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Spiritual Growth and Christian Living Resources

Is it a Sin to Be Average?

  • Larry Osborne Author of A Contrarian’s Guide to Knowing God
Is it a Sin to Be Average?

Is God-pleasing spirituality supposed to morph us into some sort of super saint? As a new Christian I would have answered, “Of course.”

All my faith heroes were mountain-moving, charge-the-hill warriors for God. There was no mistaking the underlying message: If God ever got hold of all of me, or of anyone else for that matter... then watch out, world!

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Doing Great Things for God

Doing Great Things for God

Somehow, somewhere, I picked up the idea that we’re all called to do great things for God; that the godlier we become, the more we’ll be transformed into spiritual Bravehearts, serving God and marshalling others to do the same.

It sounds good. It’s motivational, as long as you’re the kind of person who dreams big dreams.

But what if you’re more the retiring type? What if you’ve never dreamed of turning your world upside down for God—or your neighborhood for that matter?

What if your idea of a great life is a quiet life?

Does that mean something is seriously wrong with your spirituality? Or could it be that’s how God made you, and the rest of us will just have to learn to deal with it?

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Yes You Can!

Yes You Can!

We live in a culture of perceived opportunity. The American ethos in particular fosters the idea that we can do anything or be anything we set our minds to, if we want it badly enough and are willing to pay the price. Christians add in the faith factor, and suddenly we assume nothing is impossible.

We love rags-to-riches stories and always believe a pauper can become a king. No one wants to kill a dream—to tell someone, “No, you can’t.” So we don’t.

But the truth is, some things can’t be done, and some people are destined to be below average on the spiritual leadership and impact scale. That doesn’t mean something’s wrong. It just means they weren’t called to be high-impact leaders.

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The Problem of Pride

The Problem of Pride

The result of the you-can-do-anything-with-God myth is that those who score way above average on the giftedness, intensity, or influence meter often become puffed up with pride. While they may mouth politically correct words about giving God all the credit, most don’t really believe it. They think they had a great deal to do with it.

And can you blame them? In a system where significant spiritual impact is available to anyone willing to pay the price, those who have it must be more committed than those who don’t.

On the other side are lots of good and godly folks left to lick the wounds of countless well-intentioned but spiritually hurtful sermons, books, and seminars calling them to be something they know in their heart of hearts they can never be—and have no desire to be, if truth be known.

I’m not talking about cold and lukewarm Christians who practice casual spirituality and openhanded disobedience. I’m talking about wonderful people of integrity and obedience to God’s Word who simply don’t register much on the intensity or impact meter— and never will.

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The Cobbler's Journey

The Cobbler's Journey

These people are what I call “cobblers in Corinth.”

It’s a phrase I coined years ago while reading through the New Testament in search of all I could learn about the ministry of the early church and the church-planting efforts of the apostle Paul.

The more I read, the more I was struck by how much my leadership bias had blinded me to the reality of life as a first-century Christian.

The vast majority of the people Paul led to Christ, and the vast majority of people in the churches he planted, never became leaders or joined Paul on one of his missionary journeys. They were farmers and merchants, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters who quietly lived out changed lives through Christ.

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A Quiet Legacy

A Quiet Legacy

They included my “cobbler in Corinth,” the shoemaker who stopped visiting the temple prostitutes, became scrupulously honest in his business dealings, and treated his wife and children with a love and respect unknown in the pagan and Roman world.

And though he may have never planted a church, spent hours in study or solitude, or courageously preached on a street corner, he did cross the finish line still loving and following Jesus. And in God’s eyes, I have to believe, his life was a win—a big win.

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A Final Thought

A Final Thought

For those of us who are cobbler-in-Corinth Christians, the key to knowing God on a truly personal level and experiencing a genuine God-pleasing spirituality may well begin with the vanquishing of all the old tapes and voices calling us to be something we’re not.

Instead, we must learn to listen to the still small voice of the Spirit as he calls and equips us to be a better us, rather than a poor imitation of someone else

For those of us who are leader types, we can expect to find plenty of help for our spiritual journey. We’re the prized prospect, the kind of Christian most churches and ministry organizations encourage and motivate best.

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The Goal of Spirituality

The Goal of Spirituality

We need to keep at it; we’re vital to the future of the church and God’s kingdom. But we also need to work hard not to project our personality and calling on everyone else.

The goal of spirituality is not to lead—it’s to know and please God.


Excerpted from A CONTRARIAN’S GUIDE TO KNOWING GOD. Copyright © 2018 by Larry Osborne. Published by Multnomah, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

You can get a copy of A Contrarian’s Guide to Knowing God here.

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