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Thursday, July 12, 2012

My response to Viola's challanging question

This evening, I was reading Frank Viola’s blog from three days ago, and he posed a question for persons who have a blog to answer.  Given that, I decided to take up the challenge of answering this question.

The following exercise is from the synchroblog at

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?

            First, I would make clear to Fielding that, as much as it doesn’t look like it in western society, a Christian church is a group of believers.  Jesus taught that, where two or three are gathered in His name, He is with them, and that Jesus is with them because He is Head of the Church.  He and his wife can be the beginning of a church, and that, in the books telling us of the New Covenant, church wasn’t a one day a week thing.

            I would encourage them to pray together, and study the Bible together.  I would volunteer to help Fielding by phone or email, as I am certain that neither Fielding nor his wife will feel comfortable with this at first.  Possibly, I would use the phrase “family Bible study”, even if it would be technically incorrect, if that would help them get this mutual encouragement going.   Many of the other details would be connected to their motivation and personal details I would know if this situation was real.

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