2. The Practice of Being Present
“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.
“When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ – Luke 10:5-8
If being sent is the start of doing ministry in a post-Christian culture, then the practice of being present naturally follows. When we are sent we take up the responsibility of being present with and amongst those we are sent to. This is the way of Jesus. In his incarnation, Jesus is sent to our world and remains present in and amongst us. By being present with us, he hears our stories, mourns while we mourn, rejoices while we rejoice, and our lives are integrated into his and his mission of reconciliation in the world.
When Jesus sends the 72 on mission, he commands to them stay, eat and drink. He is calling them to be present amongst those to whom they are sent. Just as he has been sent to and is present with the world, he calls his followers to be sent and then to practice being present with those in the world.
As I have been sent to a quirky record store and coffee shop I have begun to bring people from my church with me. We have made the decision to intentionally be present with the people who regularly frequent the shop. We have learned their names, listened to their stories, been challenged by their beliefs, and have become part of their community. We didn’t come with a program to fit people into, but with the intent of being present in the culture that already exists.
When we choose to be present in a post-Christian community and culture, we can begin to see what God is doing. Through the acts of listening, sharing stories and sharing a table we discern the presence of Christ amongst us and reveal him through our faithful presence to a world that does not know him.
3. The Practice of Hospitality
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:38-42
Over time, often months, of being continually sent and faithfully present we begin to transition from being the guest to becoming the host. At some point in our engagement with a post-Christian culture and its people we have to begin to invite our friends and neighbors into our homes and to share our tables. We never lead with invitation. Invitation happens after we have been sent and present for a good amount of time.
When people begin to enter our homes and share meals around our tables, we are practicing hospitality. As we enter into this practice it is important to understand that hospitality and entertaining are not the same thing. In the story of Mary and Martha, Martha is focused on entertaining while Mary is focused on hospitality. Martha wants the house and food perfect while Mary wants to spend time with Jesus.