Sunday, December 15, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Fr. Michael White and Tom Corcoran, Tools for Rebuilding

|BOOK REVIEW: Fr. Michael White and Tom Corcoran, Tools for Rebuilding: 75 Really, Really Practical Ways to Make Your Parish Better (Ave Maria Press, 2013).
In this follow up book to the extremely popular Rebuilt, Fr. Michael White and Tom Corcoran offer a series of 75 practical ideas for building a better Parish.  These ideas are given in 14 different categories and are geared towards evangelization and Church growth. Many of the topics do overlap with the previous book, but my overall impression is that it is a very helpful book.
In his recent Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis notes that many of the baptized faithful “lack a sense of belonging to the Church” and that this may be due to “certain structures and the occasionally unwelcoming atmosphere of some of our parishes and communities, or to a bureaucratic way of dealing with problems” or “a concentration on administering the sacraments apart from other forms of evangelization” (EG 63).
This new work by Fr. Michael White and Tom Corcoran, should be approached from this perspective.  In my opinion the goal is not to ‘clone’ or duplicate the experience at Fr. White’s Nativity parish but to seek to live out, in our own unique parishes, a “missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation” (EG 27).
With this focus Tools for Rebuilding contains a wealth of ideas for reflecting on the life of our own parish in the light of Pope Francis’ call to evangelization.  In the first section on ‘strategic tools’ the authors talk about evaluating schedules and setting boundaries in ministry, establishing a mission, vision and strategies for ministry, clearly defining evangelization, working as a team, the importance of gratitude and enthusiasm, and pursuing excellence.  Under the heading “building tools” the authors discuss the need to set boundaries on the use of parish facilities, the need for the parish to be welcoming and accessible, the need to maintain a clean and inviting space, with a minimum of clutter. 
The authors also talk about the importance of minimizing distractions with such things as mobile phones, but even go further with aggressive announcements regarding the use of “crying rooms” for small children and even volunteers who “politely but firmly” ask parents of noisy or unruly children to relocate out of the main sanctuary!  In my opinion the attempt to justify this through an appeal to St Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is unwarranted. 
The next section involves “office tools.” They authors point out that being busy is not the same as being relevant, they suggest that structuring the workspace to promote collaborative team work is best, and that we should hire those who are willing to humbly do small tasks themselves.
Under the heading “communication tools” they suggest that the parish becomes more focused in its advertising, and that it invests in a well thought out website that is relevant, updated weekly, a destination for visitors and parishioners.  The authors suggest that the parish name and “brand” all of its programs to make them more attractive and understandable.  They also suggest that the parish become known to the community and that the parish get to know your community, especially who is not at Church. Repeating a sentiment from their first work the authors suggest that “vestments are like golf clubs.”  If the focus is on bring in the lost, then the cost of beautiful and expensive “church stuff is a turn-off for many, if not most, unchurched people” (p. 93).  This opinion is far from a universal opinion in Catholic tradition and even seems difficult to reconcile with Proposition 20 “The New Evangelization and the Way of Beauty” from the recent Synod on the New Evangelization which notes that “Beauty should always be a special dimension of the New Evangelization” (Prop. 20).  Pope Francis notes, “Every form of catechesis would do well to attend to the ‘way of beauty’ (via pulchritudinis)” (EG 167, quoting Prop.  20). In the final thoughts on this section they highlight making ministry accessible, easy and part of parish culture.  The goal is every member a minister.
The next major section is titled “Weekend Tools.”  The first piece of advice is to have a team of enthusiastic greeters welcome everyone who comes in the door.  The second very predicable piece of advice is the assertion that because you are in the communication business the “most important capital investment you can possibly make in your church is a sound system” (p.  102). Thirdly, the authors urge that parishes invest prayerfully, financially and thoughtfully in music.  The authors then ask, without compromising the proper reverence due to the Mass and observing the normal “good pacing, measured pauses, moments of silence and solemnity” of the Mass is there anything distracting or unusually slow taking place?  Linked to this is a reflection on the sometimes jarring effect of transitions and announcements.  Next the authors discuss the process of change which they are aiming for in the weekend liturgy.  They are seeking to invite people in, to transport them on a journey and then to help them reach a destination—deeper relationship with Christ.  The next piece of advice involves being aware of the secular seasons that the neighboring community is involved in and trying to link these sentiments to the liturgical seasons.
The next major section entitled “Preaching Tools.”  The first piece of advice is that the homily and the pulpit announcement must have a focused and consistent message.  Next they advise that the parish commit to having the same message all weekend long, and that the pastor make the homily a greater priority. They also suggest that a clear distinction be made between insiders and outsiders in the parish. Insiders should be challenged, outsiders should be comforted.  They also recommend that the pastor preach the important announcements giving them the added weight of the authority and power of the pulpit.
The next section involves “Sacramental Tools.”  The authors assert that “the opportunity give to us at Baptisms” . . . is “not for instruction and catechesis” . . . but for “celebration.”  They should have a warm welcoming experience.  They suggest not calling it a ‘class’ and developing a Baptism ministry team who help make the experience personal, beautiful and joyful.  In regard to the reception of First Holy Communion the authors suggest that we not create a barrier to the Sacrament by imposing all kinds of requirements on families.  Punishment and reward don’t lead to discipleship.  Likewise Confirmation should be an initiation not a graduation.  They recommend keeping youth ministry apart from Confirmation and not attaching difficult requirements to the Sacrament.  Some advice to increase the Sacrament of Reconciliation involves preaching on it, making it accessible, and encouraging children’s participation in it.  They also give advice on making the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick move accessible.  The next point warns about what they call “self-righteous super consumers” (SRSC).  This was a group of dissatisfied, grumpy, self-righteous people who contributed nothing but demanded everything.  The authors suggest setting proper boundaries and firmly opposing them.  There is also a lengthy point about pastoral problems related to Mass intentions.  In order to stop consumerism, Nativity Parish first stopped announcing Mass intentions and then stopped accepting personal intentions at all.  All Masses are offered “for the people.” With regard to funerals, the authors suggest recruiting volunteers to help families, and that the pastor set firm boundaries and beware of consumers while still being aware of special situations.
The next major section deals with children’s ministry. The authors recommend having a safe full service nursery on Sundays and a Liturgy of the Word for children.  They also recommend that the CCD/PSR program be set up so that it doesn’t look like a ‘school.’  The program should be content rich but fun. The authors propose a small group model where the leaders foster relationship with Jesus and with one another.  With teens they suggest that we treat students as adults by “acting as if they really desire to know God—even if they don’t” (p. 184).  They should be challenged to get into small groups which cultivate authentic conversations which challenge them to grow.  They should also be given opportunities to serve.
The next section deals with “Money Tools.”  They note that in parish setting “fundraisers always create sideways energy that casts parishioners in the role of consumers and puts the focus on raising cash rather than growing disciples” (p. 190).  They suggest gradually stopping all fundraisers and focusing only on the offertory.  You should stop doing what doesn’t get funded.  They also suggest that parishes “pass the basket as seldom as possible” (p. 193).  In this same manner they suggest giving generously to the poor out of the parish collection and sealing the “poor boxes.”  Rather than letters of appeal from the pastor or pledge campaigns, the authors suggest serious modeling and teaching on stewardship.  One small quibble with the authors is their appeal to an alleged biblical model of “tithing” which is not a New Covenant ideal or a part of Catholic Tradition. In their parish, appeals for money are done very well only once per year, but stewardship is part of the vision of the parish.  In keeping with our modern culture they authors suggest setting up accounts to allow regular envelope users to give by electronic fund transfer, and set up the parish website to receive gifts.  They even suggest a giving “kiosk” in the lobby that allows parishioners to swipe there card on their way out of Mass (p. 207). They also suggest that the parish be responsible and transparent with the use of the funds donated.
The next section is titled “Staffing Tools.”  The authors warn about over-using volunteers and about the danger of some heavily used volunteers gaining an unhealthy sense of entitlement.  They suggest constantly using new volunteers as often as possible. Following best practices in business they suggest that we “get the wrong person off the bus. “ When we recognize that someone is a bad fit for a ministry we need to gracefully get them off the bus.  We should also be patient when we are hiring.  They suggest looking for character, competency and chemistry (p. 218). Linked to this is the idea that we should be on the lookout for talented people and promote them.  They believe that as we promote talent to our team more talent will be attracted. They suggest scheduling the staff around the weekend, so that the weekend is the big event. They also emphasize that leaders must be learners who are constantly reading and reflecting on their task.
In the next section entitled, “Critical Tools.”  The authors warn that whatever you do you will experience comment, criticism and complaint.  Some tools for dealing with conflict include beginning with prayer, communicating with appropriate diocesan leadership (especially the bishop) and neighboring pastors about the transition and change you are planning and finally exercising the appropriate damage control.  On this point the authors warn that if you attempt to promote change you will inevitably receive very stereotyped letters of complaint by those who do not like change.  We can always learn from criticism but we shouldn’t let this criticism stifle our vision.  We should not be upset when the “wrong people”-- angry, hurtful, critical, dramatic people leave the parish because they won’t follow our vision.  Sadly sometimes even the “right” people will leave because their friends and family don’t like us. As leaders we also need to be willing to admit our mistakes.  The author note “beside what you actually get wrong you might have to apologize for what you get right” (p. 244).  We may have hurt people unintentionally, overlooked someone, or failed to provide what someone needed.  We also need to be humble and to exercise forgiveness and to move on.
The next section of the book is entitled, “Fun Tools.” We need to celebrate successes by first of all defining what success is in our ministry, then by sharing these successes and celebrating them with our staff.  We must emphasize that any success is a team effort.  Reward success by thanking people personally and publically.  Also thank your staff privately.  The authors also emphasize the importance of “fun.”  They suggest that we should laugh at ourselves, and create a fun environment.
In their final section the authors discuss, “Overall Tools.” The first point is that the pastor needs to be careful not to dominate and to delegate responsibility.  Pastors need to model submission to authority.  “Be an authority by submitting yourself to it.” (p. 275).Change takes time.  You need to be discerning about which new projects you take on and to be patient and positive about the pace of change.  There are no silver bullets.  The challenges we face require consistent approaches, focused intensity and time (p. 280).  We need to seek wise counsel in various ways to improve our leadership by choosing wise advisors and looking for specific skills and points of view.  The authors advocate doing something in a smaller way as a trial and then doing it in a bigger way.  Start somewhere, brainstorm and give yourself permission to fail (p. 290).  We need to focus on the hearts of individual people (p. 291) and stop trying to make people go to church, but instead make church matter (p. 294).

Review © Scott McKellar 2013

Friday, December 13, 2013


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Francis wave2Fr. Longenecker has posted an interesting blog in which he compliments a piece by Ross Douthat at the New York Times which I agree seems insightful.  The trouble is that some of those who are accusing Pope Francis of being ‘naïve and simplistic’ about the economy are actually ‘naïve and simplistic’ about the Church’s social doctrine and doctrine of the Church’s magisterium.  Just to clarify I am not talking about Fr. Longenecker, who for me has been a great stimulus for thought.
One small historical example would be the fact that when Leo XIII condemned ‘socialism’ he mostly meant what we today call ‘communism’ though he may have had in mind what later developed as National Socialism in Germany.  My point is that modern western democratic governments which happen to be frankly mildly ‘socialist’ when compared to the US are probably not what Pope Leo had in mind with his condemnation of ‘socialism’.
Nor has the developing social doctrine of the Church taken sides and condemned all attempts at modern democratic socialism (as defined above).  A recent work by Maciej Zięba, OP (Papal Economics, ISI Books 2013) has a section highlighting the change and ambivalence in the use of these terms through various modern Popes in the Church’s Papal teachings (p. 57-60).
I think Fr. Longenecker is on to something when he says;
The stereotyped economic debate still seems to be centered around certain naive assumptions: that capitalists are always money grubbing, greedy villains and that collectivists are always high minded, idealistic brothers and sisters of the poor.
What if the Pope isn’t trying to ‘take sides’ economically, but rather asking for new dialogue in which the Church’s venerable ethical traditions are allowed to question our current economic theories?  Are we right as Catholics if we say that the Pope has no authority to say anything in this area?  I want to be careful here.  It is the broad principles of social doctrine which are timeless and binding, but what reaction is called for by the Catholic faithful to the ordinary magisterium of the Church when it suggests certain critiques or application of these principles to real situations?
Tim Worstall, a Fellow at the Adam Smith Institute in London, contributes an otherwise interesting opinion piece to Forbes about Evangelii Gaudium in which he fasley concludes,
Fortunately the idea of Papal Infallibility only applies to occasions when the Pope himself declares that he is speaking infallibly. Which, from memory, has only been done once to assert the possibility of the doctrine of Papal Infallibility. So it is still OK to disagree on this point about the nature of a desired economy.
While Worstall  is partly right, (it is OK to disagree about the nature of a desired economy) yet his comment displays a common misunderstanding of authority and infallibility.  This opinion falsely believes that if something is not formally pronounced in an infallible statement we are free to ignore it as mere opinion.  Recently Avery Cardinal Dulles published a work on Magisterium (Magisterium: Teacher and Guardian of the Faith, (Naples, FL: Sapientia Press, 2007) which outlined some of the nuances of this doctrine including various levels of infallibility attached to Church documents. Dr Martin Rhonheimer points out that it is important in the case of the Church’s social doctrine to observe a “distinction between two levels: on the one hand, the level of the principles of the doctrine of the Catholic faith; on the other hand, that of their concrete historical application.  (Nova et Vetera, English Edition, Vol. 9, No. 4 (2011): 1029–54).   Dr Rhonheimer notes;
In the magisterial declarations—in particular in those touching on political, economic, and social issues—many elements are found that depend upon historical circumstances. The magisterium of the Church in the field of social teaching also contains, together with immutable principles founded on the doctrine of the faith, a mass of implementations that are often, in hindsight, rather dubious. What is involved here is not a type of “teaching” similar to Catholic teaching in matters of faith and morals, where the Church interprets the natural law in an obligatory manner—as in the cases of questions concerning contraception, abortion, euthanasia, and other moral norms in the field of bioethics. (p. 1046).
Fr.  Anthony Figueiredo has pointed out that “the classical conception of the magisterium emphasizes four basic characteristics regarding the teaching function of bishops”.[1]  First the Pope is seen as the head of the college of bishops.  Since all authentic teaching authority is concentrated in the episcopal order, and since the pope is the head of the College of Bishops, then the pope is the supreme and universal teacher of the Church.[2]  Secondly the pope and bishops alone are the authentic teachers of the Church because they have received their office or powers through Holy Orders.  Those who have received these orders are given the special assistance of the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:25) which is rooted in the gift conferred on the Apostles enabling them “to know the mind of God, and to interpret Scripture as God willed”[3]  This assistance of the Holy Spirit allows the magisterium of the Church to be infallible in two ways: in an extraordinary way in the infallible definitions of a Council or in the infallible pronouncements of a Pope when he speaks ex cathedra, and secondly in the “ordinary  and universal teaching of the pope and the bishops in union with him.”[4] This does not imply that other acts of the magisterium which are in the form of solemn definitions, are necessarily subject to error and a matter for open debate.[5]
While paying attention the distinction made by Fr. Rhonheimer above, what sort of response from the faithful is called for in relation to papal teachings which are not given at the highest level of infallible pronouncements? The fathers of the Second Vatican Council specifically outlined the degree of ascent various types of teachings.
In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent (religioso animi obsequio adhaerere debent). This religious submission (religiosum obsequeium) of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to (sincere adhaereatur), according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking. (Lumen Gentium, 25)
The Catechism quotes this point explicitly noting;
Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a “definitive manner,” they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful “are to adhere to it with religious assent” (religioso animi obsequio adhaerere debent )422 which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it. CCC 892
Again returning to Fr. Rhonheimr’s distinction, in the Church’s social doctrine we must be in complete submission to the general principles of social doctrine but the concrete historical situations are subject to change and debate.  While Lumen Gentium 25 might not have as great a force for the specific historical applications of social doctrine, should not the principle be that we are at least willing to listen to the Pope and to allow our hearts to be challenged by what he says in these areas?  Rather than dismissing the Pope as ‘naïve and simplistic’ are we not rather called to offer him docility and respect?  I was particularly moved by a post on First Things by Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry in this regard. Once again I do acknowledge that their can be respectful disagreement on the specific applications of social doctrines.  I should point out that this respectful dissagreement requires that one knows the principles of the social doctrine and that one is applying them rightly, and not that in an unprincipled manner we can do what ever we want.  Yet as a further challenge to those of us who are catechists, what example are we giving to to other Catholics if we publically disrespect the Holy Father’s official teachings?

[1] Figueiredo, Anthony J. The Magisterium-theology relationship: Contemporary theological conceptions in the light of universal church teaching since 1835 and the pronouncements of the bishops of the United States  Tesi Gregoriana: Serie Teologia 75. (Rome: Pontificia Universita Gregoriana, 2001), p. 30.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid., p. 32.
[4] Ibid., p. 33.
[5] Germain Grisez, “Infallibility and Specific Moral Norms: A Review Discussion,” The Thomist 49 (1985): 248-87 and his “The Ordinary Magisterium’s Infallibility: A Reply to Some New Arguments,”Theological Studies 55 (1994) 720-32.
© Scott McKellar 2013


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Pope Francis featuredIn the previous section of his exhortation Pope Francis emphasized a need for a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ and for a transformation of the Church in light of a new missionary impulse.  In the next section, Pope Francis outlines some of the challenges of today’s world such as our “throw away” culture which treats human beings as “consumer goods to be used and then discarded” (EG 53). Economics and financial reform need to be open to an ethical approach which favors integral human fulfillment (EG 58).
Culture itself needs to be evangelized by confronting such challenges as; attacks on religious freedom, widespread indifference, relativism, the negative aspects of the media and entertainment industries which threaten traditional values, and the proliferation of new religious movements (EG 62-63).
He also notes that many of the baptized faithful “lack a sense of belonging to the Church” and that this may be due to “certain structures and the occasion­ally unwelcoming atmosphere of some of our parishes and communities, or to a bureaucratic way of dealing with problems” or “a concentration on administering the sacraments apart from other forms of evangelization” (EG 63).
The process of secularization has reduced faith and the Church to the sphere of the private and personal through (EG 64). “Marriage now tends to be viewed as a form of mere emotional satisfaction that can be constructed in any way or modified at will” (EG 66).
There are many temptations faced by pastoral workers in our current globalized culture (EG 76-77). We need to develop a new missionary spirituality which resists relativism and the exaggerations of personal freedom in our culture (EG 78-80). Pope Francis also notes the danger of negativity and pessimism, so that we do not appear to be “sourpusses” (EG 85).
The greater possibilities for communication in our modern world must turn into “greater possibilities for encounter and solidarity” (EG 87) allowing us to overcome suspicion (EG 88) and the isolation of unhealthy individualism (EG 89).
Pope Francis warns of two extremes of ‘spiritual worldliness’, one which is a purely subjective faith based on experience and the other a faith which ultimately trusts only in its own powers and feels superior to others because it observes certain rules or remains intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style from the past. (EG 93-94).
Pope Francis also discusses the challenges of lay people in the Church (EG 100-101).  The laity can be hindered by lack of formation or by limitations to their actions caused by “an excessive clericalism which keeps them away from decision-making” (EG 102).  Even when the lay faithful are involved in lay ministry they are often not involved in their essential role of a “greater penetration of Christian values in the social, political and economic sectors” in the midst of the world (EG 102).
The need to uphold the dignity of women and to create still broader opportunities for women in the Church is highlighted. At the same time Pope Francis still affirms the reservation of the priesthood to males, “as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist” (EG 103-104).
In the light of these challenges Pope Francis discusses the proclamation of the Gospel.  He warns that, “there can be no true evangelization without the explicit proclamation of Jesus as Lord” (EG 110). The task of proclaiming the gospel belongs to the entire people of God (EG 111). Every member of the Church is a missionary disciple.  The sanctifying power of the Spirit is at work in all the baptize impelling them to evangelize. All members of the People of God are agents of evangelization (EG 119-120).
The Gospel is frequently communicated in person to person conversation which forms a type of “informal preaching” (EG 127) “which is always respectful and gentle” and “the first step in personal dialogue” (EG 128).  Only then does the opportunity arise to humbly share the biblical message about Jesus’ offer of salvation and friendship (EG 128).  This message can take a variety of forms since the Holy Spirit enriches the entire evangelizing Church with different charisms (EG 130). The duty of proclaiming the Gospel message to different cultures also involves proclaiming it to professional, scientific and academic circles (EG 132) and requires “an encounter between faith, reason and the sciences with a view to developing new approaches and arguments” and creative apologetics (EG 132).  While stressing the importance of the scholarly work of theologians he notes that theologians must always remember that “the Church and theology exist to evangelize, and not be content with a desk-bound theology” (EG 133).
The task of proclaiming the gospel is especially linked to the homily (EG 135).  Pope Francis urges pastors to renew their efforts at effective Biblical preaching (EG 136) which “is not so much a time for meditation and catechesis as a dialogue between God and his people” (EG 137).
Pope Francis warns that, “the homily cannot be a form of entertainment like those presented by the media . . . it should be brief and avoid taking on the semblance of a speech or a lecture” and that “. . . preaching should guide the assembly, and the preacher, to a life-changing communion with Christ in the Eucharist” (EG 138). The Church is a mother that speaks to her child (EG 139).
The homily should be a dialogue of heart to heart communication.  Pope Francis notes that an “inculturated preaching consists in proclaiming a synthesis, not ideas or detached values” (EG 143). Pope Francis gives pastors an extended set of advice on how to prepare and deliver a homily (EG 145-159). The preacher should prayerfully study the sacred text and prepare a message which will touch the heart of his hearers.
In this section of his exhortation Francis moves on to discuss evangelization and the deeper understanding of the kerygma or the initial preaching of the gospel. He points out that education and catechesis are at the service of the gospel (EG 165).
In the next extended section he discusses what he calls the importance of the “art of accompaniment” (EG 168-173), which “teaches us to remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other (cf. Ex 3:5)” (EG 168). This allows men and women on the basis of their experience of accompanying others to become “familiar with processes which call for prudence, understanding, patience and docility to the Spirit, so that they can protect the sheep from wolves who would scatter the flock” (EG 171).
The proclamation of the gospel should be centered on the Word of God. All evangelization is based on the word of God, “listened to, meditated upon, lived, celebrated and witnessed to” (EG 174).  The study of the sacred Scriptures is essential in all our efforts to pass on the faith. “Evangelization demands familiarity with God’s word, which calls for dioceses, parishes and Catholic associations to provide for a serious, ongoing study of the Bible” (EG 175).
© Scott McKellar 12/13/2013


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This is the first installment of a three part review and summary of Pope Francis’ latest Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium.
Pope Francis’ Apostolic ExhortationEvangelii Gaudium(The Joy of the Gospel) is truly an inspiring manifesto for the missionary reform in the Church. Pope Francis wishes firstly to “to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization” marked by joy of the Gospel and secondly to point out “new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come” in relation to this evangelical mission (EG 1). Pope Francis issues a challenge; “I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them” (EG 3).  It is principally through our personal encounter with Christ that we gain the love and joy which is “the source and inspiration of all our efforts at evangelization” (EG 8).
Living a fulfilled life involves reaching out to others and seeking their good.  By its very nature the Gospel causes us to experience delightful and comforting joy as we reach out to others.  The recent Synod on The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith (EG 14) highlights three principal settings for evangelization.  The first setting is the work of evangelization in ordinary pastoral ministry of the Church which seeks to help believers to grow spiritually.  The second is the ministry to the baptized faithful whose lives do not reflect the demands of Baptism and who lack a meaningful relationship to the Church. Finally, evangelization has always been first and foremost about preaching the Gospel to those who do not know Jesus Christ (EG 15).
The proclamation of the Gospel should always flow from our joy.  Pope Francis notes “it is not by proselytizing that the Church grows, but ‘by attraction’” (EG 15). Giving some practical guidelines the reform of the Church in her missionary outreach he notes that we must go forth “from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the ‘peripheries’ in need of the light of the Gospel” (EG 20).
Calling for a renewal of pastoral life, Pope Francis says pointedly that the status quo or ‘mere administration’ is no longer enough. The Church needs to examine itself and to seek to renew itself. He warns that “there are ecclesial structures which can hamper efforts at evangelization” (EG 26).  Pope Francis calls for a pastoral conversion and renewal of the Church‘s structures in light of our mission.
“I dream of a ‘missionary option’, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation (EG 27).
Because of its flexibility, the local parish is precisely the place where this can most easily take place. He notes that this is true only if the parish is truly in contact with the wider community and not just ministering to a chosen few (EG 28).  Other types of small communities, and movements, and apostolates can also bring a new evangelizing fervor to renew the Church. But, he notes, “it will prove beneficial for them not to lose contact with the rich reality of the local parish and to participate readily in the overall pastoral activity of the particular Church” (EG 29).
Each particular Church, under its bishop “is likewise called to missionary conversion” (EG 30).  The particular Church is the “primary subject of evangelization” and “the concrete manifestation of the one Church in one specific place” (EG 30).  Missions should especially be focused on those of greater need and on the “the outskirts of its own territory or towards new sociocultural settings.”
Pope Francis notes that “the papacy and the central structures of the universal Church also need to hear the call to pastoral conversion” because “excessive centralization, rather than proving helpful, complicates the Church’s life and her missionary outreach (EG 32). He warns that we must “abandon the complacent attitude that says: ‘We have always done it this way’” and challenges us to “invite everyone to be bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization” (EG 33).
We must seek to convey the heart of Christ’s message and not to confuse this with even important secondary aspects of the faith (EG 34).  We also need to be “realistic and not assume that our audience understands the full background to what we are saying” (EG 34).  He notes that, “Pastoral ministry in a missionary style is not obsessed with the disjointed transmission of a multitude of doctrines to be insistently imposed, instead the message has to concentrate on the essentials, on what is most beautiful, most grand, most appealing and at the same time most necessary” (EG 35). While it is true that “all revealed truths derive from the same divine source and are to be believed with the same faith, yet some of them are more important for giving direct expression to the heart of the Gospel” (EG 36).  The ‘pastoral consequence’ of this is that in preaching the Gospel “a fitting sense of proportion” has to be maintained “in the frequency with which certain themes are brought up and in the emphasis given to them in preaching” (EG 38). Because of the organic unity of the faith we need to avoid portraying Christian morality as “a form of stoicism, or self-denial, or merely a practical philosophy or a catalogue of sins and faults” (EG 39).  The Church’s doctrinal and moral teaching need to be presented in the context of the Gospel message which “invites us to respond to the God of love who saves us” (EG 39).
He notes the importance of culture observing that, “today’s vast and rapid cultural changes demand that we constantly seek ways of expressing unchanging truths in a language which brings out their abiding newness” (EG 41).  Quoting the famous words of Blessed Pope John XXIII, he notes, “The deposit of the faith is one thing… the way it is expressed is another” (EG 41). He also points out that, “all religious teaching ultimately has to be reflected in the teacher’s way of life, which awakens the assent of the heart by its nearness, love and witness” (EG 42). Without abandoning the evangelical ideal, pastors and teachers need to accompany others with mercy and patience through the “eventual stages of personal growth as these progressively occur” (EG 44).
(c) Scott McKellar