We live in a culture that is addicted to success. In the era of reality TV and American Idol, everyone is looking for their five minutes of fame. Most people have the desire for other people to know their name. Being honest, the same is true for many Christians as well. We have the desire to, as the John Waller song says, “do something big for [God].” Yet, what if the path toward an extraordinary life is becoming more ordinary? This is exactly what Tony Merida discusses in his new book Ordinary: How to Turn the World Upside Down published by B&H.
In the book, Merida discusses the fact that throughout history the gospel has not been passed on by the rich and famous. The truth is that the gospel has been passed from generation to generation, primarily by faithful disciples whose names are known only in heaven. Merida challenges Christians to consider ways in which they can share the gospel in every day life. He challenges the reader to care for what God cares about by seeking to live a life that is glorifying to God. Particularly this encompasses ministry to the poor, mistreated, widows, and orphans. The book is not a call to live a poverty gospel, but to use the resources that God has given each disciple to help those in need. Being a minister to the poor and mistreated is not a simple task. It truly is a commitment to live like Christ. Many times it can be a difficult and thankless task. Yet, it is the call to all disciples to help those in need in one way or another.
Merida does an excellent job of discussing the need for mercy ministry within the church for the sake of sharing the gospel. For the most part churches and individuals go to one of two extremes when it comes to ministry to the poor. First, churches focus on meeting felt needs and disregard the gospel all together. Finally, churches focus on merely sharing the gospel without meeting any physical need. In the book, Merida advocates mixing the two by meeting physical needs while sharing the gospel. It would unkind to merely meet someone’s physical need without meeting the more important need, namely the need for relationship with God through Jesus. Yet, it would also be unkind to merely share the gospel while ignoring a real physical need. People will not listen, many times, until their physical needs are cared for.
Ordinary is an eye opening book that will help readers understand the need for mercy ministry within the church. Merida does an excellent job of challenging readers to incorporate ministry to the poor and mistreated into their personal lives. However, the book falls short in application. I think that many believers will find it difficult to actually incorporate the challenge of this book into their every day lives, simply because they don’t know how on their own. This book would be best read within the context of a small group so that practical application can be fleshed out in conversation.