The Next Church and How to Get There

paprocki coverBeing a Patheos blogger, you understand, is a pretty cush deal. For example, the folks at Patheos corporate HQ recently offered any interested Dorothy Option contributor a free copy of Joe Paprocki’s book, A Church on the Move, in exchange for a few hundred words of comment for the conversation at the Patheos Book Club. I don’t know why I agreed to do this–like I really need to own one more book. Maybe there’s room for it in the fridge.

But I agreed and two days later here’s my shiny new copy of the book. Which I admit I was expecting to snark at as a predictable artifact of conventional piety or the like.

Turns out my expectations were way off-base. Joe Paprocki, I quickly realized, is a Pope Francis type-a guy, as they might say in his Chicago. His book’s subtitle is “52 Ways to Get Mission and Mercy in Motion” and from his tone he sounds like a man in a hurry. Which is great.

Because Joe wants to help turn the Church’s great ocean liner around, just as does our captain Francis himself, and he knows the inertia in this cause is of course immense. But we simply gotta push like hell. Joe certainly does: about halfway through his book, I decided it could almost have been entitled, How To Upset a Lot of Inert Catholics.

His first suggestion is “focus on brokenness” (clearly echoing Pope Francis) and his second is “create an atmosphere of urgency” as a way of overcoming our immense institutional complacency. Our parishes should focus on addressing crises “as opposed to offering feel-good experiences and “happy talk.”

What if we “create discipleship pledge cards”? That is, how bout setting not just financial goals but ministerial goals also: growing the numbers of sick and infirm parishioners reached through ministry of care, meals served to the homeless, new parishioners welcomed, households contacted through evangelization, etc.

Another way to get mission and mercy in motion: “foster healing from the sex-abuse crisis.” In order that the U.S. Church might really perform a significant public penance for the clerical abuse scandal, the author suggests that each of our bishops agree to work at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter several times over a year. Ka-boom.

Other wonderfully provocative and worthwhile ideas: enlist young adults in leadership positions, make Jesus’ death and resurrection the center of parish life, infuse worship with more silence, implement faith formation powered by works of mercy rather than doctrine, teach adults to pray as adults, and (strikingly) invite people to heroic living. Let’s meet over at the Patheos Book Club and discuss, shall we?

 

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