In my previous Narrow Gate article, I wrote that it was through the Church that I encountered the living God.
I encountered Jesus Christ as a real person.
Following Christ fundamentally altered my life’s trajectory from one of darkness, to one of light, so that I could be made anew and brought into his presence, into his kingdom.
Since then, I’ve come to realise that I was fortunate enough to have a community of Spirit-filled disciples around me (that included my parents) who prayed for me and helped me to grow in my relationship with God.
What the Church Needs Now.
Through many years of pastoral ministry I now understand that this type of experience is not as common as I once thought it was; hence, my thinking around the three things that the church needs now:
- More of the Holy Spirit: A new outpouring of the Holy Spirit that will wake people from their slumber into the realisation of who the Lord is, who they are and what they are called to be
- More encounters with the Lord Jesus: A realisation that the Church is, above all else, about an encounter, an actual meeting, with the Lord Jesus, in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit
- More Missionary Disciples: People who are so on fire with the love of God and filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit that they will want to tell everyone about it and do so accompanied by signs and wonders.
Why do we need these things?
Am I a Disciple of Christ?
Sherry Weddell in her book, Forming Intentional Disciples, explains this clearly.
She writes that the fundamental problem at a parish level is that people are not yet disciples. There is a chasm between the Church’s theology and most people’s lived relationship with God.
It just isn’t where it is supposed to be.
People are seemingly unfamiliar with the Holy Spirit – that God actively engages with them for the purpose of forming a personal relationship with them and that he calls them to share this good news with others.
I can identify with this experience, since it was mine too.
I’d go to Mass on a Sunday, but then live the opposite way the rest of the time.
My concern now, and I think it is in some ways a concern of Weddell, is that there are many Mass-going Catholics who have not encountered the Lord.
Are we fulfilling the words of scripture?
‘The Lord says:
“These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught’ (Isa 29:13).
I think this comes down to a problem of transmitting the faith: the means to create in every time and place the conditions for a person to have a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.
I just don’t think we are doing this very well at the moment. Weddell states that if a living relationship with Christ and his Father and the Holy Spirit does not exist, we have not succeeded in transmitting the faith for we cannot transmit what we have not experienced ourselves.
This is a problem for the Church. People may be very active in the programs of our parishes, schools and institutions, but that is not identical to discipleship, and so the faith is not transmitted.
Weddell says that discipleship begins when adults hear that initial presentation of the kerygma, that basic presentation of the life, passion, death and resurrection of Jesus that leads a person to faith, and so renew their baptism and consciously choose to follow Jesus. (See St Peter’s address recorded in Acts 2 for an exemplar of the kerygma.)
I believe, with Weddell, that parishes ought to focus more on providing opportunities for Catholics to hear and respond to the kerygmatic proclamation of the Gospel.
How can this be accomplished?
We need, at a parish level, to actively encourage Catholics to foster a relationship with the Lord. Let’s create opportunities to encounter Him so that we may radically choose to make him the Lord of our lives.
Our aim should be to speak about and experience this encounter as a normal part of being a Catholic.