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.
Question: If you were Fielding’s cousin, how would you instruct him and his wife the next time you saw them?
As Fielding’s Cousin, I would first commit daily to praying for him and his family to grow in Jesus more and I would let them know of my prayers. I would earnestly pray that Fielding accepts Christ so that he could led his kids, family, and neighbors to Christ as well.
Secondly, since Felicia is a believer she has the Lord’s Spirit in her and He is working. Though she may not be “evangelistic” God leads people to Himself. If Fielding believes God and is searching, but has not “fully surrendered”, the Spirit will open conversation between Felicia and Fielding as they discuss issues of faith. I would encourage Fielding to talk about Jesus with Felicia the way him and I do.
Sounds like Fielding is there, just hasn’t realized the intimacy of Jesus as Savior and Redeemer from personal and original sin. Hopefully the faith discussions with Felicia will present a repentance decision for Fielding to accept and acknowledge Jesus as his and the creation’s Savior and King. Perhaps Fielding already has and just hasn’t realized it. If not, no worries, the Spirit will continue to lead Fielding through a spiritual pilgrimage of processing along with his wife as they seek Christ together. I am confident Fielding will receive Christ soon. It is clear Jesus is knocking at the door of Fielding’s heart and Fielding seems to have his grip on the handle ready to let Christ in.
Whether while still seeking or once surrendered, I would instruct Fielding to discuss faith with his elderly parents while doing building projects. It is also very important that Fielding and his wife share what they do know of Jesus’ love with their kids. Since they are on the path of believe in Jesus, the Spirit will help them surrender to believing Jesus. With the Holy Spirit alive and active in Felicia, God has given them All the Power/Love/Truth they need to start living in, by, and through Jesus Christ. The Spirit will use her to help bring Fielding to faith. Again, she may not be evangelistic, but the Spirit is and Fielding is in the cross–heirs of Christ. (I would explain that play on words in detail as well, describing what Jesus’ atoning work on the cross meant and how we become children and coheirs in the Kingdom).
I would explain that with the Spirit, the excuse that “they simply don’t know enough nor do they have any spiritual support system around them”, is just that, an excuse. I would serve as a support system in any way possible. Frequent phone calls and increased visits would result.
I would strongly encourage Fielding to pray. It’s ok if he doesn’t know what to pray for or “how” to pray I would reassure him that the Lord will guide him. Then I would ask him to read the Lords Payer in Matthew 6 with me, to discover Jesus’ intimacy with the Father as he taught the disciples how to pray. I would then give Fielding a Bible translation that was comfortable for him and his family to understand, ensuring they had a copy of the Scriptures to learn from. I would offer a printed, digital, and audio version, as well as a children’s picture Bible for the Kids to have.
Fielding could read the Lord’s Prayer together with his wife and kids, in turn teaching his family how to pray together. Also, I would tell him of Romans 8:26-27:
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with growing too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
Since Fielding is not a reader, I would suggest his wife, Felicia begin reading the Gospels aloud to him together with their children, and if possible Fielding’s parents if they are receptive to participating, as well as anyone esle. Perhaps Felicia could even help the kids learn to read by reading the Bible together. The family then could work their way through the New Testament and back through the Old Testament, as the Spirit leads them.
Since as Fielding’s Christian cousin, I would be sharing what Jesus was doing in my life during my time with him, I would be giving Fielding an example how to share Jesus with his family when he is at home raising Kids and helping his parents. I would explain to Fielding that these are perfect opportunities to share what he does know of God from experiences and how the Spirit is growing Fielding in the s formation process. Through my discipleship, I would be modeling for Fielding and Felicia a way to disciple their family and neighbors.
Fielding can share what God is revealing to him through his prayer life and as he lives and works together with his family. I would remind Fielding that like himself, Jesus was also a carpenter by trade and worked with his hands most of his life. I would tell Fielding how Jesus would often get up early and retreat to be with the Father alone in the wilderness. I would draw the parallels between Fielding’s work with the life patterns of Jesus. I would explain that not having a college education (or seminary for that matter) is not a barrier to sharing faith. I would tell him how several of the disciples were simple fishermen yet they “turned the world upside down” (cf. Acts 15:6). Fielding doesn’t have to have it “all figured out” before he can share what he knows of Jesus. He just needs to begin sharing.
Fielding and Felicia do not know any Christians… yet. As they are working out their faith, I would encourage them to share what they are experiencing and what God is revealing to them with their non-Christian relatives and co-workers. There is power in the living testimony of God’s grace and love. By relationally giving a witness of how God is transforming them, others will want to learn about God and seek Jesus from Fielding and his family the same way Fielding wants to know more about God when he is with his Christian cousin.
I would remind Fielding of Ephesians 5:22-6:4 and Colossians 3:18-21. Fielding and his marriage to Felicia is a great loving and covenantal metaphor for Jesus and his Bride the Church. I would also inspire him with the Old Testament heroes of faith Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and Joshua, who led their families in the service of the Lord.
Instead of relocating to find a church, Fielding and Felicia should take the time to be with God and allow Christ to birth a new ecclesia through them. It will take time and Fielding needs to submit fully to Christ first and receive the Spirit. But New Testament churches were left in the hands of new believers to mature on their own under the headship of Christ and through the Spirit’s workings. Surely in a remote part of Maine there is a river nearby. I would encourage him that when the time came for Fielding and anyone else to be baptized, I would make the trip to help them in the public profession of faith together. A new faith community will begin to form organically through their relationships and networks.