Be lovingly present and emotionally available.
Be spiritually supportive.
Sometimes, that is all you can offer,
and sometimes, that is all that is needed.
This is both easy and hard.
As a pastor feeling pressure to grow the church, reach out, solve problems, mobilize people, and produce results, there is an easy trap to fall into. You look only for the fruit born of your own industry. It requires hard and fast planting, cultivating, and harvesting, as if spiritual growth has been infused with the values of Big AgriBusiness.
Every once in a while, though, the Spirit humbles me, and reminds us as a congregation, that being rooted somewhere, having branches to rest upon, and shade to offer, is a kind of fruit all it's own.
There was a woman who worshiped with Emmaus Road for about a year, who has recently moved out of state. While she was with us, she drove considerable distance on Sundays because she enjoyed the vibe at our worship gatherings, and had been personally introduced to us by a mutual friend. She had not recently been with another church, and was happy to have discovered this one.
She had also been thrown into an unexpected crises during this year, a crises which stretched out over several months and is only now partially resolved. During this time, I occasionally listened to her as she related what was going on, often through tears. I stayed in touch via text messages, and the church prayed for her as she shared requests with the larger group. We invited her to gatherings and events beyond Sunday, which she could attend once in a while. But other than that, there was not a great deal of connecting, and no tangible assistance was shared.
On her last Sunday with us, though, she shared how important our presence had been to her over this year. Our prayers and our consistency, celebrating the hope of Christ and the power, strength, and comfort of the Spirit, and making room to be there at a personal level, to listen and spiritually support - that is what we could offer, and that is what she needed.
Being rooted somewhere, to be found available, to provide some shade and structure of hope - this is a sign of the Kingdom. This is a little of what Jesus was saying in Matthew 13:32.