This little book is not a call to do nothing. It is a call to be faithful right where you are, regardless of how mundane that place is. Matt Redmond
What in the world does the issue of spanking adult children have to do with reviewing Matt Redmond’s excellent book, The God the Mundane? Stick with me and see.
The other day, I did my first book review on Amazon. I was surprised at how anxious I felt about expressing myself clearly in this forum. This is a great book and I wanted to be sure that nothing I said would detract from the author’s message. At TWW, I manage to only embarrass Deb and me.
Here is what I wrote.
Title: Brother Lawrence, Meet Matt Redmond link
Read this book unless you are a famous megachurch pastor, an NFL superstar, or a Wall Street mover and shaker. This book was written for the rest of us. I am one of those "everyone else" folks. I have never written a review before and even hesitated in doing so because I am no one special. But wait! That is what The God of the Mundane is all about.
Years ago, I read The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. This 17th century monk coined the phrase "the God of the pots and pans." This "nothing special" friar penned his thoughts about serving God in his day-to-day activities in the kitchen of a French monastery. Interestingly, the words of this "not so special" kitchen monastic have survived while most of us have forgotten who the movers and shakers were in that region and time. Matt Redmond is the Brother Lawrence of our day.
Most of us live out quiet lives, tending to our families, loving our neighbors, volunteering in our churches and schools. Some of us are stuck in boring jobs but are grateful because these jobs put bread on the table. Some of us have lost jobs and are struggling to make ends meet. Then, we go to church and are told we need to be "radical." We are encouraged to be like the Apostle Paul, William Wilberforce or Martin Luther, causing a revolution and changing our world. Then, we walk away, feeling that we have somehow failed God.
Matt makes the important point that Paul was writing to the church, most of whom were not making missionary journeys or writing the great theological works of the day. The nascent Christian faith grew because average people faithfully lived their lives as servants, slaves, tradesmen or shepherds. Jesus himself chose the fisherman to be His disciples, not Roman senators. Christianity became famous because of the thousands of unnamed faithful who quietly spread the word of a life-changing encounter with a Jesus who spent more time with the unknowns than the famous.
Matt gives dignity and purpose to the faithful homemaker, bank teller, barista, fast food worker and the rest of us who continue to cause a quiet revolution as we offer our daily, not-so-special routine, in the love and service of our God. Now that is something special!
Matt says he wrote this book for (this is just one example)
A man, stuck. Stuck in a job that feels small-a job making him feel small. He is not embarrassed of his job so much as miserable….He believes the gospel but has no idea what that means for him in this dead-end job. He reads book and hears sermons. And they make his work feel even smaller. (P.1)
He quotes Eugene Peterson.
We often get the big ideas, the majestic vistas of salvation, the grand visions of God’s work in the world, and the great opportunity for making an impact in the name of Jesus distract is from taking with gospel seriousness the unglamorous ordinary.” (P.5)
Is God sitting around waiting for each and every believer to do something monumental? Is this the warp and woof of the New Testament? Are the lifestyles of the Apostles the standard for the persons in the pew? (P. 7)
Is there a God for just and kind employers? (P.7)
We will not be famous. Oh, we want to be famous, known and revered. But that is not our reality. The reality is no one will write books about us. And, outside of our families, we will be forgotten.
This sounds terrible but only because fame-which was never ours-has obscured our view of what really is. And what is that? That we are part of that not so exclusive group of men and women throughout history known as “everyone else." (P. 13)
And here is where Matt Redmond said something that I had never heard expressed in the same way before. This is why he, “not so special” Matt has a new fan in me.
For years I read and thought and then taught as if Paul was the standard for those I was teaching. “Look at Paul and his singular devotion to Christ." (P.16)
I missed the obvious: The Apostles are writing to normal people. Most of them are nameless. They are Jews and Gentiles, yes. But they are also not apostles. (P.16)
The idea that God can take seriously the seemingly small, mundane tasks and responsibilities and turn them into something significant, while a strange way of thinking for us, is a common thread divinely woven throughout the Scriptures: shepherds watching their flocks by night, an old couple finally having children, a little boy’s lunch of bread and fish.” (P.47).
He makes two quips that I must include. (Matt-you live dangerously!)
There are two kinds of pastors in the main: those who speak at conferences….and those who want to do so. (p.70)
(Referring to the "all Christians are missionaries" type sermons he asks) If all Christians are missionaries how come plumbers never speak at missions conferences? (P.33)
There is so much more I have not covered but I urge you to read the book which is a too-short, 72 pages. I wished he had kept writing. Maybe he will. I sure hope so.
Here is my take on his book. I have been thinking about this for the last week or so. Paul was writing to the nameless individuals throughout the ages.
- Some stood their ground and became torches for Nero’s garden parties.
- Others reached out to neighbors, caring for their dead.
- Slaves treated their masters with undeserved love.
- Others, in the Middle Ages, cared for those who contracted bubonic plague, often dying themselves.
- Some lived in dugouts in North Dakota building a new life for their families in a hostile environment.
- There are single mothers who work two jobs to care for children after being deserted by their husbands. Yet they still have time to tell their children of a God who will never leave them.
- Others struggle with mental illness yet cling to a greater hope.
- There are alcoholics who finally, after much struggle, kick the habit and persevere even after slipping once or twice. Then they give time to others who walk the 12 long steps.
- Then there is a businessman who stops in his rounds and gets a pair of boots for a homeless man.He later finds out that the man conned him but he still reaches out to the down and out.
- There are many people who make meals at the Ronald McDonald House for families with sick and dying children.
It is all of you, here, who reach out to those who have been hurt and diminished by the church. You are the church. It is not the showy preacher who writes sex manuals. It is not the pastor who puts his church in debt and lives in a mansion. It is, however, a pastor like Wade Burleson who, when asked about allowing his sermons on an "E Church" said "yes", without a minute of hesitation.
This is the church, the real church.
So, how do I tie this into Christians who believe it is their Christian duty to continue to spank their adult children?
There are many "everyone elses" who transparently share their sorrows and hurts because they want to help others in the journey of faith. Julie Anne Smith openly shared something on her blog that moved me to tears. I want you all to hear a story of redemption in the life of this “not so special” special woman. She gave me permission to share this with all of you. I wonder if I could be as bold.
Julie Anne-you are a living example of the word "humility."
Many of us have regrets about things we have done in our lives. Sometimes, these things occur because we have trusted a Christian leader or pastor. As you know, Larry Tomczak, formerly of SGM, has been named in a lawsuit, accused of spanking an adult woman. On her blog, Spiritual Sounding Board, here, Julie documents that this sort of teaching is rampant in patriarchal circles.
She quotes from the Christian Agnostic blog. He is a former member of SGM
Former SGM member who writes at ChristianAgnostic blog said this about the how spanking was viewed at SGM:
Some folks have reacted with disbelief that a young woman in her twenties would submit to this type of treatment. I can tell you from my own experience in SGM, that many a leader in the movement spoke about spanking children that were of age. I remember one conversation with Mark Prater, then a care group leader at Covenant Fellowship Church, in which he praised a teaching tape that spoke about a Father spanking his son who was in his late teens. This idea that children could be spanked at just about any age, was certainly discussed by different leaders in SGM at the time that many of the alleged abuses occurred.
The other thing to understand, is that SGM preached that to obey God, one had to unquestioningly follow those put in authority above you. For church members, it meant obeying your pastors, even when they were wrong (no kidding-I was told this by a pastor at Covenant Fellowship in my exit interview), for wives it meant their husbands, and for children it meant their parents. Simply questioning or disagreeing with any of these “God-given” authorities was tantamount to being in full-blown rebellion to God. This atmosphere of unquestioning obedience is a perfect breeding ground for abuse.
Such teaching has no place in the Christian church. But, it is what comes next that is important. Julie Anne’s oldest daughter, Hannah, wrote a comment on the post. Julie Anne then responded. Get your tissues out.
From Hannah JANUARY 17, 2013 @ 7:20 PM
Sure – let’s make it three Hannahs! (I’m Julie Anne’s eldest daughter). This is a subject close to my heart, because – guess what – it happened to me. In fact, my dad had “stopped” spanking me around sixteen, and then “all of a sudden” started back up again a few years later… The timing correlates exactly when we were attending the church-who-shall-not-be-named. I don’t think this was a coincidence.
Julie Anne JANUARY 17, 2013 @ 7:52 PM
Ugh, Hannah, the pain in reading your comment. It just does not leave.
I have so many regrets, so many tears as a mom. Since you brought this here publicly (no worries – I’m fine with that because I’m an open book and I kind of invited it), I’m going to respond to you openly. I told you earlier this week that I’d be covering this subject and we’re definitely on the same page after going through so much heartache, time to help heal wounds, and lots and lots of talking.
It’s very painful to read these words in print from you, Hannah, and it was immensely hard to watch that video and research this garbage knowing that we bought into these teachings – that we believed that we were being godly parents and doing the right thing. Once again, I am amazed by your unconditional love for me, that despite the horrible teachings we followed and took out on you, you have chosen the high road of forgiveness and relationship when I do not deserve it. I love you, precious daughter. ::::pass the kleenex, please:::: it’s hard to see the dang computer screen.
And for those who read TWW, now you know why I have been in a funk. Yes, this. Ugh.
If you want to understand why Christianity has continued throughout the millennia, look no further. Julie Anne is a living example of everyday Christians living everyday lives, and impacting the rest of us. It is the willingness of real Christians to share their pain and hope with those around them that has changed the world. For every charlatan out there, there is a Julie Anne Smith and a Matt Redmond and that is why the faith persists.
This is dedicated to all the parents who read this blog and have regrets because they followed the "teachings" of men who were wolves in sheep's clothing. Those men will have to deal with God one day. A few, in this life, may have to contend with a judge and jury. I want you all to know that you are loved and upheld by a wonderful God who understands. He can redeem the years that the locusts have eaten.
Matt Redmond left the paid pastorate to live an everyday life while working in the banking industry. He wrote The God of the Mundane to encourage the rest of us. Julie Anne is an everyday stay at home mother who challenged a pastor gone wrong and became a blogger. On that blog, she encourages the rest of us to share boldly of our joys and our sorrows so that the world will know of a God who dearly loves “everyone else.”
I dedicate the following song to Julie Anne, her daughter and the rest of the parents out there who have regrets.
Lydia's Corner:Deuteronomy 4:1-49 Luke 6:39-7:10 Psalm 68:1-18 Proverbs 11:28