What Does it Mean to Focus on Discipleship? Print
Tuesday, 02 January 2007 14:34

Written by Keith Strohm

I was perusing the latest issue of Christianity Today--one of the things that I love to do when I have a few moments of leisure--and stumbled upon a rather short review of a book entitled, Simple Church: Returning to God's Process for Making Disciples. Reading the entry, I really began to think about the practical implications of focusing energy, bandwidth, and resources on making disciples at the parish level.

A few paragraphs jumped out at me as I reflected on the review:

Churches with a clear disciple-making process are vibrant and growing.
"Vibrant" churches do four things: design a simple disciple-making process,
organize key programs to accomplish this, unite all ministries around the
process, and eliminate everything else. (emphasis mine)

Forgetting for a moment the question as to whether or not this four-fold process is, actually, the "right" way to go about making disciples (and I think that merits a post or posts all on its own), the last part of the process "eliminate everything else" really caught my eye. With the proliferation of various ministries ocurring at the parish level (one need only look at the front of any bulletin in Catholic parishes), what are the implications for focusing on creating intentional disciples?

The lack of regular, sacrificial giving among catholic parishioners (itself a probable symptom of lack of intentional discipleship among communities at large) often means that our parishes are resource-starved. But resouce limitations are certainly not constrained just to the financial. With an often small amount of time, talent, and treasure, how do we deploy the temporal and spiritual resources of the parish to best form disciples and equip apostles?

According to the reviewer of Small Churches, the authors have an idea:
Some of the book's best advice concerns dropping programs that seem to be
successful but contribute nothing to mission.

That is certainly a focused approach--though one in which I believe most pastors and pastoral leaders won't have the fortitude to tackle. Given the shifting and complex web of "politics" that exists within any human community, how can parish leaders discern along these lines and help communicate the fruits of that discernment to the community?

Anyone with a sufficiently "cunning" mind can show how a particular ministry contributes to mission. For example, would the popular Moms (Ministry of Mothers Sharing) ministry "make the cut" once parish leadership decided that the community would need to focus on mission-centered ministries? Certainly one could say that supporting mothers contributes directly to the mission of the Church as mothers are raising the next generation of disciples and apostles.

These are difficult waters to navigate--made all the more difficult in that our contemporary catholic communities haven't really begun to explore them.