christ. Yet this is challenging, and is counter cultural for many of us, but in order to do it we must put to death our own idolatry. Merida states, “We must kill the idea, ‘My home is my refuge.’ I often hear people say that. It’s idolatry. Jesus is our refuge. We need to open our homes to people.”
  • This book shows the necessity for ordinary people to care for the broken and marginalized of society: A majority of this book is spent on this very issue. Merida mentions how this was a blind spot in his life for so long, but now he realizes the necessity of the church to care for the downcast of society. I can say the same is true for me. This book will challenge to serve those who are hurting in ways you’ve never thought of, or perhaps never considered all together. Merida provides a wealth of scriptural support from both Old and New Testaments to illustrate how this issue is near to the heart of God. The reality is that God is a Father who has welcomed the broken, oppressed, and orphaned in His family. What a privilege it is to reflect in our lives what the Father has done for us! Merida also provides several practical ways to be involved, along with other helpful resources to be a part of God’s global mission in this way.

This book was incredibly challenging, and I encourage you to read it, and pray it will do the same for you. There is also a bible study curriculum produced in conjunction with this book, which will assist you in teaching this content in your local church. Here’s the link to this material: I am personally planning to begin a series in our student ministry using this content. May you and I both be encouraged to live more ordinary for the sake of the gospel.

Here are some notable quotes from this work:

“If you really want to stop human trafficking, then stop looking at porn. You’re perpetuating the problem of modern-day slavery, and failing to live a just life.” (pg. 11)

“Love involves compassion that leads to action.” (pg. 20)

“Jesus was separated from sin, but never isolated from people.” (pg. 47)

“We care for the fatherless in view of, in obedience to, and for the glory of, the ‘Father of the fatherless’.” (pg. 77)

“Speaking up for the voiceless is part of ordinary Christian discipleship. It’s not all there is to discipleship, but it’s part of being salt and light in the world.” (pg. 94)

“Jesus was the perfect example of living by God’s Word, for the good of others, and the glory of God.” (pg. 121)

Tony Merida is the leader pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, NC and serves as an associate professor of preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Kimberly, have five adopted children.

Mark Etheridge currently serves as Youth Pastor at Mount Olive Baptist Church in Pittsboro, NC. He is also enrolled at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in their Master of Divinity program in Christian ministry. You can connect with Mark on both Twitter and Facebook.

Book Review: Jesus Prom by Jon Weece

Jesus PromI recently received the book Jesus Prom by Jon Weece. At first the book was not that appealing. I just did not understand the title, and did not care to read it, but I am a book junkie and am a sucker for a free copy of a new book so I took it. When I started it, I could not put it down. I was on vacation reading it, and enjoyed it. Jon is a the lead follower at Southland Christian Church and does a fantastic job of leading people into a life of loving people in extravagant ways.

The book very much resembles Bob Goff’s book, Love Does. In fact, Bob writes the foreword to Jon’s book. I read and reviewed Bob’s book (you can read it here), and the two carry the same passion for radically loving people. Few books  inspired the way that I spend my life and how I treat people like Bob’s book, and Jon’s did the same thing. The Prom doesn’t come until you get deep into the book. Jon talks about throwing a prom party for many who did not get the chance to experience prom while in high school. It was such a nice gesture for those. It was just a nice and loving thing to do. These are the kind of stories found in the book. Stories that will inspire, motivate, and touch you to the point of you acting upon them.

The book is not filled with self helps or methods. In fact, it rarely mentions strategies, it is a book full of stories! Stories do the teaching in this book. Jon compiles tons of stories about his own experiences or someone else’s experiences, and from the stories he draws practical insight on loving people. The book’s premise is found on the cover and can summarize the totality of the book: Life gets fun when you love people like God does. This premise is so true and so real. In fact, it is lived out in Jon’s book.

Jon’s book is a good read, it is a simple read. In fact, the book was not designed to be a difficult read. Some might even criticize the book implying that there must be more, but Jon would say love sums it up and was Jesus’ greatest character trait. I recommend this book to anyone seeking to love people the way that God intends for them to love people.

Note:  I received this book free from the publisher through the book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive/negative review.

Book Review: The Leadership Handbook by John Maxwell

The Leadership HandbookJohn Maxwell, the great leadership expert is at it again with his new book entitled “The Leadership Handbook: 26 Critical Lessons Every Leader Needs” narrows the most important lessons that leaders need to 26 and places them in his book. As I began reading this book, I certainly felt like I had read the book prior. Had I, of course not. The book is brand new. What I was noticing was the different principles that are found in the book that I had previously read in Maxwell’s other famous works. I have read several books by Maxwell, and although they tend to repeat themselves, the content is so valuable that it is impossible to not appreciate the work regardless of the repetition. Maxwell, age sixty at the time of writing this work does a fantastic job in keeping this new work relevant and new even though much of the principles you find are mentioned in previous writings.

Now for the review…

  • The Leadership Handbook is relevant to all leaders- It does not matter if you are a CEO of a secular company, a pastor, a business man, or a small group leader, the book is relevant. The book is full of principles that you can apply to your every day situations. Maxwell has lived  it. He not only writes about leadership, he has lived it. His life speaks to the effectiveness of the principles found in the book. The book is relevant and is relevant to all leaders regardless of your position.
  • The Leadership Handbook is practical for all leaders- I finished the book in two days, that is how good the book is. I was on vacation which gave me more time to devote to reading. Yes that was some of the reason for the quick finish, but the main reason was that the book was gold. The book is so practical that I was marking thoughts, phrases, stories, and quotes that I could apply to my leadership. Regardless of your position, you will receive tons of principles to apply to your leadership today.
  • The Leadership  Handbook is a compilation of all of Maxwell’s learnings and writings- As I mentioned earlier, Maxwell compiles much of his previous writings and combines them into this book. Yes, there is repetition, but every repeated phrase or principles must be a reminder so it is not redundant at all. I have read two or three of Maxwell’s previous writings, and I never felt in this work that I was reading the exact same book again. Maxwell does a fantastic job of compiling his learnings and penning them down. In fact, you will feel while reading this book that Maxwell is the grandfather of leadership teaching and mentoring young leaders on what he has learned on a lifetime of leadership.
  • The Leadership Handbook is a book that all leaders must read- This could be the best book on leadership that I have ever read. Yes, I mean that statement. Maxwell has written some good ones, but this one summarizes much of what you find in his other writings in this new handbook. It is phenomenal. Every statement in the book is a “tweetable” statement. It is that good! I wish that every young leader could read these principles, because Maxwell nails it in his latest work.

Some brief highlights of the book:

* “I don’t have employees, I have teammates.”

* “The toughest person to lead is yourself.”

* “Never work a day in your life. Find your passion to find your potential.”

* “Those who start the journey with you seldom finish with you.”

There are many more, but these are a few of the main points that stuck out to me. I highly recommend this book to any leader.

Note:  I received this book free from the publisher through the book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive/negative review.

ICYMI: February 28, 2015

ICYMIIf you are like me, there are so many good articles and posts around the internet every week that it becomes difficult to keep up with all of them. “In case you missed it” is my way of pointing out a few good reads  that are too good to overlook. This list will compile the top five posts of the week that I read. 

  1. 5 Things to Remember when Planning Connecting Events – Via Mark Howell
  2. 10 Ways to Read your Community – Via. Chuck Lawless on Rainer’s blog
  3. Every Small Group Needs a Vision – Via Marshall Segal on Desiring God’s blog
  4. How to Choose Student Leaders – Via Jen Bradbury on DYM’s Blog
  5. Taking a Closer Look at Christ and Culture – Via Trevin Wax

Did you read a good article this week? I would love to check it out. Share the link below in the comment section:

What Does It Mean To Be A Disciple Of Christ

What does it mean to be a disciple of Christ blog postBy Andrew Hale

Disciple of Christ. As a Christian, such a title should be your driving ambition. Disciple—μαθητής in Greek—appears 269 times in the New Testament. This word always refers to followers of a particular leader, most commonly Christ. First century disciples were obvious. They would sacrifice everything to follow their master and learn his ways. Pharisees had disciples. Trade workers had disciples. Jesus had disciples.

In our modern vernacular, a disciple would be similar to an intern. He would follow his master with the intent to one day become just like him. The disciples of Christ desired to learn His teachings and His way in order to become like Him—and ultimately to train others to be like Him. First century disciples could be clearly identified, but modern-day disciples may no be so easily spotted. Even still our goal is the same—look like Christ and teach others to look like Him.

Defining the marks of a modern-day disciple can be difficult. We fill our schedules with Bible studies, prayer lists, accountability conversations, and church attendance, but have we really become better disciples? This discussion should be a lengthy one for all Christians to consider, but today we will start with the basics. A disciple of Christ is about being, knowing, and doing life like Christ.

Being – Is you mind Gospel-oriented? Examine your thoughts and motivations. Being like Christ transforms the way you think about your friends, family, and enemies. You relate to coworkers, neighbors, and strangers with an eternal mindset. Jesus was very intentional about every word He spoke and every contact He made. His disciples will carefully inspect their intentions as well.

Knowing – Christ left His disciples with the command to teach others to observe all things He had taught them. (Matt. 28:20) We should consume His word and commands—which is a lifelong journey. The more we know Him, the more we will want to know Him. Studying the Scriptures through church services, Bible studies, discipleship books, daily devotionals, formal training, and other methods can help us know Him better. We should constantly evaluate how well we know Him and how we can know Him better.

Doing – What did you do today that will impact eternity forever? Too often Christians spend the bulk of their time and energy on projects that won’t matter next week, let alone for eternity. God has made us stewards over the time and ability He gave us. As disciples of Christ, we must assess all that we do to ensure we are bringing Him the most glory.

Bible studies, prayer lists, accountability conversations, church attendance, and a ton of other programs can help a disciple start being, knowing, and doing. However, our schedules will be overwhelmed and distracted when these programs act as a substitute to being, knowing, and doing, Take some time this week and consider whether your current journey of discipleship is leading you toward being, knowing, and doing. If not, make some changes! More than likely your discipleship journey focuses on one facet more than the other two—being, knowing, OR doing. Ensure that you journey of growing as a disciple of Christ is balanced, intentional, and focused.

Additional Readings

Gospel Centered Discipleship by Jonathan Dodson

Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples by Francis Chan

Follow Me: A Call to Die by David Platt

Andrew Hale currently serves as Associate Pastor of Education and Discipleship at Turning Point at Calvary in St. Augustine, FL. He is also enrolled at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in their Doctor of Ministry degree program. You can connect with Andrew on both Twitter and Facebook.

Bursting The Bubble Of The Christian Sub-Culture

bubble-burstingBy: Mark Etheridge

When you walk into a Christian bookstore, you’ve probably noticed all of the “Christian” merchandise the store offers. Perhaps you were even surprised at what all they did offer. As you make your way up and down the aisles, you will notice a variety of t-shirts, CDs, books, bumper stickers, or even some “testamints.” It’s really the Christian hub for any good Christian who wants to separate himself from the world and demonstrate to his lost friends that he is a “real” or “sold out” follower of Christ. Or is it?

Many of the things I’ve listed above contribute to what is termed the “Christian Subculture.” While these things are not inherently bad, I often wonder what kind of witness they are to the outside world. I would even argue that many of these things are attractive only to Christians, and confusing or even repelling to others regarding what it means to be a follower of Christ. Let’s be honest: The Christian subculture is a bubble. And Jesus calls those who follow Him to live among those in the culture, not to create a subculture to protect ourselves from the outside world. One area the church must fight against this sub-culture mindset the strongest is its ministry to students. Here’s a few practical ways to fight against the current of the Christian sub-culture in your student ministry:

  1. Do What is Best, As Opposed to What Will Keep You Busy

We often mistake busyness for godliness. However, this is rarely an accurate assessment. We have become great at keeping our student ministries busy in hopes that it will “keep them away from the world.” Yet, this philosophy focuses on the external actions, as opposed to the internal desires of the heart. This strategy also neglects the command of Jesus to “Go” (Matt. 28:19). A student’s heart will not be changed just because he attended every youth event the church hosted this year. Instead of simply trying to make our students busy, we need to focus on the best way to teach our students the gospel, and how they can in turn live out the gospel in their sphere of influence outside of the church.

  1. Equipping Students to be on Mission

Another danger of the Christian subculture is the focus upon simply keeping students “safe” and doesn’t actually teach them to engage the world with the gospel. If a student in our ministry knows Christ personally, he has the ability to share this message with others. Instead we often short change our students by simply taking them to Christian concerts, taking them to the latest Christian movie, or hosting fun events at the church. Now I’m not opposed to any of the examples just listed, but if that’s all we’re doing, we are doing our students a huge disservice. How tragic it would be for a student to come through our ministry and never engage in the mission of Jesus? Challenge your students by teaching them, and then showing them how to fulfill God’s mission for the world outside the church walls, and outside of the Christian subculture.

  1. Smashing the Idols of Culture Idolatry

An idol is anything that takes the place of God. It’s not limited to the wooden statues we saw people bowing down to in the Old Testament, but anything that is esteemed in the place of God through our affections and desires can be labeled an idol. Alvin Reid has properly termed the Christian subculture as “idolatry.” Our culture of Jesus has become more important than the actual Jesus we are called to worship and obey. Reid says, “We are not to be like the world. But our [Christian] subculture is definitely not making us more like Jesus.” We can’t assume effective disciple-making is a result of Christian music, cliché slogans, or youth group events. We must recognize the culture we have created for ourselves has become idolatrous, and we need to smash the idols we have created. It’s not a quick fix, but it’s a process that begins with a desire for students to know Jesus in an authentic way. Truly knowing Jesus results in a life that is transformed (cf. Rom. 12:2), which means living a life on mission outside of the cultural idols of the Christian subculture.

With these principles, I hope it will help you think through how you can smash the idols of the Christian subculture in your own life, and in the lives of those in your student ministry. I’m obviously not saying you need to go out and burn all of your Christian t-shirts (although it may not be a bad idea to burn some of them). But understanding and then implementing changes strategically into your ministry to align with the mission of Jesus is the goal. As mentioned earlier, the Christian subculture is a bubble. But it only takes a small pin to burst a bubble. Be that pin. Burst the bubble, and by the power of Gods’ Spirit, let your students live out what God has created them for.

Mark Etheridge currently serves as Youth Pastor at Mount Olive Baptist Church in Pittsboro, NC. He is also enrolled at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in their Master of Divinity program in Christian ministry. You can connect with Mark on both Twitter and Facebook.

Terrace Crawford New Podcast is Live

ThisWeekinYMHeaderPODCAST is LIVE:  The podcast will be available online at, via iTunes, and at!  Every Thursday there will be a new episode.
PREMIERE EPISODE: This Week in Youth Ministry – Episode 1: How to Jump Start Your Parent Ministry, featuring Jeremy Lee, the founder of  Plus+ Tony Nolan, speaker on the WinterJam Tour, drops by to talk about how you can prep your students for events. Terrace Crawford also gives you the scoop on how you can win a GoPro!


RUNNING TIME:   56 minutes. Episodes to follow will be 35 min.