J.D. Payne on Looking for the Ordinary

Pastor, professor, and author J.D. Payne talks about what we should and shouldn’t look for as we seek to fulfill the Great Commission:

We want to start with the extraordinary.  Iron Man. The Incredible Hulk.

“We want the high caliber, high capacity-type to lead this ministry.  For apart from these we can do nothing. We want Superman, not the Greatest American Hero!”

We want to use the extraordinary to reach the world.

“If only our church had some outstanding leaders, then we would be better poised to reach the 4 billion. Unfortunately, global disciple making will have to wait until we can find just one.”

We want the extraordinary because we think they are the way to accomplish the extraordinary.

“Multiplying churches is a daunting task, please send us some strong leaders to enable our church to be about such work.”

But…what if the way to reach the nations is not through the extraordinary.  What if in our Father’s Kingdom economy the primary way to accomplish the extraordinary is through the ordinary?

“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13 ESV).

Do you catch that?  The ordinary doing the extraordinary.

Yes, our Father uses the extraordinary to accomplish the extraordinary, but not in the way we have come to believe.  For the extraordinary is found in Jesus and not His followers’ intellect, leadership capacity, experience, degrees, or charisma.

What about your church?  Do you have any members who are common, ordinary people?  Are you a common person?  If so, then you and your church are in a good position for the Lord to do the extraordinary through you.

“But ordinary people can’t plant extraordinary churches?”

Really? What is your definition of extraordinary?

“With all that they have going on with work and family, they can’t organize, administrate, lead, preach, and conduct church ministries like I do.”

Then maybe you need to revise your understanding of what is necessary for a healthy local church to exist and be involved in our commission?

The way to accomplish the extraordinary is through the ordinary.  The ordinary confounded the religious leaders.  The ordinary was accused of turning the world upside down in the first century (Acts 17:6).  The ordinary was responsible for the word of the Lord going forth everywhere (1 Thes 1:8).  And it was through the service of the ordinary that you and I eventually came to faith in the extraordinary.

Stop looking for the extraordinary among people. Look for the ordinary who are filled with the extraordinary. . . if you want to accomplish the extraordinary.


J. D. serves as the pastor for church multiplication with The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama.  Before moving to Birmingham, he served for ten years with the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention and as an Associate Professor of Church Planting and Evangelism in the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, where he directed the Center for North American Missions and Church Planting.

Check out J.D.’s blog, Missiologically Thinking

1 comment
  1. Anna said:

    I have struggled with feeling ordinary and not very significant as a church member. I remember learning about the gifts of the spirit when I was much younger and thinking, “I want the really cool ones. Prophecy, discernment!” then I went through a period where I felt like I was gift-less. I am just now coming to an understanding of how God uses our strengths for his glory, and for me that’s a one person at a time sort of thing.

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