July 6, 2023


American culture values greatness. We love great athletes, great inventors, and great business people. There is something within our cultural veins that admires the extraordinary and sees it as the bar for life. Could it be that this vein has found its way into the church? Do we feel the need to be extraordinary in our Christian lives and value anything less that doesn’t measure up? Do we lift up pastors, teachers, and missionaries above everyone else because they are the ones who set the bar for what is truly extraordinary?

Michael Horton offers a radical mind shift for the church in his book Ordinary.1 Writing as an accomplished theologian (PhD), seminary professor (Westminster Escondido), and longtime Christian, he challenges these ideas of being extraordinary. He discusses how it is through the ordinary acts of ordinary Christians that God accomplishes His work and may even do extraordinary things. The preacher doesn’t need an extraordinary message. He needs to preach the ordinary Gospel and administer the ordinary sacraments. Please don’t get Dr. Horton wrong. He is not saying the Gospel is ordinary in its message, but that we do not need something extraordinary on top of it to do even greater ministry. He states, “Where the biblical message calls us to the cross, to die to self and to be raised in Christ, the new message calls the old Adam to an improved self, empowered to fulfill more easily his own life project.” And herein lies a danger in trying to be extraordinary—creating a new message that isn’t really biblical.

Jesus had a similar conversation with His disciples in Mark 10:35–45. James and John wanted to sit at Jesus’ side when He comes into His glory. Jesus pulled all the disciples in and taught them about greatness or being extraordinary. He tells them (vv.43–44), “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Greatness, being extraordinary, or whatever else one might want to call it is really being an ordinary servant of the Gospel who is faithful to serve others. Dr. Horton explains, “Once we recover a greater sense of God’s ordinary vocation as the site of his faithfulness, we will begin to appreciate our own calling to love and serve others in his name in everyday ways that make a real difference in people’s lives.”

Such a mind shift from seeking to be extraordinary in man’s eyes to being ordinary in God’s eyes is practical. It frees us from seeking the next big thing to do the thing right in front of us. It helps us to see how God normally works through His ordinary means within and outside of the church walls. Lastly, it takes the pressure off ourselves to be the next Christian innovator. After all, God is the innovator; we are merely His servants who serve Him in ordinary ways that He blesses extraordinarily.

As you go about the week, serve and love those right in front of you. Our families, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and fellow saints need ordinary servants who notice them and love them right where they are. Don’t worry about changing the world; focus on raising your children. Don’t worry about changing the world; do your job well. Pray. Read the Bible. Mature into the image of Jesus. God will do miracles as He sees fit. Let Him do miracles, and let us do the everyday things He has called us to.

1Michael Horton, Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014).