Seven Disciplines That Shape the Church for Mission
David E. Fitch
Fitch introduces the book by talking about churches he visited when he was in college. He had many choices, and maybe to not attend church at all. What does the church have to offer the world? Faithful Presence is about how God meets us in the real world. We can experience God’s presence in our daily lives.
Part 1 God’s Faithful Presence
God’s presence is all around us. We just have to notice it. In chapter 1 the author talks about how people are not focused on God’s presence at his church. They weren’t connecting and being present during communion or worship. Why do we hide from God’s presence? He outlines places in the Bible that talk about God’s presence. God longs to be with us. The church is supposed to be where God’s faithful presence shows up. People refer to the kingdom of God as God’s presence, but God’s presence runs parallel to his kingdom.
In chapter 2, the author talks about how God changes the world. When we are present with one another, God works among us. The church is where we open up to God’s presence and to one another. He introduces seven disciplines we need to perform: the Lord’s table, reconciliation, proclaiming the gospel, being with the least of these, and being with children, the fivefold ministry, and kingdom prayer. God’s presence among us happens through mutual submission to one another in community.
Part 2: The Seven Disciplines
The first discipline of the Lord’s table focus is on being present with one another and people in our neighborhood. Because we are so busy today, we are starving for presence. We need to recognize Jesus’s presence at His table. God shapes us here.
He talks about three circles and how they are connected to each discipline. First is this closed circle is God presence with Christians. The second circle extends to the neighborhood and our communities around us. The third circle is God’s presence in the world as we reach out to those around us who don’t know Jesus. As we gather together to share one another is presence Christ comes in his presence.
The second discipline, reconciliation, is in ministry of Christians. We live in a world of broken relationships. As ambassadors of Christ, we can be faithfully present in this brokenness and show the reconciliation of Jesus. Reconciliation is a key part of the gospel. “It’s not a doctrine, it’s something to do is Jesus’s followers.” The author gives understanding on how to be ambassadors of reconciliation in the church, our neighborhood, and our world.
The third discipline is proclaiming the gospel. We need to be present in our relationships for the door to be open to program the gospel to people. All too often, we try to witness without understanding the person or situation they find themselves in. It’s an invitation to know Christ, but also to participate in His kingdom. We proclaim the gospel fire lifestyle and how we treat one another. Be humble and get to know a person before you proclaim the gospel to them.
The fourth discipline of being among “the least of these” calls us to be compassionate toward people who are on the fringes of society. People long for deeper relationships and when we share life with those who need that deeper relationship, we can meet their needs, and they can experience Jesus’s presence. The author gives five ways we can meet their needs. People at the end of their rope need that presence.
The next discipline is to be with children. This is a special gift, and not easily done in our world today. The author gives a short history of how the Church has dealt with children. Time families I am parents spend with their children has recently declined. But Jesus was present when He ministered to children. Parents need to be intentional about being present with their children. Children’s ministries in churches need to practice the same discipline.
The sixth discipline is the fivefold ministry to the body. This only happens effectively through surrender and submission to others, including leaders being submissive in some situations. People don’t trust the pastor when he or she uses authority because of the recent distrust of all forms of authority in our culture. The author explains mutual submission and how it plays out in the Church. Leadership can evaluate one another’s gifts and abilities. Ministry opens the gifts to operate in our communities.
The final discipline of kingdom prayer teaches us to pray God’s way, and for God’s kingdom to come through us. We can start with “listening prayer,” where we listen for God to speak before we we speak. We want to keep going with the program, but God wants us to focus on Him and pray for His kingdom purposes.
In the epilogue, the author explains how we can use the seven disciplines of faithful presence as a more effective Church. We must avoid devolving into maintenance and exhaustion mode as a Church. Neither of these approaches furthers God’s kingdom. We are at a crossroads. We must live a life devoted to God’s kingdom, and we do that through practicing faithful presence..
The appendices of the book give training on how to accomplish they seven disciplines. These are very helpful to understanding how to practice some of these disciplines. Other parts of them explains some of the concepts of the books in more detail.
I think if intentionally or not, the author tends to blur the lines between being present with people and God’s presence among us. People who are not Christians can witness the presence of God among other Christians, but sometimes the author does not make such distinctions. I understand that he might mean that we can have Christ’s presence with unbelievers as we minister to them. But I did not get that sense from the book. Nevertheless, this is a powerful book about the presence of Christ among us. I really liked the real life examples the author gave. They were powerful to demonstrate and illustrate what he was teaching about Christ’s presence and being present with one another. It is a very practical guide and approach to living Christ’s presents among believers and unbelievers. I recommend this book for anyone who needs to be more present and learn how to see God’s presence play out in their life in practical ways.