Christians are supposed to have an impact on the world in which we live. Like the followers of Jesus in Acts 17:6–7, present-day followers of Jesus should be turning the world upside down. However, when we think about turning the world upside down for Jesus, we often think we must live “radical” lives. That is, we need to sell our Chevrolet, give up movies, and relocate to the Bolivian jungle in order to engage nomadic peoples who’ve never heard the gospel. That is the real way we make a serious impact.
Tony Merida has a different perspective. In his book Ordinary: How to Turn the World Upside Down, Tony calls Christians to a new normal: “Most gospel ministry involves ordinary people doing ordinary things with gospel intentionality” (9). If we can understand this, then we might see an “‘ordinary movement’ that involves ordinary Christians, not just ‘super Christians,’ who live on mission in the rhythms of everyday life.”
He is calling Christians to simply care about what God cares about. Looking closely at the Book of Job, Tony unfolds four categories crucial to our witness: advocacy, hospitality, fatherless ministry, and neighbor love. Practicing the principles found in these categories is part of what it means to be an “ordinary” Christian.
Living the Ordinary Christian Life
Loving Your Neighbor
The ordinary Christian life looks like love for neighbor (Matthew 22:34–40). The question isn’t how famous you are but whether or not you care for those around you. Some have called this “mercy ministry” — but there’s nothing theologically weak here. Quoting Francis of Assisi (“preach the gospel and if necessary use words”) doesn’t actually work because the gospel is an announcement. At the same time, Tony also steers clear from the logic that says “social action is a slippery slope to liberalism” (32). Ordinary Christians will love their neighbor through acts of kindness and mercy while sharing the good news of Jesus.
How often have you heard people ask how they can plug-in to their church? Should they join a committee, sign-up for a mission trip, or coach an Upward basketball team? Maybe. Or, they may simply, “Eat with lots of people this week” (52). “In other words, mission isn’t always astonishing. It might look like a barbeque, or a neighborhood basketball game, or going grocery shopping for your neighbor” (53). Ordinary Christians befriend people and are like Jesus, “friend[s] of sinners” (Matthew 11:19). As we open our hearts and our doors we show hospitality by caring for foster children, ministering to veterans, or bringing a homeless person to the house for dinner. In short, “Hospitality is what we extend to outsiders, strangers, and those in physical and spiritual need” (41).
Caring for the Vulnerable
Our Father cares for the vulnerable. He cares for the orphan and the widow because he cares for everyone made in his image. And to care for any image-bearer is to honor the Image Maker. This is especially important, as God is the Father of the fatherless. Orphan care is not a twenty-first century phenomenon. It is an old idea with ancient roots (e.g. Job 24:9; 29:12; Proverbs 23:10; Isaiah 10:1–2; James 1:27). So ordinary Christianity involves in some way addressing the orphan crisis in our fallen world.
Giving Voice to the Voiceless
Tony and his wife team up to call for “courageous advocacy” (chapter 4). The call is penetrating. They ask the reader to imagine “not having a voice. Imagine not having an advocate. Imagine not having any law enforcement available to you. No protection. No security” (88). These questions hit hard if the reader will linger over them. There is tremendous need for ordinary Christians to utilize their God-given influence to speak on behalf of the voiceless.
The Ordinary Life in Front of Me (and You)
This book should cause you to think differently about how Christians can turn the world upside down. You don’t have to move to the jungle in order to live radically for Jesus. That might be what Jesus calls you to do with your life. Or, Jesus might simply call you to invite the single mom at church over for dinner. You might be called to adopt a child or speak out against sex-trafficking at the next small group meeting.
Living radically for Jesus might not ‘look’ that radical at all.
In other words, living radically for Jesus might not look that radical at all. And you might never be recognized for your ordinary Christian life. But that’s ok. The ordinary Christian life is about the fame of God’s name, not yours.