Ordinary: How to turn the world upside down by Tony Merida
Helping the vulnerable is not first priority for many churches, but rather saving the lost spiritually comes to the forefront. In his new book, Ordinary, Pastor Tony Merida turns our old outdated categories of what it means to serve the disenfranchised and vulnerable on their head and promotes a strong theological and biblical rationale for doing so. In turn, what you find in this book is a work that is wise, challenging, and faithful to the Scriptures. Tony has seen it all, from the social gospel to an evangelical gospel that has no room for service, and yet he still has hope for the future.
In the opening preface Tony cites Aristides who saw the early Christians as normal citizens caring for the widows, orphans, and one another in love and yet stood for the truth. These believers were not elites or special Christians, but “Ordinary Christians who proclaim an extraordinary message, and ordinary Christians who practice compelling acts of justice and mercy” (xvii). The church as an outpost for the kingdom has the responsibility to humbly engage those who have spat on by the culture.
Tony began to see this vision for loving the poor when he was asked to lead a Bible study on the subject of the poor. Going from eschewing passages concerned for the poor as someone else’s problem to repenting of this blind spot in his life, Tony began to see these questions about the poor as a ghost that was haunting him (2-3). With the mission of Jesus and by looking at the God who believe in, Tony slowly recognize that helping the poor, sick, the orphan and the oppressed was not an extra credit duty for the believer, but part and parcel of the faith. The banner in Imago Dei church reads:
P – Plant Churches
E – Evangelize the World
A – Aid the Poor and the Sick
C – Care for the Orphan and the Oppressed
E – Equip Leaders (4)
One of the best parts of this book was Tony’s focus on neighbor love. He reminds his readers that by helping the oppressed the good news is given a platform. He writes, “As you huge the AIDS patient, remind them of the glory of God that will revealed to the saints. As you ladies care for homeless prostitutes, share how Jesus transformed ladies just like them by His redeeming love. Love you neighbor as you love yourself – your whole self” (32). To embrace ministries such as these, we have to get involved personally, but this does not mean that we all do same thing (Tony provides a list on page 34 that opens us up to some opportunities). The gospel goes forth by word and deed and this is not something we have to keep arguing about.
This is a fantastic book and one that I will read again with an eye towards how should my life be different because of the Scripture’s view of the orphan, poor, and sick.
Thanks to B & H Books and Cross Focused Reviews for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.