by Sharon R. Hoover, Frontier Fellowship board member + author of Mapping Church Missions: A Compass for Ministry Strategy
Presence is a cornerstone of our faith. Jesus Christ, God with us, walked among us to introduce the new Kingdom come. And yet today, under the cloud of a global pandemic, physical presence with others is quite limited. Social distancing is redefining parameters for presence. It’s a call to new strategies.
One of my favorite roles as a church missions leader is connector. I love introducing our congregation to new ministry opportunities. Shared passions bring supporters and missionaries together, creating new partnerships to further the Gospel. During this unusual season, could it be a time to deepen or to develop connections? The potential, however, feels elusive under the stressful days of COVID-19.
Right now the days all feel the same. It’s surprisingly disorienting. Uncertainties with paychecks and ever-changing government mandates unsettle further. I find myself over-analyzing my circumstances. The swirl causes an intense inward focus.
But wait—despite the same four walls I see every day—I have the same 24-hours as pre-pandemic life. How might I use these hours? It’s time to be more intentional about practicing presence with others.
Skype, FaceTime, Microsoft Teams and other platforms offer ways to interact through video. Stay-at-home mandates are encouraging even the most tech-resistant people among us to download and learn new skills. With just a cell phone, online meetings offer unprecedented opportunity to reach across town or across the world. Even more than an audio call or an email, a one-to-one or a group video call opens unique space for presence.
Truly, now is a good time to reach out and encourage through video. Is there a family member you have not spoken with in a while? How about a long-time friend who moved out of the area? What about the missionary you support? A brief video chat could be just the encouragement they need!
Furthermore, it could be just the therapy we need.
My pastor recently reminded me about an important lesson from long ago. Would you join me in an old-school experiment?
- Get a pen and paper.
- Draw a straight line across your paper, carefully watching your pen’s tip. (Really… draw the line.)
- Draw a second line but instead of watching your pen, keep your eyes on the spot where you want your line to stop.
How did it go? If you are like me, your first line likely wobbles and meanders. Despite my earnest desire to draw a straight line, the myopic focus undermines my goal. My second line, however, is actually nearly perfectly straight! With eyes focused beyond myself, my path is straight.
During these unusual days of stay-at-home mandates, directing our focus beyond the confines of our own four walls is critical. Instead of watching the work (or lack of work) of our own hands, let us fix our eyes beyond ourselves.
The writer of Hebrews calls us to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).
This focus on Jesus reminds us of the world beyond ourselves. Needs around us come into view. Ways to help and encourage others become possible. It’s time. Embrace the potential of cyberspace to practice the ancient discipline of presence.