The church is often (and rightfully so) portrayed as a body at work, doing things and laboring in love for the Lord in hands-on activities. But recently I was reminded that there is just as much value in what has come to be called the ministry of presence, the practice of just being there with someone in need, someone sick in the hospital, someone at home alone or someone recovering from loss. The greatest gift we can give someone sometimes is simply our physical presence. We don’t need to say a word, but we are there to talk if needed. We don’t need to busy ourselves with tasks, but we are available if a job happens to present itself.
I thought about something my uncle said about my aunt that her kids said in later years: “She was just always there.” It is a comfort to know that someone will be with you when you come home, when you encounter a difficulty and when you are seeking advice about something.
I also remember a couple from my parents’ church who sat in the waiting room with us while my dad was going through a complex surgery. We were not sure what the future held at that moment, but this couple remained there with us until we heard from the doctor that my dad was out of surgery and recovering. When I see this couple in church, I remember those hours they sat with us silently and also how they listened and responded to our fears and concerns. Their presence made an impact that will last in my memory as a ministry that got us through.
How can you take part in the ministry of presence in your life this week? Maybe it is asking someone, “How is it going?” and then really listening to the answer. Maybe it is watching TV with your mom while she watches her favorite show to share in that experience with her. Maybe it is sitting on the porch with your neighbor to listen to the birds and look at the trees and shoot the breeze. Perhaps there is a friend who hasn’t been out the house for awhile, so you can come to be with them where they are.
There’s no need to prepare for the time with someone. Just let it happen. Your presence alone points to the constant presence of our Immanuel, God with us, who said, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). He followed the ministry of presence perfectly.