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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Ministry of Presence

I was recently asked “What theology grounds your work in the particular ministry you conduct?” In other words, “What do you believe about God? ….that makes you do this work?”

Sparknotes help: Theology can mean “Knowing about God”. As such, “What is your theology?” means “What do you believe about God?”

As I continue to flesh out my beliefs, the following phrases have become key:

Ministry of Presence

Ministry of Empowerment

Think about these ideas for a minute, and what they tell you about God.

An African sunset to help you focus :)

…Yes? You’d like my thoughts? Glad you asked!

Ministry of Presence:
Think about the most influential mentors in your life; did they impose their own beliefs, or did they let you explore and decide for yourself? The expression of God does not necessitate verbal evangelism. It sometimes involves just being there.

I do not have a monopoly on God. As such, I do not always know what God desires of my fellow man. If they feel a calling toward Y, and my experience with God makes me think they should do X, I have no right to steer their life for them. I’ll offer my input if they want it, but I yield to their decisions. If they later decide that Y wasn’t quite right, and start striving for X instead -or Z- then great! If they remain with Y, great! My role is to support them on their journey, not make the decisions for them.

This cultivation of Theology, or “knowledge of God”, was the touchstone of this year-long endeavor. I still remember the first night of Discernment Weekend, hearing the term “Ministry of Presence”, and how it so succinctly expressed what I had pondered for quite some time.

Ministry of Empowerment: Continuing the “I am not God” theme, my service should entail empowering others to act for themselves. If I proverbially hold a person’s hand during a process, and thus take away from their experience, then I have done a great disservice. There is a balance to this, but more often then not it entails less of you. Here’s one way to gauge: If your companion doesn’t have the chance to make their own mistakes, you have too much control.

We have two regular attendees at our after school clinic, and I could do every homework assignment they have. When they need to find pictures online, for example, I automatically know what to do. However, having each student sit in the computer chair, stumble with the mouse, and slowly type words into a search bar is far more beneficial for them. In these 3 weeks of internet-related assignments, their computer proficiency has noticeably improved. It’s still a slow process, but it’s worthwhile. And it is celebratory. Their excitement at seeing a picture they found is a sight to behold (It’s partly why it takes so long, but I digress :)
And to clarify: I do not do homework for students :)

So why do I leave home for God? 

James Huntington, founder of the Order of the Holy Cross
Belief in God propels us to action. His presence is more action-oriented than any verb we knew. To quote James Huntington “Love must act as light must shine and fire must burn”.

This is not about the physical act of leaving. “Mission Work” is almost a frivolous term; everything you do should be a manifestation of God’s presence in you. Do you realize God exists? Do you realize He works in His people? Congratulations! You are a missionary. I did not become a missionary when I arrived in South Africa; I became a missionary 10 years ago when I first believed in God.

“Mission” is sharing your unique expression of Christ with others, and allowing others to share their unique expression of Christ with you. If this expression does indeed land me in another country, the stark differences between me and my neighbor mean a greater chance for learning about fellow expressions of Christ, thus producing a more magnified understanding of God.

Last thought for now: Do you notice how this changes you more than the people you serve? In my times of living out my faith, I realize the person God truly changes is me.

1 comment:

  1. Cameron! I think I learned more about you in this blogpost than I've ever heard you talk about. Thank you. Yoga has a similar philosophy in that it doesn't just happen "on the mat." It is a way of life and a way of seeing people and behaving in the world.