Reading this book was an incredibly irritating experience. I found myself regularly frustrated as I worked my way through its pages. Not because there was anything particularly wrong with the book or that its theology was bad, but simply because it had to even be written and published.
More than Ordinary really is a pretty good book. Sherman’s style of writing was easy to read and understand, his points were well made, and his suggestions for application were sound. I don’t fault him at all for my frustrations with the book – I think he’s right-on in what he says. I fault the Church for the fact it had to be written. As I read through the book I found myself thinking again and again, “Everything in here – everything I’m reading – is found within God’s Word. If we as a church would simply read the Bible, believe it, and act like it were true books like this would become obsolete.”
The author of Hebrews wrote, “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.” (6:1-2) Yet that’s what I feel so much of modern Christian-living books have become: a repeat of the “elementary doctrine[s]” of our faith. Sherman makes an excellent point in the beginning of his book – one that is worth sharing (and the one statement that caused me to continue reading). He tells the story of his salvation experience in high school and then his early years as a Christian. In what seems to be an unfortunate problem, but in reality is a marvelous gift, Sherman spent the first few years of his life as a Christian without ever entering a church or receiving any type of instruction or mentoring by other Christians. And this is how he feels about that experience:
“I call this a gift because I was protected from the tragically low expectation of what life with God can be that permeates a great deal of Western Christianity. It never occurred to me that there might be a ceiling to what is possible with Him. It never occurred to me that I could encounter God only through quiet times or church services or serving the poor.”
As I read his words I shouted, “Amen!” As I said, there’s nothing in the book as I read that was truly life-changing and terribly insightful because it was like reading the New Testament scriptures, only in a different format (and I hope if Mr. Sherman stumbles across this review he takes that as a compliment and not an insult). Everything I underlined, everything I stopped and pondered, I have read in scripture time and time again.
So here’s the bottom line: this book is a great book (I’ll give it 3.5/5 stars). But it’s not worth reading. Instead, pick up your Bible and read and study it. Then live like it’s true. You’ll get everything Sherman is talking about if you just hang out with God. Spend some time reading the Gospels and studying what Jesus said about why he came (spend sometime in John), then work your way over to the Epistles and see how the early Church actually lived in light of what Jesus did. Take what you read in the pages of Scripture at face value: assume it means what it says. That will lead you to a life that is “more than ordinary”.
And I can’t speak for Mr. Sherman, but based on what he wrote in his book, I think he’d agree.
For the record, yes I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest (though not necessarily favorable) review.