Home Outreach Leaders Articles for Outreach & Missions How the Presence of God Fuels Our Mission

How the Presence of God Fuels Our Mission

In Luke Chapter 10, Jesus tells his disciples who proclaim the gospel that “those who listened to you heard me, and those who rejected you reject me” (Luke 10:16). Jesus is saying he is present in the proclaiming of the gospel. In Matt. 25:34-46, in a parable, Jesus tells his disciples that when they are with “the least of these,” ministering among the poor, he is there present with them. In each of these disciplines—I contend in my book Faithful Presence that there are seven of these disciplines—Jesus promises to be present among us.

When we gather as Christians on Sunday, we gather to encounter his presence. We encounter his presence in all the ways described above: at the hearing of the gospel proclaimed, as we eat around the Table, as we tend to each other’s needs, as we discern conflicts together, as we submit our lives to God’s reign in prayer. Yet this experiencing of God’s presence does not stop when we leave church and go home. Because God is present and at work in the world, these disciplines help us discern his presence at work in the world, as well.

Discerning the Presence of God in House Groups

And so, when Christians gather in homes to eat together, we do just what we did on Sunday. We tend to the presence of God around the table. We give thanks and open our lives to whatever God would do here among us. We submit all things to Christ. We quiet our egos and tend to the people around the table. On Sunday, the bread and the cup taught us how God works in Christ. So we look for God bringing people to his forgiveness—reconciliation and renewal of all things. A space is opened up for God to work as Christians gather to eat in their neighborhoods.

One night, my “house group” was sitting around the table sharing a meal together as was our custom every Friday night. We were eating together, talking, listening and tending to one another. We had grown in trust. We had learned to recognize how Jesus was present among us. A few of us, including myself, shared about family struggles. People listened as we shared the conflicts we were struggling through.

As I listened to my friend share about how he and his wife were walking through the darkness, seeing little signs that God was taking them somewhere with their oldest child, I felt encouraged. I also saw some signs of hope in my own marriage. In conversation that night, I was challenged to look at my anger and control. Someone recalled a text from the previous Sunday’s sermon (one I had preached). I received all this because I was able to submit to Christ’s real presence at work around this table. That same night, Hillary, one of our friends, was with us. As she listened, her eyes widened. She said nothing. But God was speaking. She was seeing new possibilities for healing in her own family relationships.

As we prayed that night, we put all these things before God, asking him to be present. As I looked back weeks later, I recognized how that night had opened up space for the presence of God to work in all of our lives and disciple us into the ways of Jesus in our families.

The Presence of God Always Takes Us Into the World

But of course God is at work among those who do not yet recognize him as Lord. And so the things we practice on Sunday and live around our tables at home must extend into the places where he is not yet recognized.

As we go to the various third places of our lives—the YMCAs, the PTA meetings, the coffee houses, the local bars, the parks where children and parents play, the town hall meetings, the places where we work, wherever we share a meal or a beverage—we go in the confidence that God is already present there, as well. The only difference between these places and our homes is that we are guests in these places. We come to sit, listen and tend to what God is doing among others, and when the space is opened, we offer reconciliation, pray for healing and proclaim the gospel. We know Christ is there, but we cannot assume he will be welcomed. This is all under his lordship and yet to be seen.

For years, I spent the first three hours of my day at a McDonald’s, grading papers and doing communications and other work I had to get done. The coffee was cheap and the Wi-Fi was free. Over time, I began to be open to discerning the presence of God in that place. I saw an amazing cacophony of people flowing through there, many seeking to be known and to know others. They were seeking presence. As I made myself available, as I listened and tended to people, a space opened for Jesus to be present. The booth in McDonald’s would be transformed into an extension of the Lord’s Table.