The Gospel for the Middle

Middle of Nowhere

A Question

Frank Viola has posted a question on his blog, and he has invited other bloggers to answer it. You’ll find the copy of his question below, and my answer will follow.

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?

An Answer

First, as Fielding’s cousin, I would be praying.

  • I would ask God for personal direction.
  • I would ask God to help Fielding understand and seek after the truth.
  • I would ask God to help Felicia know how to teach her children and raise them properly.
  • I would ask God to help her be bold in witnessing to others.
  • I would ask God to show them any other believers who may live nearby and if necessary to bring other believers to their area.
  • I would ask God if I should personally be doing more, even being willing to move there myself should that be God’s will.

Upon again seeing Fielding and Felecia, I would encourage them to continue seeking God.

  • I would instruct them from the Bible as much as possible during the time I had with them.
  • I would give them a Bible in an easy-to-read translation.
  • I would urge them to pray to God and ask for his intervention.
  • I would remind them that the church is not a building, meeting, or sermon, but the people of God.
  • I would suggest that they actively seek out other believers with whom they could meet. Perhaps they could place an ad in the classifieds or put flyers on bulletin boards.

But that’s a whole lot of “I would’s.” We must ultimately rest in the fact that God is in control and that it is Jesus who builds his church, not us (Matthew 16:18). While we need to be ready and willing to be used by God, we must leave it up to him to show us how. Keep praying, and trust him to provide.