Forming Intentional Disciples by Sherry Weddell (also available via amazon.com or siena.org)
What is it about? Forming Intentional Disciples is a book that puts into words many of the challenges facing the Catholic Church in today's culture. Sherry Weddell starts with statistics which brings to the fore some of the problems facing the church. Some of the statistics are this such as:
- Only 30% of American who are raised Catholic are still practicing.
- 10 % of all adults in America are ex-Catholics.
- The majority of Catholics are not certain that you can have a personal relationship with God.
It isn't just a matter of numbers, but also one of a lack of a lived relationship with Jesus. Many of our regular parishioners in the pew come to Church on Sunday because that is what we do as Catholics. Many expect faith just to happen, as if by accident. However, if you ask them about many of our parishioners about their relationship with Jesus they have a hard time putting it into words or tell you how that relationship impacts the way they live.
The beauty of the book is that it doesn't just define some of the things that aren't working anymore. It offers solutions, and the solutions it proposes are relational. Evangelization is all about relationship: Christ's invitation, our relationship with Christ, our relationships with each other and sharing our faith with others, not just in words but in action. The book provides a process to lead people from a passive relationship with Jesus and the Church to an active, intentional discipleship. When parishioners begin to actively follow Jesus, their life is transformed and they in turn transform the life of the parish.
This conversion to active discipleship progresses through stages that Weddell calls thresholds. The stages on the way to active discipleship that each person moves though are:
- Trust : the person has some association with Christianity that is positive which leads to curiosity about the faith.
- Curiosity: the person shows an interest in the Catholic faith, but it is still very casual.
- Openess: the person is willing to go deeper than a passive interest. The person is investigating the veracity of the faith, and if it proves true, he is willing to make a change.
- Seeking: the person is actively seeking a relationship with Jesus, but is still holding back, there are still obstacles to fully, unreservedly following Jesus Christ.
- Intentional Discipleship: the person, like Peter, drops his nets and follows.
Here in the Diocese of Ogdensburg, we are in the middle of a pilot program working with people from several parishes to work our way through the book. It has been an exciting process to see people grow not only in their own relationship with Christ, but also in their ability and willingness to share their faith with others. It is beautiful to hear them articulate how the Holy Spirit is working in their lives. Even if nothing else were to come of the workshops than that the participants are deepening their own relationship with Jesus and are able to share their faith one-on-one, this would be exciting enough. But once parishioners become intentional disciples, other spiritual fruits of follows.
As director of evangelization, what excites me the most about the workshops is that in the small group discussion ideas are surfacing, bubbling up. Participants tlak about how to reach out to various groups inside and outside the parish. Through the process of the workshop, the they are recognizing the need in the parish(es) for a group that acts as a catalyst for evangelization, not just to add more programs, but to form relationships of trust through existing ministries which allow others to begin the process of going across the thresholds. Rather than coming in and suggestion that each parish should have an evangelization team that looks at how the various ministries can work to share the good news of the salvation, the group is coming to the realization themselves, and in effect are becoming an evangelization team willing to roll up their sleeves, and share their gifts with others.
For more information about the Forming Intentional Disciples workshops in the Ogdensburg Diocese, contact email@example.com