Anonymous asked: Hi Unka Glen, My best friend may be on his way to backsliding. I encourage him and remind him of God’s love for him, but it seems like each time I do, the more stubborn he gets about not going to God. He has been in the military for 9 months so he’s been away from family and church friends and has mentioned temptations he’s struggled with. I feel like he is changing to someone I barely recognize. As a sister in Christ I feel like I shouldn’t take God out of our conversations just to keep him comfortable, but then he ends up distancing himself. [edited for length]
Unka Glen answered: I get a lot of questions like this, and they kind of boil down to: how can I make people believe what I want them to believe? Ministry doesn’t work that way. Most people have their minds made up on whatever it is they’re up to. If you walk into the office of a wealthy business executive, for example, and suggest to him that he learn to juggle, quit his job, and join the circus… well you’re not going to have much luck.
Now, by contrast, imagine you sit in that executive’s office and you tell him that all the money and power in the world isn’t worth it, if he isn’t happy. If he’s constantly chasing a happiness that always seems just out of reach, that sounds like a trap. Why not take control and make some changes, rather than continuing to play a game that can’t be won, trying to fill an emptiness that never seems to get filled?
By planting that particular seed, you give this person the chance to work it out on his own, and come to the right decision himself. It’s very important for people to “own” the changes in their life. If you manipulate them into something, that manipulation will wear off as soon as things get tough. In the long run, it’s about learning to plant good seeds on good soil.
But you don’t want to do that. You want him to change right now. You want that for him, of course, but you want it for you too. You don’t want to lose a friend, and that’s put you in the position of pushing things until he is literally distancing himself. So your desire to see change today is actually making things worse.
It turns out that this element of time is crucial in good ministry versus bad. That is to say, good ministry takes its time, and bad ministry is always in a hurry. I’m not talking about ignoring his condition, or dragging your feet on confronting it either. I’m talking about planting a seed, and giving it time to grow. That might sound like this:
“I love you brother. I know you’ve been through a lot, and seen a lot, and sometimes it can all be confusing, but remember that the one thing that never changes is the love that we all have for you, and that love never changes, because it comes from God who never changes. Sometimes I worry over you, and selfishly I want you to stay the same dude. But the truth is, you’re becoming something more, and I’m learning to celebrate that, and I’m learning to trust that deep down you know God, and as far as you may roam, and as much as you may reconsider things, in the end you’ll never find anything to compare to His love. Maybe you’ll end up becoming a different kind of believer, something unique and authentic to who you are, something deeper and more soulful. And that’s the thing I should hope for.”
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