Updated: Jun 12, 2020
By Les Henson.
During the past fifty-four years since I came to faith, there have been some incredible highs and some pretty awful lows. When the very fabric of my faith has been tested to the limit, nevertheless, most of the journey has been very ordinary as it often is and probably should be, because faith takes place in the ordinariness of everyday life.
There is no one way of coming to faith or model of conversion. And the imposition of a particular model can be very damaging to individuals and the life of a Christian community. A few years ago, I was teaching a group of Salvation Army Youth Leaders from across Australia about ‘Models of Conversion’ and dealing with what I call ‘the Gradual Incline Model’ which is relatively common with people brought up in a Christian family. Suddenly, seven of the group had tears streaming down their faces, because all their lives they had been taught that they needed to have a dramatic Pauline style conversion. For the first time in their lives, someone had legitimised their experience of continual growth and trust in Jesus Christ without the need for a dramatic conversion experience.
The stories of people coming to faith, and the journey of faith fascinate me. Maybe it is because I have not quite grown up and I still love such stories. Nonetheless, that is a badge I am happy to wear because it is a sad thing when we can longer be drawn in and become excited by stories of faith.
I must admit that I am tired of the hype and the celebrity that often surrounds the telling of conversion stories in some churches today. Too often it is the dramatic, and at times the weird and wonderful that gets celebrated. Rather than the ordinary and the everyday. Not that anyone's story is ordinary. Too often we end up putting people on pedestals from which it is so easy to fall. Why do we want to put people on pedestals? Why don't we celebrate the ordinary? God works in the ordinary and not just the spectacular. Often it is the small things that change the course of our lives.
One of the things I have appreciated over this past 25 years is hearing the most extraordinary ordinary stories of faith from students and members of faith communities with whom I had a connection, often from very ordinary, yet extraordinary people. Sometimes it has been how they came to faith. At other times it has been about their overall life's journey. On other occasions, it's concerned what God has been doing in their life in the past week. But it has been wonderful how those stories have been used by God to draw God's people closer together in the variety of contexts in which they have been told. And in the process, creating safe and open communities where people can be real and honest about who they are, what God is doing in their lives and about all the garbage and sin they are dealing with. It's been exciting to see people laugh together, cry together and pray together as God has turned up in some extraordinary ways.
The Lord of The Rings is one of my favourite books, which I have read many times. But the characters who catch my attention are not the great ones, Gandalf, Aragon, Elron, etc. But the Hobbit's, who in the story are so ordinary. And yet they do such extraordinary things. However, when they return home from their great adventure, they are treated so matter-of-factly. There is something beautiful about that which is incredibly real and down to earth.
The conversion of C.S Lewis is fascinating. First, he was converted from Atheism to Theism, and later from Theism to Christianity. In coming to faith in Christ, he spent a lot of time reading Chesterton and conversing with Tolkien and other great minds of his day. However, his conversion took place in a very ordinary way. He was travelling from his home to Whipsnade Zoo for a picnic, not thinking about anything noteworthy along the way. Of this journey, he says that when he set off, he did not believe in Christ, and when he arrived, he did.
Now, what can be more ordinary?