Q: I have relatives and friends who are being influenced by the increased attention given to popular televangelists and TV programs. They rarely visit a non-Nazarene church, yet they fill their minds with pop theology that is far removed from our Wesleyan-Holiness perspective. Any advice?
Whether we like it or not, Christians today are bombarded by an unprecedented array of televangelist and religious programing. The problem is that many appear, on the surface, to contain truth. Because there is some measure of truth in them, we tend to accept their claims in their entirety, accepting half-truths along with the good. When we see this happening to people we love, we feel we must take action: and we should.
It is important not to overreact. Don't immediately suspect that they need a full force spiritual intervention. Many reasons exist as to why people begin to sample other Christian ideas, and you first need to ask why: why this change now? The answer will lead you to the most effective solution.
Sometimes the motivation for sampling other Christian perspectives is curiosity. Many of us are curious to know what other Christians think about subjects of common concern. Such curiosity is normal and good as long as it promotes evaluation and spiritual growth. If this is the case, then talk to them about what they are learning in order to help them process their thoughts within the context of the Bible and Wesleyan-Holiness doctrine. The result will be spiritual growth.
Discouragement is another reason individuals listen to other Christian speakers. Much of life is ordinary and routine. We put in the effort but we don't see significant results. Discouraged, we become targets for those who pitch a more exciting, dynamic life. That pitch is a bit like tooth paste commercials that promise the brightest teeth as if their brand of toothpaste will transform lives. In this case, validate and encourage them spiritually. If you cannot do it personally, then encourage their participation in a loving Sunday School class, small group Bible study, or ministry service group. Being active in their faith community will help them see how God is at work in their lives.
A third reason people seek outside spiritual guidance is relevance: what they are experiencing at their church does not scratch their spiritual itch or address their passion. Their passion may be led by what they hear or see through religious media and, by contrast, what they are currently learning and doing doesn't seem significant so they look for alternatives.
If relevance is the issue, encourage them to take another look at the ministries of the Church of the Nazarene. Their church has a long and distinguished history of addressing relevant issues from a biblical perspective. A visit to www.nazarene.org will help them know how they can be involved in the transformational ministries of the Church of the Nazarene around the corner and around the world.
Mass media and the web offer everyone a variety of ideas, beliefs, and service opportunities. That will not change in the foreseeable future. In a world in which religious charlatanism has become an art form, and pluralism is the credo, we must stay personally involved in the lives of our friends and relatives. Through prayer, love, and dialogue, we can help them insure that their beliefs and practices are congruent with God's Word.
Larry Morris is director of Adult Ministries International for the Church of the Nazarene.
Holiness Today, July/August 2011