There's an older man who attends the same gym I workout at. My guess is that he's in his mid-to-late seventies. He is a retired pastor, and, just like, me he engages the gym through daily routine as a mission field. The only difference is he's been doing is for about 7 years. Everyone who is a member of this gym and consistently goes there knows him. I'm not sure that he gets much working out done because every time I see him he's posted up beside exercise equipment talking to someone. What I've noticed about his encounters with people is that the majority of time people are stopping him to talk. They are asking him questions. They are taking their problems to him. They are seeking his advice and wisdom on life. In fact, I recently asked him if I could get coffee with him just to sit and soak up some of the wellspring of experience he has knowing and following Jesus. The reason why so many people are drawn to him is presence. He has been the same person in the same place for as long as anyone can remember. When you walk into that gym, you can expect to see treadmills, dumbbells, and Mr. Royalty. No matter how your day is going, and no matter if you are Interested in talking or not, you will be greeted by him with a warm smile, a handshake, and some unique greeting. He told me once that it takes him about 5 minutes to meet a new face in the gym, saying he tries to tell himself he has nothing to fear because the next stop for him is paradise. This consistent presence makes him trustworthy for people. Most of the people we meet on a regular basis have nobody in their life who is consistently trustworthy. Certainly very few people have someone in their life who is consistently sharing biblical truth, wisdom, and grace with them. So often times what a ministry of presence does is provides for people that familiar trustworthy friend to talk to when trials and tribulations hit in their lives. When they feel like they have nobody else to talk about serious things with, they remember that consistent godly person who's always kind to them and always talking to them about Jesus. When you become that person in people's lives, you get the privilege of praying for them and growing to love them. What God often does through persistent prayer over time is open doors for deeper gospel conversations to see people come to Christ and be discipled in the faith. Doug Logan, pastor of Epiphany Fellowship in Camden says that to make disciples effectively we should see it like cooking in a crock pot. "Low and slow for a long period of time."
Some principles I've learned about a ministry of presence from Mr. Royalty.
-Pick a place, and be a fixture there for a long period of time. You must be intentional, but you don't have to be in a rush. Plant down roots some place. Think crock pot not microwave.
-Befriend people, and be explicitly Christian. (Ie. Share the gospel often, talk about what God is teaching you in scripture, ask many questions about their beliefs/worldview, invite to church often.) These explicit truth should be weaved in with genuine conversations about their lives. Take a real interest in people for who they are, and also don't be ashamed to let them know who you are.
-Pray that God would open doors for those people to trust you, and through the trials and tribulations of life draw them to seek biblical truth from you.
Building intentional relationships to make disciples in the suburban context has many challenges. Learn what one couple is doing in their neighborhood to be good news to their neighbors. Don't miss the video at the bottom of the article.
5 questions to start your day with discipleship
Jim Putman shares 5 practical questions that disciple makers should ask themselves each day to start the day with an intentional mindset.
Disciple Makers Breakfast
This Saturday, January 11th, from 9-10:30 AM in the World Cafe at Fegenbush Campus, we will have another Disciple Makers Breakfast. Come be encouraged by brothers and sisters who are leading d-groups. Ask questions, share ideas, and sharpen your tools. If you haven't already registered and are interested, you can still reply to let me know.
Grace & Peace, Scott Long