Understanding Ordinary Time: Growth as Usual
The church has traditionally divided the year into seasons known as the liturgical calendar. Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter are all examples. This fall, our church will be celebrating the liturgical season called Ordinary Time. Technically, Ordinary Time is the timeframe between the end of Easter and the start of Advent, but for our first attempt at celebrating this season, we will begin our celebration with the start of fall.
Ordinary Time is named as ordinary simply because it is just that, it is ordinary. It is not Lent, nor Advent, nor Christmas, it is just ordinary. The traditional emphasis of Ordinary Time is growth, symbolized by the color green. This helps us realize that it usually what we do with the ordinary grind of life that defines our growth. As Joan Chrittister said, "It is precisely this routine of holiness-as-usual that is the ultimate measure of the quality of a soul. It is what we do routinely, not what we do rarely, that delineates the character of a person. It is what we believe in the heart of us that determines what we do daily. It is what we bring to the nourishment of the soul that predicts the kind of soul we nurture. It’s what we do ordinarily, day by day, that gives an intimation of what we will do under stress. It is the daily—the way we act ordinarily, not rarely, that defines us as either kind, or angry, or faithful, or constant."
Because of Ordinary Time's focus on normal growth, we place a higher emphasis on what we consider to be the ordinary growth elements of the Christian life: community, worship, evangelism, intentional learning, serving, and personal and family devotions. Keep reading for some suggestions of how you can be practicing ordinary growth during our observance of Ordinary Time
Community: Caring Through Hospitality
Acts 2:42-44 says "They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common."
One of the ordinary elements of the Christian walk should be a growing sense of unity that is found in community. To foster this we practice hospitality. Inviting others into our homes to spend time with them helps us build unity and community. Here are three suggestions for practicing hospitality during Ordinary Time.
Invite people into your home whom you wouldn't normally invite.
Make sure to pray with those you invite over. Ask them how you can pray for them. Tell them how they can pray for you. Spend a little time praying together.
Have fun together!
Worship: Feeding Our Souls With the Goodness of God
In John 7:37, Jesus says, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink." When we gaze upon the goodness of God it quenches the thirst of our souls. We do this in worship through singing, reading the word of God, teaching the word of God, praying together, and taking communion. Worship should be one of the ordinary elements of our spiritual growth.
"Worship is a way of gladly reflecting back to God the radiance of His worth." - John Piper
During Ordinary Time, make sure you prioritize the role of worship in your life. Here are a few suggestions for experiencing worship this fall.
Attend as regularly as possible.
During worship try to focus less on what you like or don't like and more on who God is and how we are trying to express that reality.
Pray before you come. Spend a little time in your car praying by yourself or with your family before you ever set foot inside the church. Ask God to help you see his glory and delight in his goodness.
Family Devotions: Taking Responsibility for Your Family’s Growth
Ephesians 5 helps us see that we are to be exceptionally concerned with our family's holiness. Spouses are to be helping spouses grow in holiness and parents are meant to raise their children in the ways of the Lord. Here are some suggestions for how to help foster this through practicing family devotions. Try doing family devotions when you gather for dinner.
With Small Children
Consider taking time several days a week to read to your kids out of a story Bible. The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd-Jones is a great one to use. Read a story to your kids. Ask them what they think about it. Pray together.
Try using the New City Catechism for Kids. This little question and answer style catechism is designed to help kids memorize key aspects of the Christian faith. Designed for ages 4-11, it asks a question and provides an answer. Memorizing the answer allows kids to internalize the truths of Christianity. A free phone/tablet app can be downloaded that provides more scripture references and songs to be sung to help memorization.
Read through a devotional like Truth 365: 365 Devotions for Teens Connecting Life and Faith by Josh McDowell. Read a devotional with dinner and discuss it together. End by praying for each other. Make sure you let your teenager pray for you as well.
Try using the New City Catechism. The Adult version of the New City Catechism provides a very interesting discussion platform. Families can also choose to memorize the questions and answers together as a way to be meditating on the truths of God together
Pray together. If you are not used to praying together, try praying at your meals. Ask your spouse what they would like to pray about and spend a few minutes praying together over those things.
Consider reading a book together. A great book to start with is You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity by Francis and Lisa Chan.
Personal Devotions: Being Satisfied in God’s Presence
Personal devotions are one of the most important elements of a Christian's walk with the Lord. Praying and reading scripture are indispensable and cannot be overvalued. If you want help making your time of prayer and Bible reading more meaningful, set up an appointment with pastor James (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Evangelism: God’s Mission in Your Daily Life
We are called to help others discover Jesus. Whether it is Jesus words in Matthew 28 or when Paul says in 2 Timothy 4, "As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry," part of our ordinary Christian walk is helping others find and follow Jesus. Use your BLESS card to help intentionally focus on reaching people in your life.
Begin in prayer. Pray that God softens their heart to the gospel.
Listen. Display the love of Christ by taking time to listen to the people on your BLESS list. Find time to hear how they are truly doing.
Eat with them. Find time to eat a meal with them. Something special happens when we share a meal with a person. It helps us connect in new and meaningful ways.
Serve. Serving goes a long way in helping people see the love Jesus. Be on the lookout for ways you can meaningfully serve those on your BLESS list.
Share our church. Invite the people into our church community so they can hear the gospel and see what our community is like.
Intentional Learning: Diving Deeper into Your Knowledge of God
1 Corinthians 14:20 says, "Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature." Part of the ordinary Christian life is to be growing in our understanding of God.
With the overabundance of great Christian books in today's world, the only excuse a Christian should have for not digging deeper into their knowledge of God is that they don't know where to start. Here is a list of great books for you to consider picking up during Ordinary Time. Ask pastor James if you can borrow a copy of one of these books before you buy it.
Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer.
Prodigal God by Tim Keller.
The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul.
The Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster.
The Deep Things of God by Fred Sanders.
Walking with God through Pain and Suffering by Tim Keller.
Forgotten God by Francis Chan.