The conclusion of our sermon series on the Mission of the Church, has perhaps raised the question, “What posture should I take in living ‘for the life of the world’?
Great question! And one that is MUCH debated.
We’ve tried to flesh that out a bit in the sermons, and have been further equipped through our participation in the “For the Life of The World” video series have been working through together. This week, during interviews for our new elders, a couple of the men mentioned that they have been helped by the idea of a “faithful presence.” Not surprisingly, those involved in the series were heavily influenced by the posture of faithful presence.
The concept of a faithful presence was developed by Christian theologian, Miroslav Volf. He wrote a terrific summary (it's not short!) of this in an article on “Soft Difference and 1 Peter.” Much has been developed around this concept, and I, for one, have greatly appreciated the trajectory of this work. Perhaps the most seminal in this stream has been "To Change The World" by James Davidson Hunter.
Hunter is often critiqued for not putting together a more directing plan of engagement. A recent work, "Revisiting Faithful Presence: To Change The World 5 Years Later", does its best to thoughtfully critique Hunter's offering. There is additional, missional and theologically driven, critiques offered by David VanDrunen’s work on “Living In God’s Two Kingdoms,” and a forthcoming book by Rod Dreher, advocating for “The Benedict Option.”
Overwhelmed yet? Perhaps you’re saying, “What does all that mean? What is a faithful presence? How are any of those books or theological debates going to encourage me today, when I need to go to work (or school, or stay home with the kids)?”
Even better question!
Simply stated, a faithful presence is about intentionally committing oneself to a living proclamation of the gospel in all of life (including the mundane monotony of weeks and years).
We are faithfully present at work when we show up, do our job well (because we are know we are working for the glory of God), seek to love our co-workers, and advocate for changes in the workplace that benefit the worker and the company.
We are faithfully present at school when we get to class on time, show respect for our teachers and fellow students (read: love our neighbors), stand up against bullying in all its forms, and do our best academically (because we are learning for the glory of God).
We are faithfully present in our families when we clean up after each other, make dinner, pay the bills, patiently encourage and even endure the sanctification of other family members (because we know our family exists for the glory of God) even through the teen years (I am speaking to parents and teens here), and seek to love our neighbors well.
You get the idea.
I think of Daniel in Babylon. He was called to have a faithful presence of serving in kingdom of exile, yet was well-positioned to speak prophetically at just the right times. When he had the opportunity, he took it. Similarly, Paul spent much of his time doing the work of church planting, but in Acts 17 was eager to speak into the assembly of academia.
Adopting a posture of faithful presence means we are always looking for an opportunity to speak and act decisively, intentionally, and strategically on behalf of the gospel. All the while, knowing that for long stretches, individuals, and even church communities, are simply called to "Keep Calm and Carry On".
In other words, a faithful presence is about “experiencing and extending the life-changing love of Jesus Christ in our homes, our workplaces, and our communities.”
Keep Calm. Carry on. Proclaim the gospel!