The Cure For The Common Life—Part 1
Bud Villers was a good man. Bud was my neighbor. I grew up beside him until he died when I was in college. Bud helped my dad put a roof on our house, he assisted my dad when they poured concrete sidewalks and porches. My dad helped him put a roof on his patio. When Bud got older he would hire me to cut his grass occasionally. He usually invited me in for a glass of Coke and a piece of pie. He was always generous. I also delivered his newspaper for a couple of years. He tipped well. He was kind. He didn’t get upset if our baseball, wiffle ball or football went into his yard.
Mr. Villers was an avid fisherman. He often brought us some of his trout catch.
I don’t remember Bud talking a lot about religion when I was a kid, but it struck me that EVERY Sunday morning I saw Bud walking up the street with his Bible in hand—rain or shine Bud walked to church with a Bible in his hand every week.
Every year he invited my younger brother and me to attend VBS at the Nutter Fort Baptist Church. Most years we didn’t go, but some years when some of my friends were going I did go. Then when I was 15 Bud invited us to church on a Sunday. I didn’t go, but my younger brother did. And the next weekend he invited us again. Again, I didn’t go but my little brother went. The same thing happened the next Sunday and the Sunday after that. My brother started going to church two or three times a week. I caught him reading the bible a couple of times.
Months later Bud was still inviting me and I was still not interested. Then a singing group attended my school. They were college students and the girls were really pretty. They performed several songs and they told us that they were going to be at a church that evening and they wanted us to come. When I got home from school that day, Bud came over and invited my little brother and me to come to church that evening. The singers from the school were going to be there, so I went. That night I became a Christian and my life has never been the same since.
To my knowledge, Bud Villers never taught a Sunday School class, never preached a sermon, never held a position of leadership in the church. He was an usher, a faithful usher. He simply lived a life of integrity and love for God and his family and friends. And occasionally invited people to church.
If Bud was an ice cream flavor, he would be vanilla. But he would be HÄAGEN-DAZS vanilla.
Icebreaker Question: Who influenced you to become a Christian or to check out Christianity?
After 2 minutes of this Icebreaker Question—Roll the Brandon Heath Music Video “Give Me Your Eyes.” There will be no cue—just roll the video after two minutes.
I’m guessing that the overwhelming majority of you are in a similar situation to me. You were influenced by people who were quite normal. Nothing spectacular, just average people who invited you to church.
We’re not all called to do great things for God. Most of us are called to do average things for God. Priscilla and Aquila were average people with average gifts, skills and abilities, nevertheless they lived an uncommon life. Being a godly person doesn’t necessarily mean we should be a spiritual Braveheart. It’s not “what” we do that makes our common life uncommon, but rather for “whom” we do it.
In many ways Bud Villers was like Priscilla and Aquilla in the Bible. They were what you might call average people, but they lived an uncommon life. They were vanilla, but they were HÄAGEN-DAZS vanilla.
Roll The Born To Be Wild Video Here
This guy gets it. I may be vanilla, but I’m going to be HÄAGEN-DAZS vanilla.
Is the only way we can please God involve morphing us into some sort of super saint? Are all the true heroes of the faith mountain-moving, charge the hill, warriors for God?
Somehow, somewhere along the way I picked up the idea that we’re all called to do great things for God; that the godlier we become, the more will be transformed into spiritual Bravehearts, serving God and marshalling dozens of others to do the same.
It sounds good. It’s motivational, as long as you’re a type-A personality with strong leadership gifting who dreams big dreams.
But what if you’re more like Priscilla, Aquilla and Bud Villers? What if you’ve never dreamed of turning your world upside down for God?
What if your idea of a great life is a quiet life?
Is there something seriously wrong with your spirituality? Or could it be that’s how God made you, and the rest of us leader types have to learn to deal with it?
I would say that many (if not most) Christian leaders, whether they ever say it out loud or not, think something is wrong with Christians who have a low-drive to make an impact.
I know that I certainly have thought that. I suspected that they just lacked commitment to Christ or they needed motivated. That’s because most leaders tend to project our spiritual gifts and passions onto others. We measure everyone by that benchmark. Anyone who doesn’t share the same passions and vision must not know God very well—or they must not be listening to what God’s saying to them.
Then it dawned on me God used Bud Villers to change my life completely, but if I was Bud’s pastor I would have probably considered him rather unremarkable. He certainly wasn’t remarkable for what he accomplished with his life; he was however remarkable for the man he was. He was as godly in character as anyone I’ve ever met, but he didn’t have a leadership bone in him.
On one hand, he failed to match up to my image of what a sold-out, on-fire Christian should look like. To most people, he appeared to be average folk. Not a lot of drive, not a lot of accomplishments.
On the other hand, when it came to character, relationships, integrity, and service he was one of the most Christlike men I’ve ever met.
Perhaps my definition of a sold-out Christian was seriously flawed. Can people be average and still please God?
What if God didn’t intend for everyone to be turned into a leader passionately charging the gates of hell with a water pistol? Could God be pleased with simple folks who loved God, loved their family and friends, then died without ever doing anything outstandingly significant? Could they be vanilla? HÄAGEN-DAZS to be sure, but vanilla nonetheless.
The more I contemplate this, the more I reflect on 22 years pastoring people, the more closely I examine my Bible, the more I’m becoming convinced that the answer is a resounding Yes. Average is an option and a God-pleasing option.
It has to be. Because if it’s impossible to be below average and please God, we have a big problem. Whatever we’re measuring half of us always have to be on the wrong side of average—by the very definition of average.
Now I know that’s grating for some. It smacks of devaluing the power of God, ignoring the great needs in our world, and neglecting the unction of the Holy Spirit. How can a Holy Spirit-filled and Spirit-led person remain average or worse below average? Why would anyone want to settle for anything less than a high-impact significance?
But the fact is, our aversion to average comes more out of our culture than out of our Bible.
I’m not talking about cold and lukewarm Christians who practice a casual spirituality and open-handed disobedience to God. I’m talking about wonderful people of integrity and commitment to Christ. They worship. They connect. They serve. But they simply don’t register much on the intensity impact meter—and never will.
God-pleasing spirituality may or may not go hand in hand with hard-charging spiritual leadership. If you don’t believe me check out the stories of King Saul and Samson. Both were powerful leaders of God’s people, but neither seemed to be men of integrity or character. They didn’t seem to know God very well.
The more I read these days, the more I am struck by how much my leadership bias has blinded me to the reality of life as a first-century Christian.
I’ve always assumed that Timothy, Titus, Silas and the rest of Paul’s missionary partners represented normal, standard Christian behavior during the first century. I paid close attention to what they did and every bit of instruction and advice Paul gave them.
But I missed the blindingly obvious. Timothy and Titus were not normal, standard Christians. In fact, they were rare and unusual; the next generation of church leaders.
The vast majority of people under Paul’s ministry, who worshipped, connected and served in churches that Paul started, never became leaders or joined Paul on missionary trip. Most were farmers and merchants, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters who quietly lived out changed lives through Christ.
They were cobblers who stopped visiting temple prostitutes in the city of Corinth. They were merchants who became scrupulously honest in their business dealings. They were farmers who treated his wife and children with a love and respect that was unknown in the pagan Roman world of the first century.
And though they never started a church from scratch, spent hours in study and solitude, or courageously preached on a street corner. They did finish well, still loving and following Jesus. And in God’s eyes they were vanilla, but they were HÄAGEN-DAZS vanilla.
HÄAGEN-DAZS VANILLA HOSPITALITY
Acts 18:1-3 (NIV)
After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth.  There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them,  and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them.
Priscilla and Aquila met Paul in Corinth during his second missionary journey. They had just been expelled from Rome by Emperor Claudius’s decree against Jews. Their home was as movable as the tents they made to support themselves. They opened their home to Paul, and he joined them in tent making. This common interest in tent making first brought Paul together with this couple. They quickly formed a firm and lifelong friendship. Paul lived with Priscilla and Aquila for a long time. He shared with them all his spiritual wisdom and they soaked it up like a sponge.
Talk about Max Stirewalt Here
1 Cor. 16:19 (NIV)
The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house.
Talk about Brian & Connie Lamm
The Christian home is still one of the best tools for spreading the gospel. Do guests find Christ in your home?
Scene Set Up: Radio is based on the real-life story of James Robert "Radio" Kennedy, a young man described kindly by his mother as "slower than most." Isolated by his disability, James spends most of his day pushing a grocery cart around town, gathering items of interest. Eventually, he catches the attention of the local high school football coach, who, for reasons of his own, is determined to integrate Radio into community life.
While the team is working out, Coach Jones looks over and sees Radio standing outside the fence watching the practice.
Roll “Radio” Clip Here (DVD Chapter 8—Start 21:26-End 24:25)
Jesus sometimes made much of simple gestures, like giving a cup of cold water to someone. This scene dramatizes the significant impact of this small act of kindness. Hospitality, the extending of ourselves to others, is often the beginning of life-changing relationships. We should never underestimate the power of being a friend -- it is the heart and soul of the uncommon life.
HÄAGEN-DAZS VANILLA INFLUENCE
Acts 18:26 (NIV)
He [Apollos] began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.
Priscilla and Aquila made the most of their spiritual education. They listened carefully to sermons and evaluated what they heard. When they heard Apollos speak, they were impressed by his ability, but realized that his information was not complete. Instead of open confrontation, the couple quietly took Apollos home and shared with him what he needed to know. Until then, Apollos had only John the Baptist’s message about Christ. Priscilla and Aquila told him about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and the reality of God’s indwelling Spirit. He continued to preach powerfully—but now with the full story.
You know you can influence people in positions of leadership without being a leader yourself. Priscilla and Aquilla
HÄAGEN-DAZS VANILLA LOYALTY
Acts 18:18-19 (NIV)
Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchrea because of a vow he had taken.  They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.
Romans 16:3-4 (NIV)
Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus.  They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.
HÄAGEN-DAZS VANILLA GRACIOUSNESS
2 Tim. 4:19 (NIV)
Greet Priscilla and Aquila and the household of Onesiphorus.
In an age when the focus is mostly on what happens between husband and wife, Aquila and Priscilla are an example of what can happen through husband and wife. Their effectiveness together speaks about their relationship with each other. Their hospitality opened the doorway of salvation to many.
In fact, over time, it was these cobblers, merchants and farmers in Corinth who turned the ancient world upside down, just as much as the missionaries bouncing from town to town. Both were needed. Someone had to spread the word and someone had to stay behind and live it out.
I wish I had seen this earlier in my ministry. I should have. Bud Villers was the quintessential HÄAGEN-DAZS VANILLA man. All he did was live a life of obedience to God with grace and dignity. All he did was love and know God…model a quiet life without hypocrisy and bear the spiritual fruit to prove it. In my mind, he wasn’t just a Christian. He was a spiritual giant.
In the end, the cure for the common life isn’t about us. It’s not even about what we do, but rather for whom we do it. A life lived for Christ is uncommon.
(D) Communion Song
(D) In Christ Alone
(G) Holy Is the Lord (Tomlin)