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We Who Are So Ordinary


A couple of years ago I listened to a podcast that featured a critic of Christianity. He was a person who claimed to love Christ, yet who seemed to have little use for Christ’s church and little good to say about Christ’s people. There was one critique that especially stood out to me.

He spoke about Christian leaders and expressed how often he had found these people disappointing. He looked at leaders in the political sphere, in the business world, and even in the sports industry and concluded that few leaders in the church could hope to match them in ability. Few Christian leaders, he said, had the same kind of bearing, the same kind of extraordinary leadership capacity. Were they taken from the pulpit to the board room, few could hope to attain great success. “Take these Christians out of a distinctly Christian setting,” he said, “And you would quickly see how very ordinary they are.”

I sometimes wonder if people actually read their Bibles. I often have to conclude they don’t, because the Bible makes it clear that God’s plan is not to carry out his will through the cream of the human crop. Has he not read of Moses who needed someone to speak on his behalf, of Gideon who needed to be prodded out of his cowardice, of David who was considered the least of his brothers yet was chosen as king? Or even Jesus who “had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.” While there are certainly some Christians of unusual ability, superlative talent, and extraordinary intellect, there are many who are not. In fact, most are not. We Christians, averaged out, are a pretty ordinary lot. Maybe even a sub-ordinary lot.

When Paul wrote to the church at Corinth he had to remind them of who they were. “Consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth” (1 Corinthians 1:26). Said positively, they were a bunch of ordinary folk, of ordinary ability, and from ordinary backgrounds. But that’s a feature, not a bug. That has been God’s idea all along. He continues, “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:27–29).

God’s plan all along has been to use ordinary leaders to accomplish extraordinary things.

God’s plan all along has been to use ordinary leaders to accomplish extraordinary things. His plan has been to use people of average ability to accomplish matters of eternal significance. They may not have the kind of charisma that would allow them to elevate a small company into a major empire, but God has gifted them with what they need to shepherd a few souls. They may not have the skills to lead a billion-dollar business, but God has gifted them with skill to teach his Word. And as they do so, they shame the wise and shame the strong. They shame them by leading as shepherds instead of strongmen, by modeling themselves after Jesus instead of the latest business guru, by leading people toward eternal riches instead of what is merely temporal. Ultimately, they shame them by living for what actually matters. They take their little and consecrate it to the Lord instead of taking their much and consecrating it to themselves. And God is glorified in and through them.

An old writer once described a young man, a mere apprentice, who had collected bits of glass that had been discarded by craftsmen. They were judged as having no value, no worth, and no purpose, but with those bits—bits that had been cast off and tossed away—he built a stained glass window that to this day adorns one of Europe’s great cathedrals. And just like that, God is building his kingdom through what others regard as pathetic and insignificant. He is building it through those who are rejected and despised, through those of few talents and average ability. Yet through what the world counts as subpar and unimpressive, he is building a kingdom that will by far outshine even the greatest kingdom ever devised by men.

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