The challenge of walking with the God who knows me
Names changed throughout except in some cases where the person involved has been or is in ministry.
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If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. 2 Cor 5:17
“Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good. But that also proved to be meaningless.”
Having spent a year in Southampton along with Steve getting to grips with Student ministry, we were now on our own. Steve had gone off to Oak Hill Bible college ultimately to become a vicar in the church of England. At this point I had a sense of insecurity that here I was reaching out to the lost but I did not really know who the lost were. In consequence I began on a task of finding out.
The method was quite simple. I would do a survey with questionnaires. I stuck to the male corridors of the easiest halls to get into and knocked on doors, asking if people would help with these questions. At the end there was the possibility of joining a Bible study discussion or of doing a follow up questionnaire in more depth.
The upshot of all this was that some people became Christians, I could teach others to do evangelism, and I learnt a considerable amount about the thinking of first year students. Yet all the time there was a frustration.
It seemed to me that the ideas that were being put out largely followed a set pattern, though each one was convinced that his way of thinking was unique. As I talked, I tried to pin people down to the source of their thinking, or to push their thinking to the point that it did not work. Over a long period of time, I found that I could never push anyone into a corner and I discovered that they knew full well that their way of thinking did not ‘work’ but they did not care!
After some years of doing these surveys, I brought together all of the questionnaires and began to sort through them. The patterns began to emerge, and after some struggle I managed to organise them into a system of thought. Having done it, things began to become clear. The system was an enormous circular argument, so, of course I could never corner anyone with their thinking. Further, it became clear that all thinking about the meaning of life was off to one side in a branch of thinking that had no impact on life whatsoever. Now I understood why people did not care if their thinking did not make any sense to them, it was purely an intellectual exercise with no bearing on life. They were sad that it did not connect with their lives, but they were not going to give up enjoying themselves in order to find some consistency.
One of the key issues that came out, was derived from the model rather than actually discovered in the surveys. It later proved to have some validity. That is that people are building walls around themselves to protect themselves from others. The outside of the wall is a great mask that presents the image – ‘I am happy’. I had never understood why everyone I talked to was so desperate to affirm that they were happy. Yet when I met people who had just become Christians they declared how unhappy they had been. Where were all the people just before they became Christians? Finally it made sense; it had just been a big show all along! It also made sense of the distrust of my message. They were presenting a lie, their image of happiness. They assumed my message was the same thing. They could not understand why I thought my lie was better than theirs.