I remember it like it was last week. The Sunday started just like any other Sunday. I went up early to turn on the lights and make sure the heat was on like I always do. As the morning moved along, we had a great time of worship through song. Someone prayed and I moved towards the pulpit and looked out over the congregation. I was eager to see how God was going to move that day. The sermon was from Matthew 12, about the dangers of an empty heart. If we don't fill our hearts with Jesus, they will be filled with something else. After the sermon, I gave an invitation and a few people came down to pray. I gave a few closing announcements, and the service was over. Some people hung around to talk about Christmas decorations, or plans for lunch or whatever was on their mind. There were no tears of repentance, there was no great movement of God. People worshipped God through song, through the study of His Word, and through fellowship with other believers. That Sunday, in every sense of the word, was just another ordinary Sunday.
Perhaps you were expecting for this to be another one of those stories that all your pastor friends seem to share every Sunday. There were so many that joined, so many baptisms, and so many got saved. If all the numbers I read on social media are true, I don't know how there are any lost people left! Just once I would like someone to report that they had a nice ordinary Sunday. Songs were sung, fellowship was had, prayers were made, an offering was given, and the gospel was preached. We hurt the body of Christ, and each other, when we make every Sunday into a huge event. The truth is that most of the Sundays since the resurrection of Christ have been ordinary Sundays. In that same time, the church has grown from a handful in the upper room to millions worshipping in every time zone, language, and ethnicity. There is power in the ordinary.
The story of Naaman and Elisha in 2 Kings 5 is a reminder of this truth. In terms of Old Testament stories of the prophets, this is a rather tame one. There is no lion’s den, flaming furnace, or fire from heaven. The great Aramean warrior Naaman had been struck with leprosy, and on the advice of an Israelite servant girl came to the great prophet Elisha. Elisha can’t even be bothered to come out for the great man and sends out a messenger. “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will be restored to you and you will be clean” (2 Kings 5:10). This is too ordinary a thing for Naaman, who becomes indignant at the prophet. In God’s grace, the friends of Naaman point out that had Elisha commanded a great thing of him he would have done it, so why not do the little things? He goes to down to the river and is made free of leprosy by the rather ordinary waters of the Jordan.
Naaman thought the Jordan was too ordinary of a way for God to work. But it is just precisely those things that God uses over and over through the Scriptures. The sun is as much a creation of God as a tender flower, but both have a purpose in the plans of God. We can fall into the trap of thinking that the ordinary Sundays in our church are too plain to be used of God, but these are just the types of days that God uses to grow people in faith and bring his Kingdom about on the earth. Ordinary things in the hands of an extraordinary God become the miraculous means by which He brings about His kingdom.
If God asked us to lead a revival that swept the country, we would relish the role. But if God asked us to preach faithfully to a few people Sunday after ordinary Sunday, would we be as quick to follow Him? Those who labor in church live in the tension of longing to see Christ to work in miraculous ways while also living ministry lives that are largely made up of so-called ordinary days. How can we live in this tension, especially in a world always pining for the next big thing?
1. Remember that God is at work in the ordinary just as much as he is in the miraculous. We might plant and water, but God is always the one who gives the increase. It's possible that God can make an oak tree grow overnight. But it's more likely that God will guide that tree as it grows slowly over 100 years. Both are acts of God. But nobody goes to a conference about how to grow slowly, even though it's how God works most of the time.
2. Keep praying for the extraordinary. We pray for these things because we know we worship a God who works in these ways. The God of the Welsh Revival, the Great Awakening, and the Protestant Reformation is the same God who works in the service at the rural church where I serve. God is capable, and I pray that He is willing, to move in that way.
3. Love the church God has given you. It's easy to think that if it were somewhere else things would be better or different. But you are where you are because that's where God wants you. Maybe God has plans for you to be mentioned alongside Edwards, Luther, or Calvin. We can't be sure about what people will say about us after we are gone. I am certain, though, that God desires for us to be faithful in the task he has given us.
I long to see God move in miraculous ways in my church, and as the service starts each week, I pray that He does. Whenever the body of Christ gathers together for fellowship, worship, and proclamation, we should never be disappointed. It is always a joy to gather with the people of God, even if the Sunday does not go down in the history books. Psalm 84:10 puts it best. "For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside. I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.”