So long awaited and eagerly anticipated our second ever Conference, Matter14, is now history. And it was historic too. With 150 member ministers helping to host our standing room only capacity crowd of 550 + guests from about 20 different states and 5 countries, it was an amazing two days. And we had so much fun too.
I kicked the conference off talking about a topic I very much wanted to share with our guests: evangelization and discipleship. Both. Together. Because when it comes to this topic there is a huge misconception perhaps the biggest out there in churchworld. And this misconception is so big and so wrong that it serves as a huge obstacle when it comes to even undertaking them, much less successfully undertaking them.
In fact, I think that the whole concept of the New Evangelization is going to remain beyond our grasp unless and until this misconception is once and for all dispelled and put to rest.
And essentially the misconception is this:
You can’t do evangelization and discipleship. You can’t do both. The way I have come to say it is: you can’t go deep and wide.
If you’re reaching lost people, unchurched people are coming to you and your growing in an intentional way…something must be wrong.
- You don’t care about your parish
- You’re lazy
- You’re not pastoral
- You don’t care about the people
- You’re compromising your faith
- You’re watering down your faith, you’re dumbing down what the Church asks of us or what the Bible says
- You’re unorthodox
- You don’t care about the Eucharist
- You’re Catholic lite
- You’re not Catholic at all
In other words, you cannot possibly be successful and faithful.
I was in Cleveland Ohio earlier this year and after my talk a man approached me to ask a question and his question was this: “Why don’t you do funerals?” It wasn’t a question that surprised me at all, in various iterations I get it all the time. If you’re successfully attracting new people you must not be taking care of your parishioners.
Behind those charges, all and often leveled at us here at Nativity is an assertion people are implicitly making about themselves, I’m faithful and I can prove it. my parish is dying.
My failure is proof of my fidelity, your success belies your infidelity.
Now the good news is that Jesus confronted this same misconception and mentality over and over. He was successful beyond the imagining of the religious leaders of his day. And that’s the pattern he sets for the people who are working for him. He says to them:
Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.
Scripture is clear that God expects us to be fruitful and faithful, to go wide in evangelization and deep in discipleship, to do both together. That’s because God wants a healthy growing Church.