When I am preparing a message or a post for my blog I am asking what my hearers/readers are wrestling with in their lives. The questions people are asking and the challenges they may be facing are as different as their age, employment or the culture in which they live or have been raised. What is relevant for one may be irrelevant for another. Tim Keller in his book on Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism lists a wide variety of people we should consider.
Conscious unbelievers who are aware that they are not Christian.
- Immoral pagan: claims the faith is untenable or unreasonable.
- Imitative pagan: fashionably skeptical, but not profound.
- Genuine thinker: has serious, well-conceived objections.
- Religious non-Christian: belongs to an organized religion, cult, or denomination with seriously mistaken doctrine.
Nonchurched nominal Christian: has belief in basic Christian doctrines, but with no or remote church connection.
Churched nominal Christian: participates in church but not regenerated.
- Semi-active moralist: is respectably moral but his religion is without assurance and is all a matter of duty.
- Active self-righteous: is very committed and involved in the church, with assurance of salvation based on good works.
Awakened: is stirred and convicted over his sin but without gospel peace yet.
- Curious: is stirred up mainly in an intellectual way, full of questions and diligent in study.
- Convicted with false peace: without understanding the gospel, has been told that by walking an aisle, praying a prayer, or doing something, he is now right with God.
- Comfortless: is extremely aware of sins but not accepting or understanding of the gospel of grace.
Apostate: was once active in the church but has repudiated the faith without regrets.
New Believer: is recently converted.
- Doubtful: has many fears and hesitancies about his new faith.
- Eager: is beginning with joy and confidence and a zeal to learn and serve.
- Overzealous: has become somewhat proud and judgmental of others and is overconfident of his own abilities.
Mature/growing: passes through nearly all of the basic conditions named below but progresses through them because he responds quickly to pastoral treatment or knows how to treat himself.
Afflicted: lives under a burden of trouble that saps spiritual strength. (Generally we call a person afflicted who has not brought the trouble on himself.)
Physically afflicted: is experiencing bodily decay.
- The sick
- The elderly
- The disabled.
Bereaved: has lost a loved one or experienced some other major loss (e.g. a home through a fire)
Desertion: is spiritually dry through the action of God, who removes a sense of his nearness despite the use of the means of grace.
Tempted: is struggling with a sin or sins that are remaining attractive and strong.
- Overtaken: is tempted largely in the realm of thoughts and desires.
- Taken over: has had a sin become addictive behavior.
Immature: is a spiritual baby who should be growing but is not.
- Undisciplined: is lazy in using the means of grace and gifts for ministry.
- Self-satisfied: has had pride choke his growth, is complacent, and has perhaps become cynical and scornful of many other Christians.
- Unbalanced: has had either the intellectual, the emotional, or the volitional aspect of his faith become overemphasized.
- Devotee of eccentric doctrine: has become absorbed in a distorted teaching that hinders spiritual growth.
Depressed: is not only experiencing negative feelings but also shirking Christian duties and being disobedient. If a person is a new believer, or tempted or afflicted or immature, and does not get proper treatment, he will become spiritually depressed. Besides these conditions, the following problems can lead to depression:
- Anxious: is depressed through worry or fear handled improperly.
- Weary: has become listless and dry through over work.
- Angry: is depressed through bitterness or uncontrolled anger handled improperly.
- Introspective: dwells on failures and feelings and lacks assurance.
- Guilty: has a a wounded conscience and has not reached repentance.
Backslid: has gone beyond depression to a withdrawal from fellowship with God and with the church.
- Tender: is still easily convicted of his sins and susceptible to calls for repentance.
- Hardening: has become cynical, scornful, and difficult to convict.
You may think of other ways to classify the people around you or yourself. We are all different and have different needs. I never assume that one size fits all or one prescription cures all maladies of the human condition.