I am an ordinary pastor. That is, I know myself well enough and I have been around enough extraordinary pastors to be well aware of how ordinary I am. The content, regularity, and writing style found here at THE CAPRANICA all document the degree of my ordinariness.
Actually, I enjoy being ordinary. Obscurity is often bliss. Normality, more often than not, is a blessing. The front-lines of the ordinary contain enough excitement, challenge, heartache, and doldrum to keep me focused and engaged in the Lord’s work. I have been an ordinary pastor for over 20 years (I began ministry in 1988 in a rural Texas Panhandle church) and I have never been bored with ministry; I’ve always been busy, and I’m as excited today about serving the church as I was twenty years ago when I began. I really do enjoy being among the ordinary.
Ordinary is not often publicly celebrated, but ordinary pastors dominate the landscape of church life across our country; we are, by far, the vast majority. In reality, only a small percentage of pastors in the world could really be called or evaluated as extraordinary. I thank God for many of them . The Savior has used (and still does) a few of them in many influential ways in my life and ministry. Yet, most of us who serve the Lord as local church shepherds will not host presidential forums; books will not host our names as authors; national conferences will not contain our photos as keynote speakers; our church facilities will never be highlighted on the latest church growth magazines; and the denominational leaders have little knowledge as to who we are and even less interest in our being on the platform during their meetings. We buy, read, and benefit from the books, sermons, podcasts, and conferences of the extraordinary pastors; we don’t write them, preach them, produce them, or speak at them.
I want to celebrate the regular, ordinary, front-lines, majority of ordinary pastors. I want to encourage brethren to strive to be all they can be within their God-given ordinary parameters. That’s right, I think being an ordinary pastor is ultimately the plan of God for most of us and seeking to be among the ranks of the extraordinary pastors is not really an admirable aim to pursue. While the extraordinary mega ministries are often put on display as the target of success for our ministries, statistics alone should remind us that far more than the majority of us will never stand before massive crowds in multi-million dollar facilities. And that, as I see it, is by God’s good design – worthy of being enjoyed more than it is.
God is the one who ultimately determines who the extraordinary are. God is in the very center of my ordinary ministry. I am astounded with how this is demonstrated in the Bible. Some time ago as I read through the narrative sections of the Old Testament, I chronicled the direct activity of God indicated by the narrator. Here’s a simple sampling from 2 Chronicles. Notice how involved God was in making some individuals extraordinary and others ordinary, and still others, less than ordinary.
1:1 regarding Solomon “the LORD his God was with him and made him exceedingly great.”
9:23 regarding the immense wisdom Solomon possessed “all the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put into his mind.”
11:4 the kingdom of Israel was divided “for this thing is from me [Yahweh].”
13:20-21 Jeroboam did not recover his power in the days of Abijah. And the LORD struck him down, and he died. But Abijah grew mighty.
17:5 – “the LORD established the kingdom in his [Jehoshaphat’s] hand. And all Judah brought tribute to Jehoshaphat, and he had great riches and honor.”
17:10 “And the fear of the LORD fell upon all the kingdoms of the lands that were around Judah, and they made no war against Jehoshaphat.”
18:22 “the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of these your prophets. The LORD has declared disaster concerning you.”
22:7 “it was ordained by God that the downfall of Ahaziah should come about through his going to visit Joram . . .Jehu the son of Nimshi, whom the LORD had anointed to destroy the house of Ahab.”
25:16 regarding Amaziah “I know that God has determined to destroy you . . .”
25:20 “Amaziah would not listen, for it was of God in order that he might give them into the hand of their enemies . . .”
30:12 “The hand of God was also on Judah to give them one heart to do what the king and the princes commanded by the word of the LORD.”
Of course more can be said and more emphatic passages can be referenced. But the rising and the falling of leaders and kingdoms in Israel, while often noted to be tied to their seeking Yahweh or turning from Him, still was ultimately under His direct ordination and ultimate plan. To use a Pauline analogy, “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:5-8). Could it be that those who we often see as the extraordinary are actually quite ordinary, but blessed by God with an extraordinary impact for reasons He alone has determined and arranged?
In other words, our place in ministry, our ultimate impact on the body of Christ at large, has less to do with our extraordinary ambitions than it does with God’s direct ordination. In all actuality, even our ambitions are a part of His sovereign plan.
Being ordinary does not mean we settle for laziness. It does not mean we do not strive for excellence. Being an ordinary pastor does not have to mean we are less faithful to the gospel or in preaching the Word. It does not necessarily mean we are less effective at what we do than others. It does not mean that the impact God has in the people we do serve is not extraordinary. Ordinariness simply means that God has not chosen to give a wider voice to our ministries as he has to others. Some bring forth fruit at the pace of 30 fold, others 60 fold. I think the 60 fold fruitfulness of ministry is not the norm; and the 30 fold fruitfulness is not less important or faithful than the extraordinary.
Being ordinary means that we still strive hard in prayer, in evangelism, in study, in counseling, in preaching, and in family life. We give attention to details. We love people fervently. We pour ourselves into our work and our families. We do all we can to learn and grow in the things of the Lord. We disciple others, weep with some, rejoice with many. Our homes are open. Our lives are on display. Our libraries are full of books read and to be read. Our sermon preparation is thorough and challenging. We simply don’t have the audience or the widespread impact that the extraordinary have. Yet, when all is told, the comprehensive effect of all the faithful ordinary pastors across our country actually amounts to an extraordinary impact for the kingdom of God.
THE CAPRANICA is a place for ordinary people to come and view the life of an ordinary pastor. It’s my plan to post articles that detail the goings on of one ordinary pastor, shepherding a flock in an ordinary American city. Here you will read posts, view videos, and follow Twitter feeds and see how an ordinary pastor lives and serves. Often times the history books reflect only the extraordinary and the history of the regular is regularly obscured. Blogging gives an opportunity to chronicle the lives of the normal. This is an online public platform for the ordinary. My purpose in this blog is simply to reflect on life and theology from the mind and abilities of an ordinary pastor. I want to give you a glimpse of what it is to shepherd the people of God while being an ordinary pastor. In reality, I want to publicly celebrate the ordinary. Here you will find the regular, the normal – the bliss – of serving the Lord as an ordinary pastor.