Wednesday, May 06, 2015
You’ve gotten that party invitation before, right? It tells you when to arrive, where to come, what to wear, and that “your presence is your present.” It’s a gracious way of saying there’s no need to bring a gift because it adds that your celebrating with the guest of honor is itself a gift.
In our relationships, the “ministry of presence” is valuable beyond words (literally). There are moments when there is little or nothing helpful to say. But the fact that someone was there – being present with you, experiencing life with you, crying with you, holding you – made all the difference. It means you’re no longer grieving, wondering, or struggling alone; someone has entered in to shoulder the burden with you even though they can’t say or do anything to make it go away.
In my opinion, this is one of the greatest gifts we give to each other in small groups, in true community. It’s a gift in all sorts of situations – good and bad, mundane and crisis. It’s the friends showing up on your doorstep late at night when you’ve just lost a loved one. It’s the brothers and sisters joining you to celebrate a child’s graduation or wedding. It’s the friend sitting with you while you wait for the surgery to finish or the test results to come back. It’s the group who has prayed with you during 50 gatherings week in and week out for the last two years. In all of those moments, their presence is their present!
One of the reasons the ministry of presence is so important is that it is so like God. The consistent message of Scripture (its most repeated command) is “do not fear,” and the consistent comfort (its most repeated reason not to fear) is “for I am with you.” Particularly in the person of Jesus, God showed up to be present in our pain and struggle. Now of course God has also worked to solve our greatest problem and remove our deepest pain. But often he doesn’t show up to “fix” the particular situation; rather, he promises to endure the pain with us, to be present to remind us we are not alone and we can trust him.
As a small group leader, friend, spouse, or parent, there will be many times you feel you don’t have the right words to say. You feel awkward, inadequate, burdensome. It may be quite the opposite. It may be that no words are needed. It may be you are deeply comforting and helpful. It may be the best gift you can give is “just” being there. In our fast-paced, self-serving world where time is always of the essence, slowing down to give the present of your presence is indeed a great gift.
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You'll find most of my recommended books available in the Guest Center at Southwood.
You Can Change
How do we mortify sin? How do we address the sin in our lives that reignite like a trick birthday candle we thought we had already blown out of our lives? This is a careful and thoroughly theological book that is hopeful without avoiding honesty. It is practical without being legalistic. It gets to the root of the sinful areas of our lives without offering a prescriptive regimen to hide behind avoiding the grace that has the only true power to teach “us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” Titus 2:11-14
Relationships: A Mess Worth Making
Timothy Lane & Paul Tripp
Small groups would be easy if weren’t for the people in the group! This book will help equip you to see your own sin first and provide the courage and humility to address it in others.
The Heart of a Servant Leader
This is a collection of letters written by Jack Miller to people experiencing real-life concerns and struggles. Through these gracious and honest letters you will learn how to humbly offer to others (and yourself!) hope, repentance, and courage that flows from the truth of the gospel of grace. Though this isn’t a “how to” book full of nifty steps to Your Best Gospel Life Now. It’s a glimpse into the heart of a person who has found food at the Cross, and you watch (and learn) as he humbly points others to the feast.
Comforts From The Cross
Elyse M. Fitzpatrick
This 31 day devotional will bring you to the foot of the cross to remember and celebrate the truth of the gospel of grace, and develop skills that will help “inform, free, gladden, and enliven your soul every day.” Becoming proficient in applying the Gospel of grace to our own hearts is a key skill that is well worth our effort to develop.
- Christ PCA - Nashville
Scott Sauls and CPC Staff
Listen to sermons from Senior Pastor Scott Sauls and other CPC pastors at a sister church.
- Lookout Mountain PCA
Joe Novenson and LMPC Staff
Check out sermons by Senior Pastor Joe Novenson and other LMPC pastors at a sister church.
- Steve Brown Etc.
Steve Brown’s unique blend of orthodoxy and controversy, humor and profundity, and a refusal to play religious games will give you permission you have needed to stop being so uptight. And even if it’s for 30 minutes, you just might experience radical freedom, infectious joy and maybe even a bit of surprising faithfulness.
- Tim Chester: reformed spirituality and missional church
Tim has an incredible way of applying the Gospel of grace that is both practical and honest with a consistent skillful affinity to point us to Jesus. He is director of The Porterbrook Institute; a church planter with The Crowded House in Sheffield, UK; and the author of over a dozen books including Total Church and You Can Change.
- Of First Importance
Living Each Day in the Good of The Gospel
Here you will find a growing collection of gospel-centered quotes to help reorient your thoughts toward the splendor and grandeur of the person and work of Jesus.