ordinary

Now that the semester is over, I’m digging into the pile of books I’ve been longing to read. Yesterday I enjoyed Michael Horton’s new book, Ordinary. This delightful reminder of the value of a normal Christian life covers one of the points I make in my forthcoming book, Becoming Worldly Saints: Can You Serve Jesus and Still Enjoy Your Life? My copy arrived two days ago, but it won’t be available for a couple more weeks. I’ll say more about it then.

Okay, just one thing. Becoming Worldly Saints is the fruit of 15 years of teaching, preaching, and writing on Christian worldview. I’ve field-tested the exegesis, analogies, and humor, and they communicate well both to academics and lay Christians. If you wonder how to integrate your earthly and heavenly life, your Christianity into your humanity, or if you have felt some misplaced guilt after reading David Platt’s Radical or John Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life, then you need to read this book.

Back to Ordinary. This book will encourage any Christian who feels something might be wrong with them because they aren’t a pastor or missionary or don’t experience regular seasons of revival. Horton shows how our American obsession with the Next Best Thing actually hinders us from growing in the normal means of grace of Word, Sacrament, and Church. Even our pious attempts to “change the world” can be nothing more than idolatrous attempts to make something of ourselves. Rather than obsess over our individual legacies, we must lose ourselves in the limiting yet life-giving fellowship of our local church.

I wish every lay Christian who feels like a second-class Christian would read page 164. I wish every pastor who ministers to these people would read it. Here Horton explains how ordinary believers serve Jesus in their various callings. These callings count, and they will be rewarded just as much as service in the church. What a liberating word!

This book contains much wisdom. I’m leaving too much out, but here are some of the more provocative quotes:

“If our Christian life is grounded in a radical experience, we will keep looking for repeat performances. Not slow growth in the same direction, but radical spikes in the graph. This keeps us always on the prowl for The Next Big Thing” (81).

“[Multi-site church] runs against the grain of the incarnation. It is not virtual presence but a real presence that Christ gives us when he speaks and acts among us. He did not remain in heaven while writing messages in the sky or on giant screens” (116).

“Regardless of intentions, the medium ensures that he can never be the pastor, but only a celebrity teacher. By being the ‘pastor’ of many churches, he is actually the pastor of none. Furthermore, it is his board that has the last word. This model seems far more hierarchical than the others it rebelled against” (119).

“We need to take the pressure off of both parents, let them take a breath, and, resting in God’s grace, let them revel in the ordinary chat in the car, the normal conversation over family devotions, and the countless moments that add up. Our families, including us, do not need more quality time, but more quantity time. That’s when most of the best things happen. We think that such events are spontaneous—and to a certain extent they are. But they are really the things that bubble up when people are living ordinary lives together” (193).

Then this exquisite quote from George Eliot’s Middlemarch: “…for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs” (2).

2 Comments

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  1. Ordinary looks great! Also, your book is phenomenal, too, so I am excited for everyone to read it!

    One quick take: I think Horton is half-correct when talking about multi-site church. I serve at a multi-site church where we have a campus pastor who cares for the congregation and we also have a rotating teaching team that teaches live (almost) every weekend. So, while I agree that multi-site can and does often miss the mark of the incarnation, it does not have to.

  2. I think Horton has in mind the multi-state models where a senior pastor preaches to various sites that are full of people he doesn’t know, and has probably never met. While there are advantages to this arrangement, he is pointing out that the model also makes some assumptions about the pastorate that none of us like but are hard to avoid.

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