December 10, 2012 — I’ve read that the average person laughs 15 times a day. The average person’s feet hit the floor 7,000 times a day. On an average day in the United States, 500 million cups of coffee are consumed, 250 animals are buried in pet cemeteries, 5,962 weddings take place, and 28 mail carriers are bitten by dogs. All of this—and much more—I learned from a book titled American Averages.
Reading that book prompted someone else to write an editorial in which he described the average sermon. Perhaps a bit tongue-in-cheek, he claimed the average sermon was 22.3 minutes long—shorter than 20 minutes and listeners do not think they are getting their money’s worth; more than 30 and they may want a refund. The average sermon, he went on, has three points, 7.2 sub points, and 67 listeners who think the former pastor could have done it better. That average sermon contains 1.7 jokes, 4.3 illustrations, 2.6 Greek words, and one poem—preferably, he said, following the third point.
More than 50 years ago Elton Trueblood wrote a book called The Company of the Committed. In it he claimed that most folks—another way of saying “the average person”—assume that the church of Jesus Christ “is not in the least connected with what means most to them.” I do not claim to know how many folks actually think that, but I know from experience that the number is far greater than we would like it to be.
It seems to me that the apostle Paul—himself far from average, even as an apostle—did not think of the church as disconnected from what means most to us. And he didn’t want us to think of it that way either. He prayed for the church at Ephesus “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better . . . that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you . . . and his incomparably great power for us who believe” (Eph. 1:17-19).
That, I suggest, is anything but an average prayer for anything but an average church consisting of anything but average believers. And it’s worth remembering at the beginning of a new year.
There is a power that far surpasses jet propulsion and nuclear fission, making those forces seem positively average by comparison. It’s the power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead and seated him at God’s right hand and “placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church” (Eph. 1:20-22). That power not only exists but is at work even now in us and through us.
I urge you, dear reader, to pray this prayer. Pray it for yourself. Pray it for your family. Pray it for your friends. Pray it for your congregation. Pray it for your denomination. Pray that God’s resurrection power may be present in us and working through us, transforming both us and the world around us.
Pray not just that the Christian Reformed Church in North America will become bigger and better in 2013, but that we who make up that church will have eyes to see “the hope to which he has called” us and the “riches of his glorious inheritance.”
That, I know, will find us defying the law of averages. It will transform us from average people who spend our average days as members of an average church in a world that sees us as no more than average to people who are living enthusiastically and vibrantly for “him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Eph. 3:20).