If I asked you to tell me about your 2013, you’d likely tell me about the highlights — vacations you took, job changes, big things in the life of your kids, and other things that stand out in your mind. But, that’s not what made the biggest difference in your life in 2013. Here’s what actually made the biggest difference:
You drank water.
That’s why you’re alive. That’s what sustained you and allowed all of the other things to happen. When any of those slipped, so did the rest of life. Try to enjoy your vacation without food, drink or sleep. Try to have breakthroughs at work or be a sunshiny presence at home. Eat, drink, sleep. Do those three things well, and the rest of life happens. Fail to do them, and life is worse — or life ends.
It’s more consistency in the ordinary stuff of Christianity that helps one’s spiritual life grow — not major breakthroughs. Major breakthroughs are great — but they tend to be flashes in the pan or become squandered opportunities when they aren’t undergirded by a foundation of consistency in basic Christian practices like prayer, reading Scripture, loving others and sharing our faith.
Consistency in the Basics — Most Vital for Churches
There’s a trinity of basics in church life that sustain churches — an eat, drink, sleep. It’s attending, giving and inviting. I’m not saying they are the most important things of all, theologically; I’m saying they may be the most necessary.
Consistency in attendance, giving and inviting friends is the eat, drink, sleep for churches. Without it, there will be no big, shiny new initiatives. It sounds simple and bland, but it’s true. Look around at the best churches you can think of and you’ll see: Great churches aren’t great because of the big stuff. They’re great because of faithfulness in the “small stuff.”
We spill a lot of energy and ink trying to convince ourselves these things don’t really matter. We say idealistic things like, “You aren’t a Christian because you go to church.” True enough, but when we don’t explain our emphasis well, what we’re saying is, it doesn’t really matter much. So, people aim for something splashier or more private that feels more powerful but sustains them less and detaches them from basic Christian practices that teach obedience to Christ, humility (you’ll rarely get thanked for showing up to church consistently), and bless the faith communities that help nourish their walk with God. We’re not only hurting the spiritual walks of people when we say thoughtless things like this — we’re crippling churches.
In all our efforts to cast big visions for our churches we must make sure to help them understand the vision behind the “ordinary.” If we don’t, it will reveal itself when the stakes of our “bigger” visions are high. Ministry is neither marathon nor sprint; it’s more like interval training. That’s why consistent beats extraordinary in ministry.
It’s better to be consistent in the ordinary than irregular at the extraordinary. If you’re looking for a way to bless your church and walk with God, do these three things with a great attitude: show up, give, and invite your friends. Encourage others in the church to do the same. You might be surprised how much growth, evangelism, and community happens. You’ll also be shocked at how it transforms you — to be consistent.
These days, that’s what’s exceptional.
Tim Spivey is lead planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, CA. Tim is also an adjunct professor of religion at Pepperdine University and purveyor of New Vintage Leadership, a blog offering cutting-edge insights on leadership and theology. He is the author of numerous articles and the book Jesus, the Powerful Servant.