Ed Stetzer: You have a new book out, Ordinary: How to Turn the World Upside Down. Can you please explain this to our readers in one tweet?
Tony Merida: My aim is to encourage Christians to see the significance of living everyday with gospel intentionality within the ordinary rhythm of life.
ES: You and Michael Horton both dropped books with the same title within a couple months of each other. That's all well and good, but did we really need a book to tell us that ordinary is OK? Aren’t people inherently “ordinary”?
TM: Yeah, I had no idea another book with that title was coming out! I have benefited from Dr. Horton’s books in the past, but I haven’t read his Ordinary yet. So I can only speak for my book. I’m encouraging the reader with the simple fact that God uses ordinary people just like them everyday. While that may seem obvious to some, I think the average Joe doesn’t recognize the extraordinary impact he or she (Josephine) can make by doing “ordinary things” with gospel intentionality.
I’m trying to encourage the construction worker; the mom and dad with busy lives and kids to take to school and basketball practice; the college student swamped with homework; the struggling Christian who thinks that only rock star pastors are changing the world. I want these people to see that conversations, acts of mercy, hospitality, going grocery shopping, coaching little league, playing Frisbee golf, and countless other ordinary things that we do each week can be filled with meaning if we will live with gospel sensitivity.
ES: In the acknowledgments, you said, “I hope to echo much of Radical in Ordinary.” On the surface these two books look like polar opposites. But that doesn’t appear to be the case at all. If ordinary is good, isn’t radical bad?
TM: Not at all. As David says, Ordinary is a good application of Radical. After all, my subtitle is How to Turn the World Upside Down! That sounds radical!
Radical is focused much on personal sacrifice, which is essential if people want to practice what I’m talking about. No one will use their home as a place of refuge for the broken if they’re selfish and greedy. No one will adopt children and care for the orphan if they aren’t willing to die to many earthly comforts. No one will advocate for the voiceless, if they aren’t willing to face opposition and criticism. No one will love the dying man in the road, and practice extraordinary generosity, if they haven’t first been enamored by the grace of Jesus personally. Everything I’m calling Christians to do requires one to kill idols and follow the King wholeheartedly – within the ordinary rhythm of life.
ES: What led you to embrace ordinary Christianity? And how has this changed you, your family, and ministry?
TM: I have grown troubled with the amount of sensationalism in Christianity today. People fawn over speakers, bands, and events, and fail to consider how to care for the abandoned kid down the street. For much of my own Christian life, I measured spiritual maturity by how many people knew me, followed me; by how many speakers I knew, how many books I read, and how well I was keeping up with the Christian sub-culture.
I’ve come to see afresh that maturity is about how you live, not about what you know (or who you know). It’s about following after the way of Christ, and that way includes speaking the gospel word, and illustrating the gospel with compassionate deeds – everyday. This has lead to our adoption of five children, advocacy for the enslaved, a concern for the poor, the development of several new ministries, and the overall reorienting of our whole lives.
ES: What is the one thing you want readers to take away from Ordinary?
TM: Many Christians feel as though they aren’t faithful if they don’t live in a mud-hut in India. While some need to move to India, I want the non-international missionary to see that they can make an extraordinary impact in a cul-de-sac or trailer park or apartment complex by doing things like practicing hospitality, showing neighbor love, caring for the vulnerable, speaking up for the voiceless, and praying.