by Nathan Croy
Contrary to popular belief, the parables Jesus used were not designed to solve problems or create more clarity (Mark 4:10-13, John 16:25). They were crafted to encourage others to solve their own problems by engaging their minds in a personal way (Luke 9:44-45).
When practicing therapy, it’s rarely a good idea to solve someone’s problem for them. Education can be provided on different resources available (this is called case management), but the onus for change and resolution of problems must come from the clients themselves.
To simply provide answers without exploring what has prevented a client from finding their own answers defeats the very purpose of therapy. If I give you the answers, it means you are incapable of figuring them out yourself, are utterly dependent on others to resolve your issues, are ignorant about your situation compared to me, and denied the skill-learning to solve your own problems in the future. However, if time is taken to analyze the origin of the problem and what has prevented resolving it, therapy can move toward empowering, educating, and equipping you to resolve your issues on your own.
The goals of empowering, educating, and equipping people to live a more genuine and authentic life are common to therapy, the ministry of Jesus, and Essential Kenosis (EK). Healthy relationships will affirm these three values.
I’m reminded of the old saying: if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; if you teach him to fish, you feed him for life. Even when Christ was handing out fish, it wasn’t about the fish, it was about the way the fish were provided. THAT is the crux of Emmanuel, God with us. There is a message contained within the way God came to be with us. I believe the way (process) in which ministry and evangelism are executed is more important than the what (content). Again, I think the key to understanding this may lie in EK.
In EK, the existence of freewill evidences God’s inability to coerce. This fulfills the first requirement of healthy relationship: Empowering. Some are frightened by the idea God will not force others to his will. For me, it feels like a vote of confidence!
Through gifts of the Spirit, community, and sheer force of will, humanity has accomplished incredible feats. Some of these have been horrible and some have been awe inspiring, but they have been incredible. For God to believe in us is encouraging, especially in times of trial (James 1:2-4).
Evangelicalism, with good intentions, has often assumed others lacked the power to heed the call of the church. This has led to manipulative outreach like offering meals to the homeless, but only after they’ve listened to the preacher. The way of Christ is inviting and this method is not inviting. Invitation is an approach which assumes freedom of response without even the hint of coercion.
There were many instances where Christ healed others without declaring his divinity or by deferring to their requests (John 5:1-13, 18:10, Matthew 20:32). Our desire to convert people to denominations is evidence of hubris and narcissism; this is not the appealing and empowering work of Christ. When the content of Evangelicalism overrules the process of being inviting, we have slipped into a legalism whereby the first commandment is utterly demolished.
The process of Education has been capitol in the evangelical movement. Outreach, ministry, and preaching have successfully spread the Gospel to the four corners. At the same time, I fear the evangelical movement has been more focused on conversion (content) rather than invitation (process).
Evangelicalism tends to consider ministries successful by counting “nickels and noses.” This can lead to outreach unintentionally concentrating on converting people to denominational beliefs rather than to The Way. I would suggest an approach more in line with EK and the welcoming technique reflected in the way Christ ministered.
Evangelicalism runs the risk of converting people to specific denominations (content) rather than being instruments which point to God (process). This fits into the process of EK by not only allowing but encouraging others to wrestle with the issues and come to their own conclusions.
This is NOT moral relativism. Rather, it is a process which affirms our ability to understand and reason with the guidance of God. Otherwise, we would be lost and need moral absolutes. If that were the case, Jesus would have been just like Google: Question | Answer.
Lastly is the goal of Equipping. I don’t think it was just a suggestion when Christ said, “Let those who have ears, hear” (Mark 4:9, Matthew 11:15). Not everyone is equally gifted in hearing, or seeing, or even thinking. We all have deficiencies and gifts in various areas. However, we are called to use the gifts for which we have been equipped.
The grace of God, working through, in, and with us, facilitates our ability to participate in an enticing ministry. When the disciples asked for more faith, Jesus instructed them to use the faith they already had (Luke 17:6). We are called to use our divinely equipped gifts to model God’s love to all his creation. Evangelicalism often, but not in all cases, calls us to use our gifts to further a denominational dogma.
This is a scary process. All humanity seeks stability and assurance that requires no faith. Even the disciples wanted to understand why Jesus insisted on using parables instead of simply telling them exactly what to do (Matthew 13:10). Clearly, God wants to leave some things open to interpretation. Isn’t it nice to know (Philippians 2:13, Ephesians 3:20, Hebrews 13:21, John 5:17) God is empowering, educating, and equipping us to do that very work!