The Power of Presence
Glasses of mimosas clink as a group of girlfriends sit around a table at Sunday brunch. A retired woman pulls out her gardening tools to plant flower boxes on a sunny Sunday morning. A young mom and her husband groggily dish up cereal to their small children, wishing they could sleep in on a Sunday morning.
Do you notice a theme with these people? Sunday morning used to be the place where people would learn how to connect with God at church. In 2015, a Barna study found that 27 percent of professional women are leaving the church, and those women make up a significant portion of the 38 percent of adult Christian women who say they haven’t attended church in the past six months.
For women who are stressed from working full-time, parenting young kids, and shouldering household responsibilities— church is often the last thing they want to add to their busy schedules. This presents unique opportunities for us to share Jesus in our everyday lives. Most of us have friends, neighbors, co-workers, or parents at our kids’ schools we interact with who are interested in spiritual things but are uncomfortable going to church on their own. As witnesses, we can be the church wherever we go, and as evangelists we can mobilize believers to do the same!
Some of the most profound ways to show Jesus to others are modeled in Scripture:
In Acts 9, Tabitha is described as “always doing good and helping the poor.” Peter is called to Lydda after Tabitha has died. He is greeted by throngs of widows crying who show him the robes and other clothing she had made for them. Tabitha’s life and witness were important not simply because she was a talented seamstress, but because she saw marginalized women in her community. Physical help like a meal for a single mom, can profoundly demonstrate that God loves and sees people who feel overlooked. Even the woman who seems to have it all together might suffer from loneliness, depression, and anxiety. She could use a friend to invite her out for coffee and look beyond her perfect appearance. Seeing her means we ask the Holy Spirit to give us eyes to see beyond our discomfort over cultural, ethnic, or socioeconomic differences in the women around us.
Creating space to stop and listen to someone is a rare gift we can offer women who are far from God. Both silence and questions are powerful tools in our relationships. To be silent while we listen to others share their concerns, fears, and excitement shows them we care about what they have to say. As simple as this sounds, it is a difficult discipline to practice. Asking good questions demonstrates that we are interested in others’ lives and pay attention to what they share with us.
An example from my life is my friendship with my neighbor, Kate. Kate’s husband, Mark, fell into a deep depression after losing his job. Kate didn’t know what she could do to help him. While our kids ran around on the playground, she shared how hard it had been on their marriage, finances, and parenting. I had only known Kate for a few months and in one of our first conversations she made it clear she didn’t follow Jesus nor likes Christians. But that day when she poured out her heart to me, I kept my mouth shut and listened. Over time, Kate has begun to open up more to me and our neighbors and recently shared that her husband found a new job! We celebrated with her and I mentioned that I have been praying for God to provide a job for him. Rather than getting angry or annoyed she thanked me for my prayers.
Although it may seem scary to put ourselves out there and invite people into our lives, it does communicate our desire to spend time with them and include them. Recently I was talking with Sue, who is an older woman who had moved to a new city to be closer to her kids and grandkids. Outside of her family she didn’t have social life. A woman in her neighborhood learned she was new to the area and invited her to a Women’s Connection luncheon through Stonecroft, an evangelistic women’s ministry. At that event Sue was able to find new friends who listened to her, included her, and continued to ask how they could help her adjust to a new city.
It’s not our decision whether people will accept our invitations to church, a community game night, or to follow Jesus. But we can decide to step out in faith and pray God would open hearts to experience His love in community.
The evangelist will meet people where they are to show and share the love of Jesus. Remember that all of your relationships matter. You don’t need a platform, a blog, or an audience to help the women around you see there is a God who loves them. Pray God would allow you, and many other women to see her, love her, and invite her to come and meet Jesus!