The ministry of presence outwardly appears like you’re doing nothing. It looks very passive, but I love it and am fascinated by it. The ministry of presence is basically making yourself available to be used by God.
One of the aspects of presence is being familiar. People are friendlier and tend to trust people they’ve seen before. Would you take coffee from a person you’ve never seen before in your life? What if they’re just there for a day seeking to poison a group of suckers? Yet, if it’s the third week in a row you’ve seen that stranger and they’re still nice and everyone is still a live, well, maybe you’ll trust a cup. Familiarity builds trust.
Once we gain this trust, how do we utilize it for the gospel? Well, we need to grow it. We at this point have enough trust to not seem villainous, but we don’t have the trust to speak into people’s lives. Anything is possible with God. Absolutely, but think about when you received unsolicited advice. More often than not it was rude and annoying to say the least. Yet, that’s about making friends for Jesus. Let’s talk about presence.
There are two things at The Gathering that we do primarily as the ministry of presence: prayer walking, and handing out coffee. These two things are done to build trust with whomever we are trying to reach. As students, we seek to teach you concepts of ministry to equip you for spreading the gospel after you leave college.
Let’s start with coffee. Yes, we do it to get more people to The Gathering, but for myself, that’s not my primary goal. The vast majority of people have preconceptions about Christians. A lot of people know things about Christ like we know people on Facebook. We know facts, but nothing of the person’s heart. As we hand out coffee with a smile and a few jokes, we’re basically trying to show people who Jesus really is. Jesus isn’t creepy. He isn’t a bigot that’s trying to stop the gays. “Oh you’re hung over? Here have some coffee to help you through your classes” We try our best to display the love of Christ.
So often people will ask “Why do you guys do this?” and I respond it’s because we as a college ministry believe Jesus loves them and we show it by handing out free coffee. It’s fun because I get so many reactions. One girl said that’s awesome and prayed for us: almost like she was trying to pay us back. Other people, through body language, responded like, “Oh, I don’t believe Jesus loves me. Do I have to give this coffee back?” Those are my favorite, because it’s causing them to reorganizing their thoughts about Christ.
People wear The Gathering shirts all the time. We hold up our symbol at the table and it reminds them we exist. Should anyone need prayer, worship, or even just coffee, The Gathering is the place to go. It’s also useful for seeing friends. Today, I handed out almost zero coffee cups, but I got to check up on a friend I haven’t seen in a while. It was very obvious God was present, and He made our paths cross. These unexpected interactions happen often when we make ourselves available.
Second let’s talk about prayer walking. Yes, our prayers do effect the things that we pray for. Absolutely. Spiritually astute people, like Brooke Cook, know when people are praying for her family. Brook said that she can tell when people pray for their family while Jeremy is gone. One way is her kids are better behaved. So, say a prayer for them right now, please. Sorry to put you on the spot Brook =).
STILL, the focus of prayer walking isn’t just praying for buildings or making yourself familiar to the community you’re trying to reach. Prayer walking also makes you interruptible for the gospel. I’ve ended up talking with people or helping people with their cars for the love of Christ. I once was hosting students from another campus in Hawaii, and as I walked by a guy I felt like something left my body and sat with that guy. It was so strange, but it was the Holy Spirit pulling me to that man. So I left the students I was hosting told them to go pray, and I sat with that man. It was an amazing conversation for the Lord. He was an Arab in Hawaii with preconceptions about Jesus, and I helped to clarify some of them. I didn’t have the Jesus prayer with him, but I knew I had done what God wanted. I felt great.
Even when I interact with no one on campus it’s still very rewarding to prayer walk because I get to interact with God. I’ve had very real praying moments just walking around Tech campus. I prayed for people in my head, but I also prayed for myself that I could reach them. I also just prayed about my life, and I felt God being with me.
The ministry of presence is work. It’s hard to interrupt our schedule and leave our comfy houses to do this. It’s not always ground-breaking, but it’s impactful. We go in unimpressively with simple plans, and little money, but the Lord goes with us in His glory. I absolutely believe God loves to “wow” us. There is nothing wrong with big expensive events that we hold once a year for God’s glory. Amen praise God for those. But I also love quiet weekly or daily sacrifices where God distills His universal glory down to a moment between two people. It’s too beautiful for words and just brings you to tears. May the Lord bless Tennessee Tech’s campus ministries.