Anything but Ordinary
For a book that laments many trends in the modern church and even the wider culture, Michael Horton’s Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical and Restless World has received unusually wide acclaim. From Christianity Today’s Mark Galli to Calvin College’s James K. A. Smith to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School’s D. A. Carson, a number of well-respected leaders have noted that Ordinary contains a fresh and engaging presentation of how God is at work in his world.
I’m excited about this book’s popularity, and here are three reasons why I hope you’ll read Ordinary in 2015:
1. You will grow in gospel joy. Many of us find our joy in the gospel being sapped in the midst of a busy and demanding world. Even those in our church who are retired feel that they are run ragged at times. Horton puts his finger on how the ways of this world subtly but surely lure us in, sap our strength, dull our senses, and leave us moaning in our spirit, wondering how we came to such a soggy place in our spiritual lives.
Thankfully, Horton doesn’t leave us there. He reminds us of the glory of the salvation that we have in Christ. As I read this book, I found my soul getting lighter as I waded through each chapter.
2. You will grow in personal peace. Our time is one marked by what some have called an epidemic of depression and anxiety. The reasons for these problems are many—and you certainly wouldn’t expect the church of Jesus Christ to be contributing to a greater sense of defeat and anxiety among the people of God.
And yet that is what is happening. Too many sectors of Christ’s church have abandoned the ordinary ways that God intends to bless his people and build up his church, and instead opted for various strategies that, inevitably, end up diverting our eyes from Christ. The people of God end up worn out, tired, anxious, and depressed.
None of this means that we don’t plan, work, and labor for the kingdom. But it does mean that we don’t plan, work and labor for the kingdom apart from the ways that God has established for us. We cannot sever our own life-line and expect to have any life left to share with a dying world.
3. You will gain a greater understanding of your church. At EPC we are committed to emphasizing the ordinary means of grace: the word of God, the sacraments, and prayer. These commitments lead us to make different choices than other churches in worship, in evangelism, in missions, and in almost every other area of ministry.
Our church life is not designed to produce a moment of stimulation on Sunday morning, but lifetime of spiritual fruit. Being committed to the ordinary means of grace does not mean that we don’t take intentional steps to reach the lost, or take a passive attitude toward the Christian life. Our commitment to God’s means of grace lets us be more intentional in every area of life because we know where and how to focus our energies.
That which God ordinarily gives us contains extraordinary power. The word of God, the sacraments, and prayer are ordinary in the sense that they are commonly distributed. But the means of grace are not at all ordinary in terms of their power to bless the people of God. They provide an always-open door to the riches of Christ. We enter in with faith and find Christ there, ready to bless us, day after day, week after week, year after year.
That’s extraordinary, isn’t it?
For group's looking to supplement the study questions within the book, here is a link to Horton's supplemental study guide with additional questions for discussion and reflection.