We were recently visiting with a family who have been friends for many years, and they were sharing with us their experience in their home church. They talked about how much they appreciate the preacher for his excellent lessons, but they don’t feel like they know him. They spoke of the fact that he seldom speaks to people before or after the worship assembly. They said they have seen him speak to the same hand-full of members, but that he doesn’t speak to most of the people and rarely to guests.
Aristotle wrote of the three modes of persuasion; logos (the message), pathos (passion), and ethos (credibility or authority). Logos would include the heart and mind involved in the preparation of the sermon, as well as the use of our mind in the presentation.
Pathos is the spirit, the heart, the passion that is used to deliver the sermon.
Involved in Ethos is who we are as a preacher. It would be the ability that allows us to get to know the listener and the opportunities for those who hear us to learn more about us.
As a child, I vividly remember watching my Dad walk up and down the aisles prior to every assembly shaking hands with people, talking with members, and particularly greeting guests. At the conclusion of every assembly he stood at the back door to greet people as they exited the building. One writer spoke of this as, “the ministry of walking around.” I would include this in what we might call, “the ministry of presence.” It’s being there in the moment. It’s hearing the heartache of those who are suffering. It’s seeing the joy of those who have a new baby, those who have become first-time grandparents, or those who are newlyweds. It’s seeing that giant smile on the face of a young person who has won a big game or received a reward for excellence.
There will be times that we will not feel as prepared as we would like to be for the sermon. We won’t hit a home run every time we get up to preach. However, if we practice the ministry of presence, our church families will be gracious toward us during those times.
I also realize that all of us who preach can have bad days when we don’t feel like being present. We may not be well physically, we may have issues in our marriage, or we may have major concerns about our children. As well, there will be occasions when we are struggling with our work or with the leadership in the Church.
Even in these situations, generally speaking, we will be better, and we will do better if we practice the “ministry of presence.”
If ethos includes credibility, that means we can save some up for those times when we are struggling.
One of the great truisms that every preacher needs to remember is that people will quickly forget what we say, but they will long remember how we act. How we treat our people and what we do for them can distinguish us as being the kind of men who build strong, healthy churches.
May God bless you, dear brother, even this week as you practice the “ministry of presence.”