The following is an email that was recently sent out to a certain parish staff, alerting them of the latest team update:
To Whom It May Concern:
In agreement with the clearly delineated diocesan norms for termination of employment, below are just a handful of the reasons we were forced to fire Jesus of Nazareth from our parish staff here at Our Lady of the Emptying Pews:
- He was never in the office.
- He was constantly leaving work to “go and pray.”
- He never turned in a single bulletin announcement.
- He invited all the “wrong kinds of people” into the Parish community.
- He turned over tables at the annual Parish ministry fair.
- He encouraged people without master’s degrees or PhDs to share, preach, and teach.
- He refused to utilize clip art.
- He had his “team” set up for his own farewell dinner.
- He gave the church keys to a fisherman instead of returning them to the front desk.
- He formed catechists and executed a parish plan without first forming a committee to investigate a strategy that might include a committee.
- And finally—in a display that demonstrated complete lack of pastoral discretion—he was unwilling to use his special “gifts” to multiply fish and tartar sauce, and thereby prevent the Knights of Columbus from looking foolish at the Lenten Fish Fry.
As anyone can clearly see, Jesus of Nazareth was unwilling to abide by time-honored rules and expectations as set forth by people at the parish who are long-since dead, yet whose memories we celebrate with every rule (“sacred cow”) we choose to heed (feed rather than slaughter).
Joylessly yours in Christ,
Members of the Perish(ing) Staff’
Structure is the Means, not the End
Whether you find the above letter insightful or idiotic, jovial or juvenile, the truth is that modern ministry can often take on an institutionalized form that Christ never intended.
That’s not to say that Christ did not like structure. He did, to be sure.
He didn’t just choose the twelve apostles to mirror and relive Israel’s existence in perfect fidelity. In choosing and empowering the twelve and the seventy-two, Jesus created an infrastructure that offered his truth and healing presence to the masses and in time, through apostolic succession at all Masses.
That being said, our Catholic faith is inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit. Our Church is designed to be dynamic and organic—living and active—not predictable and stale.
Getting into the Spirit of Evangelization
Is there really a “new” spirit of evangelization in our ministries or just the same tired approach with a new name and facelift? Are our meetings more about prayer or agendas? Are our classes interactive or strictly lecture-based? Do souls leave intellectually full but spiritually empty? Do we spend more time talking “about” Jesus than actually talking (and listening) to him?
The Church offers us an indispensible gift in her apostolic structure and visible head in Rome. Our Church also invites us to retreat into the desert (prompted by the Holy Spirit as Jesus, himself, was) and allow the Father to direct our next steps.
If your ministries have gotten stale or predictable or institutional … love your parish enough to shut down ministries or programs for a time.
Try new things, and then reconvene to process what the Lord is doing and how the Holy Spirit is moving.
Jesus will still “make all things new” (Revelation 21:5) … if we let him!
This article was first published on The Great Adventure Blog in March 2014.
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About Mark Hart
Mark Hart is the best-selling and award-winning author of more than a dozen books and is the author and lead presenter of T3: The Teen Timeline(a teen Bible study program), Encounter (a pre-teen Bible study program), and Altaration. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, he serves as executive vice president of Life Teen International.