Skepsis Uke – The Lessons I learnt

Learn Button Or Icon For Education Or Online Learning

I learnt much from my experience of sharing the faith in these weeks, especially on understanding the person I am reaching out to. The questions were a good basis for me to ask more questions even before presenting the gospel. Most of the times I asked questions until they asked a question. I doubt if there is a better way to present the gospel on a person to person to person platform. It was difficult to listen to someone speak about what I clearly knew better. But I found it useful to be interested and ask even more questions as if they were saying was complete news. It opened a whole world of trust from them, which was very useful. I could also more easily approach them from where they are. It cost time though.

I also had to be aware that I could so easily be destructed never to share the gospel. So my first and last objective came to be to share be gospel. I failed many time; these times when we talked about all these controversial details on God, Christianity and the nature of truth except the person of Jesus. It takes a lot of patience and wisdom to minimize non-issues with this aproach.

There are several questions I could not assume because it was not common knowledge any longer. Does God exist? Is the Bible true? Is there anything as truth in the first place? Is Jesus a historical figure? If Jesus existed, is He who He claims to be? Are the theological conclusions of the Christian narrative true? Why should anyone trust Jesus with their life? If I will preach Jesus, I must have good answers to these questions. But many Christian would rather teach Christian moralism instead of Christ because then it is not important to answer the questions.

These experiences have made me more excited about demonstrating my faith, in even more challenging situations. I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation.

 

Advertisements

Conversations at Skepsis Uke

In the last blog, I wrote about the use of questionnaires in the Skepsis Uke (we also talked about what skepsis uke is). I will write down a description of a few conversations we had and what I think is the up and downside of the method.

conversation[1]

The Conversations

The bright Muslim. We met this young Muslim brother. He was seeking asylum in Norway, an immigrant from China due to the persecution for his faith. He convinced us of the existence of God for he said, ‘There surely is a god. How else can you explain such order? We are simply not the ultimate beings. There must be someone greater.’ He told us that he had studied the three major religions (Islam, Judaism and Christianity) considerably. Of Judaism he said it wasn’t useful since he was out of it any ways, it was for the Jew. Of Christianity he said it had a deal ‘too good to be real’. In paraphrase, these were his thoughts, ‘How can I just believe in Jesus and my sins are pardoned? That is very stupid. I should surely bring something to God. Islam looks a bit more logical. I must do a lot of good works, more than my bad ones.’ I marveled at how much of a grasp of the gospel the gospel he had. We had a good conversation.

The ardent atheist. This was the most common of all cases. Let us call them the ardent atheists. On being asked a question on God, or Jesus, or Christianity, their response was almost always uniform. ‘I don’t believe’.  But why? ‘There is no evidence.’ What amount of evidence can make you change your mind? Some said, ‘no amount of evidence’, or that God had to speak to them in some personal way so they could believe. I also met many who couldn’t think of a reason for the need of God. They had all they need for life. Others sighted the pain and suffering on earth as their reason for disbelief. Not a few said that it doesn’t make sense at all. Well, I have walked with God closely, and I know Him, these answers very much heartbroken me.

The resigned relativist. I would say that this was the most difficult one to deal with. Most of the time they said they do not believe in God, that they are atheists but agnostic. They do not know the truth and at times they are not bothered about it because it doesn’t matter. If I explained to them the gospel, their response would be something close to this ‘Its good you believe that. I don’t believe it and have nothing against it. I get it that you need the faith.’ I would then ask, ‘what if it’s true?’ They would answer ‘but it’s not true for me.’ Their point is that it doesn’t matter, it cannot be true for me. I choose what is true. When that’s the problem, your argument will be abstract for a very long time. Good luck when you meet a resigned relativist.

The non-Christian Christian. I met some who said they were Christian. Baptized and confirmed. But they had a strange idea of Jesus. They said all He was a good man, who told a lot of good stories. He was probably very charismatic. I was very sad that they knew barely a thing of His cross. They had no living relationship with Him yet they identified themselves as Christian. Well, I must say that these are not anything close to the Norwegian Christian.

The eager seeker. These were most encouraging group of people to meet.  They had mostly thought well about the whole subject of faith. Many of them would answer that they are not sure of the existence of a personal God, but they wouldn’t be surprised if one existed. They were searching too. ‘I am certain that there is something bigger than humans. Maybe a form of force or person.’ They had interesting questions to ask. Why Christianity? How can I be sure that it is true? Who is Jesus? Why do you say He is the Son of God? How can I know the resurrection happened? Why can I trust Jesus with my life? How can I trust Him? What does it mean to believe? How can I believe? Some are thankful when they don’t just get simplistic answers because they site that as one of the major hindrances to belief.

The mystic. I met a number of this kind. But one said she believes in the existence of ghosts. She said that they have talked to her mother, narrating an incident that sounded weird and dreadful. That was all their view of a god or God. But she didn’t have time to discuss more.  They all talked of the existance of a the transendant, but the view was at best dark and desperate. This is when I thanked God for the Bible, the revelation of God.

The up and down sides of the concept

This concept was very interesting. It was efficient in delivering its objective, to get an audience. Almost anyone in a university wanted their opinion to be heard over a survey. But this was also its difficulty. It is a survey; how do you (as the interviewer) now share your opinion in a survey? There was one obvious way; be cleaver and ask questions and hope that they (the interviewee) asked questions. It brings also you to a defense mode before the declaration of the gospel. The participant answering the questionnaire vents out all they know, which may mostly be misconceptions. So soon you argue with the dumbest of misconceptions, and you have no time to say the point. It still retains the advantage that you get to understand the other person far much better, and so explain the gospel much more relevantly – if you have the chance.

The Concept

Skepsisuke-4304

‘Skepsis Uke’ could be directly translated to Skeptics Week.  It is a week when students in the university in Norway share their faith intensively with their counterparts. It will be equivalent to the Triennial Missions, Evangelism Week, in-reach back in the University in Kenya.

Laget, the IFES movement in Norway works with University students as well as High School students. Students and staff take part in planning the week. The approaches are a bit different from ones we used back in Kenya. I will describe the methods of evangelism shortly. It does no harm to list them up now: questionnaires, seminars and Grill en Kristine. We also served waffles and coffee (the two things I suspect many Norwegians regard most after the environment). Oh, how they love waffles. The ‘gratis vaffle’ (free waffles) stands were never boring.

Faith is a private matter in Norway. Many people can get uncomfortable if you must talk about it in public spheres.  Adding on the normal fear to evangelize, it even becomes harder for Christian students to talk about their faith in Campus. This week was a pretty tough one for most of them, and us. How do you walk up to someone who is probably studying and ask them for time to talk to them about what no one talks to another about? It is even harder because it is awkward to talk to strangers in Norway without good cause. These are some of the reasons that inform the approach.

The most popular method that we used was the questionnaire for person to person talks. We had this paper that had about eight to ten questions. And so we would approach someone and ask them if they have time to answer a questionnaire. Most people said yes. If they asked what it was about, then we could say its about the ‘big questions of life’. Well, isn’t the gospel a big, big question?

These were some of the questions in the questionnaire: What do you study? What do you value most in life? Do you believe in God? If not, why do you not believe in Him? If yes, what is your picture of Him? If you could ask God one question, what could it be? Do you think there is objective truth? Who do you think Jesus was? If Jesus was to be here today, could you like to have a relationship with Him?

These questions were a perfect excuse to talk. But there were these questions about God (that were asked by the interviewees), that I wasn’t comfortable with. I think it is okay to call God ‘Him’. I met feminists who made a big point of that. They said, “are you now saying that God is a ‘He’?” I wasn’t always willing to answer that!

I always thought two things; Well, I have not yet called Satan ‘she’ and I will not. But also, if we argue on a label of ‘him’ or ‘her’, I know the Christian God to be Spirit – neither male nor female. At times I just conceded to little battles in hope of a more substantive war. It bore fruits.

Within the week we had seminars in the faculty. The topics were such as God and Science, what is truth, pain and suffering. There were other seminars for Christian students too. There was this concept called ‘grill en Kristen’ which I found to be very interesting. A Christian or two could come out to be asked questions about their faith by both non-Christians and Christians. This was a good way to promote understanding between the parties. One student asked the question, ‘using the scale of 0-100, how would you rate your certainty of God’s existence?’ I wouldn’t like to discuss the answer.

I cannot express how much joy I saw with students sharing their faith among others. This was a difficult task for them, but they did. In these weeks, discussions were lit and many students discussed the gospel with their colleges as one important matter in life.

We named it ‘the big questions of life’. But aren’t they?

Skepsis Uke Blogs – About

Skepsisuke-4400

Is this how authors feel when they write the ‘preface’ of a book? I say that because this blog is a writing about what I will write in the next three blogs. Ooh emojis, I wish I could find the appropriate ones easilyJ.

A few months ago, Ancent (my teammate in this exchange program) and I took part in what we both consider our most exiting moments in Norway. The Skepis Uke with the IFES movement in Norway is this intense week of sharing the gospel with students in the university. I have intended to write three articles on the experience for far too long.

My writing skills are limited so that I know that these blogs will be equally limited representations of the experience. I now know that stereotypes could be developed from my writing, because I have developed some from other people’s writings.

They are a report of what I saw, heard, and thought. Please join me in thinking about them, comment and question. There is such a thing as being honestly wrong. But I am confident that they can be a fair representation of some things as they are.

My statistic’s instincts tell me to say that my experience was purely on sample basis. Of course, Caleb, we know that you did not talk to every of the 5.2 million people in Norway. We talked to students in Universities in the cities of Songdal, Trondeim and Bergen for a week each. I wasn’t doing a research, so I don’t have the numbers.

I will write about the experience in three blog posts. The first one will be a description of the concept, the second one on categories or types of conversations and the last one on general lessons I picked from the experience. Welcome, and give me some feedback.

 

 

The most menial of Ministry.

0220cf08-6d73-4730-8ee9-b33e56bbf6e9-2060x1236

The shortest pencil is better than the longest memory; so, I thought of writing of two of lessons I have learnt in my involvement in ministry in the last two years. I haven’t liked the lessons yet, but I am convinced of their high value. I mean that my attitudes are not as formed as they ought to be. It is also true that I am not aware of any of my attitudes that are perfect. Oh, how I long for that day of perfection. I have a bad habit of digressing.

In the Short-Term Experience in Ministry (STEM) program, one of these concepts was taught a lot. ‘The Ministry of Presence’. It mostly applied in the Christian Unions that do not ‘honor’ the ‘servants of God’. It was said that we were supposed to just be there. Be present. You don’t have to do anything. I confess that this happened to be a living strategy! It worked, ‘but… how can I ‘just sit’…? I am a preacher… with all this anointing…’ I thought at first. My friends know that I can have very itchy hands, always wanting to do something. The ministry of presence wasn’t my thing!

In the past 7 months, I have had to practice another kind of ministry that isn’t easy to carry. It is ‘more noble’ than the later though. The ministry of service. At some point I have thought that I could be ‘too equipped’ to ‘serve tables’, let alone clean them. This is when I noticed that I am in trouble. How can I be doing the most menial of jobs in God’s house?  ‘I should be doing something greater,’ thought proud I. But I came to think, what after all is greater? Is it not faithfulness?

But why did these two means of service to God seem less important? Maybe it is because of an importance syndrome. A whole me, just coming for the sake of coming? Nah, nah! Everyone else can come for the sake of coming, not I. Someone else should clean the tables only, not I. Someone else should plant the flowers, someone else should mow the lawn, someone else … Then I will do the thinking and such kind of work… Importance, importance! A syndrome of pride.

But these moments reminded me that I am at most just like ‘least’ of servants. A dead-end servant. Before God, there isn’t a difference between the president and the street-sweeper. There almost always is a difference in their faithfulness. Menial ministry: presence, service et al. is important. C. S. Lewis says that the highest cannot stand without the lowest. I also think that it is at these menial jobs that God meets most of us. This is our humblest, where little if any attention is on us. This is working from the lowest, the best place to lift our eyes to Him.

In Luke 17:10 the Lord teaches that when you have done everything that you were told to do, you should say, ‘we are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty’.

There is no menial ministry, only menial attitudes.

Small thoughts put together

The Little things that matter

By the time you read this, I guess you know my name and perhaps that I am a Kenyan on an exchange program in Norway. This internet makes its difficult for me to predict my audience (maybe 10 years to come). I have learned that its a nice thing to be cautious. Just for records, I have not been always cautious about being cautious. I still doubt that I am.

One of the things I consider important is to share my reflections, though scarcely in witting. Some are so small, that I only hope they mean something to others. I will share some of the small thoughts I have had in the recent past, praying they will edify or that I will learn more from your thoughts. Back to my thing for caution; they are not in any premeditated order.

The reason

Deep seated in my heart is a reason for writing about small things. The reason is one but two in this one. I do not want to be a fool. But to be a fool is two things in my opinion: not to know when to learn and the inability to separate between the important and unimportant especially when you need to. These are more of journeys to be made and than destinations to be arrived at.

The pan-African

I recently met a passionate pan-African (and by the by, I am also one). If anything annoyed me most, it was to meet people who thought that everyone is good and that essentially all people became evil because they a poor or something forces them. I even got more angry when I remembered about the slave trade and the scramble and colonization of Africa and the new day colonial schemes hidden under sophisticated globalization. This theory most popular in the west annoyed me to the core.

But lessons have to be learned. Some facts are easily swallowed than others you know. The fact that not all white people colonized Africa is a rude one but true. That we were colonized doesn’t account for the type of greed among African leaders is too big to swallow. If we look keenly, we who condemn colonialism still dominate over other Africans. We need to carry our own burdens. Should and 18 year old British boy carry the sins of his grand parents? If I will count on none else to say no, I will count on the Christian; you who don’t carry even your own sin.

This has been a difficult lesson to learn.

About tolerance

Coming to a culture where tolerance is a big thing is interesting. I was shocked to notice that many did not even give a thought of the difference between acceptance and tolerance. Culture in itself has thousands of issues that are different. Some are none-issues, others are hugely important many along the gray areas. My faith shapes my worldview and consequently shapes my culture. I have come to see as important any cultural question that my faith has an opinion on. Without question I will follow my faith.

But there is tolerance that becomes intolerant. Should I accept and celebrate what I do not agree with? That will be intolerant. This is a difficult question I barely know how to express my self but I know what to do, many times.  

On ministering

Lastly, thinking about my occupation – ministry. I was lately amused by how much I was preoccupied with the idea of ministering to others and rarely thinking of the possibility of others ministering to me; especially these people I consider my priority. By the way, I repented of that huge amount of arrogance and pride. I was specifically amused by the fact that I think they also at times consider me a priority of sorts! Now, I grew around huge Sahiwal and Boran bulls so I know when the lock horns. Its stupid when we miss to see when the locking of horns knocks the door.

Can I be taught something by someone I meant to minister to? Probably younger in faith or in my eyes; less devout? Absolutely yes! For who teaches lessons? Is it the Lord or us? Better than just accepting the fact, we should anticipate to learn. Of course I said nothing about intentional ministry of which I am a believer and devoutly do.

I know I broke all the rules on flow, just incase you didn’t realize. 

 

Ref: Picture from https://www.bing.com/images

Excuse me, how can I dress my bread?

The Bread Slicer
This is the machine that reminded me about asking questions.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to buy bread. I miss the Kenyan shops where we are kings, everything is done for us. You only push the trolley to the cashier, pay the cash and carry your bag. In this country I  live currently, I also park the goods on my own into the shopping bag – someone does this in Kenya. Not only do I park my goods but I also have to slice my own bread. Never mind, I am now an expert.

I have not mentioned that I never know how much money I have until I convert it to the Kenyan Shilling first. That means that I don’t know if a thing is expensive until it is in the Kenyan Shilling. That’s faulty most of the times especially because everything seems extremely expensive. Soon the cheapest bread is over 150 shillings, how in Kenya could you buy this?

Forgive me, I was talking about bread. So this good day, buying bread… I went to this bread slicer (if that machine goes by that name) to slice my bread, of course to slice the bread! I did my best to observe what people did so that I did not need to ask how every step is done. I observed as much as I could.

I only proved that I didn’t get everything when I was to put the slices in the little bag, to dress the bread if you know what I mean.

They all behaved as though they were not hewn from the same block. Every slice went on its way. Actually two slices fell of to the ground. I was disappointed, not only that I couldn’t put the slices in good order but that also I had lost two. If you love Math, that’s just about sh. 20 lost, not much but something. It took me about 5 minutes to stack the little pieces together shambolically. I have never felt more stupid in the recent past. I knew that there was something I did not learn because it should be easier. The shame was here: the little bag was transparent, and every one could see how neatly by bread was parked together.

Three days later, I went to the shop not to buy bread yet. I saw a man slice his bread. He placed the sliced bread on a small metal support (definitely a conspicuous part of the machine) to support the bread then clothed it easily. His bread was prefect in the pack. I learnt my lesson. By observation. I had to come back in two days mostly to buy bread but partly to show the machine that it cannot be smarter than me for too long. It’s just a machine, you know!

We learn many things by observation. I do my best to learn as much as I can by looking around. Observation is also an “intelligent” way a proud man appears to know all. But there are times that observation fails, mostly because we almost always never see the most obvious. When is a proud man is made humble? When they think they saw enough and yet they didn’t learn the most obvious. “You can get by with your smartness for about ten minutes but after that you better know something… ”

If only I asked, “excuse me, how can I dress my bread as decently as you did?”

When observation fails, asking questions is the other way to survive. When you ask questions, you look stupid. Especially if it’s about the most obvious things. If you don’t ask, you only multiply the time and energy you use to learn. I learnt this secret from an old campus friend, Gachuki. He said something like this, “if you cannot stop to ask for directions when you do not know the way, you are proud!” I think the best questions are often the simplest questions.