One of the greatest gifts I have received in my years as church staff is someone who understands the weight of what I call: the ministry of being present.
Right now I could give you a list of five guys off the top of my head who have been some of my best leaders in the ministries I have overseen in the last seven years. Some of these guys have gone on to pursue ministry fulltime, some of them have moved on with aspirations to be great lay elders, and some of them are still with me. Of those five, there are maybe seven sermons that have been preached during their time with me. They didn’t have their name up in lights, they didn’t dominate the stage or conversation. . But even with their lack of “pulpit time” they were recognized by me, and by their peers as some of the strongest leaders.
Why? Because they were present.
It is not infrequently that I get presented with the question of leadership. “How can I get involved?” “What can I do to help?” Often times these questions can come from a heart which desires recognition before men (Matt 20:21-28). But more times than not these questions are asked out of a genuine result of the gospel. Transformed hearts want to become part of a transformational effort.
Sometimes I can see the power of the gospel in that individual’s life, and I have an immediate need in a certain system of ministry where that individual can play a formal role. But often times, in smaller ministries, I don’t have an immediate “position” into which that individual can step into.
That’s why I love the ministry of being present. Far from being a placeholder or a pause button on your desire to help, the ministry of being present is one of the greatest gifts you can give your pastor and your church.
This ministry is more than simply being “present” but it is certainly not anything less. The idea of it is simple but weighty.
Present Before God
While the majority of people who aspire to serve do it out of genuine gospel-fruit, there will always be a percentage of people who want to be presented as a leader before men before they are ever present as a disciple before Jesus.
The story of Mary and Martha can often be seen as a polemic story. Jesus doesn’t want your actions, he wants your heartfelt attention; he wants you to sit at his feet. But there is a balance here. Jesus does want you to sit before him, but he also wants you to do things for him. The great commission is a command to do. Evangelism is a command to do. Discipleship, devotion, prayer, repentance, ministry…etc. are all things we should do. Martha has a role. The story of Mary and Martha doesn’t negate the need to act, but it certainly puts in perspective the priority of devotion.
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary, Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)
If our ministry as the church (and an individual in the church) is to be effective we must first learn that everything we do flows from our position before Christ. If we wish to be in a position of influence we need to realize the influence of the gospel in our own hearts.
Paul says that by gazing at the beauty of Christ we are being “transformed…from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor 3:18). The root of ministry is the desire to see people changed by the power of Christ. If you are unwilling to sit before the presence of Christ yourself (through church, devotions, prayer…etc), you will not be able to effectively lead people towards Christ in your ministry. A life of spiritual, worship-filled commitment to Christ is the prerequisite to effective ministry. Crawford Lorritts says, “What separates you from the pack is not your ability and proficiency in the art and skill of leadership—it is the call and obvious presence of God in your life.”
Present Before Men
If we have indeed experienced Christ then people will ultimately see Christ in our actions. Using illustrative language, Jesus says that a believer who has been illuminated by Christ points non-believers to himself through their actions (Matt 5:16). This is key to the ministry of being present.
To be present is not simply to fill space, it is to use influence intentionally. We have no greater influence in our own lives than the gospel, and therefore we are able to influence others for the sake of the gospel through ordinary means. Those five individuals who I was thinking of at the beginning of this passage were introverts, and extroverts, but each of them figured out how to show up, be present, and influence with the gospel in different areas.
I remember hearing a Pastor speak of one of his good friends. He used to say, “If Kyle was there, we had a good meeting.” Kyle wasn’t the leader, Kyle wasn’t the content, but Kyle was someone who realized his position to the benefit of the corporate whole. You have the ability to bless your church, your pastors, and even your community group leaders by realizing this in your own life.
People who understand the ministry of being present realize they don’t need to have an established or identified system to work in because they realize they already have something to give away. They don’t simply take from ministry, they give to it. They have conversations with new people. They are information hubs for the church. They are intentional not only of connecting with people, but of connecting people to the church as a whole. They take initiative and grab coffee with someone they know is struggling. They help find resources for people who might have questions. They are a friendly face who people can rely on to be at church services.
They do these things not because they feel like they need to in order to be leaders, they do these things because they realize this is what the gospel frees us to do. This is the natural actions of people who see the gospel of primary importance. And actually, when you boil it down, the ministry of being present is just a different way to say “being a healthy church member.”
Is this you? Are you so affected by the gospel that your private devotion is manifesting itself in corporate dedication? If so, the church needs you. Your pastor wants you. And Jesus has died for you.