I’m reading Michael Horton’s Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World, which is not-so-subtly a response to Radical by David Platt, though Horton’s book doesn’t mention it by name. I’ve never read anything by Horton before, and I am enjoying it. He is a good writer, one who can keep drawing you in and engaging you even while keeping his style targeted to a young modern audience (it takes skill to define the word redundant in the flow of your text without making it obvious or patronizing).
Maturity comes through community, and community comes by covenants
On the other hand, like salty peanuts, all of this clicking, cutting-and-pasting, Googling and chatting, posting and texting just creates a deeper thirst for something more meaningful. Younger generations will say that they long for community, but the habits that they’ve acquired – and which are now deeply woven into the fabric of their personality – make it difficult for them to belong to any particular group with any serious and long-term investment.
Horton’s primary emphasis throughout the book is that the key to personal growth and to cultural change (slowly, like a mustard seed) is attendance and faithfulness to the weekly means of grace: preaching of the Word and the sacraments.
The key to maturity is time and community. Discernment takes time and a lot of godly input spanning generations and ethnicities. There’s a reason why the Psalms have been sung for thousands of years, why many young people still know “Amazing Grace,” even if they barely know “Shine, Jesus, Shine” and have never (happily) even heard of “In the Garden.” A consensus of believers in churches over a few generations has a way of weeding out the less edifying songs.
God makes us part of a body, and we can’t be healthy if we constantly amputate ourselves and then attempt to reattach somewhere else. Certainly, God’s body is bigger than one particular congregation, and we can move across states or across the world and still belong to Christ’s body. However, the discipline of real community comes from belonging to one place and one people for a long time. Our society has not only lost this discipline, but rejected it.
The patient discipline of belonging to a community (preferably, the same local community) over a long period of time is difficult […] What seemed like boring routine with boring people may actually take on a different aspect. Like a vast field, we are growing together into a harvest whose glory will only appear fully at the end of the age.
There is something so valuable and irreplaceable about having the same people who witnessed my own baptism (and vowed to help me walk with Christ), also witness (and vow to help) the baptism of my own children. Such long-standing community is founded so much deeper than if it was based on us sharing the same opinions and practices about secondary matters. Instead, it is founded on the gospel and cemented with vows.
So it is time for all of us to grow up. It’s time for gifted communicators and leaders to become pastors, for restless souls to submit to the encouragement and correction in the body, for movements to give way to churches. […] Movements typically don’t like institutions. […] But the church, despite current appearances, is God’s emerging ecosystem of the new creation.
My Book Bag
- Theology: Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World by Michael Horton
- Science: The Book Nobody Read: Chasing the Revolutions of Copernicus by Owen Gingrich (recommended by Brandy as a possible book for 7th grade next year)
- History: Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why The Greeks Matter by Thomas Cahill
- Humanities: Begin Here: The Forgotten Conditions of Teaching and Learning by Jacques Barzun (recommended by Brandy)
- Whim: Seven Laws of Teaching by John Milton Gregory (reread – I wanted to make myself a one-page summary)
- Fiction/Memoir: The Keeper of the Bees by Gene Stratton-Porter (recommended by my friend Kirsti)