Everybody is talking about Evangelization and Discipleship these days. There are also no dearth of people willing to tell us how to do it (sometimes carrying a hefty price tag for doing so).
Then there are the people who are successfully doing it. As I travel the country speaking to parishes and diocese, I have been surprised by the number of parishes who are successfully growing disciples. And while it may look like magic or rocket science from a distance, it’s really not. It all comes down to just a few things that I find healthy growing parishes have in common.
1. They acknowledge that they have a problem.
Any parish that is proceeding with business as usual is in big trouble. Meanwhile, any parish that is willing to look in the mirror and face the difficult facts is probably well on their way to working themselves out of trouble. The parishes I know who are experiencing revitalization (not just growth because they’re located in growing communities, but true revitalization and renewal) are probably in the business of reinventing themselves in some significant ways.
2. They approach their problem in prayer.
Beginning and proceeding in prayer is foundational, and obvious, and surprisingly easy to miss. In the successful parishes I know, prayer is at the heart of discipleship and evangelization. It also accompanies any new project or initiative, and follows it too.
3. They preach it.
The growing healthy churches I know all rightly claim an emphasis on preaching the Gospel. Preaching the Gospel, of course, automatically means an emphasis on evangelization and discipleship that begins in the pulpit. And these churches keep the message focused and simple.
4. They live it.
Preached simply enough and often enough, the parishioners will get it, and live it. They don’t just talk about evangelization, or form a committee to talk about it, or confuse it with other things they are already doing. They do it. They intentionally share Christ with others, and make invitations to their unchurched friends to come to church.
5. There is a clear, consistent, and challenging discipleship path.
In the successful parishes I know, there is a clear understanding among parishioners about what it means to be a member. And the expectations remain consistent. Membership in these congregations has become meaningful. There is the expectation that members move from spectators to participants, from consumers to contributors. Their contributions include daily quiet time in prayer, ministry or mission service, giving (money) and a willingness to participate in the fellowship of the church (especially through small groups).
For another take on this topic read the always-excellent reflections of Thom Rainer on ronedmondson.com.