Thursday, July 11, 2013

Having courage for the ordinary

I have written often about an area which I feel evangelical Christianity does a very poor job of addressing: the ministry and living of the ordinary Christian life. The "radical Christianity" movement loves to talk about taking up your cross and being a full time minister. Yet we often overlook that virtually all Christians throughout history are living ordinary lives as bakers and farmers and accountants and bricklayers. We forget that the Church is described as a body full of differing functions, and in fact very few are called to be missionaries or evangelists.

By forgetting this fact, we create a false separation in the body of Christ: on the one hand we have the "real, on fire" Christians doing the "real" ministry to the homeless or kids or teaching or evangelism...and on the other hand we have the "typical" or "non-radical" Christians. And far too often, by "non-radical" what we actually mean is, "not real" or "not serious" Christians.

And by such a process, we alienate 95%+ of the body of Christ, failing to prepare them for their ministries.

For we all are ministers. We all are priests. We are to be a light in the world--where He placed us. God led me to run a factory in Arkansas for a reason. And I am to be a light in the darkness here. That is not less important than a missionary in Thailand translating the Bible: the same God who placed a missionary in Thailand placed me here, and my work to Him is equally important!

Yet often we forget this. The modern evangelical movement, in a reaction to the materialism and politicism of the church of the 80s and 90s, has grasped onto radicalism as an approach: sell what you have, move to Africa, and preach. Anything else is subpar Christianity.

This is not true, of course. If God calls you to be a stay-at-home mom, then moving to Africa on a mission trip is just as wrong as if He calls a missionary to go to Africa and that person refuses to do so.

For most of us, we will never be called to be missionaries abroad. For most of us, Micah 6:8 is our life's motto: "And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and love mercy and walk humbly with your God."

Humbly walking with God in the day to day. Our God is not just a God of the extraordinary, but a God of the ordinary, too.

Along those same lines is a fascinating article today over at Mockingbird. Tish Harrison Warren was a radical, living-in-Mongolia-and-Africa kind of woman. The kind who hung out barefoot with the homeless at her church (which was literally called, "Scum of the Earth"). She felt on fire for God. But now, in her thirties, she has been called to be a stay-at-home mom, and finds that for her this is actually more spiritually demanding than her previous lifestyle. A few fascinating quotes:

"And what I'm slowly realizing is that, for me, being in the house all day with a baby and a two-year-old is a lot more scary and a lot harder than being in a war-torn African village. What I need courage for is the ordinary, the daily everydayness of life. Caring for a homeless kid is a lot more thrilling to me than listening well to the people in my home. Giving away clothes and seeking out edgy Christian communities requires less of me than being kind to my husband on an average Wednesday morning...
[Being raised as a radical Christian] we were challenged to impact and serve the world in radical ways, but we never learned how to be an average person living an average life in a beautiful way. But I've come to the point where I'm not sure any more just what God counts as radical. ...[What I need now is] the bravery it takes to believe that a small life is still a meaningful life...
I'm starting to learn that, whether in Mongolia or Tennessee, the kind of "giving my life away" that counts starts with how I get up on a gray Tuesday morning. It never sells books. It won't be remembered. But that's what makes a life. And who knows? Maybe, at the end of days, a hurried prayer for an enemy, a passing kindness to a neighbor, or budget planning on a boring Thursday will be the revolution stories of God making all things new."

Whew. Brilliant, and worth reading in full.

Obviously, this is NOT to say that people shouldn't be missionaries. One family from our church, who are spiritual heroes to me, served in Africa and have raised amazingly brilliant children. I won't name their names, but they read this blog and know who they are. :-)  Our church youth group just got back from a mission to Brazil, and all reports are that it was amazing. And our church supports more missionaries than any church I've ever been at. These are things which I fully support, prayerfully, financially, and with all my heart.

Those called to be missionaries are awesome and I love them and appreciate them. My point isn't anything bad about missions, but rather about this idea that visibly-radical work like missions work or homeless ministry or pastoring are the "real" Christian work for the body of Christ, and that ordinary lives are somehow less spiritual.

Just because your calling is more ordinary than theirs does not make it less important than theirs. Just because your sacrifices are less visible does not make them less spiritual. Just because your calling is less book-worthy doesn't mean it's less God-worthy. Never forget that.

1 comment:

  1. Amen, this needs to shared far and wide!These ideas of "elite" Christianity tend to avoid creating positions in light of the totality of scripture. We need to be missionaries, but the last time I looked around the most dire missional work is needed in the cities of America.