From our dear friend, Carole Brown, Director of Evangelization and Kerygma Alumni, this article was too good not to share. For those of us in the trenches of Catholic- Protestant ministry, may this serve as encouragement that we are on the right path. Enjoy!
On Palm Sunday this year, I was standing in the foyer of one of the metro parishes where a liturgically sensitive usher was holding the stragglers at bay as the solemnities began.
I found a place to lean against the wall when suddenly a man came up to me and said, “Is this church always this crowded?” Since I was a visitor too, I indicated that I wasn’t sure. He clucked his tongue impatiently and said, “I’m going to Life Church.” I found myself thrust into an evangelization emergency, and I needed to give him a good reason to stay, pronto! I searched my mind — what did we have that they didn’t have? Of course. The Eucharist! So, I quickly uttered some hasty words of encouragement, that he shouldn’t miss out on the Bread of Life. His eyes glazed over and his words stung: “Some people are born to be Catholic, and some people are born to run away from the Catholic Church. I’m running away.” He turned on his heel, and left.
I know that many parents with adult children are heartbroken by the fact that their kids have abandoned the faith of their childhood in favor of churches like this. They say they are being “fed” there. What is a parent to do? What is the Church to do?
Surprisingly, one thing that evangelical churches do extremely well is a perfectly Catholic thing to do, and something we can learn. Life Church, like many other evangelical churches, effectively announces the core message of the Good News of the Gospel, in a thousand different ways. This core message so permeates the consciousness of these Christians that it shapes their welcome, their formation and the whole atmosphere.
The core message of the Gospel is called the “kerygma” (ker-IG-ma), or the “initial proclamation” of the Gospel. Recovering the kerygma is part of the culture shift within the Church to which the New Evangelization is calling us. Saint John Paul II referred to the kerygma as “the conversion-bringing proclamation of the Gospel … the initial ardent proclamation by which a person is one day overwhelmed and brought to the decision to entrust himself to Jesus Christ by faith.” (cf. “Catechesis in Our Times,” 19, 25) This initial proclamation is the “permanent priority” of the Church’s mission. In “Mission of the Redeemer” 44, he wrote:
“The Church cannot elude Christ's explicit mandate, nor deprive men and women of the ‘Good News’ about their being loved and saved by God. Evangelization will always contain – as the foundation, center and at the same time the summit of its dynamism – a clear proclamation that, in Jesus Christ ... salvation is offered to all people, as a gift of God's grace and mercy."
Pope Francis summarized the kerygma this way, “Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.”
Saint Paul once distinguished between those members of the Church who needed milk, and those who needed meat. “I fed you milk, not solid food, because you were unable to take it. Indeed, you are still not able, even now …” (1 Cor 3.2) After the Protestant reformation, Catholics began to dwell almost exclusively on our doctrinal, sacramental and moral teaching — the “meat” of the faith – to emphasize those things which distinguish us from Protestants.
Only since the 20th Century catechetical movement, led by Joseph Jungmann and Johannes Hofinger, has the kerygmatic aspect of catechesis started to gain traction again in magisterial teaching.
Recent popes have indicated that without the conversion prompted by the kerygma, catechesis does not have a proper context within which to take root. Pope Francis gave an earthquake of emphasis to the kerygma, in “Joy of the Gospel.” He writes:
“This first proclamation is called ‘first’ not because it exists at the beginning and can then be forgotten or replaced by other more important things. It is first in a qualitative sense because it is the principal proclamation, the one which we must hear again and again in different ways, the one which we must announce one way or another throughout the process of catechesis, at every level and moment. We must not think that in catechesis the kerygma gives way to a supposedly more “solid” formation. Nothing is more solid, profound, secure, meaningful and wisdom-filled than that initial proclamation. All Christian formation consists of entering more deeply into the kerygma, which is reflected in and constantly illumines, the work of catechesis, thereby enabling us to understand more fully the significance of every subject which the latter treats.” (“Joy of the Gospel,” 164)
Only a person who has joyfully entrusted himself to Jesus Christ is in a position to take on board the high standard of moral living that he revealed, or to fruitfully receive the sacraments. Pope Francis further wrote:
“ … (the kerygma) has to express God’s saving love, which precedes any moral and religious obligation on our part; it should not impose the truth but appeal to freedom; it should be marked by joy, encouragement, liveliness and a harmonious balance, which will not reduce preaching to a few doctrines, which are at times more philosophical than evangelical. All this demands on the part of the evangelizer certain attitudes, which foster openness to the message: approachability, readiness for dialogue, patience, a warmth and welcome which is non-judgmental.”The “culture of kerygma” is what Life Church, and most evangelical congregations, do really, really well. If we can internalize the kerygma in our own lives and develop a more kerygmatic culture ourselves, the welcoming atmosphere of our churches will be transformed. Our children will not only stay Catholic, but catechesis will be set in its proper context. And furthermore, evangelicals will be more likely to find the fullness of their faith.
Originally posted here: http://archokc.org/news/4216-commentary-what-life-church-is-doing-right