The Church and Discipleship

I came across this video earlier this week. Obviously, it comes from a Protestant context (so their concept of worship is not ours), but essentially, it is saying exactly the same thing that we Catholics have been hearing time and time again recently. Here are just a couple of examples from Evangelii Gaudium (that we by now know pretty well):

I dream of a “missionary option”, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation. (EV, 27)

We must admit, though, that the call to review and renew our parishes has not yet sufficed to bring them nearer to people, to make them environments of living communion and participation, and to make them completely mission-oriented. (EV, 28)

However, this video raises some questions for me. The experience of a typical English parish is precisely not an overload of programmes or events. If only! From my experience of average parishes, you’d be lucky to turn up on a given evening and find anything going on. (Recently, I heard of a man (not a Catholic) who contacted the local parish of a town he was staying in overnight with business. He wanted to know if there was a prayer meeting, or something else he could attend in the church that evening. The response he received from the parish secretary? “Sorry, nothing’s going on.” How sad! What a missed opportunity.)

It only makes sense to send out disciples to evangelise. After all, “A person who is not convinced, enthusiastic, certain and in love, will convince nobody” (EV, 266).

So the call of this video (and to some extent, Pope Francis’s call, too) seems only to make sense to a parish community which already has disciples –  which provides formation, has a sense of purpose and mission among even a small percentage of its parishioners.

Earlier in the week, a post from an evangelical Christian friend of mine appeared on my newsfeed. He spoke about how his church has grown over the last two years: they have built a community projects building which houses projects such as a food bank, money advice, child bereavement support, and youth and children’s ministry. He finished by saying how his church is reaching 600 members on a Sunday. 600! This is what they have achieved with up to 600 disciples. Sadly, how many Catholic parishes of 1000+ parishioners could claim anything like this?

The reality of most parishes is that we’re at ground-zero, and you’d be fortunate to find your church even open during the day, let alone to stumble across a core group of disciples. It’s not possible to send out Mass-going Catholics who are not disciples to proclaim the Gospel. What will they be calling people to? To be a part of a cultural ‘club’, rather than a life-giving relationship with Jesus? Unless we are disciples “in love” with the Lord, we will evangelise no one.

My response to this video, then, is that, for a first step at least, there’s a need to concentrate on programmes and events, of awakening within the baptised their call to holiness and evangelisation, before it is possible for people to be sent, to “go out”.


About transformedinchrist

I live in Southsea and work for the Diocese of Portsmouth. My first love is for catechesis and evangelisation: until January 2013, I worked for a busy, thriving parish in south London coordinating the catechesis - sacramental programmes and adult formation. In November 2013, I completed my MA in catechetics at Maryvale Institute, Birmingham. View all posts by transformedinchrist

4 responses to “The Church and Discipleship

  • contemplativeactivist

    Reblogged this on contemplativeactivist and commented:
    Brilliant, Hannah, thanks.

  • generationbenedict

    So many truths in here! What we found in our parish in the last 12 months, is by exposing parishioners to the basic truth that God loves them and He desires a personal relationship with them (and this is a perfectly normal thing for a Catholic to have) a small core has been filled with extraordinary zeal to proclaim the Gospel- they themselves drew parishioners into the Lent course we ran recently and at the end of that there were crazy ideas and plans for mission flying around the room and from some really unlikely people too! There has been a shift from culture club mentality and as this group grows (and quite rapidly) this is impacting the entire parish!!

    Holiness is attractive, the fruits of a personal relationship with Christ are attractive and they are also empowering! And it really is that simple- but I think we tend to over complicate things and overlook the essentials!

    You should read 4 Signs of a Dynamic Catholic!

  • transformedinchrist

    Wow! That is amazing to hear. Especially because it’s a no-brainer that “God loves you and wants a personal relationship with you” should be at the heart of a Catholic parish. But it’s often not. Thanks for sharing this!

  • monk johanan

    Similar to your wise comments above, I’d like to say that I have found Church as ‘just being a friend’ of the L’Arche communities for the mentally handicapped which communities have mushroomed over the whole globe, inspired as we have been by the witness of his living so – and i’m refering to the founder, Jean Vanier, which I’m sure you can google and learn somewhat of his incredible community and fellowship building secrets…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: