Sunday, 11 May 2008

Encouragement from the Ordinary - Review of Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome

I hope you’ll forgive the prolonged period between instalments on the Hughes’ book (a little thing called clergy conference got in the way). Anyway, back to it. The Hughes are setting out in the second part of their work, Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome, a series of encouragements to pastors. The next they turn to is encouragement from the ordinary.

Essentially, they say that we can take encouragement from the fact that God uses ordinary people to do his work. This is a vitally helpful point given their earlier comments on the encouragement that comes from the call (see here for my comments/rant). Their point is thoroughly God-glorifying – God’s greatness is seen most clearly in our ordinariness. They take the disciple Andrew as an example – first called, but not a prominent apostle. He is characterised by his thoughts for others (John 1:40-42), his optimism of Christ’s power (John 6:5-9), and his belief that all were welcome to come to Jesus (John 12:20-22). They also turn to 2 Cor 4 and Paul’s language of jars of clay. While they run the risk of seeing ordinariness as itself something to boast in (see, for example, their comment that “Ordinary Andrews become vehicles for the extraordinary. There is glory in the ordinary!”), I believe that their primary point is theocentric – God uses the plain, ordinary, usual things of this world for His glory.

It results in three suggested responses – to thank God for our ordinariness, to thank God for any extraordinary gifts he has given us, and to thank God for the call to ministry, for “it is the ministry that fosters in us a profound awareness of our ordinariness and inadequacy.” While personally I find the last of these three responses a little odd given the direction of the rest of the chapter, I can understand why they include it. There is encouragement from the ordinary. There is encouragement that through these frail and weak men and women God is pleased to have his gospel go forth. There is encouragement that we bring nothing to the table, and yet God is bringing all things in heaven and earth together under the headship of Christ through the ministry of his people.

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