Monday, April 17, 2006

Presence

Aaron Brooks is the quarterback of the New Orleans Saints, and he's mad. It’s been a rough year to be a football player in New Orleans, Louisiana. It's been rough on the field, and off. Nearly the entire city was wiped out by Hurricane Katrina. The storm continues for the players. Some of their friends and family were killed. Many of them have lost homes. And then the team has been bounced around to temporary training facilities and practice fields. It's not a recipe for success in a league as competitive as the NFL. They have a losing record. Morale is way down.

It's not surprising that Aaron Brooks would be mad. It might surprise you to hear who he is mad at: NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue. It's not like the NFL Commissioner could have stopped the hurricane. What could commissioner Tagliabue have done? Aaron Brooks says, “Maybe he couldn’t have said anything, or done anything, but he could have been here. He could have shown up.” Evidently, following Katrina, Commissioner Tagliabue never made a trip to New Orleans to meet with the players. He met with government and business leaders. But he did not meet with the players. When they felt like they needed him, he wasn't there. There is a resentment over his absence that is still smoldering.

Someone has said that 80% of success is "just showing up." That is certainly true when folks are in crisis. As a pastor you may not be in a position to change things. You may not even know what to say. But just being there can be a tremendous comfort to folks in the midst of disaster. Don't underestimate the impact of “showing up” in the waiting room, or the hospital room, or the court room. There are many times where I've told a family, "I don't really know what to say" and I been told, "That's ok, pastor. We're just glad that you're here." I can tell by the look in their eyes that they are sincerely appreciative.

In my experience, saying the right words at the right time is overrated. Being in the right place at the right time is underrated. As a pastor, your presence is powerful. Maybe more powerful than anything you could ever say.


You make huge deposits in the emotional bank account by “showing up.” Those deposits may prove invaluable at other times, when the account is drawn down for some reason. I heard a story of a huge wedding that had some unfortunate pastor-related complications. Unfortunately, the pastor who was to perform the wedding went out of town that day. He forgot completely about the wedding. As the time of the wedding came, the couple tried to reach the pastor, but could not. There was no one in attendance to perform the wedding, and the couple had to inform the crowd that the wedding would have to be rescheduled. This was a prominent family in the church, but this pastor survived the ordeal ok. How? By being this family’s pastor for more than 30 years. He had “been there” for them many, many times. He had made so many deposits over the years that there was enough in the account to cover even a massive withdrawal, which the mishap certainly was.

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