Last week Tim challenged me to speak on being “Ordinary.” We’re still friends, as I hope this CK Short will demonstrate.
Listen to the end to hear Tim’s response and to find out what I’ve asked him to speak on next week. Here’s a partial transcript of the podcast.
What would you say if one of your friends asked you, “David tell us what it’s like to be ordinary?”
Well I had the privilege of “enjoying” that experience last week. When offered the opportunity to challenge me to speak on a subject of his own choice, my friend Tim Challies said, “David, why don’t you tell us what it’s like to be ordinary.”
So that’s what springs into Tim’s mind when he thinks of me: “Ordinary.”
I mean it’s not a huge insult I suppose. He didn’t ask me to speak on being “Ugly” or being “Offensive” or being a “Fool.” But it’s not exactly the greatest compliment either is it?! “Ordinary”
OK, I didn’t expect him to ask me about being “Extraordinary” or “Super-intelligent” or “Tall, dark and handsome,” but I expected maybe something a bit more than “Ordinary.”
Maybe something like being “Loyal” or “Consistent” or “Reliable” or something like that. But “Ordinary!?”
I looked up ordinary.com and found that it’s owned by Tanglewood Ordinary Restaurant – serving grandmother’s Sunday dinner since 1986. Not exactly the most inviting name for a restaurant – Tanglewood Ordinary Restaurant. Ordinary.net hasn’t even been purchased yet. Shows you how popular a concept “ordinary” is!
When I looked up a dictionary, I found this definition: “Ordinary: a clergyman appointed formerly in England to attend condemned criminals.” It’s also used to describe “some of the fundamental elements of the Catholic Mass.” In Britain it can even be used of “a Tavern or eating house serving regular meals.”
But I don’t think Tim was meaning any of these possibilities; rather he was thinking along the lines of this definition: “ordinary – the regular or customary condition or course of things.” Some synonyms are “everyday” “normal” “run-of-the-mill” “humdrum.”
Not much encouragement there, though, is there. Who wants to be ordinary, run-of-the-mill, humdrum?
Well, the good news for me and for you is that God wants the vast majority of His people to be “ordinary.”
“Ordinary” as a compliment
I know I’ve been expressing outrage over Tim’s choice of subject for me, but it’s all been somewhat tongue-in-cheek. I know the sense in which Tim is using the word and that’s why when he gave me the assignment, I didn’t give him a punch over the Internet. Rather I said, “Thank you, Tim. I take that as the highest compliment.” Because I believe that God’s will for me, and indeed for most of us, is to be extraordinarily ordinary!
Let me explain what I mean!
When you read through Ephesians 1-3, you scale the immeasurable heights and depths and breadths of Christian doctrine: predestination, election, redemption, justification, sanctification, union with Christ, and so on. It leaves you utterly breathless with wonder and awe.
And you think, “Right what’s coming. If God has done all that for me, what’s he going to ask me to do to show my gratitude?” You come to the end of the doctrinal depths of chapter 3 with the climactic doxology: “To him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages world without end. Amen.”
And you hardly dare turn the page.
Because you know that God’s about to demand that you go on mission to Africa or Antarctica for the rest of your life. Or He’s going to tell you to give away all your money and possessions and live in the ’hood. Or He’s going to say “I want you to live on top of a pole in the desert for 40 days.” Or “I want you to evangelize the whole city by midnight.” Or “You must preach to 20,000 people every Sunday and plant 1000 churches before you die.”
But instead, when you summon up the courage to start reading chapters 4-6 you can hardly believe your eyes. God wants me to tell the truth, to exercise my gifts in the church, to be honest, to love my wife or obey my husband, to honor my parents, to bring up my children for the Lord, to be a faithful employee and a fair employer, to be good citizen, etc.
It’s hardly the stuff of bestseller biography or conference ministry is it! I mean it sounds so humdrum, so run-of-the-mill, so…well, so ordinary.
And that’s exactly what God’s will for most of us is. Yes, there will always be a few Christians, maybe one in every hundred thousand, who are called to an extraordinary life or an extraordinary ministry. And yes, they’re the ones that get so much attention in this inter-connected media-saturated world. So much so that we begin to think that every Christian is like them and I’m just such a boring failure.
But the reality is that God calls most Christians to ordinariness, to serve him in the everyday, in the humdrum – in the home, in the workplace, in the church, in the community and in the nation.
And that’s not just found in Ephesians; you can see the same pattern in Romans, Colossians, Philippians, etc., too.
But remember I said that we are called to extraordinary ordinariness. Yes we are to serve God in these everyday run-of-the mill roles, but we are to excel in them. We are to be extraordinary wives, husbands, parents, children, employees and employers. We are to be the best ordinary we can be. And that’s what will make a lasting difference to the church and the world.
Extraordinary ordinariness will have a much greater impact than mere extraordinariness. Yes, the latest Christian sports star will get a million blog posts written about him every time he breathes. Yes, the latest kid to write about his last trip to heaven and back will make millions for his parents. Yes, the newest mega church pastors will wow CNN for a few weeks.
But the greatest and the most permanent good will come from the impact and influence of extraordinarily ordinary Christians excelling in their ordinary days and duties.
Isn’t that so encouraging! That will revolutionize the way I change my baby’s diapers, tidy my yard, talk to my employer, manage my money, drive my car, participate in politics, behave in my marriage, and so on. On one level, it’s so very ordinary. But God blesses faithful ordinariness, and especially extraordinary ordinariness to transform lives, families, churches, communities, and nations, one ordinary life at a time.
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