Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.
In chapter 5 of Rebuilt, Fr. Michael and Tom reveal the first steps they took in developing a strategy to rebuild their parish. Tired of preserving the status quo–meeting members wherever they were to help them comfortably stay there–they took action and transitioned from a monument to a movement.
Today, the purpose of Church of the Nativity is to challenge church people and seek lost people in order to help all of them become a community of growing disciples. It’s about conversion and then ongoing conversion.
Where to Start: Developing Your Strategy
Step #1: Define your mission field.
Most members of the Church of the Nativity live in the 21093 zip code (Timonium, Maryland). That’s their mission field. There are tens of thousands of dechurched people in their zip code–just like yours. These are the potential disciples in their mission field.
Where is your mission field?
Step #2: Describe the “lost” in your mission field.
Where is the easy part, but it’s the who that can be difficult. Who are the potential disciples in your mission field? What do they like? What do they do on the weekends (instead of going to church)?
Nativity came up with a name for the lost in Timonium. They are looking for Tim. . . “Timonium Tim.” Here is how they describe Tim:
Timonium Tim is the quintessential lost person in our mission field. Tim is a good guy. If you met Tim at a party, a likely place to run into him, you’d like him. He’s educated, well dressed, and successful at what he does. Tim is married with children. He has a beautiful home and a comfortable lifestyle. He drives a nice car.
Tim works hard all week and likes to take the weekends off. On Sunday mornings Tim is on the golf course or on game days at the Baltimore Raven’s stadium. Wherever he is, he’s definitely not in church; he’s never in church, except maybe for a wedding or a funeral. The idea doesn’t even occur to him. Tim is culturally Catholic, the product of a parish religious education program or a parochial school. But Tim is definitely not a believer.
His background in the faith is actually more of a liability than an asset because it brings emotional baggage, theological misconceptions, and, perhaps, legitimate complaints. God, faith, church, religion, and The Da Vinci Code are all mixed up together in Tim’s imagination; and, taken as a whole, the mix is inscrutable. Maybe Tim has formed an attitude of indifference, but, more likely, it’s cynicism or contempt. If he’s divorced, the situation is further complicated by laws he doesn’t understand that seem to judge him unfairly. And he may have a host of other reasons he’s mad at the Church.
Tim’s a good guy, but he’s doing life on his own terms, and, increasingly, it isn’t working out so well for him. He’s got stress at work and tension and conflict at home. He has financial obligations that are oppressive and credit card debt that is getting out of control. And there are other issues too, like anger, depression, maybe addiction to alcohol, gambling, or pornography. Tim needs purpose; he needs direction; he needs a savior.
Tim is in Timonium, so he’s not who you’re looking for–not exactly anyway.
There is a specific someone in your community around whom you can design your evangelization strategy. Define his background, his interests, his education, his motivations, his fears, and why he doesn’t come to Church, and what he chooses to do instead.
Step #3: Design a simple, specific invitation strategy.
At Nativity, the basic strategy is “invest and invite.” They encourage people internally to look for Tim in their children’s sports programs, Home School Association, or at work. They pray for them, spend time with them, fast for them, and invite them to church on the weekend or to the online campus where they live stream on Sundays.
Okay, so how do you reach lost people in your mission field and set them on the path of discipleship? That’s what the rest of the book is about!