God is on mission to redeem his people through Jesus Christ. We read about God’s mission in the scriptures where we also read that the gospel mission is the message of the church. Since my seminary days, this theological statement has shaped how I read the Bible and how I understand the mission of God.
I have made this statement several times over the years. It has a threefold emphasis: 1) God’s mission. 2) The location where we read about God’s mission. 3) And the role of the church in God’s mission to redeem elect sheep (John 10:3). It’s the third emphasis that I want to highlight by thinking about how the extraordinary gospel works through ordinary people.
American culture celebrates the extraordinary and looks past the ordinary. Local churches in America tend to do the same. Pompous and grandiose Easter services dominate the spring. Christmas Eve services include real live camels and a life-sized manger scene. And in between C and E, Sunday services resembles a rock concert with strobe lights and the fog machine. I am easily amused, so I get it. But in all the extraordinary events that dominate the 21st-century American church, the ordinary events of gospel kindness and hospitality are routinely lost. Evan at church. The command to love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31) becomes giving an Easter invitation to said smoke and light show but not holding the door for the elderly at the supermarket, or inviting your neighbor to your house for a meal. The message of the gospel is getting lost in the smoke and strobe lights.
Muse with me for a moment. In Acts 16 we read about spiritually extraordinary moments that resulted in ordinary responses. God opened the heart of Lydia through the ministry of the apostle Paul (v. 14). How did she respond to the gospel? Lydia was baptized, and then she immediately opened up her home to Paul and his companions. Lydia began to understand what it means to be on mission with God by demonstrating biblical hospitality. No strobe lights. No super extra special Christmas Eve service with live camels. Lydia simply responded by ordinary means after the Holy Spirit revealed Christ to her heart.
The Philippian Jailer was also saved (v. 33) through the ministry of Paul. You can read the remarkable narrative in Acts 16. And look at the ordinary response of the Philippian Jailer. He was baptized like Lydia. He also took care of the wounds of his new friends (v. 33). The Philippian Jailer fed Paul and his friends (v. 34). And because of the extraordinary message of the gospel the Philippian Jailer rejoiced! Again, after you cut through the noise offered by many 21st century churches, what is left? Jesus.
When we read the book of Acts, Paul’s extraordinary ministry dominates the pages as he traversed through ancient Achaia, Asia, Galatia, etc. And it’s good to look to Paul as an example as one who looked to Christ (1 Corinthians 1:11). But do not look past the seemingly ordinary response to the gospel of saints like Lydia and the Philippian Jailer. It is the ordinary response to the mission of God that the gospel typically goes forth and we can let God handle the extraordinary.