Ordinary: How to Turn the World Upside Down

Don’t read this book unless you are prepared to have your practice of faith challenged. When he titled this book Ordinary, Merida wasn’t describing what your ordinary life is, he was describing what your ordinary life ought to be.

It turns out that the biblical definition of ordinary is a lot different than how most of us normally life. According to Merida,

Ordinary is not a call to be more radical. If anything, it is a call to the contrary. The kingdom of God isn’t coming with light shows, and shock and awe, but with lowly acts of service. I want to push back against sensationalism and ‘rock star Christianity,’ and help people understand that they can make a powerful impact by practicing ordinary Christianity.”

So Merida isn’t excusing Christians from faithfully living for the Kingdom in a way that looks different than the prevailing culture. Instead, he’s recasting the image of effective ministry to focus on the necessity of simple, daily faith applied in the circumstances of common Christians. Reaching the world for Christ is not something that mega-church pastors do, it’s something that accountants and baristas do.

As Merida writes, “Mission isn’t always astonishing. It might look like a barbeque, or a neighborhood basketball game, or going grocery shopping for your neighbor. But these ordinary things can have extraordinary effects.”

Ordinary is encouraging because it reveals the powerful truth that our everyday lives done with a gospel focus can have an eternal impact. Do you care about orphans? That doesn’t mean you have to adopt, Merida provides ways you can serve orphans even if you don’t have the resources or personality to become a parent to the parentless. Suggestions as simple as contributing blog time and space to advocate for justice are among the ordinary things Christians can do to turn the world upside down. This book provides many practical ways that, if implemented, will demonstrate the reality that small efforts by many are worth much more than a great effort by a few.

The book is a mere 128 pages. It took me a few hours to read it. Merida writes with a simplicity and clarity that mirrors his preaching. The prose is actually pleasant to read as it carries the arguments with rhythm and variations.

The content is worth the time and money. Ordinary consists of an introduction, five substantive chapters and a conclusion. The chapter topics include an argument for both evangelism and social ministry, encouragement to live hospitably, an exhortation to orphan care (one of Merida’s great interests), an explanation of how to become an active advocate, and a discussion of authentic humility as part of a Kingdom-focused life. Each chapter is about twenty pages, but they are packed with powerful content.

Part of the beauty of Ordinary is that it is authentic. Merida is a faithful pastor, a sought after speaker, and a favorite professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. With his trademark canvas sneakers, bald pate and goatee, he could be a “rock star Christian.” Thankfully, he is not. Instead, he is considerate and kind to people around him. He has adopted several children and his neighbors attest to his kindness to his family. This book is an exposition of what Merida tries to do, not his prescription for what everyone else should be doing.

Ordinary is a book that meets a need in our culture. Tim Keller has written several excellent books on mercy ministries and generosity, but Keller lives in New York City, which might as well be Mars to most of the American culture. Keller also tends to write for a more academic audience. Merida’s book is brewed with chicory, so it has a homey flavor. It puts the hay down where the goats can get it. At the same time, Merida is also well-versed in the foundations of mercy ministry through his theological education. The substance is there, but Merida’s books are on target for a different segment of the Christian population.

This is a book that I’d use in a small group or purchase in bulk for teens. This is a book that would be useful as an encouragement to the new Christian. This is a book that will be helpful in getting people to serve where they are and not look for more grandiose ministries elsewhere. This is a book that deserves to be read and read frequently.

Tony Merida is the pastor of Imago Dei church in Raleigh, NC. He is also Associate Professor of Preaching and Johnny Hunt Chair of Biblical Preaching at SEBTS. Here are some of his sermons from the SEBTS chapel, which deal with justice and orphan care.

How Ordinary People Live on Mission – Acts 8:26-40. 28 October 2014.

Payday Someday – 1 Kings 21:1-16. 10 September 2013.

From Slavery to Sonship. Galatians 4:4-7. 10 November, 2010.

Note: This book was provided gratis by the publisher with no expectation of a positive review. The thoughts and opinions about this book are my own.