Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Difficult Battlefields

I had an encouraging conversation with a friend today. What made it encouraging? Well, we were conversing about ministry in the future.

You see, he's a Pastoral Leadership student from an affluent, upper-class background who wants to minister specifically to upper-class individuals in "post-Christian" nations.

You can stop staring at the screen like I'm crazy.

"But isn't he supposed to forsake all riches and go dig sewage ditches in India for Jesus?"

Only if God calls him to, which, as much as was apparent, He hadn't.

Now, as for why I'm encouraged: compared to reaching affluent individuals, particularly of my generation, in developed countries, evangelizing to the poor, impoverished, and malnourished is almost like comparing a multiplication quiz to integral calculus.

Now, I'm not saying we shouldn't minister to the poor, because we should. We're called to do so  as Christians. What I'm saying is that it's a completely different ballgame and here are a few reasons why:

  • The needs to be met are often not physical and not apparent, hidden by many layers
  • You need to discern and address the individual's philosophy
  • You need to be able to think on your feet - there are many stock arguments used to tie up Christians in logical fallacies
  • You need to be able to refute the most recent pop philosophy, atheist argument, or evolutionary discovery
  • You need to be able to stand your own in both a formal and an informal debate
  • You need to be able to conduct yourself and converse at the appropriate level (the upper crust can be very particular about its ways, many of which don't quite fit with Christianity, but anyone trying to spread the Gospel must be aware of and fluent in these nuances)
  • Having successfully shown yourself as a well-educated member of society, you may have been allowed a step closer into confidence - don't mess up now.
  • Is there any resistance to religion/Christianity? Subtly address it without religious arguments
Finally, after going through all of these hoops, and more, after having refuted and addressed their intellectual strongholds and beliefs, once you have cleared away the dross, then you may begin to use the Bible.

As you can see, it takes a very unique individual to reach the higher strata of society, strata which are comprising a larger and larger percentage of the Western world while becoming more and more areligious. 

So, yes, I'm encouraged. I'm encouraged because I see that God has called and equipped him to a difficult battlefield, a battlefield more mental than physical.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Fast Dieting

So, with Lent around the corner (it starts on Wed.), I figured I'd talk about something I have done that I want to encourage all of you to avoid - dieting over Lent.

Let me explain myself. Lent is a period of time before Easter during which celebrants abstain from a particular something and, instead, spend the time in prayer; this is also called fasting. Most commonly, people choose to abstain from some sort of foodstuff they particularly enjoy.

There's a fine line between fasting from certain foods and dieting.

Last year, I chose to fast from desserts as a whole. For me, that was something I enjoyed and spent too much time and thought over - a perfect choice for a fast. Now, here's the kicker: I never actually fasted. I merely dieted.

So, yes, I abstained from all desserts during Lent, but what I didn't do was redeem that time otherwise spent eating or craving dessert in prayer, devouring the Word of God and desiring Him. My fast had become a diet.

This, I think, is one of the biggest dangers a faster faces and in the face of this, I want to encourage you to spend Lent fasting, but properly so. Give something up for these next 40 days, but also remember to be praying and seeking God throughout the whole time. In fact, set goals to fast about during this time, while you're at it.

Footnote: I think it's fine to turn a diet into a fast. You're already giving something up, now you're just redeeming it to draw closer to God. Turning a fast into a diet, however, I think is a big mistake, as outlined above.