[Note: You will want to read my last post on “Ordinary Children’s Ministry” here to give these next thoughts some essential context.] As a parent, my deepest desire is to see my eight children become Christians–and more than that, ORDINARY Christians. Yes, this goes against the grain of what my sinful heart would rather see in them–academic, athletic, and career achievements. To be ordinary is to be NORMAL. It’s what’s commonplace or STANDARD. It is regular, routine, habitual, and day-to-day. Ordinary may sound average, mediocre, plain, and boring–but it’s quite the opposite. If only we had more ordinary Christians in this world, there would be extraordinary expansion of the Kingdom of God.
Let me begin to explain what I mean with a simple comparison. My desire for my children to be ordinary Christians is akin to my desire for ordinary customer service when I’m purchasing something or needing technical assistance. For those of you older than thirty-five, you will remember a time when real, live, caring and concerned people actually helped and served you when you needed it. This was an ordinary, normal, regular part of any shopping experience. Today, to actually have a good customer service experience seems extra-ordinary and shocking! We have moved so far away from truly serving customers in the retail world that it is no longer part of day-to-day life. In the same way, I would suggest that an “ordinary Christian” seems so extraordinary because we don’t see them often enough, nor are we training our young people to be one.
So what is an ordinary Christian? Why should I want my child to be “just” ordinary? Here’s are the beginnings of my list:
- An ordinary Christian believes the historic GOSPEL. Not some new, improved, more exciting version of the gospel that adds something (health, wealth, prosperity) to Jesus. The ordinary Christian knows his salvation is by grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone.
- An ordinary Christian is filled with JOY–and his joy is in the Lord. His circumstances don’t determine his moods and his fulfillment in this life.
- An ordinary Christian is CONTENT. He is not restless, driven by his own selfish ambition. Whatever his lot in life, he trusts in the Lord’s provision for him.
- An ordinary Christian SEEKS God’s Kingdom first. He’s not seeking to make his own name or put his stamp on the world. He’s not looking to build his own kingdom and his own legacy.
- An ordinary Christian LOVES God and other people. He is not a lover of self, or stuck in ongoing self-satisfaction or self-exaltation.
- An ordinary Christian is WISE. He’s mature, discerning, and not swayed by the lies of this world. His decisions are made on the basis of the Word of God.
- An ordinary Christian wants to DECREASE so Christ will increase. Less of me, more of Christ is his cry! He wants other people to make more of Christ rather than more of him.
Get the idea? If you are a parent, is this the list you want to describe your child? Or does it sound to mundane, too average, just too ordinary? The truth is that this goes against nearly everything our children hear and observe in this world. We live in a culture of celebrity, where everyone is seeking his fifteen minutes of fame. Athletics are no longer recreation, but the most essential part of childhood (in order to achieve future stardom). We tell our children they can be whatever they want to be–with the real objective being the search for money, power, and glory. The role models of most kids are superheroes, actors, and athletes–someone “bigger” than what’s ordinary. Even Christian parents seem to find their most pride and joy in the achievements of their children, trumpeting them throughout social media on a regular basis.
I like what Bill Cosby had to say on this subject at a 2012 graduation commencement (quoted by Michael Horton in his book Ordinary):
You’re not going to change the world, so don’t try. The best thing you can do is to live each day with integrity and responsibility. Stop being narcissistic about your ‘dream,’ getting everyone else to fit into it. You’ve got plenty of time, but don’t dream through it. Wake up!
But my favorite comedian of all time has it just a bit wrong. If our young people lived Christian, quiet, ordinary, responsible, lives of integrity, they would change the world. Ordinary Christian lives are used by God to do extraordinary things! And, if more Christian parents had this ordinary goal in mind and devoted themselves to the “ordinary” teaching, training, disciplining and praying for thing children, just think of the results. By God’s grace, we would have children who show the world our glorious Jesus Christ. What’s more extraordinary than that?