Today I’m participating in a challenge from Frank Viola:
The following exercise is from the synchroblog from Frank Viola’s post Gospel for the Middle.
Fielding Melish and his wife Felicia have two children, ages 10 and 6. They live in a very remote part of Maine, USA. They are surrounded by extended family, none of whom are Christians. The nearest churches are one hour away, and by all evangelical standards, none of them are good. These churches are either highly legalistic, highly libertine, or just flat-out flaky.
One of Fielding’s cousins is a practicing Christian. They see each other once a year. Fielding’s cousin has shared Christ with Fielding many times over the years. Whenever they’ve talked about spiritual things, Fielding shows interest.
Felicia grew up in a Christian home. She’s received Christ, but she isn’t evangelistic and is overwhelmed with working long hours and raising two small children. She would love to find a church nearby for the spiritual support and instruction, but none exist.
Fielding has no college education. While he is capable of reading, he is not a reader. He doesn’t use the Web either. He’s a man who works with his hands, both for his career and for recreation. He’s an “outdoorsman.” He hunts, he builds, he does manual labor, etc. In his spare time, he helps his elderly parents with various building projects.
Fielding is not an atheist. Neither is he an agnostic. He believes in God. He believes Jesus is the Savior of the world who died for our sins and rose again from the dead. He hasn’t fully surrendered his life to Christ, but he is not sure what that looks like exactly. His children know a little about the Lord, mostly because of what their mother has taught them.
Recently Fielding asked this question:
When I’m with my cousin once a year, I want to learn more about God. But when I come back home, and I’m around everyone else, my mind is off of God, and I am back to working, raising my kids, and helping my parents. Someone needs to come up with a solution for people like me . . . people who are in the middle. (By “in the middle,” Fielding means someone who believes in Jesus, but who isn’t fully absorbed in the faith yet either. They simply don’t know enough nor do they have any spiritual support system around them.)
Relocating is not an option for Fielding and his wife. Even if they wanted to relocate, they don’t see a way they could do it financially.
Remember: Fielding and his wife don’t personally know any Christians. None of their extended family or coworkers are believers either. And the nearest churches (which are an hour away) aren’t recommended.
Question: If you were Fielding’s cousin, how would you instruct him and his wife the next time you saw them?
This is a tricky one. By American standards, we would have trouble reaching Fielding and Felicia. We can’t easily pawn them off on someone else, and we can’t just hand them a book.
If I were the cousin I would suggest to Fielding that if he is going to read anything, he spend time in the Bible. He doesn’t have to read a lot at once, but he should read it with Felicia every day. They can talk about what they read and pray about it. I would encourage Fielding to look at God’s glory in creation. I would tell him that we are God’s building, and that He wants to build us together as His temple, not as a physical building, but a house made of people.
As the cousin I would need to take a more active role in reaching out in between visits, making sure I prayed for them and helped with questions and discipleship as much as possible.
I would explain to Fielding that God speaks to His people, and that every believer has the Holy Spirit. I would explain from John that the Spirit leads us into all truth and reveals the Son, and that they can grow in this way.
I recently read The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch, and he talks about how the church expanded in the first couple of centuries after Christ, and how the Chinese church grew exponentially after all foreigners were expelled and Christian leaders jailed or killed under Mao. Despite the lack all the things Americans consider essential to church growth, these churches thrived. I think if the cousin takes the time to offer support and helps Fielding and Felicia recognize that they have the basics – the Bible and the Spirit, that they can grow and thrive in their environment.
That’s my thoughts on this problem. What would you say in this situation? How would you help Fielding and Felicia in their walk?