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Michael Horton Says We’ve Got a Problem: The Problem of Everydayness
Several years ago when I was still safely a young adult (I’m 34 now), I briefly entertained the idea of forming a New Monastic community in the heart of Grand Rapids. Having read popular evangelical books that encouraged radical, revolutionary living, a few friends of mine and I were inspired to live an alternative, extreme, impactful life for Christ and His kingdom.
To live radically, as those books encouraged us to live.
But what if living a radical life isn’t what Christ desires for us? What if He’s far more interested in how we approach the mundane, the everydayness of life?
That’s the premise of Michael Horton’s balancing new book Ordinary: Sustaining Faith in a Radical, Restless World. Horton believes we need to question "false values, expectations, and habits that we have absorbed, taken for granted, and even adopted with a veneer of piety.” (27)
Horton suggests we’ve got a problem, the problem of everydayness: “our lives are motivated by a constant expectation for The Next Big Thing.” (16) Instead of dedicating ourselves to ordinary, everyday callings and people we chase after the radical, the revolutionary, the dramatic. He insists that “Changing the world can be a way of actually avoiding the opportunities we have every day, right where God has placed us…” (16)
So how did we get here and where do we need to go? Horton argues the everyday became so yesterday starting with Boomers, and this has been perpetuated by their children and grandchildren. And the path beyond is a refocusing around God’s own focus:
Ordinary grace, ordinary people, and ordinary callings.
How the Everyday Became So Yesterday
Blame it on the Boomers, right? Not entirely, but Horton believes it's a good starting point for understanding how we lost the ordinary in the midst of the extraordinary. As he explains, our problem with everydayness began when Boomers tried to dress up traditional church with programs and personal improvement:
Boomers believed that traditional church experience was too ordinary—even boring—with its weekly routine of preaching sacraments, prayer, praise, teaching, and fellowship. What was needed instead was a new plan for personal growth, something that would take our walk with God to "a whole new level." (17)
Then, as these things tend to go, their children and grandchildren reacted to their self-focus and consumeristic approaches to church by looking outward, to the problems of the world. “The mantra swung from ‘change your life’ to ‘change the world.’” (18) Evangelistic outreach was replaced by compassionate ministry to the poor, social justice, and making a difference in the world.
Both approaches have a problem: an impatience and disdain for the ordinary.
They share a passion for programs that deliver impressive, quick, and observable results. In both cases the invitation is to break away from business-as-usual, to ‘think outside the box,” and do something big for God. (18)
This doesn’t mean we aren’t called to grow in Christ and love and serve others. Neither does it mean we’re to be mediocre. The problem is a matter of focus.
Everydayness Is God’s Focus (It Should Be Ours, Too)
[W]e have come to believe that growth in Christ…can and should be programed to generate predictable outcomes that are unrealistic and are not even justified biblically…And we’ve forgotten that God showers his extraordinary gifts through ordinary means of grace, loves us through ordinary fellow human beings, and sends us out into the world to love and serve others in ordinary callings. (14)
The true focus of God’s activity in the world isn’t found in the extraordinary, but in the ordinary, the every day. Here’s where we should focus, too:
Focus on being content with and accepting the circumstances in which God has placed us. “That can mean being content with poverty, if God chooses. But it can also mean being content with my place as an average middle class-guy in an American suburb with a wife and four children.” (19)
Focus on the ordinary disciplines of corporate and family worship, teaching, prayer, modeling, and mentoring. Horton says we long for something more spiritually. He points to the resurgence of spiritual disciples, Jesus Calling, the Emergent movement, even New Calvinism as proof. Yet he cautions us and our people to not let the “frenetic relevance-operation” undermine our growth into Christ as members of His body and dedication to the above means of grace God has given us.
Focus on the local church, rather than national movements. Horton is right when he says joining a church isn’t like joining a movement. It’s far more fun to be part of movements than churches because we can express our individuality, be anonymous, and get swept off our feet at conferences. (25-26) “Yet this movement mentality keeps us restless and makes ordinary life in and submission to an actual church seem intolerably confining.” (26)
Horton believes it’s time to shed the extraordinary and embrace the ordinary once again in order to faithfully follow Christ. Next week we’ll take a closer look at content from Michael Horton's Ordinary. Until then, consider two questions from Horton:
Do you have a problem with “everydayness”?
How does the Christian subculture sometimes contribute to this?
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