In 2010, sociologist James Davison Hunter published To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World. In this much-discussed book, Hunter critiqued the (largely failed) tactics of contemporary Christians to change the world, arguing instead for an approach he called “faithful presence,” a sort of “seek the welfare of the city” (Jer. 29:7, ESV) focus on bringing flourishing to whatever spheres we inhabit.
But as much as “faithful presence” has become established in the evangelical lexicon since Hunter’s book, do we really know what it looks like practically? And where do the habits and liturgies of local churches fit in?
Enter pastor-theologian David Fitch, who teaches at Northern Seminary and pastors at Life on the Vine Christian Community in the Chicago suburbs. Fitch thinks Hunter neglects the role of churches in embodying faithful presence. More than just a place where individuals are trained to be faithfully present in their jobs and spheres of influence, the church is itself a “social reality witnessing to God’s kingdom in the world,” a communal in-breaking of the Spirit’s presence that makes all other faithful presence possible. Faithful presence, argues Fitch, is the call of the church; it is “how God has chosen to change the world.”
But how are communities of faithful presence formed to pursue this calling? This is the question Fitch explores in Faithful Presence: Seven Disciplines That Shape the Church for Mission (InterVarsity Press), an “intensely practical” guide to the daily ways we can extend Christ’s presence wherever we are, whether at Starbucks or McDonalds, a cubicle ...1
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