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: http://www.lifeway.com/Product/ordinary-bible-study-kit-P005644105. 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.