Faithful Presence: Seven Disciplines that Shape the Church for Mission
David E. Fitch
InterVarsity Press, 2016. 228pp.
What does the church offer a world wrestling with poverty, racism, loneliness and pain? David Fitch argues that God is at work in and through his people to be a faithful presence in the world. Fitch suggests that “this sense of God’s presence has been lost in our modern world, even among Christians” (24). What is the solution? The faithful presence of the church lived out in various realms together. Fitch argues that when the church manifests and recognizes Jesus’ presence in their midst, it can then “participate in [Jesus’] work in the world, and his presence becomes visible” (26). The aim of this faithful presence, which Fitch summarizes as seven disciplines, moves the church towards incarnational ministry that lives out Christ’s presence among the hurting, lost and broken.
In the first two chapters Fitch describes what it means for the church to be God’s faithful presence, and in the following seven chapters he focuses on seven different disciplines: 1) the Lord’s table, 2) reconciliation, 3) proclaiming the gospel, 4) being with “the least of these,” 5) being with children, 6) the fivefold gifting, and 7) kingdom prayer.
Fitch argues that each of the disciplines are at work in three different realms. These disciplines impact the circle of committed Christ followers (close circle), then impact neighbors and strangers surrounding a Christian disciple (dotted circle), and then continues to move into the realm of the hurting and wandering (half circle). Fitch makes a case for the gathered church of Christ to extend Jesus’ presence into our spheres of influence and to minister among those on the margins of society. Fitch describes a movement and method for the church to consider missional living as an organic outgrowth of encountering the presence of Jesus and extending that presence faithfully into the world.
Benefit for Pastoral Ministry
Fitch writes as one who is clearly a practitioner who has tested his ideas and concepts in the real world. I appreciated his emphasis on the church—as opposed to individuals—as God’s primary vehicle to bring transformation to broken people in our communities. Fitch’s warnings against corporate, business-like and maintenance-minded ways of doing church is a welcomed breath of fresh air. I am encouraged by his vision and desire to see the church as God’s faithful presence, pushing back against a missional mindset that is primarily individualistic. Fitch writes to provide a picture of how the church can reflect God in the world instead of emphasizing an individualistic approach to reaching the lost in one’s community.
I found Fitch’s wording and terminology both unique and poetic, albeit at times confusing and vague. While he writes distinctly from a different tradition than the one I inhabit, Fitch provides thought-provoking ideas to consider. Whether you’re well steeped in Fitch’s circle, or an outsider, you’ll find the content both engaging and challenging as you consider how the church will engage, reach and transform both the lost in our communities and the brokenness of the world around us.
Essential — Recommended — Helpful — Pass It By