"The hospitality and pastoral care practiced in the Celtic and Angelo-Saxon monasteries was part and parcel of a broader ministry of presence and availability in which the Church's primary role was conceived of as simply being there in the midst of the people. The ministry of the presence was exercised both inside and outside the confines of the monastic vallum...The exercise of this pastoral ministry of the presence was seen as a more important function for the Church than engaging in mission or evangelism." (Ian Bradley "Colonies of Heaven: Celtic s for Today's Church")

As I am learning more about the early Celtic Church I am finding myself drawn more and more to the Celtic concept of "ministry of the presence". The idea being that it was enough for believers to just be around people. There was no need to preach or evangelize or attempt to convert for the sake of conversion. Instead the Celtic Christians realized that just by being around people and building relationships and getting involved in their lives ministry was taking place.

It is good to see this concept begin to make a comeback. From what I can see more and more Christians are starting to see the value in loving people purely because they are image bearers of God, not because there is a hidden agenda to convert them to Christianity. Making this change in our mentality allows the doors of ministry to open in ways that 30-40 years ago would have not even been considered. Churches are starting to open community centers that provide childcare, after school programs, education classes and even community health clinics. Believers are beginning to build meaningful relationships with their co-workers and neighbors that move deeper than a potential evangelistic target. And in the midst of this doors are opened for the Kingdom of God to advance.

For me the ministry of the presence takes the form of our weekly "Drop In" at the church. Every Thursday night we block off a large section of our parking lot and open up the youth building to give the teens in our community a place to hang out. They come to play basketball and dodge ball in the gym, play video games, shoot pool and play air hockey in the youth room and skateboard/bmx in the church parking lot. We have built/purchased ramps and grind rails for them to use outside as well as balls and games for use inside. We also cook between 75-150 hotdogs for the teens every week. This coming Summer will mark the fifth year of doing the Drop In. We started off with only a handfull of kids (15-25) and are now seeing between 50-70 teens show up every week, the majority of them have little to no church background. There have been many who have asked us what the fruit is that we are seeing, meaning how many kids are getting "saved". They want to know why we don't make the teens sit down for a Bible study or short teaching each week. For some unless we are sharing the Word of God with these kids on a weekly basis then there is no value in it. I think the early Celts would dissagree. We have discovered that there is value in just being here. The realationships that have been built with the kids who have come through the Drop In over the last 4-5 years are priceless. These kids have told us that they count there weeks by "Thursday nights". This is the one highlight to their week and by us just being there consistantly we have built a trust with many of them. They open up to us and share their problems. We are able to pray for them when they are going through difficult times, even if they don't know we are praying. I just reciently had the opportunity to talk with a teen whose grandfather had passed away and wanted to know if he was in heaven. A couple weeks after that I prayed with a teen whose best friend had just gotten hurt in a serious dirt biking accident. And yes, we have even had some of the teens come to church in the past couple of years.

Ministry is happeneing just because we are who we are, not because we are forcing it. St Francis' words ring just as true now as ever "preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words." It is my prayer that God would help us all to see where our presence is all that is needed.


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