Recently the Parish of which I am a member adopted a new “mission”. Because we are a Catholic church the word “Catholic” is in the mission, however I believe that if the word “Christian” was substituted for “Catholic” this could easily be the mission of every Christian church. Here is our new mission:
“We are a joyful Catholic community of disciples of Jesus Christ, moved by love to seek the lost and the broken and bring them home.”
I have been blessed to be part of a small group that has been putting on a retreat each month at our parish to help all of our members come to a deeper understanding of what this new mission means to them and how they can apply it in their lives. During this retreat we dissect this mission into each sub phrase and dig into its meaning. After a recent retreat a question came up about the phrase “bring them home” and its meaning.
About this same time in a small ecumenical weekly prayer group of men that I am member of, we had a discussion on a similar topic. Our discussion was sparked by a book one of our members was reading about the lack of effort Christians were making to invite new people to join their respective churches.
I posed the question; “is that what we are called to do as Christians…..to invite new people to join our church?” I mentioned my parish’s mission to them and asked those present if they thought that is what is meant by the phrase “bring them home?” We had a good discussion on this topic and I thought it would be good to bring this topic here to ponder uponin a 4thdayletter.
In Christian movements like Cursillo, Walk to Emmaus, Via De Christo, Kairos and others there is a phrase that is an important part of those movements and it is: “make a friend, be a friend, bring a friend to Christ.” In practice, sometimes this phrase gets distorted and the emphasis changes. Because of the zeal to have others experience these movements the phrase becomes: “make a friend, be a friend, get this friend to join my new movement.” It often becomes a numbers game about getting new members in each respective group.
I saw a correlation between primarily focusing on getting more people to join these movements and the author’s point that we are called primarily to get more people to join our churches. Is getting someone to join one of these movements bringing them to Christ? Is getting someone to join our church bringing them home?
This brings us back to our question of: “where is home?” My initial thought is to say that the answerto bringing someone home is solely focused on bringing that person to an understanding of who Jesus Christ is and helping that person to experience His love and forgiveness. At first I mistakenly saw this as an either or issue. I did not think “bringing them home” necessarily meant getting others to join our church nor our small groups, nor Cursillo nor any other groups like Cursillo. We are called to bring them to CHRIST…….this is where HOME is, isn’t it?
Ah, but not so fast, there is more to this question. According to the book that my friend is reading only 2% of Christians ever invite others to attend their church. This book is trying to motivate Christians to become more active in bringing others to their church but I had to ask myself, does this presuppose they were not also intending to bring them to Christ? So again I ponder the question, what are we as Christians supposed to do to bring someone home? Does bringing them to Christ necessitate also getting them to join our church?
After much thought, reflection and prayer I have concluded the answer is not an either/or issue, no it is a “both/and“. Clearly we are called to bring others to Christ, but we are also called to invite these people into our Christian communities. To fully experience Christian life we must also invite them into our church, our small prayer groups and the various movements that we are involved in.
There is no doubt that as Christians “we are the church,” not the buildings we worship in. We believe that Christ dwells in us. I believe we are called to bring others to an encounter with Christ. We are called to share the good news of the redemptive, forgiving, merciful, healing and loving power of our savior Jesus Christ.
We also know, God who is love is communal. Each member of the Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is in perfect loving communion with each other. Likewise, God calls us to be in communion with each other.
We can begin to see that bringing someone “home” can be as simple as extending a kind, loving gesture. God is love so when they experience love they experience God. But we all know by God’s design we are not meant to be solo Christians. We are called to take our respective place in the body of Christ.
Some people have chosen to be unchurched because their experience is that Christians are no different than non-Christians (greedy, judgmental, and unloving etc.). If we allow them to experience a real disciple of Christ….real love, they might eventually want to experience the “community of believers” that we belong to. The first step is almost always to love. We should then work to develop a real true friendship rooted in Christ.
Which came first the chicken or the egg? Do we bring them home by inviting them to church, or rather by expressing to them a loving and kind gesture? Do we invite them to join our “group” or tell them more about the person of Jesus Christ?
The answer my friends is BOTH–AND. It is not one or the other.
The phrase “make a friend, be a friend, bring a friend to Christ” truly tells us what it means to “bring them home.” We need to be a true friend. What do friends do? True friends strive to love each other unconditionally, like God loves us. When we do this, the other person, through our love, encounters Christ and it is this encounter with Christ that I believe that we BRING THEM HOME.
Let’s allow others to encounter Christ in us. Let’s love them where they are. Let’s share the news of His healing and forgiveness. Let’s invite them to join our communities and groups. And just what does all of this mean? It means we will be carrying out the mission.
LET’S COMMIT OURSELVES TO SEEK THE LOST AND BROKEN AND BRING THEM HOME!
Dear Heavenly Father, we all seek to be home in your loving embrace for all of eternity, help us to seek out others who are lost and broken in this world and don’t know of your Son Jesus Christ. Help me to share your love with them so that they too can one day be home with you forever, amen.