Why Should We Trust in the “Ordinary Means of Grace” in Church Life?
Ligon Duncan has written a very helpful article on effective church ministry that identifies the “ordinary means of grace” as the way that Christians grow. He contrasts this with pragmatic contextualization which seeks to invent various means of grace not defined in Scripture.
Duncan says, “Ordinary means of grace-based ministry is ministry that focuses on doing the things God, in the Bible, says are central to the spiritual health and growth of His people, and which aims to see the qualities and priorities of the church reflect biblical norms. Ordinary means ministry is thus radically committed to biblical direction of the priorities of ministry. Ordinary means ministry believes that God has told us the most important things, not only about the truth we are to tell, but about the way we are to live and minister — in any and every context.”
He identifies the particular things that are included in this kind of ministry, “Ordinary means ministry believes that the key things that the church can do in order to help people know God and grow in their knowledge of God are: First, emphasize the public reading and preaching of the Word; second, emphasize the confirming, sanctifying and assuring efficacy of the sacraments, publicly administered; and third, emphasize a life of prayer, especially expressed corporately in the church. These things are central and vital but sadly often under-emphasized, under-appreciated, and undermined.”