David Fitch is a man of many titles: pastor, writer, seminary professor, theologian, podcast host—the list is almost too long to count. In his eyes, though, his most important work hasn’t taken place in a church, office, or lecture hall, but over countless cups of McDonald’s coffee or on a stool at a bar in his Chicagoland neighborhood of Westmont.

Fitch’s estimation of his work may strike some as strange, especially for a pastor. But as he makes clear in his 2016 book Faithful Presence: Seven Disciplines That Shape the Church for Mission, he’s all about championing the importance of just “being there.” According to him, few spiritual practices are as vital to successful ministry as that of setting aside time to be reliably present in the community one aims to serve—and sometimes, that means eating fast food or setting up shop in the local pub.

On today’s episode of The Calling, CT managing editor Richard Clark catches up with Fitch to find out more about his approach to church-planting, his commitment to his community, and why he thinks it’s sometimes okay to set sermon prep aside to listen to a neighbor’s latest conspiracy theory:

On ministering beyond the church: “I have to make time to spend time with people who are outside of the bubble. I go [to the bar], and these people are the salt of the earth. They’re longing for Christ. You can see it in their eyes. They’re longing to be known—and yet no one’s there.”

On planting churches that last: “I had to learn that ministry is not about me. I can generate a lot of activity in ministry. I can even start a church on my own energy. It might kill me, but I can still do that. ...

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