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Jun 2013

The Beauty in Ordinary Things

Major events have a role to play in church life, but the bedrock of gospel ministry is low-key, ordinary, day-to-day work that often goes unseen. Most gospel ministry involves ordinary people doing ordinary things with gospel intentionality. Whether it is helping a friend, working at the office, or going to the movies, there is a commitment to building relationships, modeling the Christian faith and talking about the gospel as a natural part of conversation. – p. 63 from Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis

Just recently, I had a chance to catch up on the final season of The Office; and while it wasn’t everything I hoped it would be, I still found it to be a satisfying closure to the series. It was always one of those shows that snuck up on me, because I thought that I was just watching a comedy, but in the end, I was really watching a commentary on my life, and how love, and hope, and joy, and everything that I claim to live for, is actually found in the beauty of ordinary things with ordinary people. I was especially moved by two quotes that beautifully summed up the essence of the show:

I think an ordinary paper company like Dunder-Mifflin was a great subject for a documentary. There’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things. Isn’t that kind of the point? – Pam Halpert

Everything I have I owe to this job…this stupid, wonderful, boring, amazing job. – Jim Halpert

The “ordinary people” at Dunder-Mifflin shared cubicles, and tasks, and projects, and meetings in the conference room, and office parties; but other than that, they went home to their own lives. But, over the course of many years, and trials, and triumphs, these diverse people with nothing in common became friends, and then they became a family. And as I reflected on the routine existence of this group of people, I was reminded of just how often I look for the “spectacular” things in my own routine life; secretly hoping for something great to happen to lift me out of my boredom, that I miss the beauty of ordinary things, and people, right in front of me.

Stanley had his pretzel day once a year. Dwight got excited about being safety officer. Michael loved the office parties and the conference room meetings, and for all his quirkiness, he knew how to successfully lead that office. Jim always wanted to leave and go on to greater things; but, in the end he found what he always wanted and needed in that tiny office. Everyone had a role both in the company, and in each other’s lives.


In the end, many of us came to enjoy The Office because it allowed us to witness all facets of the human experience within the confines of a mundane office setting. The best of life and the worst of life were on full display. The Office didn’t need an epic, world-changing story arc to satisfy the viewer. As Pam reminds us in the quote above, there is true beauty in ordinary things, and that is what kept us coming back for nine seasons.

As followers of Christ, we sometimes refuse to acknowledge the reality that God’s Spirit works in the seemingly mundane moments of life. We may hear that an “ordinary” Christian life isn’t good enough, and while that’s not always bad advice, I think the more that we feed on a “what we’re doing is not good enough” diet, the more we start to believe that God doesn’t work in and through the “stupid, wonderful, boring” things in our lives.

But the “ordinary” is only a vehicle for Christian mission if there is gospel intentionality. The ordinary needs to be saturated with a commitment to living and proclaiming the gospel. The gospel is a message, and so mission only takes place as we share that word with people. A commitment to mission through community works only if the gospel is a strong value within that community. Otherwise we simply form good friendships that never go anywhere. – p. 63-64 from Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis

The gospel challenges us to live in such a way that is anything but ordinary to the world around us. For nearly all of us, opportunities to experience and proclaim Jesus will arise in the moments and situations we perceive to be dull or unimportant. Those opportunities might include hosting a baby shower for an expectant mother, or talking with strangers at the Greek Festival, or going with a neighbor to Friday Cheers, or visiting a nursing home even when you don’t know any of the residents, or coordinating a progressive dinner with your neighbors. They might involve expressing doubts in the comfort of your community group, or serving in RH Kids on Sunday mornings. These moments may not warrant a facebook or blog post, but they allow for divine encounters with Jesus, and opportunities to share his good news, in the times when we least expect it.

Our God is writing a grand story. Tucked into that story are many, many, many, many a lot of moments that often appear mundane, ordinary, or just plain uneventful; and yet, those are the ordinary moments that point to the extraordinary hope that we who call ourselves Christians have found in the resurrected Son of God, Jesus Christ.


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