5/22/13 Chris 20
While out looking to initiate a witnessing conversation I stopped a young man coming off a basketball court, hot and sweaty but still wearing a dress shirt and tie. He had stopped at the park to play ball after his salesman job, and responded enthusiastically to my question about his views on life after death. “You are asking the right person!” he said. “I’ve been searching for answers about these sorts of things for over a year now!” Chris told me he has attended a non-denominational church and now, at age 20, has lots of questions about the faith he has grown up in. It was nice to have someone so quickly and easily welcome a spiritual conversation, but I soon found out the kinds of spiritual questions he had were not the ones I expected. Some people might question my initial focus on eternity. Is not life in Jesus so much more than knowing where we will go when we die? But what would it be without the hope of heaven? Chris had no concerns about eternity; the spiritual questions on his mind had to do with how God might bless him materially in the here and now. He is trying to reach his goal of becoming wealthy and powerful. “One day my name will be well known, I guarantee it” he told me. How does he justify this goal with faith in God? “I’m going to use my wealth and power to help a lot of people, to help the poor and make the world a better place”. I asked more about his spiritual search. He has had many questions for his pastor, but was told not to doubt his faith, to just believe and receive God’s blessings. But Chris was critical of the way his pastor flaunted his wealth and power. He agreed when I surmised that his pastor probably justified this by believing he was just setting an example for his congregation of the material rewards of being faithful, so I helped Chris make the connection; his goal in life was basically the same – to be wealthy and prosperous and to try to justify it by claiming to serve God. I tried to bring him back to the foundational questions of faith – how can we as sinners be in a right relationship with our Creator? I hoped to help Chris stop asking how God might serve him and his goals of wealth and power, and start to ask how he might live for God, but Chris kept veering back toward the “prosperity gospel”. During our conversation he did something unusual – he took out a small flask of oil and dabbed some on his forehead and temples and neck. Later, I asked about this. He had bought it from some sort of prosperity preacher who had assured him that by using it he would get the edge in business he was looking for. Of course there is more to our faith than just salvation, but it is just this sort of superstitious “faith” that Christianity gets reduced to when the foundational issues of sin, judgment and eternity are ignored.