Lawn Chair Catechism Session 4: The Fruit of Discipleship

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LawnChairCatechism

Welcome to the 4th session of Lawn Chair Catechism, using Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus, by Sherry Weddell (Our Sunday Visitor, 2012).

A few notes:

04-LawnChairCatechismSquare

This week, we’ll be covering Chapter 3: The Fruit of Discipleship.

Summary:

Sherry Weddell opens chapter three by looking inside a parish where intentional discipleship is the norm. Vocations flourish (over 1/3 of the diocese’s religious vocations coming from just two small parishes), financial support is abundant, and parishioners are actively involved in ministry within and beyond the walls of the parish.  The presence of the Holy Spirit is palpable at Mass – the fruit of a laity wholeheartedly devoted to prayer.

This, she emphasizes, should not be considered an aberration.  As a priest once shared with her, opening her eyes to a deeper understanding of lay and religious vocations, a steady flow of new disciples – Christians actively growing in their faith – is the expected fruit of priestly ministry:

No matter how many institutions we sustain or how much activity goes on in our parish or diocese, if new intentional disciples are not regularly emerging in our midst, our ministry is not bearing its most essential fruit.

Why would a ministry fail to bear fruit?  Orthodox priest Fr. Gregory Jensen writes:

I would argue that what typically happens is that we ask people who haven’t yet repented (and so who are not yet disciples of Christ) to take on work meant for apostles.

. . . We do this because we ourselves in the main are not disciples of Jesus Christ.  Having neglected repentance in my life, I am indifferent to it in yours.

. . .We cannot ask even good and talented people who are not yet disciples to undertake the works appropriate only to apostles.  And yet we do this all the time.

The standard operating procedure is backward.    The question is not, “Who can I persuade to fill this vacancy?”  The question is, “Who has God put in my parish, and what does He want them to do?”  The supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit enable the believer to carry out his or her vocation.

For discussion:

In your own faith:

  • Can you recall a “before” and “after” time in your life, when you became a true disciple of Jesus Christ?
  • Have you ever witnessed that change in someone else?

In your parish:

  • What success stories can you share?
  • In what ministries of your parish is “discipleship thinking” the norm?
  • In what areas is Christian discipleship not yet the standard for ministry?

Join the discussion!

We’ll be “talking” in the combox, too, so please leave your thoughts there as well!

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22 Comments

  1. “We cannot ask even good and talented people who are not yet disciples to undertake the works appropriate only to apostles.”

    Well, I disagree. I got to where I am today God-wise by being asked to do stuff I spiritually wasn’t ready to do. For those of us who comprise a body and a soul, very often the reluctant works of the body train the soul in discipleship.

    • Good point. Everybody has to start somewhere. If everybody waited until they were completely spiritually ready to do anything, NOTHING would happen.
      That said, there needs to be more emphasis on nurturing the spiritual lives of the workhorses of any parish.

    • I’m not really sure that it’s either/or in the sense that non-disciples shouldn’t do this or that. I don’t think Sherry Weddell is saying that. I think she’s saying something more like Barb is saying: “That said, there needs to be more emphasis on nurturing the spiritual lives of the workhorses of any parish.”

      In other words, if people were nurtured better, things would be easier and run better.

      It’s easy to get bogged down in this stuff but the Church is in big trouble and we just found out something new that could help. And help us too. I think that’s the point.

    • I think the point lies in the subtle difference between apostle and disciple – all the apostles are disciples but not all disciples are apostles. Not every position we fill in the church is an apostolic position.

      Also consider Judas was an apostle – Christ Himself appointed so. He was a poor disciple yet Christ used him.

      But I do get what she means. Maybe we could start by filling church positions with people who are at least Catholic. I know in many of the larger dioceses people who do not understand the church – or agree with her are in important positions of ministry evangelization and mission …it’s just nuts.

      • I live in a super God-fearing Bible-Belt area; and at my parish as far as I know, we never have to worry that someone in charge of something might not be orthodox. Our particular circumstance tends to make me ignorant of the wider world of American Catholicism.

        • I think you may be onto something here, Christian. As ignorant as I was when I converted, I knew deep down and without a doubt, that conversion was necessary for the change, because I had heard the Gospel preached in its entirety–and preached well–due to my Southern roots.

          That may also be the case among Catholics in the bible belt, but it isn’t the case out in the rest of the American culture. Many Catholics and others simply don’t know these things because they are not part of the cultural backdrop in the rest of the country. There you hear people talk about God and the bible and salvation; up here not so much.

          Many Catholics in the rest of the country cannot tell you what the crucifixion has to do with going to Church or receiving the sacraments. They understand these things as separate pieces that are part of their structural obedience or belonging to the Church, and that’s how they’ll explain it to you if you ask. If you press them further, you may get a bunch of allegory or politics or some kind of cultural correlation based on memory or hearsay. But you won’t get any explanation and reasoning in their own words that lets you know that they actually understand any of it on the basis of the Gospel as the story of Jesus and his offer of salvation to them, which they have to accept and take up. Most of them don’t have that in place. Instead, they usually have a lot of cultural expectations and memories which have very little or nothing to do with the Gospel, and the older they are, the more true this is. The young often don’t even have that.

          • “They understand these things as separate pieces that are part of their structural obedience or belonging to the Church, and that’s how they’ll explain it to you if you ask.”

            And that’s typically because they were taught that way. It’s like a box full of parts: if you can’t assemble them into an engine, they aren’t of much use. Years ago I was a group leader for a Passion of the Christ seminar, and one man actually got upset that I connected the Crucifixion to the Last Supper.

  2. This is actually a very hopeful chapter. It shows what can happen if we accept the offer of Jesus and become disciples. The Church desperately needs this.

    Reading about CTK parish was awesome. I wish my parish was like that.

  3. It has only taken me four sessions, but I think I’ve started to get this whole blog-thing figured out. Check out my post for this session at Hal’s Place Who knows maybe I’ll even manage to get my mugshot to show up down here too!

    This week’s Chapter – The Fruit of Discipleship is challenging and exciting at the same time. Since I’ve read the line quoted from Father Michael Sweeny, it has haunted me, “You are the evidence that my priesthood is bearing fruit.”

    Is my ministry bearing bearing fruit?

  4. The moment in time when I actually became a disciple of Jesus Christ occurred in high school, the summer going into my junior year. Though I had been actively in my church’s CYO, my conversion of heart came about because of Young Life, a nondemoninational group. At their summer camp, the Lord convicted me that while I could talk the talk, I needed to start walking the walk. From that point on I began reading scripture daily, continued my education in the faith, and tried harder to live my faith especially in respects to my parents. I also began evangelizing. Some times we can learn a lot from our protestant brethen. But we have so much more to offer as Catholics, especially because of the Sacraments. As Fr. Ken said, “The core thing is that it always has to come back to the Eucharist.” It is the Eucharist that kept me Catholic amid great fundamentalist friends.

    • Kellly–thank you for this post. That’s so true. I really feel the calling to try and reunite the Body of Christ in some way; to put down the swords from the Reformation era and start learning from each other. I know people don’t like this terminology, and there are other ways the saints have phrased it, but it really *is* all about having a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ” or having moments where you move toward “asking him into your heart”. That kerygma. Without it, whatever you do in the parish is only spinning wheels. Maybe you’re on the journey–don’t misunderstand me. But if you reject the need for conversion, you’re doing more harm than good.

  5. I think the distinction between disciple and apostle just sort of muddies the waters. Don’t get hung up on that. It’s about following Jesus and having commitment to him.

  6. Sorry if I came off a little harsh. Reading Forming Intentional Disciples really hit home with my experience and all my frustrations are coming to the surface. I shall try to listen more, talk less.

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