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. And God might honor that in some way. But if it’s all my energy, when I’m gone, it’s gone. If I allow the Holy Spirit to work…it’ll take longer, but it’ll be solid.”

On social media: “I strangely see Facebook—and then, derivatively, Twitter—as a medium for some really good conversations. I’ve learned how to ask questions, make spaces for conversations, and point out the antagonisms in the sphere. My following really helps me do my thinking, frankly.”

On taking time to ‘be present’: “It takes a long time to become part of a social reality where people will trust you, love you, talk to you, speak to you. But I can tell you firsthand: It happens. And it happens in amazing ways.”

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The Calling is produced by Richard Clark and Jonathan Clauson.

Theme music by Lee Rosevere, used under Creative Commons 4.0.