As I was preparing for worship this morning, I was reading a brief article with the title “God uses ordinary people”. It was a well written article about a woman that has made a big impact on children’s hunger in our area. She is the ordinary person the author was referring to.
I believe that God uses ordinary people. In fact, I believe that God only uses ordinary people.
Here’s my problem: whenever we use the term “ordinary people”, we are also saying that there are “extra-ordinary” people.
This distinction between ordinary and extraordinary people in reference to ministry is just a 21st century version of the clergy/lay-person divide of old. However, the distinction is not along the lines of role or position, but something inherent to the person themselves. How did this happen?
The culprit, in my view, is the virus of America’s celebrity culture which has infected the church as well. Yesterday I read a piece by Tom Krattenmaker entitled ‘Rock star’ pastors lose their luster. (read here). He makes the same point.
Somewhere along the road, the virus of celebrity pastors, caused all pastors to stop being thought of as “ordinary people”. They are placed on a pedestal. Held to different expectations than the “ordinary” people. The example of what the Christian life should look like. Super-disciples. When they do positive ministry, it isn’t “God using ordinary people”, it is expected. Their vocation is not seen as a sacrifice for the kingdom of God – at least not like someone who worked a secular job, made a lot of money, and then “left it all” for ministry (the ultimate ordinary person story) . Their faithfulness to their calling is not seen as obedient discipleship or a faithful response to God in the midst of a idolatrous culture. It is often assumed that they choose to pastor, want to pastor, love the position, are comfortable under the pastoral mantle, etc. (actually, some of them – more than you may think – said “Yes” to God’s call to pastor while kicking and screaming).
This hurts the church.
Your pastor is ordinary. You are ordinary. The only difference is that God has called your pastor to a particular role within the church. The calling doesn’t make them extraordinary, while you remain ordinary. It doesn’t mean that he or she is called to live as a different type of disciple than you are – Jesus’ call to follow is the same. It doesn’t mean that they have more responsibility for the community called the church than you do. It just means their gifts are going to be used in a different way.
That’s why I think it is best to stop using the word “ordinary” when referring to people and ministry. It sets up a false distinction between folks within the church.
We’re all ordinary. If something extraordinary happens, it is God, not us.