DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Faithful Presence

Written by: on April 16, 2015

I thoroughly enjoyed James Davison Hunter’s book To Change The World. This is one of those books I’ll be diving more deeply into one day when all my other writing and reading slows down.

Whereas last week Douthat was encouraging culture change in his book through getting back to orthodox theological roots. According to Hunter, cultural change happens from the top down, not simply through clever personalities, ideas, or grass root undertakings, but rather through well-known systems, educational institutions and organizations, along with the provision of resources to finance this work. According to Hunter, changing the hearts of individuals is a worthy work but not enough for cultural change. Hunter believes if we fail to influence important power structures such as the fields of politics, education, and so on, we will make no impact on the culture no matter how many people throughout society embrace a Christian view.

Reading this section reminded me of a missionary couple I met years ago. They owned and operated the C Street house in Washington DC. The worked with an organization called The Fellowship and their mission was to reach out to powerful men and women worldwide. They told me if you really wanted to love the poor then you need to influence the rich for Jesus. To be honest it was hard for me to question them too much because I sensed genuineness regarding their calling. This husband and wife were trying to love congressmen and congresswomen for Jesus in hopes of having a greater impact on the poor. I’ve often thought of this couple and their top down approach to ministry.

Hunter shows how this is necessary and one example he shares is the Carolingian resurgence, he writes, “In the end, the good that was produced did not come about through literary, textual, musical, and artistic genius alone. Nor was it the result of brilliant administrative initiative. By the same token, neither was it a creation of the extraordinary wealth and patronage of the nobility. It was, of course, a result of the coming together of all three at once.[1]

One of Hunter’s many ways to influence culture from the top down is what he calls a theology of faithful presence. This was easily my favorite part of Hunter’s book as he spoke of our individual role and how it can have institutional impact. Hunter says, “For the Christian, if there is a possibility for human flourishing in a world such as ours, it begins when God’s word of love becomes flesh in us, is embodied in us, is enacted through us and in doing so, a trust is forged between the word spoken and the reality to which it speaks; to the words we speak and the realities to which we, the church point.[2]” And then Hunter goes on to offer four attributes to describe God’s faithful presence to us:

#1 He pursues us.

#2 His identification with us.

#3 The life He offers us.

#4 His sacrificial love[3].

Hunter’s four attributes are a powerful reminder of the Heavenly Father’s love and pursuit of us and provides a powerful reminder of what should motivates us in regards to our relationships with others. One of my favorite quotes from Hunter is “a theology of faithful practice is a theology of engagement in and with the world around us. It is a theology of commitment, a theology of promise. It is disarmingly simple in concept yet in its implications it provides a challenge, at points, to all of the dominant paradigms of cultural engagement in the church.[4]” I pray that I may be more engaged in the ministry of faithful presence.

 


 

[1] James D. Hunter, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2010), 64

[2] Ibid., 241

[3] Ibid., 241-242

[4] Ibid., 243

About the Author

mm

Nick Martineau

Nick is a pastor at Hope Community Church in Andover, KS, founder of ILoveOrphans.com, and part of the LGP5 cohort.

11 responses to “Faithful Presence”

  1. mm Brian Yost says:

    Nick,
    The section on faithful presence was one of my favorites also. The thought of all of the key parts of cultural change coming together at the right moment and in the right place can become overwhelming. What we can do, is faithfully practice the presence of God in our lives and ministries. I join you in your prayer; “that I may be more engaged in the ministry of faithful presence.”

    • mm Nick Martineau says:

      Everything coming together at the same time must be the work of the Holy Spirit. We just play our part…That’s why I really enjoyed reading your post. Thanks Brian.

  2. Jon Spellman says:

    So, Nick, I’m wondering if there isn’t a danger of possibly assigning a higher value to people of power than regular old commoners? If Hunter’s thesis would provide a license to pursue people in the power structures while relegating simple, everyday folks to secondary attentional terms of the gospel? Since, after all, it takes transformation from the top to really make substantive change?

    J

    • mm Nick Martineau says:

      Jon…Really good question. Hierarchy seems to be a part of the order of our world…It just seems that’s the way things work. But I also hear the words of Jesus calling us to become the least…

      I think it comes in the way you framed the question. You said, “isn’t a danger of possibly assigning a higher value to people of power than regular old commoners?” VALUE is the interesting word. I’m not sure we can assign a higher value to people but there are some people in this world that the Heavenly Father has placed in positions of authority and therefore carry more influence. It just seems wise to pursue those positions for the sake of the Kingdom.

  3. Phillip Struckmeyer says:

    Nick, I see your prayer being answered . . . “I pray that I may be more engaged in the ministry of faithful presence.” From our time in Cape Town and many of your posts, I get the sense that you lead out of a faithful presence in your life and ministry and I think your ministry and organization speak to how God can move in amazing ways if we do our faithful part. I appreciate your perspective bro.

    • mm Nick Martineau says:

      Thanks Phil…It’s amazing how much we learned bout each other during our short time together in Cape Town and all the posts we read. I’m really looking forward to being back together in Hong Kong.

  4. mm Dave Young says:

    Nick, ‘Ministry of presence’ I had heard that described before in the context of chaplaincy. Military chaplaincy for example has a significant ‘ministry of presence’ with their forces. Anyway what really drew my attention in your post is the appreciation of Hunter’s advance of a Top-down recommendation. There is little in evangelical circles that supports top-down. Well I guess I’m thinking specifically about missions. So much focuses on the masses, on the poor, needy, responsive. But there is only the rare mention of focused ministry for the wealthy, business leaders, society and government leaders. Wouldn’t a significant influence and transformation of their lives, wouldn’t it open the door for a greater influence of the gospel. I’ve seen this strategy work in the International church.

    • mm Nick Martineau says:

      I have a handful of friends involved in The Fellowship…which primarily focuses on top-down ministry. I’ve often wrestled with it but I think it comes down to being faithful to who you are, where you are placed…and ultimately faithful to His presence.

  5. mm Mary Pandiani says:

    Nick – I’m quite well aware of the Fellowship, and I too have struggled, even in all their genuine and loving approach, with their focus on the elite. In many ways, they are following Hunter’s first essay’s recommendation. But for Hunter’s underlying theme of faithful presence, the focus falls not on making change in high places, but in simple faithfulness. And we can respond in faithfulness because of God’s faithfulness as you remind us in the four attributes.

    • mm Nick Martineau says:

      Sometime later…maybe in Hong Kong…I’d love to hear about your experiences with The Fellowship. I actually have a number of friends a part of their group and a number of years back we seriously considered going on staff with them. It just never felt right to me…Ultimately, I think a top down approach only works if you are practicing the ministry of faithful presence. Just being who you are and being faithful.

  6. mm Travis Biglow says:

    Amen Nick,

    It is kind of hard now to effect political structures because many of them are becoming Anit-Chrisitan for some reason. They dont seem to fight against other beliefs but ours. I think we need to really focus on changing how our ecclesiastical structures operate first because that is getting out of hand!

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