Suddenly, everyone in churchworld is talking about Evangelization. You want to know why?
- First, because everyone else is talking about it.
- Second, because it seems like a nice idea.
- Third, because the Pope and the bishops are all talking about it.
- Fourth, hopefully, because Jesus told us to do it.
- Fifth, probably because some parishes are desperate and need to something, and maybe this could be the silver bullet.
Everyone is talking about evangelization but parishes that are actually full out committed to reaching the lost, taking the focus off of church-people and concentrating on unchurched people, being all about the people who are not currently in the pew…those kinds of parishes are extremely rare.
In all my travels I have encountered very few of them. And I say this with no sense of self-righteousness, because for way too long those things could not be said of our parish. And even now that we have what I think is a healthy focus on evangelization, it is extremely challenging to keep our focus there. You want to know why?
Church-people don’t want it there.
It’s true, they don’t. Don’t believe what they say, watch how they act when church is not all about them.
I know a parish, in another part of the country, which, in view of an alarmingly steep decline in attendance decided to make evangelization the number one parish priority. Of course the first thing they did was hang a banner on their façade proclaiming it so, “We are a parish that Evangelizes” it said. They added evangelization to the prayers of the faithful at Mass, they talked about it at every parish council meeting.
Then, they did something. They changed the Mass schedule (slightly) in the hope of creating a more accessible schedule for people in their town. As part of this new plan the 7am “quiet” Mass was dropped (personally I think the idea of a “quiet” Sunday Mass should be dropped period, but that’s another post).
Anyway, the 7am Mass crowd went nuts. They stopped attending the parish, withdrew contributions, wrote angry letters, inundated the Chancery with bitter complaint, all the usual weapons of parish warfare. So bitter was this fight that eventually the pastor relented and restored the old Mass schedule. Then he resigned. But before he left he took that banner down.