Editor’s note: This column is another of several EthicsDaily.com will carry from an initiative from Great Britain called “Beyond400.net – Baptists Imagining Life After 400 Years.”
I suppose one of the things that I appreciate most about being a Baptist is the celebration of the ordinary.
There aren’t special people who are the only ones who can do special things. There aren’t places or objects that are sacred in and of themselves.
We recognize that God chooses to use what is ordinary to do things that are extraordinary, and what is plain to demonstrate his extravagant grace. Paul puts it even more starkly than that – God chose the foolish things of the world …
As a minister in a local church, most of the time I feel very ordinary indeed, and that’s only when I’m not feeling foolish!
As a contributor to Beyond400.net, it’s certainly very easy to feel quite ordinary and foolish among those who are far wiser and well informed.
So I simply speak from my experience of where I am and what I think I see God doing. And I am so amazed and humbled to, in some way, be part of God’s work in this world.
The pleasure of ministering in the local church is seeing God at work among ordinary people.
Seeing new life emerging within structures that are very ordinary – structures that are not ever so exciting, not that radical, not very glamorous, not always uplifting.
Seeing new life emerging even when we haven’t been intentional or well organized or on trend.
Seeing God’s Spirit going ahead of us or working in spite of us and then inviting us to join in, helping us to catch up, encouraging us to slow down or urging us to turn around.
During Easter, I spent time thinking about new life. How church is a place where we’re learning that, in Christ, God sees each of us as a new creation, and how it’s a place where we’re learning to see ourselves and each other in that same way, too.
As a minister it’s my job to share that truth and to help people understand what that might mean in their individual circumstances, in their family life, their work places, communities, networks and in the church.
Paul said that unless the seed dies, it can’t grow into a plant. In the “now and not yet” of God’s kingdom, which is breaking into this present world, the seed doesn’t just die when we die; in the hope of resurrection to eternity with God, the seed of our old self is dying now.
In our life with God, we are now already realizing our potential to be extraordinary, beautiful, flourishing, fruitful plants in his sight, even if in many ways, and in human eyes, we still seem like ordinary, small, insignificant, wrinkled seeds.
And as wrinkled, insignificant, small and ordinary as our churches seem, Jesus sees them as his bride.
I suppose that for many of our church members, the main awareness of Baptist Union of Great Britain is its role in training and accrediting ministers.
That’s not to downplay the significance of many other things BUGB does for us or our church’s role in supporting Home Mission or, on the flipside, to say that all our members are even aware of BUGB’s role in ministerial formation.
As a pastor, I’m one of those people identified in Ephesians as called to equip God’s people for works of service. I need to be fit for purpose, even if not especially extraordinary or wise in the world’s eyes.
And if BUGB is going to remain one of my main resources in ministry then, by whatever means is deemed appropriate in the future (locally, regionally or nationally), I need it to provide me with the means to be fed, equipped, nourished and discipled myself, so that I can do that job for others.
That is perhaps a selfish way to look at it, but then I would also hope the structures would allow me to contribute to that for others, too.
I need people beyond my own church who can help me to understand how I am a new creation and encourage me to see my congregation that way, too, especially when I’m struggling with either or both of those things in my extra specially ordinary or foolish moments.