Ordinary Is Underrated – The Ministry of Ordinary Places

Making the world better for one person makes the world better.
– Shannan Martin

The Unqualified

I walk into the chaos on Wednesdays. People are lined up outside. People are crammed tight inside. The smells, the jostling, the noise. It can be overwhelming.

What am I doing here?

I don’t feel qualified when I go volunteer at Manna House, one of our local gathering spots to feed the hungry. My skills are limited. My default is quiet.

Sometimes it’s hardest to see where we fit in the big things. When we look at the masses, we don’t see individuals. We don’t know who to love. We’re not sure how to love them.

If we can’t do something big, we think we can’t make a difference at all.

But that’s faulty thinking.

Best Is Often Small

“We are all longing to be part of something bigger than ourselves. Sometimes we get so hung up on doing something great, we forget the best thing is often the smallest.”

If you need reminding of how much little things matter, look at Shannan Martin’s stories. In her new book The Ministry of Ordinary Places: Waking Up to God’s Goodness Around You, she shows us how unprepared she was to love the poor, the needy, the displaced.

Book Review of "The Ministry of Ordinary Places"

Yet one person at a time, one occasion at a time, Shannan Martin just did her thing. Small things. Imperfect things. Sometimes things halfway.

And those things matter.

“Every Sunday I’m inclined to believe that making the world a better, brighter place might really be as simple as making lunchtime brighter for one person.”

Just see somebody wherever you go. Just do a small thing where you are. Get uncomfortable; be messy; put your single drop in the bucket.

And miracles will happen.

God’s Bigger Love

“Simply put, we cannot love what we do not know. We cannot know what we do not see. We cannot see anything, really, until we devote ourselves to the lost art of paying attention.”

When we step out to love someone in our imperfect ways, God’s perfect love can step in and take over. If he has bothered to put someone in our path, we can be bothered to show that person simple kindness.

Our purpose is not so mysterious after all. We get to love and be deeply loved right where we’re planted, by whomever happens to be near.”

When I feel overwhelmed at Manna House, I’ve discovered the best way to regain calm is to look for one person. One soul who looks a little lost. Or who has a question on their lips. Or who is offering a smile to me before I even offer one to them.

And talk to that one person. Just one. One at a time.

Where one person is, an ordinary place, is where ministry happens. It’s where God is made visible. And where people are loved. Including me.

I don’t have to do it well. Just do it.

“I promise there is no such thing as a too-small gesture of genuine kindness. It doesn’t exist. Any sacrifice drawn from a well of compassion is an act of everyday heroism, and I should know.”

* * *

I highly recommend The Ministry of Ordinary Places. It will encourage you to love right where you are.

Do you have uncomfortable moments in big ministries? Who is one person you can love this week? Please share in the comments.

My thanks to Net Galley
for the review copy of this book


17 thoughts on “Ordinary Is Underrated – The Ministry of Ordinary Places

  1. Michele Morin

    I have shared SO many quotes from this book, and although I enjoyed Shannan’s first book, this one really shows a maturing of her voice and her ministry mindedness. Thanks for your good review.

  2. Laurie

    This book sounds wonderful, Lisa. I love the “If you make the world better for one person…” quote. You have made so many good book suggestions. Thank you so much!

  3. nylse

    As Martin Luthe King Jr said, “if I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.” We can all do small things, ordinary things. Because God is there in the small. But we do have to pay attention. Learning this anew every day. Paying attention and getting to know each other.

    Stopping by from a linkup.

  4. Gretchen Fleming

    Loved this because I could relate to feeling overwhelmed with some of the big needs in this world that can leave me feeling inadequate or as the need is too big to be met by anything other than a miracle. Thanks for sharing this book!

  5. Lynn D. Morrissey

    I’ve heard this book repeatedly recommended; need to ck it out. Lisa, I always sooo appreciate your book reviews! I will share here something maybe off the mark in what you are saying, but it speaks to my heart about reaching the “one.” About two and a half years ago my pastor asked me to share my abortion testimony (which attests to true healing after confessing my heinous sin) to our entire congregation at two Sunday-morning services. Though a number of people at church knew about it, this felt far different to me (to speak to the whole church w/ men and children present). I had but three days to pray for God’s direction, was really scared, and yet He overwhelmingly led me to do this. I obeyed, hestitantly. Days later, a women told me she would share my video testimony w/ a loved one considering abortion. Though the testimony seemed to move the young woman, she went through w/ the abortion. I was devastated, thinking I didn’t speak “well enough.” That was so me-centered! I didn’t mean to have that attitude, but in retrospect, I realized it was self-serving. Now, I have learned that another young woman, unmarried and w/ an abortion appointment, saw the video and it moved her. She has chosen to have her baby, due on my upcoming birthday! If we can reach but one person with an act of kindness, w/ an act of obedience, then we realize how God works significantly one by one, and I am overwhelmed by His goodness and His extraordinary power to use us clay vessels, working *through* us to do His good work in the world. Thank you for sharing, and I’ll put this on my to-read list!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      This is so ON the mark, Lynn. Wow. I appreciate you sharing this with me! Such a powerful testimony you have, in three ways: in the moment when you gave it, in the video moment with the young woman deciding to keep her baby to be born on your birthday (!), and now in sharing all that here. And who knows how many other moments that we don’t know about???

      Yes, God does work significantly one by one. He never ceases to amaze me too. Just wow. Love you too, friend!

      1. Lynn D. Morrissey

        Very grateful for your compassion and support. Especially hesitated to post this b/c you are talking about ordinary places, but the one-on-one really spoke to me. You are a blessing, Lisa.

  6. Cheryl Gerou

    This sounds like a great book. “To love right where you are,” isn’t that the real challenge? Don’t we always look for something that will really matter? Yet, there are those right around us who desperately need love and we overlook them as we look for a ministry. Thanks so much for sharing this. Another book to read!

  7. Mary Geisen

    The Ministry of Ordinary Places was one of my favorite reads in 2018. I love how Shannan not only writes a message but also lives it out. After meeting her, I can also say she is the real deal.

  8. Lesley

    I love this: “When we step out to love someone in our imperfect ways, God’s perfect love can step in and take over.” It’s amazing how God can use our small and faltering actions to make an impact if we are willing to take the risk. This sounds like a great book!

  9. bluecottonmemory

    I am so glad I got out of the mindset trying to achieve “great” things – I am finding so much more fullness in life in the “ordinary” everyday. It reminds me of the story of the talents – you first have to be responsible with the little before you can be responsible with the big. It’s like opposite day mentality – we think big leads to a richer (not talking financial) life – but really – the little things lead to a richer life. I so enjoyed your post!

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