One of Jesus’ major functions on this earth was to demonstrate what it meant to have “God with us.” In the same way, through our presence in the lives of others, we are able to show that God is still with us. He is intimately concerned with what concerns us. In His parable about the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus makes it clear that we are to reach out in tangible ways to the people around us. Not only are we to see Jesus in “the least of these,” but others should see Jesus in us. As we will learn from the stories below, our interactions with people are a testament to the Jesus we serve.
A church plant initiative took advantage of the unseasonably
warm fall weather to host a service in the park. James, an elder
who had just started working with the church, noticed a couple
who had come with their infant daughter. This couple, who were
not members of the church or even Adventists, had been attending
the plant on a semi-regular basis. As the weather started
to get cold, the couple was not sure what to do because their
daughter was not dressed warmly. The elder, remembering that
he kept a blanket in his car, ran to get it for them. The couple was
surprised by the gesture but thankful that they could stay and
worship. The couple began attending the New Believer’s Sabbath
School class that James taught and soon made a decision
to be baptized. Four months after the church picnic, James and
the pastor baptized the couple. What joy it was for the elder to
see how one seemingly insignificant action could impact a whole
family for Christ.
Taking time to pay attention to people and being attentive
to those around you will not only bring smiles to their faces but
to yours as well. “We little know the bearing of our acts upon
the experience of others. What we do or say may seem to us
of little moment, when, could our eyes be opened, we should
see that upon it depended the most important results for good
or for evil.”1
Mary, one of the local elders, befriended a young woman who
had moved into the area and starting attending church. When the
young woman’s church attendance dropped off, Mary made a
point to connect with her. The young woman was struggling in
her faith and feeling unsure about where her life was leading.
Mary knew that she would not be able to provide all the answers
but felt strongly that she needed to be intentional about keeping a
connection with the young woman. So they arranged a standing
lunch date once a week in which they could talk about the daily
ups and downs of life, including spiritual matters. During these lunches, the young woman is able to voice her struggles without
fear of judgment. Although Mary cannot always relate to the
struggles, she continues to listen and be present. Both Mary and
the young woman are thankful to have the opportunity to deepen
People are hurting all around us. Marriages, careers, and family
problems abound; spiritual, emotional, and physical aches are
present. So we must bring to those people the presence of Jesus
which brings peace, hope, and rest. “Come to me, all you who
are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).
In addition to being in the right place at the right time, a ministry
of presence is also manifested in intentionally providing for
the felt needs of both members and the community. Many elders
hold English classes for immigrants or computer classes for people
returning to the workforce. Others provide welcome baskets
to families who move into the neighborhood, while some coordinate
Welcome Baby baskets for new mothers at the local hospital.
Some elders focus on a reconnecting ministry and reach out
to former members, often through visitation. And visitation goes
beyond the home and the hospital. For example, an elder with a
gift for hospitality might invite families to her home several times
a month for Sabbath dinner. Or an elder could make phone calls
or send cards to let people know someone is thinking of them.
OPEN TO THE HOLY SPIRIT
As a Navy Chaplain candidate, Kristy has come to understand
the significance of the ministry of presence. It is about
holding the hand of the hurting and slowing down enough to walk
beside these individuals. We worship a “God of all comfort, who
comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in
any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2
Cor. 1:3, 4). It is about helping people realize that the Holy Spirit
can empower them to move forward in their spiritual journey.
Allow yourself to be a conduit for the One who loves this world
unto death (John 3:16).
S. Joseph Kidder is a professor of church growth and leadership
at the Andrews University Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary
in Berrien Springs, Michigan, USA.
Kristy L. Hodson is a student at Andrews University.
To avoid confusion, we will refer to S. Joseph Kidder with the pronoun “I” and reference Kristy by name.
Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press,