Photo Credit: Myself at the Aldersgate Memorial in London, 2011

Photo Credit: Myself at the Aldersgate Memorial in London, 2011

Showing Up
The Missional Community as a Means of Grace, Week 5
Adam White

We should never underestimate the power of showing up.

I serve at a local United Methodist Church in East Dallas and have the humble opportunity to lead different classes, studies, and programs. Every week there is a Wednesday Bible study where a group of around ten to twelve older adults come and engage in discussion around scripture. I have had the pleasure of leading this study every so often, and the openness and dialogue within the group is spiritually fulfilling. What I love about the group is that everyone participates in contributing to the lesson.

For a long time, I thought that participation in such a setting was sharing thoughts through conversation. However, I have learned that showing up and being present is just as important. An older man who comes consistently to the Bible study rarely offers his insight vocally. Rather, this person contributes his presence and willingness to listen and discern inwardly to the group.

After a few times of observing this dynamic, I asked the man one Wednesday what he thought about the study. With a wide and sincere smile he looked at me and said, “It is probably one of the most important parts of my week. I get to come and spend time being with my friends as I listen to God speak.”

I realized through the profound and quiet wisdom this man offered that a vital step of our growing in faith and becoming disciples that follow Christ first requires us to show up and be present. As God’s missional Spirit leads us, we will find ourselves in the amazing position to listen and hear God speak to us. This to me is an essential part of our faith journey: showing up.

When we show up, we allow God to work through us and in us as we form sacred bonds of living into a missional body of Christ. Showing up is one of the first steps we experience with God’s justifying grace. Led by the Spirit, God drags us, sometimes willingly, sometimes reluctantly, to the places and people that can deepen our affection towards serving God and neighbor more fully.

Heck, look at John Wesley as a prime example. The famous Aldersgate Moment, this vital assurance from God that Wesley received as a means to help spiritually revive England with the Methodist Movement, at first John was not really that keen or interested to even show up! He began describing his pivotal heart-strangely-warmed experience by first admitting, “In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street…” [1] Wow. For the magnitude and outcome of what would be offering his entire life to missionally following God, it is pretty underwhelming and even disturbing to hear that John showed up “very unwillingly” at the start.

Even unwillingly, the power of showing up and being open and present to what God’s Spirit is calling us toward is full of grace.

Missionally, we can find ourselves exploring and fulfilling some pretty amazing visions and projects within our communities, but they all start with first showing up. Coming into a place where we can be willing to hear God speak and don’t even have to offer words back. As we show up, we offer ourselves as a vessel to hear and respond with others in community together to what God is saying. This is the kind of grace that justifies us, a grace that call us to be present and to expect that our wills and affections will be transformed in Christ.

From a place of showing up we find ourselves responding to God and neighbor through together practicing prayer, hospitality, and active works of justice.

But first, we have to be willing to show up.

Invitation to Missional Mindfulness:

  • Where do you find God leading you to “show up” and be present around your local community?

  • Reflect on a time in your life where you may have been “very unwilling” to show up somewhere and yet were still spiritually moved by God.

  • Who is a person or group of people that you feel the need to “show up” and be present to be with and listen?

[1] Wesley, John. Journal and Diaries, ed. W. Reginald Ward and Richard P. Heitzenrater, 7 vols. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1988– 2003), vol. 18 of The Bicentennial Edition of The Works of John Wesley, 249-50.