My friend Matthew Warner was a player in one of my “pinch me” moments in the “New Evangelization”. While he likely doesn’t even remember this, Matt and I shared a van ride one day to a big speaking engagement. In the van with us were three other “big” Catholic names. I won’t name them here, but let me assure you that our van-mates were notable. I was a nervous wreck that morning, but Matt was his usual self–poised, comfortable, and ready to go share the Good News. Since that day, Matt has always inspired me to be myself in my efforts to know, love and share my faith.
I’ve know this amazing man for years in the context of his groundbreaking work with Flocknote, so you can imagine my joy when I heard that Matthew Warner had a new book coming our from Matthew Kelly’s Beacon Publishing. Messy & Foolish: How to Make a Mess, Be a Fool, and Evangelize the World may be short in page count, but it’s long in impact. This is the kind of book you can pick up and read in one sitting. But be prepared: it’s going to move you to action and much thought.
Today, I’m happy to share my recent conversation with Matthew Warner. I hope you’ll make this book not only a part of your spiritual library, but that you will also consider sharing it at your parish.
And then let’s all get busy making a mess!
Q: Matthew, congratulations on the publication of your wonderful new book Messy & Foolish. Please share a bit about yourself and your family for our readers.
Thank you, Lisa! Well, my wife and I live in Texas with our 5 children, ages 7 down to 1 month. So most of our life is consumed with managing the overwhelming, but grace-filled, joys and challenges of learning how to be good parents to our children. Every day is a new adventure in marriage and family and we couldn’t be more blessed. I’m also the founder of Flocknote.com – a communication tool made for parishes and dioceses, now serving thousands of parishes across the country.
Q: You’ve been in the midst of doing this crazy work that we call the “New Evangelization” for the last several years. Why a book at this time in your ministry? How does this book compliment the work you’ve done with Flocknote and your other initiatives.
When I got my first job out of college, God challenged me to get more involved at my parish. Once I did, I learned two things that changed my life forever. The first was that our Catholic Faith is amazing beyond belief. I fell in love with the history, the saints, the intellectual depth, the practical wisdom, the inspirational beauty. I was on fire. The second thing I learned, though, was that most people didn’t seem to realize any of this. I was deeply saddened by how many people were drifting out of the Church…but who clearly didn’t know what they were leaving!
As a result, I’ve spent more than the last decade of my life trying to help the Church communicate her message more effectively. Primarily, my work has taken the form of promoting the use of better technologies (ie Flocknote, etc.) and techniques. And that has been amazingly fruitful. But over time, I realized that our biggest failures had to do with much more than technology, tools or techniques. That’s what this book, Messy & Foolish, is about.
Q: I have to say that while the book is quite manageable in terms of length, it packs a pretty mighty wallop! How did the message on your heart translate into the written words in this book?
The words came over years of pondering these things, writing blog posts about them, praying about them, and reworking the ideas into simple, concise forms. People have enough to read these days. So my goal was to create something a person could pick up and read in a single sitting, and then get up and immediately be inspired to go do something about it.
Q: I believe Messy & Foolish is the perfect gift for moms who feel that their mission territory is perhaps too limited to do great things for our Church and our world. Say a few words about how being “Messy & Foolish” really does begin in our homes and with those closest to us.
I agree 1000%! The allure of celebrity is a temptation for us all, especially in our social media driven lives. It’s easy to start measuring our impact or our value based upon how much attention we get, or the number of people who have heard of us or that have honored us. The devil loves to lay this trap for us. So often I have started with the good intention of wanting to “help lots of people.” Yet somewhere along the way it ends up as really just having wanted “lots of people to have been helped by me.” And those are two very different things.
Yes, many people need to be served. The mission field is huge. But we spend too much time romanticizing about ways to serve hundreds of people, we often forget to fully serve the ones sitting right in front of us. What would happen if we all decided to, not just take care of, but radically love and serve the few people God has placed closest to us in our lives? What if we gave them everything we had and completely emptied ourselves for them so that we had nothing left for anyone else anyway? Grand, exciting adventures ensue. You don’t have to look far for such opportunities. They are right in front of you already.
Q: How many people read the book and say to you, “But wait…? Really, this is what it truly takes?” How many of us want to believe that our efforts to share the faith on a broader basis are more significant or important than the little things we do with great love in our own homes and communities? Your tone in this book is supportive and inviting, but it’s also a kick in the butt. How are readers reacting to the book?
I’ve had a lot of amazing feedback about the book! People read it and then immediately recognize that they need to read it once/month for a regular and renewed kick in the butt. And because it’s so short, that’s fairly possible! But I think the book reveals a wisdom that, honestly, deep down we all already know. We know we aren’t even taking care of the basics that God asked us to do. But instead of doing the simple (yet hard) work we know needs to be done, we procrastinate with new ideas and novel tools and advanced studies. While many of those things are good things in themselves, they serve as a place to hide. Deep down, we know this to be true. I hope this book reminds people of that and inspires them to make a change.
We also have a free group study guide at MessyAndFoolish.com that goes along with the book. It is ideal to do with a ministry leadership team or the staff at a parish. It gets the group asking (and hopefully answering) some of the most important questions about their mission in the Church.
Q: What are one or two tiny ways that a mom can begin today to become “Messy & Foolish”?
1) Remember that the faith is caught more than it’s taught. How contagious is your faith? Before our children (or spouse) will be open to anything we have to say or teach, they must first be inspired and attracted to the lives we are living.
2) Don’t be afraid to embrace the (apparent) foolishness of Christianity. Dropping your nets and following Jesus. Prioritizing everything in your life around God and others. Living the life Jesus challenges us to live. All of that looks foolish to the world. But that’s also part of what is so attractive and exciting about our faith. If we aren’t embracing that foolishness in our lives, we shouldn’t be surprised when others (especially our children) don’t seem all that enthused about the faith.
I guess those aren’t tiny ways, sorry. But rather fairly big ways. But you can begin doing them today!
Q: Where can readers learn more about the book and the movement?
Just go to MessyAndFoolish.com! You can get a free copy of the book (just pay shipping), inexpensive bulk copies, a nice hardcover, or the eBook. I also have the Messy & Foolish Challenge, the group study guide, and a series of Messy & Foolish interviews I’m doing with some of the best evangelizers of our day (like Bishop Barron, Matthew Kelly and many others). All free.
Copyright 2016 Lisa M. Hendey
Images copyright Matthew Warner, used with permission, all rights reserved