The following exercise is from the synchroblog at http://frankviola.org/2012/07/09/gospelforthemiddle
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.
If you were Fielding’s cousin, how would you instruct him and his wife the next time you saw them?
My initial thought is that Fielding and Felicia would make wonderful house church planters in the future. However, my main goal is to provide the support the Melishes need to build a strong and healthy personal relationship with Jesus.
Prior to our next meeting I would spend time in prayer and fasting. I really do not have anything to offer my cousin that would bring about lasting change. Only Jesus can do that. I would ask for the Holy Spirit to prepare the hearts of Fielding and Felicia.
At my next meeting with Fielding, I would tell him my own salvation story. Hopefully that would open the door for Fielding to begin to see Jesus as his personal savior, and not just the savior of the world. I would then teach them how to pray, keeping it simple and very conversational. I would demonstrate by praying with them. I would then encourage Fielding and Felicia to begin praying with each other regularly and to include the children whenever possible.
I would press them to fully give their lives to Christ and to live out his will. I would ask them if they are ready to take that next step. Sometimes in an effort to not come across as “preachy” we fail to make the “ask.”
I would make sure that Fielding and Felicia know that God loves them just as much as anyone else. And that they have the same access to Him as a pastor, a teacher, or someone in a church does. They need to take responsibility for their own spiritual growth. Though they can be helpful, a “Pastor” is not a requirement for them to grow. Nor is a “church” needed. The fact is, no one cares more about our own spiritual health than we do.
I could not leave it at just a once a year visit. I would begin regular phone calls to provide encouragement to help them along the way. During the calls, I would listen carefully to determine what they were seeking for. What are their spiritual questions? I would then gear our conversations to answer those questions as best as I could. The calls are not really about what I can teach, but to be someone the Holy Spirit can work through to transform my cousin and his family.
When they are ready, I would encourage Fielding to use his handyman skills to reach out to his neighbors and for Felicia to reach out to young mothers. As they grow closer to Jesus, they will begin to find simple ways to share his life with others. No pastors, no church required.
Who knows, one day they may start a church, but it might just continue to be the Melishes quietly seeking and finding God in their day to day lives. They need to know that God loves them and if they seek him they will find him even in the middle. And along the way I will be there with them.
Now it is your turn.
What are your thoughts: If you were Fielding’s cousin, how would you instruct him and his wife the next time you saw them?
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