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?
Fielding’s situation is pretty bleak, and apparently very common.
I think the first question is “what does God want to do?” I would start praying, and getting my brothers and sisters praying, seeking God for His will, and asking for God to reveal Himself to Fielding. I’ve learned that doing things my way or through my own power or ideas–”putting my hand to it”–brings about death. (2 Samuel 6:6–7)
Fielding says that he ‘believes in Jesus’, but he’s also not completely surrendered his life to Christ. He doesn’t even know what that would look like. That belief is merely a mental assent, not an active discipleship. This makes me doubt that he’s ever really encountered Jesus Christ.
He says he wants to know more about God when he’s with his cousin, so he seems to be drawn to the living Word of God, Jesus Christ, that dwells in his cousin.
I believe that Word is what Fielding needs. We can have all the ideas that we want, and try doing all kinds of things, but until the Word of God comes to him, nothing else really matters. He needs Jesus. If I were Fielding’s cousin my goal would be to show him Christ every chance I had (of course, that should be our goal for anybody and any situation).
How do we show Christ to others? We let Him live through us. And not just individually, but through the corporate Body of Christ! I would Fielding and his family to come visit us. We live in community with a church, and he would be able to see Christ living in a body of believers in a real and tangible way–“Come and see.” (John 1:38, 46). If Fielding is truly desiring God, the result of that time experiencing God in a corporate body would be a much greater hunger on his part for God and for fellowship. If he couldn’t come visit us, I imagine I would look into going there, and try taking some brothers and sisters with me.
But God has to show us what to do, and how to do it. I believe that He delights in revealing Jesus Christ to people, and if we will completely give ourselves to Christ unreservedly and lift Him up, he’ll draw all men to Himself. But we have to work with God, not against, or outside, of Him.
For example, look at Acts 3, where Peter heals the lame begger. How many times do you think Peter had passed that very same begger before? And think about how many other beggers and afflicted there were. But that man was the one who God wanted to touch at that moment. It says in verse 4,
But Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze on him and said, “Look at us!”
Those men were always looking for what God was doing.
I would really want to know how serious Fielding is. If he’s just ‘interested’, I think we should be praying and give God time to work with him and show him his need for God, and looking to see if we’re supposed to be part of the answer to that prayer.
If he’s seriously longing for God, though, like one of those who go along weeping, looking for the Lord God and the way to Zion (Jer 50:4–5), then he needs to know that the wilderness is not the habitation that he’s intended for, and he doesn’t have to be alone. There is a promised land, and we’ll do everything we can to help him find his way, whether that means sending folks there, or finding a way through God’s provision for him to relocate. Sometimes God has His people in the wilderness, but it is to prepare them for the promised land–that’s not where they’re supposed to stay.
Fielding needs to have believers around him. It was never the intent of God to have isolated believers trying to survive. That’s the situation that he’s in right now, and it’s not bearing good fruit; he’s floundering, unable to totally give his life over to God. He needs brothers and sisters around him to encourage and exhort him, and to demonstrate what it even looks like to live completely given to God.
I think it would be important to somehow spend more time with Fielding, trying to arrange living with him or nearby for an extended period of time to disciple him, and seeing if God wants to raise up a church in his area by drawing anyone else. Again, this is dependent on how serious he is. You can’t force people to follow God.
But if God doesn’t bless that, the truth is that unless he gets some type of community around him, he’ll most likely not survive spiritually. Either somebody needs to locate to where he is, or he needs to relocate. Having other folks become believers in the area would be wonderful and necessary, but if Fielding is himself a new believer, and other new believers join with him, then it seems necessary that they have someone mature to come alongside them to help.
Fielding sees his situation as impossible. But that’s really just a natural perspective. In a spiritual viewpoint, nothing is impossible. If you had asked any of those Jews before they heard Peter’s first message in Acts 2 what they thought about relocating to Jerusalem and living with a bunch of people that they either had never met or didn’t know well indefinitely, they would have thought that was simply ludicrous. It wasn’t even an option or possibility to them; there wasn’t even a reason to think about it. But when they encountered the Word of God, through Peter, it completely changed everything.
Nothing is more important than finding and being with God and partaking in the fellowship of Christ in his Body, including jobs, houses, possessions, and even family. It’s why the Church lived the way they did in Acts–they found something which eclipsed everything else. *That’s* what Fielding needs; to experience Christ in that way. The revelation of Christ puts everything in a completely new (and it’s proper) perspective.
The revelation of Christ and His Body destroys individual living.