Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The God of the Mundane

Perhaps I am missing something. It is possible.

It appears that the current evangelical climate is one in which faithfulness and spirituality are measured by the eventful and the big - the bombastic. If the waves are not huge and the shifts are not seismic then we assume a kind of carnality. We have redefined radical to the point where the only radical people in the church are those who have sold everything and gone...well, anywhere. I love those people. And that is radical. But for everyone who does not sell everything, you know, those who shop at Target, go to the beach for vacation and grab some sushi (or Cracker Barrel) weekly - is there a spirituality for them that can be called "radical?"

Am I alone in worrying there is no God for the mundane? You know for those who, in the name of Jesus, are simply faithful spouses, honest in business, love their children well and enjoy the world they live in while waiting for the next - is there a God for them?

I think we have gone awry somewhere along the way. It is no longer not enough for a husband to love his wife as Christ loved the church, he must now agonize over whether to sell everything to go overseas as a missionary. And you need to know, I am guilty of making people feel guilty about this. I have actually said, "It should be hard to stay where you are." Someone should have asked me, "Chapter and verse please?" But lets face it, this sounds really good and spiritual. In fact, in many ways it is really hard to stay. It is hard because no one celebrates the day-in and day-out faithfulness that goes unseen by the wider world. It is hard because life is not easy anywhere, there is no idyllic paradise in America where sin is not pervasive and the the devil is not crouching outside of custom-made doors. And it is probably hard for a few because of the guilt heaped up on them who stay and are made to think they are carnal/unfaithful for doing so.

Right now, someone is questioning whether I care about missions at all. You see, that is the problem. I do care about the spread of the gospel. But we have elevated what is seen and what is radical to the point where all other activity (or seeming lack of activity) leads people to think one may not care. That may be damnable. We must assume there are untold numbers of men and women spreading the gospel of grace quietly throughout their community and making it possible financially for others to go without making a big deal about it and telling everyone on facebook they are doing it.

Part of the problem may be we have made Paul our only hero and not the nameless recipients of his letters. Who would want to be like one of the unknowns when you can be like Paul? What pastor would want to be simply one of Timothy's appointed elders, never known and never mentioned? What man would want to be simply a day-laborer, who has believed the gospel and against the trends of the day treats his wife and children with dignity and affection, dealing honestly with his neighbors? What woman would want to be a nameless mother who at the risk of ridicule and inconvenience, huddles with other brothers and sisters in The Way and listens to a nameless teacher about Jesus? It is all so mundane.

It is almost like a new legalism is emerging. "Quit your job. Do something crazy. Pick up and move. If you do not then you are suspiciously lacking in the necessary requirements of what we deem 'spiritual.'

The rock-star preacher thing isn't helping either. Life seems so mundane after watching them, reading about them and then listening to them. Changing diapers and paying bills on time and being generous and holding the hand of your spouse and caring about your aging parents and having deep friendships and being committed to the church and crying with those who hurt - well, its just not radical enough. So absolutely mundane. And I fear that for most "ordinary Christians", they do not worship a God who can be glorified in the mundane.


Kim said...

Excellent post, Matt! Thanks! :)

Kim said...

PS__Steve Lawson says, "God doesn't call Christians to be successful, He calls them to be faithful."

The Groves said...

My everyday life seems incredibly mundane (at best) and I have struggled with these exact thoughts lately. Thanks for your insight. Hopefully I can breathe a sigh of relief and realize that just because I'm not doing anything "radical" doesn't mean I need to feel guilty.

Brian and Ashley said...

thx for reminding us...I think being "radical" means being faithful to the gospel where you are, yet discontent with the way this broken world currently is, having faith that one day God will restore all things. In that hope, we can live radical now by demonstrating the kingdom of God to everyone and everything you see.

Dawn E said...

Thanks so much for this, Matt. As one who was convinced she'd grow up to be one of those "radical" missionaries when she was young, I wrestle often with this very topic. I appreciate your words and reminder. Instead of feeling guilty I need to focus on being radical and faithful in what He's given me charge over for this season.

Amy said...

Hm. Maybe it's your word "mundane" that I'm having the problem with. "of, relating to or characteristic of the world." The second definition is "characterized by the practical, transitory and ordinary; commonplace."

I don't think God has called us to be any of those things. The one thing that maybe what you call one of those "rock star pastors" has inspired me to do is real the Gospels with a fresh perspective. See Who Jesus was and what He called us to do. Just me and the Spirit. And you know what? I've realized that I'm not radical enough.

I'm searching through all this with you. But I do know that if I follow the Christ of the Bible, not my own Christ I made up because I feel uncomfortable with the real One, then I never have to wonder if I'm radical enough. What does a modern day Christian who is fully committed to the calling of Christ look like? I'm not sure I know, because I'm not sure it's possible to be one in our culture.

Or something like that.

Matt Redmond said...


I actually chose the word very carefully because of those very definitions. The world as God created it is not evil and not to be avoided and is certainly in view when it comes to Redemption according to Romans 8. The is not to be confused with worldliness, of course.

And also the idea of "common" or ordinary is good because we need to know that our ordinary is done before God and to his glory. It is not only the extraordinary.

Thanks for your thoughts. I do appreciate them.

S.A.Crocker said...

Good read! This is the second of your blogs your wife has pointed me to, and I've enjoyed both. I love your style of writing, and it challenges my limited intellect each time.
This one in particular brought with it a pause and a moment of thought. Ironically, I was reading the Bible last night in a passage that could be relevant.
Romans 12 describes the gifts of the spirit and in verse 3 specifically tells us "not (to) think of ourselves more highly than we ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of grace God has given you." It then goes on to describe the Spiritual Gifts.
Granted, being a practicing, faithful, Christian is new to me, but I was "raised" in the church my entire life, so I'm not entirely new to reading the Word and understanding it. That being said, it is my opinion that this passage has several meanings, the first of which addresses pride. I think, all too often, the "rock star" preachers know that they are "rock stars", and act accordingly. Paul specifically says that we should humble ourselves in regards to what our mission for Christ is. To me, it means that whether you are a preacher of Joel Osteen capacity, or a stay at home dad that, rather than witnessing himself, tries to put people in front of someone more adept at it, share the same esteem. A pastor that can boast about how many hundreds of people prayed the sinners prayer on Easter Sunday cannot put themselves in position higher than those who brought the prayer makers to the church to begin with.
Secondly, God distributes Spiritual Gifts as He sees fit based on personality, people skills and enjoyment. Obviously, missionaries deserve a tremendous amount of respect, but anyone who exploits the gifts God has given them does as well, regardless of their specific mission. While some one with the gift of Wisdom may not save as many souls as one with the gift of Evangelism, he may keep more Christians in the fold and working for Christ by offering them answers to questions they might have concerning the faith. There are Gifts of the Spirit that caters to people like me who, to say the least, are not very good in a crowd. The are some gifts that are expertly exploited that have no tangible or noticeable affect, and yet, are just as important.
One of the most important ways to discern God's Will for your life is to explore your own desires. I believe that God energizes His people to want to do His Will. If I felt restless; if I felt unsatisfied with where I lived and what I did for a living, I would certainly need to consider that God might want me to leave everything behind and move to Botswana. But I don't.
For someone like me, with my past, professing His name and doing my carnal best to follow Him and change who I am, certainly is radical. While my life and circumstances may be mundane, my relationship with Him is not, and to step out and share my experiences and my relationship with Jesus is not either. Despite the fact that I will probably never speak in a more public forum that my back porch during a BBQ, I believe that just by not being ashamed of my Christianity will have a profound affect on at least a few people throughout my life. And perhaps one of those few will become the next "rock star" preacher. "Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form body, and each member belongs to all the others"

Micah Loggins said...

I think it's wonderful that people are examining their lives to see if they are bearing good fruit. It's also wonderful that their are preachers calling the saints to action. However, unless the teaching is very clear, It can easily seem to imply legalism or two classes of believers: those who sacrifice and those who don't.

I think there may be a short supply of preaching about living a "mundane" life to the glory of God.

Good post. I apologize for basically restating it. It helps me to solidify it in my mind.

Frank And Lela said...

First time reader. Excellently put! I really appreciate the way that you articulated this current struggle within Christendom.

If you don't mind, I might just add that even to those who were actually Bible writers, life was not nearly as exciting as the chapters make it seem. It's the chapters that they didn't write. It's the chapter where Paul worked two or three days on a tent that someone didn't like. It's akin to watching a 24 episode: When does Jack use the restroom? Luke gave a story that was relevant to the request made of him and the Holy Spirit inspired his effort to follow a theme, namely the highlights of God's supernatural work through human beings in establishing this wonderful thing we call the church.

In fact, I might even say that I agree with what Justo Gonzalez said in his book, "The Story of Christianity," that those who were scattered due to persecution likely made more of an impact on their world at that time than the Apostles did, which would in fact, be the goal of every Gospel centered minister's heart! Let the church be edified and equipped to every good work!

Sorry for the rambling response, but you hit a nerve with me that I have been striking against for a while now.

Thanks for your post.


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