The ministry of showing up

Read a reflection from Walt Wiltschek in this week's issue.
The group at the Brethren Volunteer Service mid-year retreat.

By Walt Wiltschek; office coordinator of Brethren Volunteer Service, at-large editor of Messenger magazine, and district executive for Illinois and Wisconsin District

When I was a youth pastor in Maryland fresh out of seminary, I was fortunate to have in the congregation a retired pastor who became a trusted and invaluable mentor for me. He said many wise things to me over the time I knew him, but one I most remember involved his grandchildren, who also attended the congregation. The family was going through a lot while I was there, so I had tried my best to get to know them and connect.

“You know,” this retired pastor said one day, “no matter how good a preacher you become (and I wasn’t a very good one then), or how many good sermons you preach, or how many Sunday school classes or youth activities you lead, that’s not what my grandkids are going to remember. They’re going to remember when you came to their house and shot basketball with them on their driveway. They love basketball, and when you came and shared that with them, that’s when you became real.”

It seemed a rather routine thing at the time–and I’m not very good at basketball, either—but that’s stuck with me ever since, and something I’ve tried to make part of the youth ministry I do, and the other ministry, as well. Woody Allen once famously said that “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” And while I’m not sure that Woody Allen is the best model for anything theological, in this case I think he might have gotten it right. It’s amazing how much of ministry is simply showing up—being there—accompanying people on the journey of life and faith.

In an article I encountered recently, author Rich Anderson noted that “The life of Jesus is the blueprint for just showing up.” Every miraculous and ordinary thing he did and said in his ministry exemplified showing up for people in need. Anderson goes on to give some contemporary examples of showing up, including a nurse who proved to be a great help to his nervous 100-year-old mother during an emergency hospital stay and even brought her flowers to help her smile—a nurse who hadn’t been scheduled to work that evening but came in for overtime because he felt it was important to show up that day.

In Matthew 10:40-42, in The Message translation, Jesus says, “Anyone who accepts what you do, accepts me, the One who sent you. Anyone who accepts what I do accepts my Father who sent me. Accepting a messenger of God is as good as being God’s messenger. Accepting someone’s help is as good as giving someone help. This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice.”

Mother Teresa once famously said that we can do “small things with great love.” As we in the Church of the Brethren and other denominations sometimes bemoan our shrinking numbers, perhaps we can also do loving things with our great smallness. Whatever our size, we can still show up and let God use us. Sometimes just showing up itself and being there is enough. Sometimes that’s the first step to listening or responding or taking action. But it begins with being there.

Thank you for showing up in the ministries of your congregation, community, district, and the larger denomination. Thank you for responding to people in crises, connecting across cultures, volunteering, stewarding resources, equipping fellow believers, supporting pastors and churches leaders, or doing the behind-the-scenes work that keeps everything going smoothly. However you participate in the ministry of showing up, you’re doing holy work.

Learn more about the work of the Church of the Brethren that provides opportunities to carry out the ministry of showing up at or support our ministries at

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)

Sent in the Spirit

A theme interpretation written by Matt DeBall, coordinator of Mission Advancement Communications, for the 2023 Pentecost Offering

“Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” ~John 20:21-22, NIV

It’s difficult to do anything without having sufficient support. It’s a privilege to be invited, but it’s a blessing to be given everything that is needed to move forward. When Jesus approached his terrified and weary followers, they needed divine vision but also heavenly provision.

To be clear, the disciples had good reason to be concerned. The Lord was known for being righteous and innocent of all crimes, but he was put to death as a scapegoat by a hate-filled religious mob and an unjust criminal justice system with more than one official who turned a blind eye to the whole ordeal. Those who followed Jesus were concerned that the people who pleaded for Jesus to be put to death would come after them next. Amid the uncertainty of their situation and of the future, Jesus appeared among them.

We may not be as fearful for our lives as the disciples, but we still have concerns about what the future holds. Offered compelling and compounding data that our sacred task is far too risky and our challenges too numerous, we convince ourselves that we can’t bring healing to our communities, to our country, to our world. And this conclusion, though morose, is correct. In our own strength and might, we simply can’t do or be all that is needed to step out of hiding and make a difference.

However, the Lord has not called us to abandon us. Sent by God, the risen Jesus set his transition plan in motion. Not only did Jesus put the train back on the track, but he also provided fuel for the engine. Like at the time of creation when God imparted the breath of life and animation to humanity (Hebrew “ruah”), so also does Jesus Christ breathe new life and reanimation into his followers (Greek “pneuma”)—with breath that revived his followers after the resurrection and stirs up new life in every age.

Through the missions and ministries of the Church of the Brethren, we recognize our God-given calling and that the Holy Spirit empowers us to continue the work of Jesus. We are calling and equipping fearless disciples and leaders, renewing and planting churches, and transforming communities. Your support of the Pentecost Offering supports these faith-building and life-changing endeavors that we do together—through the power of God and the unity of the Holy Spirit.

We have not been called and left hanging. We have been commissioned to important work and given the support we need to carry it out. We, indeed, have been sent in the Spirit. May we go forth with the Lord who has called us and the Spirit that sustains us.

Find this and other worship resources for the Pentecost Offering of the Church of the Brethren (suggested date May 28) at or give an offering today at

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)