DMINLGP

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

Faithful Presence for the Duration

Written by: on March 3, 2019

Hunter is a sociologist based at the University of Virginia who has spent much of his academic career analyzing the ‘culture wars’ within the US. In his To Change The World, the author summarizes the irony of the Christian right, the Christian left, and the neo-anabaptist movement interacting with culture. Hunter ultimately calls for a positive Christian posture of ‘faithful presence’ — salting every social structure of culture. His new paradigm would be formed to look like ‘a new city commons’ out of Jeremiah 29:7.  In this new paradigm, God’s scattered, exiled people, in post-Constantinian modernity’s neighborhoods, would settle down for the long haul, seeking to share God’s shalom (peaceable prosperity) with their neighbors through ‘faithful presence.’ Hunter’s humble image of ‘faithful presence’ contends for a Church that may not only survive but thrive within our common, pluralistic, and secular culture.[1] Hunter’s approach is far more hopeful, pragmatic, and accessible than Miller’s approach in Consuming Religion. While both examine the interaction of the Church within the cultural landscape of the Us, Hunter provides a cogent, pragmatic and powerful way forward for the Church.

Hunter speaks clearly towards leadership of a theology of faithful presence in practice. He contends that we all exercise influence within our relative contexts and ergo exercise leadership accordingly. To complete the tautology, we also are all followers who are held accountable to others. Hunter, therefore, sees leadership throughout the Church as all Christians bearing the burden of leadership, both influence, and accountability.[2] I must say I find Hunter’s paradigm, his theology of faithful presence, and his attendant view of influential and accountable leadership throughout the Church, refreshing, inspiring, and challenging.

It is refreshing in that it assesses the contemporary power and political views across the Christian spectrum fairly and academically and ultimately finds them wanting. They are found lacking in both theological coherence and orthodoxy. While all are well-intentioned, they are neither wise, sustainable, or effective (much like the final verse in Judges, each individual (group) does what they think to be right). Hunter’s views are inspiring in that they provide the Church a pragmatic approach to moving forward. By reviewing what God has done before in and through his people in a foreign culture and without political power (given Jeremiah 29’s context), the Church can find a way to love its own diversity and work for the welfare of all the communities where it has been planted. Given the above, there remains a momentous challenge, that is the humbling of ourselves to seek the welfare of the other for the welfare of the community.

Hunter states, “What I am suggesting again is a new paradigm of being the church in the late modern world. The institutional aspect of faithful presence means that Christians and the church are settling in for the duration.”[3] As I reflect upon Hunter’s challenge, I am reminded of a field trip visit we made last week to one of our Houston area church plants that just celebrated their twentieth anniversary and moved into their newly constructed church facility some eleven months ago. As we met with their staff and prayed for them to be a blessing in their community, their retiring senior pastor quoted the verse that they have lived by in their desire to serve their diverse community. He quoted John 1:14 out of The Message, “The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes,…Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.” May we all be the Church in our neighborhoods that reflects his glory, his generosity, and his truth – throughout every social structure of our culture, for the duration.

[1] Preece, Gordon, Is Politics Passé? Zadok Perspectives 120, Spring (2013), 20-21.

[2] Hunter, James Davison, To Change The World: The Irony, Tragedy, & Possiiity of Christianity In The Late Modern World (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2010) 256.

[3] Hunter, To Change The World, 270.

About the Author

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Harry Fritzenschaft

Harry is the Coordinator of Coaching for Multiply Vineyard (the church planting resource arm for Vineyard USA) and part-time pastor of business administration for the Vineyard Church of Houston. He is a certified coach with the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and is pursuing a DMin in Leadership and Global Perspective with a focus on internal coaching networks. Harry has been married to Gloria for almost forty-two years and has two grown children; Michelle, who is married to Brandon and has two sons (Caleb and Judah), and Mark, who is engaged to Cannus. He loves making new friends (living and dead) from different perspectives, watching college football with Mark, and helping global ministry leaders (especially church planters and pastors) accomplish their goals in fulfilling their call. He especially loves learning about and nurturing internal coaching networks.

4 responses to “Faithful Presence for the Duration”

  1. mm Mary Mims says:

    Harry, beautiful post. I like what you said about being the church in our neighborhood! I think about how we work with the elementary school in our neighborhood, and how the same children come to our Easter Egg hunt. We are making a difference where we are, and that’s what’s important.

    • mm Harry Fritzenschaft says:

      Mary, you are making a difference where you are. Your leadership is influencing your church and its life changing work with the children of your neighborhood elementary school. Thank you for your pragmatic example of influencing both the individual and the institution. I appreciate your leadership.

  2. mm Nancy VanderRoest says:

    Thanks for sharing your blog, Harry. I appreciated your statement that ‘Hunter provided a cogent and pragmatic way forward for the Church.’ I got lost in some of Hunter’s idea that the point of the church is not to change the world but to bear witness to the world in word (not so much deed), which I didn’t agree with. Yet, I agree that ‘faithful presence’ is being there for the secular world; both in word and deed. So I appreciated your reflection, Harry.

  3. mm Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Nancy, I appreciate your encouragement and affirmation. Perhaps you know that I am not much of a “macro” leader. My heart beats to influence pastors and church planters to serve their neighborhoods faithfully for the duration. I was surprised how helpful Hunter’s proposals were and will probably include him in my research. Thanks again for your faithful presence within your culture.

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