As leaders and disciples of Jesus Christ, we need to learn more about the ministry of presence and use it intentionally in the places we serve. We need to learn how to “be.” We are pretty good at “doing,” but we still need work on “being.” But, what does it mean to be present?
What is the ministry of presence? There are many definitions of presence, but I believe one of the most profound definitions says that presence is the ability to journey with people in the good times and challenging times of life. When we use the ministry of presence we live life with people. We love people and care about them. We invest in their lives, and we help them during difficult seasons.
I remember a time in my life when I felt down and discouraged. I felt like I was lacking joy and peace in my life. I had experienced several different life changes, and I remember crying out to the Lord in my pain. I desired to have a closeness with God, and to know that God was with me no matter what I went through. I needed the Holy Spirit in my life. I needed to know God was with me and for me. I needed to know nothing could stand against the presence and power of God. People need this assurance, and sometimes they find this in the incarnational presence of our ministry and life.
In our society today people are longing for friendship and community. I have heard sociologists and scientists talk about the evolution of modern technology, and how cell phones and internet are isolating us and taking out the “personal” from communication. I believe this is true to some extent, but I also believe that the hunger people have for cell phones, internet, and media comes from an inner longing for friendship and community. People do not want to be alone. People want love, attention, hope, peace, and strength. Oftentimes they find these characteristics in communities and within their families. People need to live life together. People want to live life together. So what happens when we do not provide this ministry of presence?
When people do not receive the ministry of presence from their community they go outside of their community to find this connection. People will not stay in a church which is not friendly, loving, and accepting. People know when you are rejecting them, and it only makes them leave rather than stay. When circles of friends become closed off, the outsiders will fall away. As leaders in the church we need to be sensitive to this ministry of presence. We need to train people to love people. We need to pray and ask God to help us see the hurting people in our lives. God can show you the people who need help.
As a chaplain, I offer a lot of ministry of presence to families and patients. I sit and stand with people in some of their most challenging times. I listen to them. I walk with them in the halls of the hospital. I live life with them for a little bit. However, I am always surprised by how many of these people do not belong to a community, congregation, or religious entity. Is it because we have lost the ministry of presence? Is it because we have become exclusivists rather than inclusive? Is it because we are so wrapped up in our own little worlds and kingdoms that we do not have enough time for others? I do not know the answers, but I do know that we can change our world one person at a time. We can provide a ministry of presence today to someone in need. It might be a smile, a hug, a word of encouragement, or a simply conversation. Try it, let’s see if it works.
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” –Matthew 28:16-20
Copyright 2014 Crystal Schmalz Ministries