The other day a friend mentioned the passing to glory of a 98-year-old man who had served the Lord in children’s ministry in and around Bengaluru for fifty years.

I wish I had the privilege of meeting this person because the messages on the WhatsApp group where his ministry was being discussed were inspiring.

One lady spoke of hearing Bible stories from him as a child, replete with illustrations on colourful chart paper. “He loved kids and it was very apparent,” she recalled.

“He taught the Bible to generations (my mother and me) most simply and creatively,” another said.

Someone remembered how he taught what was called the “scripture-of-the-day” and testified to the personal impact this “dear uncle” had on his life.

Clearly, in fifty years of faithful ministry, this person had showcased the love of God through his work in a perfectly ordinary way.

There seems to be a pervasive desire for “more” in ministry—more popularity, more social media followers, more views on YouTube, more subscribers, more people filling the pews, and more money pouring into the bank accounts.

While this servant of God quietly touched hundreds of lives, leading many children to Christ, he did not have what would be deemed a “large platform.” I am estimating most of his audiences comprised squirmy kids in outdated school auditoriums.

I am guessing he was not active on social media. I am assuming he was not familiar with the term “followers,” apart from the 12 who trailed Jesus to be fishers of men. 

But in today’s Christian culture it seems that fulfilling that kind of inconspicuous calling is dismissed as too limited—too ordinary.

The Resistance to the Ordinary

There seems to be a pervasive desire for “more” in ministry—more popularity, more social media followers, more views on YouTube, more subscribers, more people filling the pews, and more money pouring into the bank accounts.

Where do we read in the Bible that all of us are created for extraordinary ministry? In fact, we read quite the opposite.

We are told not to despise the day of small beginnings because the Lord rejoices to see the work begin (Zech. 4:10). Yet we long for days of viral videos and becoming celebrity preachers.

We are told to run with perseverance the race marked out for us with our eyes fixed on Jesus (Heb. 12: 1-3). Yet we look over our shoulders to races that seem more glamorous and we clamour for our moment in the spotlight.

We are directed to live with godliness and contentment because it is great gain (1 Tim. 6:6). Yet we seem to think of contentment as settling” because, after all, we are created for that nebulous and always-out-of-reach “more.”

We are reminded in the Beatitudes about what counts as blessed (Matt. 5:3-12). Yet, we do not quite buy into the idea of being poor in spirit or meek as truly being a blessing in a you do you” world. 

I am not dismissing the idea God may have big dreams for you. You may be called to speak to audiences of thousands. You may be called to write the next NY Times bestseller. You may be called to hold conferences across the world that will transform global audiences.

We have great examples in the Bible of people with God-sized dreams and visions, far beyond their limited understanding or abilities.

The Pattern of the Ordinary

Joseph was taken from a pit and catapulted to the post of prime minister. Moses was instructed to lead a whole people group out of slavery. Joshua was given the modus operandi to bring down the walls of Jericho. Esther was commissioned with saving her people from annihilation and Mary was chosen to birth the Son of God.

But for all those huge mountain-moving tasks we overlook the ordinary, out-of-the-spotlight, off-stage missions, spread across the length and breadth of Scripture.

In the Old Testament, Hur simply raised the arms of his leader Moses. Rahab helped a few spies out. Ruth obeyed the calling of staying with her bereaved mother-in-law. Boaz was a good boss and showed kindness to the widow of a relative. Jonathan was a steadfast and loyal friend to David, even in the face of immense pressure. 

Ministry does not have to be visible to be valuable.

In the New Testament, Joseph quietly obeyed God and supported his pregnant fiancé. Elizabeth welcomed her cousin, Mary, and encouraged and blessed her. Priscilla and Aquila unobtrusively worked alongside Paul.

Ordinary ministry is pervasive in the Bible. But the pivotal example of an “unglamorous” ministry comes from a man who was born on a quiet night in a barn in Bethlehem, grew up as the son of a carpenter, and chose only 12 men to be part of his inner circle. He had no home address or majesty to attract us. He came to serve and not to be served and he poured out his life even unto death.

The Impact of the Ordinary

Our callings are not all meant to trend on Twitter or send ripples through Christian culture. Where would we be without the moms who read Bible stories with their toddlers every night? Where would we be without Sunday School teachers who lead “action songs” with the children entrusted to them?

Where would we be without friends who are not too busy to listen to our heart’s cries and pray with us? Where would we be without older mentors who counsel us from the Word in face-to-face conversations? Where would be without pastors and leaders of small congregations that meet in homes or coffee shops?

Ministry does not have to be visible to be valuable. As John MacArthur says, “God calls leaders not to be governing monarchs but humble slaves, not slick celebrities but laboring servants, not charismatic personalities but faithful shepherds.”

Friend, may we give ourselves permission to enjoy the days of small beginnings. May we “aspire to live quietly” (1 Thess. 4:11), even though the world insists that louder is always better. May we offer our five loaves and two fish to the Lord. He can use your story and mine—however ordinary—to further his kingdom in ways that may not be immediately visible but hold eternal value.

The world may shout, “Dream big!” but know that you also have the permission to dream in whatever size or shape God lays on your hearts. Sometimes that may be small—ministering to your family, your elderly parents, or to a few neighbours in your apartment building.

That kind of ministry will not win you a fan following or cause a stir on social media. But God sees your ordinary ministry of working heartily as for him (Col. 3:23). As you work to store treasures in heaven and not on earth, you can have the assurance that he is preparing a place for you and one day he will welcome you home with the words we all want to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”