This weekend we are kicking off one of the centerpiece message series of the whole year, and one like no other. That’s because it’s based on a book. Our book:
Ave Maria Press, Notre Dame Indiana, February 2013
This weekend we’ll be introducing the general approach of the book and what we are going to do through this series, which, of course is also a Lenten series. Basically, we’ll be telling our story, what happened to us, what we learned and now, what we know about growing a healthy church community.
To begin, we go back to the beginning of our story (Tom, my associate and I, that’s the “our”). Well, not quite the very beginning, but the part after the beginning, when we had been doing what we were doing long enough that we began asking “why” am I doing this? What is the point?
Ever feel that way? Well, that’s how we felt about our church. It felt like no matter what we did, we didn’t get anywhere, everything was always the same after as before, everybody was always the same after as before. Our church had become a comfortable consumer exchange where people checked in to get what they wanted and we reliably served it up to them.
When we lose our why and lose our purpose, we are adrift on a dangerous sea of disillusion and disappointment that can lead to depression (as it did in my case) and even despair.
Our story is about that, but fortunately it’s also about moving beyond that to a rediscovery of our purpose. It actually wasn’t that hard to discover, it was there all along. From the very beginning Jesus is clear what he is about and what the community of his followers will be about. He said:
Go and make disciples.
The Church exists to make disciples of Jesus Christ. This parish, the why of this parish is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. That is why we exist. That’s it.
What are disciples? Students, just students.
Not saints, not fully formed followers, not perfect people, just students of Jesus Christ. People who are trying to live more like him and grow in him a little more today than yesterday. A little bit more tomorrow than today.
Individually and together as a community, we need to keep our focus on making disciples. Our music, message, ministry, missions, small groups, kids and student programs, the celebration of the Eucharist itself, should be about making more fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.
When we finally got that little fact right, we started growing. And then the parish started growing.