This BLOG is teaching about the CATHOLIC FAITH

THE BEC-GKK PROGRAM IN THE DIOCESE OF MARBEL

FOREWORD

BEC is more than 30 years old in the diocese of Marbel (1968-2005). Early BECs (late 60’s) were mostly initiatives of some parish priests. BECs of the 70s were influenced by two main factors: MSPC 1-2-3 (1971-1974-1977) and KRISKA (1974-1975-1976). BECs of the 80s were spurred on by the adoption of BEC as a Diocesan Thrust in 1983 and a more systematic re-organization of the Ministries in 1986.  BECs of the 90s up to the present are encouraged by the re-structuring of the Diocesan Commissions and the re-aligning of the Ministries in 1996. According to our records 27 BECs were established in the late 60’s (4 parishes), 277 in the 70’s (17 parishes), 747 in the 80’s (22 parishes), 216 in the 90’s (23 parishes), and 143 additional in 2002. Total number of GKKs as of year 2005 was 1,610.

HISTORY – BUILDING BECs – THE MARBEL EXPERIENCE

A.     HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

  1. The Diocese of Marbel (City of Koronadal, South Cotabato) is located at the southernmost tip of the island of Mindanao.
  2. It is one of younger dioceses in Mindanao: established as Prelature Nullius of Marbel in 1960, and became a Diocese in 1982.
  3. Marbel is one of the big dioceses in Mindanao in area and population.
  4. Area – 10,000 sq. kil.
  5. Population – 1.583,208 million; Catholics: 1.220,356 million (77.13%) (2005 data)
  6. Diocesan Priests – 70 (2005 data)
  7. The Diocese comprises: the Province of South Cotabato, Sarangani Province, the City of General Santos and some parts of the neighboring Province of Sultan Kudarat.
  8. Number of Parishes: 24, plus 2 Missions for Indigenous Peoples
  9. Number of BECs: 1,610 (2005 data)

B.

A. HISTORY OF BEC IN THE DIOCESE OF MARBEL

1.    For us in Marbel, the terms BCC-BEC-GKK refer to the same thing. We use these terms interchangeably, but the most common term we use locally is GKK (which literally stands for “Gagmayng Kristohanong Katilingban).

2.   Among the early GKKs that were established in Mindanao (even before MSPC-I) were those of Marbel. Marbel started adopting GKKs in the late sixties and early seventies. These early GKKs, however, were found only in some parishes and were established due to individual efforts of some dedicated priests.

3.    From the early 70’s on, we can identify 4 main stages in the Development of BECs in the Diocese of Marbel. These stages are:

a)       Period of Formation – the 70s

b)      Period of Consolidation – the 80s

c)       Period of Re-alignment – the 90s

d)      Period of Later Developments – Year 2000 to the present

1970’S – PERIOD OF FORMATION. Major Influences: MSPC AND KRISKA

1.   MSPC (Mindanao Sulu Pastoral Conference) which started in 1971 adopted as its main thrust the formation of BECs in Mindanao. Every diocese in Mindanao was encouraged to establish BECs by MSPC. Marbel was one of these dioceses.

2.   KRISKA (Kristohanong Kasilinganan) was started in 1975 as a Program for Adult Formation in the Diocese of Marbel (then Prelature of Marbel). The Formation of BECs was one of the program’s top priorities. KRISKA was instrumental in the establishment of many BECs in the 70’s.

3.   According to our data, about 294 BECs were organized in the 70’s through the influence of MSPC (1-3) and KRISKA.

1980’S – PERIOD OF CONSOLIDATION.

1.   1982 – Levelling off on BEC concept. This was decided upon after leveling off among priests regarding BEC concept and processes. BEC was defined for what it is and what it is not (v.g. BEC, is not a community of religious sisters, not a group of KC, CWL, Samaria-Cursillo, etc.). The process in the building of BECs was also agreed upon.

2.   1984 – BEC/GKK as Diocesan Thrust was formulated. It says that the main thrust of the Diocese is: “The building and strengthening of BECs/GKKs towards integral liberation and development in order to help bring about the ‘new self’ and the ‘new earth’ thereby glorifying God.”

3.   1986 – BEC/GKK ministries were organized and strengthened in the diocesan and parish levels. Diocesan GKK Ministry officers were elected. In the parishes the Parish GKK ministry was organized. Its composition, functions, and programs were identified.

4.   1988 – The first Diocesan GKK General Assembly was held. This was attended by more than a thousand GKK members and practitioners. Since then this GKK General Assembly becomes an annual event held in November or December of every year.

5.   According to our record, about 747 BECs were organized in the 80’s.

1990’S – PERIOD OF RE-ALIGNMENT

1.   1991 – PCP II was held in Manila. PCP II points out the value of BEC as a pastoral priority. It strongly recommends the forming of BECs in all dioceses in the Philippines. The Conference also recognizes the BEC’s potential for evangelization and ecclesial renewal for the country today.

2.   1996 – The First Diocesan Pastoral Assembly (DPA-I) was held in Marbel. Among its objectives were the implementation of PCP II Acts and Decrees in the diocesan and parish level. Highlights of the DPA-I:

a)       Drafting and Approval of the Revised Diocesan Vision-Mission

b)      Presentation and Approval of Diocesan Policies and Guidelines

c)       Drafting and Approval of Strategic Plan for 3 years (1997-1999)

d)      Promulgation of the DPA-I Acts and Decrees by the Bishop

e)       Creation of the Diocesan Monitoring and Evaluating Team (DMET) to monitor DPA-I implementation in the parishes.

3.   1997 – A general assessment of all Diocesan Programs was made in order to conform them to the PCP II and DPA-I implementations. The 3  Diocesan Commissions were created in order to align these various diocesan programs to PCP II elements of Integral Evangelization:

a)       Commission on Christian Formation (COCF) – corresponds to PCP II Renewed Catechesis

b)      Commission on Worship and Liturgy (COWL) – corresponds to PCP II Renewed Worship

c)       Commission on Social Apostolate (COSA) – corresponds to PCP II Renewed Social Apostolate

C.   LATER DEVELOPMENTS OF BEC/GKK IN THE DIOCESE OF MARBEL.

Introduction: The new Millennium brought new insights in the understanding of BEC theory and processes. Here follows some explanation about the following:

1.       BEC Theory and Structure

2.       BEC and BEC Ministry

3.       The NEC Coordinator

4.       BEC Processes

PART I – BEC-GKK THEORY AND STRUCTURE

USE OF TERMS

1.    BCC-BEC-GKK – These terms refer to the same thing. They are used interchangeably in this presentation.

2.    GKK and GKK MINISTRY – are terms that are not the same. GKK refers to the actual community (in a Brgy. sitio, purok) while GKK Ministry refers to persons whose concern is the welfare of the GKK and who compose the ministry.

3.    ZONES – are pastoral divisions of a Parish. GKKs are arranged according to such divisions.

4.    BUKLODS (also called Units, Celdas) – are smaller divisions of the GKK. 10-15 families compose a Buklod.

5.    KRISKA – is a formation program and central activity of the Buklod. Kriska is participated in by 6-10 families within the Buklod. (Note: Buklod is a bigger grouping than Kriska.)

WHAT IS A BEC-GKK? (Definition)

1.   BEC-GKK is a small community of Catholic families situated in a small locality of the parish (cf. DPA 1, Decree 1.2.1.4.1). Standard Qualifications to become a BEC are:

1. Adequate size (of about 30-60 families) – not too small, nor too big in order to be manageable.

2. Definite territory – only people living in the immediate area are members

3. Homogenous membership – there are children, youth, adults

4. Self-reliance – it can support itself, its personnel, its needs and programs. It is self-nourishing, self-sustaining, self-governing community.

2.   BEC-GKK is “a new way of being Church” (Cf. PCP II). There are two things to be noted here: 1) BEC is Church, and 2) BEC is a “new way” of being Church.

·         Church – BEC is basic component of the local Church and part of its structure: Diocese – Parish – BEC.

·         New Way – BEC is characterized by 7 distinguishing marks (cf. PCP II):

1. Participation – each member participates actively in the life and mission of their community

2. Self-reliance – a self-reliant community

3. Members know one another

4. There is sharing and

5. Sense of belonging

6. It is governed by the lay

7.  Under the guidance of the parish priest.

STRUCTURE OF THE BEC-GKK

BEC-GKK is not an organization but it has features of an organization with officers, personnel, council, and members.

LEVEL 1 – ADMINISTRATIVE LEVEL – THE GKK 5 MAJOR OFFICERS

1.       GKK President – presides over meetings

2.       GKK Vice President – takes the place of the President as needed

3.       GKK Secretary – records and keeps minutes of meetings

4.       GKK Treasurer – keeps custody of finances

5.       GKK Auditor – audits financial reports and transactions

Role: They are the corporate or group in-charge of the GKK and share responsibilities over the GKK.

Functions: As a group they have standard management functions and coordinating functions.

LEVEL 2 – PASTORAL PROGRAM LEVEL – GKK SERVICE PERSONNEL

1.       GKK Catechists (at least 2 in every GKK)

2.       GKK Kriska Alagads

3.       GKK Family and Life Workers

4.       GKK Lay Cooperators (at least 1 in every GKK)

5.       GKK Lay Liturgists

6.       GKK Youth Leaders

7.       GKK Social Action Workers

Role: They are members of their respective Parish Ministry but live in the GKK.

Functions: They are in-charge of the services and programs of their respective ministry in the GKK.

LEVEL 3 – ADVISORY COUNCIL LEVEL – GKK Pastoral Council

1.     GKK President – Council Presider, Facilitator

2.     GKK Vice President – Council Assistant Presider

3.     GKK Secretary – Council Secretary

4.     GKK Treasurer – Council Treasurer

5.     GKK Auditor – Council Auditor

6.     1 Layco – Representative of the Laycos

7.     1 Catechist – Representative of the Catechists

8.     1 Kriska Alagad – Representative of the Kriska Alagads

9.     1 Family and Life Worker – Representative of the Family and Life Workers

10.   1 Youth Leader – Representative of the Youth Group

11.   1 Lay Liturgist – Representative of the Lay Liturgists

12.   1 Social Action Worker – Representative of the Social Action Workers
Role: They serve as Pastoral Advisers for Pastoral Programs and Activities of the GKK.

Functions: They have planning and coordinating functions. The GKKPC meets as needed.

Note: The above members of the GKKPC plus Officers of the Buklods form the GKK Extended Pastoral Council. They meet only once in a while or as needed.

BASE LEVEL – GKK MEMBERS

1.   The members of the GKK are all Catholics living in the GKK whether active or inactive.

2.   Basic qualifications for GKK membership are Baptism and actual residence in the GKK. Once a person is baptized he/she becomes a member of the Church and automatically also a member of the GKK.

3.   Membership in the GKK is one thing and participation is another matter. Membership cannot be lost even if someone is inactive or rarely participates in GKK activities. In the GKK we have core members (active), second-liners (semi-active), and borderline members (inactive). All are members.

4.   GKK membership is for Catholics only. Non-Catholics and those of other religions are not members of the GKK, but they are objects of our concern. In times of need we have the obligation to help them.

5.   All Christian faithful, including those in the GKK, have certain rights and obligations according to Church law. Some of these rights are the right to equality, right to mission, right to the sacraments, right to obedience, right to be heard, etc.

6.   Strictly speaking, no one may prevent anyone to exercise his right. Such action belongs to a higher authority such as the Parish Priest and the Bishop of the Diocese.

7.   The use and purpose of the Information Sheet (Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage) are often misunderstood. These forms are diocesan forms and should be consistent with approved diocesan format and thus should not be altered. Main purpose of these forms is to get correct information or data. The Information Sheet is to be filled in either by the parents (baptism), by the candidate for Confirmation, or by the couple to be married. The role of any GKK officer who signs these forms is only testimonial in nature – to witness or to testify to the accuracy of the answers given. The signing officer should go over all the information given and if he finds any answer to be not true or correct, he has two options – he asks the persons concerned to put in the correct information, and if the ones concerned refuse to make the necessary changes, then the officer may not sign. But if all the answers are correct, then the officer may sign. This act of signing should not be interpreted as recommending, endorsing or approving. Such role does not belong to any GKK officer.

PARISH GKK GUIDELINES (From the DPA-I Acts and Decrees)

1.   THRUST. In line with the main thrust of the Diocese of Marbel, the “building and strengthening of the BEC” shall also be the pastoral priority of the Parish and of the GKK ministry. (DPA-I 1.2.1)

2.   ORIENTATION AND COORDINATION. All services of ministries, programs, rec­ognized organizations and movements in the GKK must be directed and oriented towards the establishment and growth of the GKK. All such groups must work within and under the structure of the GKK and must coordinate their activities with their GKK Officers. (DPA-I 1.2.1)

ORGANIZING A BEC-GKK

BASIC REQUIREMENTS. In order to become a GKK,

1.    There should be at least 30 and at most 60 member families in the target area.

2.    People should have a good knowledge of what BEC is.

3.    People are willing and able to support and sustain the BEC.

4.    They have leaders who are willing to accept responsibilities, like being GKK officers, KRISKA Alagads, FLM Workers, Catechists, Youth Leaders, LLL ministers, Lay Liturgists, Social Action workers, among others

5.    People decide responsibly to become a GKK

BASIC STEPS IN ORGANIZING A GKK:

1.   Identify a suitable area where a GKK could be established (preferably a place where there already exists a beginning of a community).

2.   Conduct initial survey (PSI or DSI) to get the following data: area, number of population and families, situation, needs, and other related information.

3.   Establish contact with local leaders, other potential leaders and ask them to help.

4.   Organize meetings, lectures, orientations – to educate the people on the BEC – its history, nature, rationale, principles, processes, requirements, and other related topics.

5.   Consult the people and let them decide whether they are ready to form a GKK or not. Such decision is important because to be a GKK is a free decision and not imposed from above.

6.   Have election of BEC Officers – President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, and Auditor. These officers are the core in-charge of the BEC.

7.   Recruit other BEC Service Personnel – Layco, Catechists, Kriska Alagads, Family and Life Workers, Lay Liturgists, Youth leaders, Social Action Workers, etc.

8.   Help GKK leaders to formulate plans and develop on-going programs for organizing, education (catechesis), social apostolate (service), worship and liturgy of the BEC.

9.   Have regular schedule for monitoring, follow-up and evaluation of progress made.

Note:

1.   Organizing a GKK is a process (sometimes slow). The preparation phase may take at least 2 years.

2.   BEC is a free decision. People are not forced to form a BEC if they are not yet ready.

3.   BEC uses a developmental approach to BEC building. Small BECs may start with just 5 major officers, but as the BEC grows through the years, every BEC is expected to produce enough leaders to serve the community.

4.   Question. What do we do with GKKs that after so many years still do not have laycos, catechists, social action workers, and the like?

STAGES IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF BECs (Supplement)

1.       Liturgical (Traditional)

2.       Developmental (Liberal)

3.       Transformative (Liberational)

BEC IN MSPC I (Davao City, 1971)

1.       Worshipping Community – Katilingban nga Maampuon

2.       Teaching Community – Katilingban nga Matudloon

3.       Serving Community – Katilingban nga Maalagaron

BEC IN MSPC II (Cagayan de Oro City, 1974)

1.       Self-Governing Community

2.       Self-Nourishing Community

3.       Self-Sustaining Community

LECTURE NOTES 2

SEMINAR ON GKK MANAGEEMENT AND PROCESSES

May 26-27, 2003, Greenwoods, City of Koronadal

PART II – THE GKK MINISTRY

DEFINITION. GKK ministry is a service apostolate to serve the GKKs. It has two levels: parish and diocesan. The diocesan level has 24 members (called BPR), 5 major officers (called Execom), and 3 Standing Committees (Education, Finance, Planning and Evaluation).

NATURE AND FUNCTIONS OF THE PARISH GKK MINISTRY

NATURE: A ministry that organizes, sustains and strength­ens the GKKs as churches.

FUNCTIONS:

1.   To organize and strengthen GKKs (Buklods, Units, Celdas, etc,)

2.   To tap and train potential leaders of the GKK (Buklods, etc.)

3.  To facilitate the formulation, implementation and coordination of the plans, programs and activities of parish ministries in the GKK such as: CATZ, KRISKA, FL&M, YOUTH, LLL, LLM, Social Action, and others. (These programs once established become part of the GKK Programs)

4.   To sustain the formation of the GKK officers and mem­bers. (Also Buklod officers, etc.)

5.   To monitor and evaluate the GKKs (Buklods, Units, Celdas, etc.)

6.   To mobilize the GKKs for parish-wide or diocesan-wide activities

COMPOSITION of the Parish GKK Ministry:

1.   Parish GKK Presidents and GKK Ministry Officers )5 Major Officers of the GKK)

2.   Parish GKK Ministry Core Group (Execom Officers and members)

3.   Parish GKK Coordinator

4.   Parish GKK Organizers and Lecturers

GKK MINISTRY OFFICE (or Desk)

The Parish GKK Ministry Office is the Secretariat of the Parish GKK Ministry and the Service Center of the parish GKKs. Its functions are:

1.       To formulate strategies that will implement the direction, policies and guidelines set by the Diocese, Parish and the GKK ministry

2.       To implement, monitor, evaluate the plans and programs that the Ministry has formulated and approved

3.       To establish linkages with other groups, agencies, and institutions of related concerns

4.       To facilitate and/or provide basic services to the GKKs

Note: The GKK Ministry Office Personnel are the Parish GKK Ministry Coordinator and Staff.

PARISH GKK MINISTRY PROGRAMS

GKK Ministry Programs have four (4) main components: Organization, Education, Worship, and Social Apostolate (based on PCP II Elements of Integral Evangelization)

1.       Organizational Program (for strengthening the Ministry)

  • Schedule of meetings
  • Organizing and strengthening of GKKs (Buklods, Units, Celdas, etc.)
  • Monitoring, visitations of GKKs (Buklods, etc.)
  • Assessment, evaluation of GKKs (Buklods, etc.)

2.       Education Program (for on-going education of Ministry members)

  • Seminars (Updating, Skills Training)
  • Lectures, inputs
  • Diocesan/Parish Campaign (Alay Kapwa, Vocation, Mission)
  • Assemblies (parish, zone, GKK)

3.       Worship and Liturgy Program (for spiritual development of Ministry members)

  • Sunday Masses and Bible Services
  • Retreats, recollections
  • GKK Day Celebration
  • Involvement in Parish Fiesta, Holy Week activities, Pasko ng Pamilya, etc.

4.       Social Action Program (to improve social awareness and involvement of Ministry members)

  • Communal action (in coordination with parish and diocese)
  • Social issues and awareness programs (social teaching, environment, current issues)
  • Political education, Pollwatching, OQC, etc.

PARISH GKK MINISTRY COORDINATOR

ROLE

1.       Liaison Officer of the Parish Priest to the GKK Ministry.

2.       Consultant/Adviser/Program Implementor of the GKK Ministry.

3.       Companion to the Officers of the GKK Ministry and works in coordination with them.

SPECIFIC FUNCTIONS

MAIN FUNCTION – In general to coordinate/facilitate the implementation of plans and programs of the Parish GKK Ministry.

IN PARTICULAR:

1.   TO GIVE ASSISTANCE – The Coordinator assists the GKK Ministry Core Group in formulating plans, programs and activities of the Ministry. Planning is usually done at the end or beginning of each year.

2.   TO SUPERVISE AND MONITOR – The Coordinator coordinates, supervises, follows-up, and assesses the plans, programs and activities of the GKK Ministry during the year.

3.   TO KEEP RECORDS – The Coordinator compiles information-data-statistics on ministry leaders, accomplishments on ministry plans, programs and activities, prepares reports on observations-problems encountered, distributes and collates evaluations, etc.

4.   TO ATTEND MEETINGS – The Coordinator attends meetings of the ministry, represents the ministry in the PPC, attends diocesan meetings, etc. (That is, if he/she is designated to do so).

5.   TO MAKE REPORTS – The Coordinator reports regularly his/her findings, observations, accomplishments, and suggestions to the Ministry and to the Parish Priest.

CLASSIFICATION

Parish Ministry Coordinators are hired either as full-timer or part-timer. (In this sense there should be no such title as “volunteer coordinator”).

1.       A Full-timer – reports regularly and does work at least 8 hours a day with regular salary

2.       A Part-timer – manages own time and does minimum work as agreed upon with allowance

Note:

1.   Plans are made by the Ministry and not by the Ministry Coordinator. The Coordinator plans with the Ministry Officers. Then the Plans are presented to the Ministry members for information and approval.

2.   Ministry plans, programs and activities are the responsibility of the Ministry Officers. The Ministry Coordinator is the implementor of such plans. He reports progress of implementation to the Ministry.

3.   The Ministry Coordinator is not the President of the Ministry. He should not preside during the meetings but leave such function to the Ministry President. The Coordinator however is given time to report later.

LECTURE NOTES 3

SEMINAR ON GKK MANAGEMENT AND PROCESSES

May 26-27, 2003, Greenwoods, City of Koronadal

PART III – GKK PROCESSES

STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES. We in the BEC, together with our Diocese and our Parish, duly affirm that:

1.   Our Vision – is to be a Community of Disciples of Jesus Christ, and Church of the Poor

2.   Our Mission – is Renewed Integral Evangelization

3.   Our Thrust – is Building and Strengthening of BECs towards integral liberation and development

4   Our Hope – is to bring about a society that is God-centered (maka-Diyos), democratic (makatao), nationalistic (maka-bansa), just (makatarungan), respectful of human life (maka-buhay), and integrity of creation (maka-kalikasan).

5.   Our Commitments are:

· To promote and strengthen the BEC-GKK as a new way of being Church

· To adopt and practice participative style of leadership and processes

· To live a simple lifestyle

· To actively support the thrust, plans and programs of our Diocese and our parish

· To promote and practice transparency in financial matters

· To reach out to people of other faith and cultures.

AS BEC:

1.       Our Core Values – are participation, self-reliance, subsidiarity, transparency, simplicity of lifestyle, ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue

2.       Our Processes – are liberating and participative

3.       Our Programs – are Organizing, Education, Worship, Social Apostolate

4.       Our Structures –are the 5 Major Officers, Service Personnel, Advisory Council, Buklods

AS BEC LEADERS

1.       Our Core Model – is Jesus the Good Shepherd – He is Shepherd, Servant, Steward

2.       Our Ideal Leader – is a Proactive leader, People-oriented leader, Process-oriented leader

3.       Our Leadership Style – is Democratic, Participative, People-oriented, Process-oriented

BEC-GKK PROCESSES

PROCESS is a transition – a passing from one state to another, a movement from where we start (starting-point) to where we want to be (end-point). Process takes into consideration various factors – present situation, restraining forces and supporting forces that may affect the transition.

BEC-GKK PROCESSES are liberating and participative – leading towards consensus-building, co-decision-making, team-building and net-working.

·     Liberating process – implies method that is non-coercive, not by force or pressure, not imposing one’s will upon another, not oppressive, not suffocating, not burdensome, etc.

·     Participative process – implies openness, transparency, cooperation, coordination, willingness to share with others, dialogue, etc.

LIBERATING PROCESS

Assumptions. It is easily presumed that a person who is BEC-oriented knows not only BEC theory but also BEC practices. Likewise, it is presumed that someone who accepts BEC as thrust also adheres to BEC processes.

Dilemma. If that were so, why then do we have many practices in our GKKs that are clearly contrary to what BEC processes should be? Some of these cases in point are the following:

1.       Instant GKKs or insufficiently formed GKKs

2.       Common use of pressure tactics

3.       Management by policies and rules

4.       Installing red tape

5.       Wrong use of the Information Sheet (Katin-awan)

6.       Exclusivist and elitist tendencies

7.       Defective decision-making processes, etc.

PARTICIPATIVE PROCESS

PARTICIPATION is the most distinctive characteristic of the BEC. BEC is where more people participate in the life and mission of the Church than in the larger community of the parish.

Guideline. Participation must be practiced in all levels – by officers and members alike. Such participation includes the following:

1.       Participative leadership among GKK Officers (sharing of responsibilities)

2.       Democratic process in planning, decision-making, implementation, evaluation

3.       Transparency in financial matters – recording and reporting of funds

4.       Self-reliance in terms of financial support of programs and personnel

5.       Coordination with diocesan and parish programs and activities

STRUCTURES OF PARTICIPATION

Guideline. Knowing theory of participation is not enough. Participation must also be built into structures. Structures for participation must be created. In the GKK such structures are the following:

1.       GKK 5 Major Officers – Structure of participative leadership and common responsibility.

2.       GKK Advisory Council – Structure of coordination of GKK programs, services and activities

3.       GKK Service Personnel – Structure that provides Programs and Services

4.       GKK Buklods and their officers – Structures for coordination, communication and communal action

PARTICIPATIVE LEADERSHIP – is shared leadership. In this type of leadership the GKK 5 Major Officers act together as a group and they fulfill their role as corporate in-charge of the GKK and share common responsibility over it. Examples of this unity in role and functions are as follows:

1.       Meeting of the 5 officers after Mass (Bible Service) to share observations, suggestions, plans

2.       Taking turns in making announcements at Mass (Bible Service)

3.       Filling in for one another at parish meetings, zone meetings, seminars, assemblies, etc.

PROMOTING PARTICIPATION

Guideline. Participation is the most important principle in liturgy. Active participation of the faithful in liturgical activities must be promoted rather than obstructed. Examples of such participation are as follows:

1.       Mass sponsoring – by Buklod, by GKK, by family or combinations

2.       Sponsoring Group assigning – chapel cleaners, decorators, readers, psalmist, offerers, collectors, etc.

3.       Sponsoring Group preparing – offerings in kinds, Mass stipend, breakfast or merienda for priest

DEGREE OF PARTICIPATION. There are 3 levels and degrees of participation.

1.   Information – sharing/providing relevant data (like announcements). Comment. This kind of participation is low level but many people can be involved; only they are mostly passive onlookers and listeners.

2.   Consultation – getting other’s opinions, feedback. Comment. This kind of participation is medium level with significant number of key leaders involved. Result however is important to arrive at good decision.

3.   Decision-making – making conclusions, judgments. Comment. This kind of participation is high level but with still fewer leaders involved – the decision-makers. Note. Good decision involves all three levels.

GUIDELINES ON DECISION-MAKING PROCESSES

1.   It is not possible (nor desirable) to involve everybody in every decision. The key factor is deciding who should be involved in the first level, second level, and third level of decision-making processes.

2.   Decisions are based on data. Defective or insufficient data will result in defective decision. Defective decision is difficult to implement.

3.   There are various types of decision-making: one man, group, majority, consensus, unanimous. A good leader would know what kind of decision is appropriate at any given circumstance.

4.    It is not advisable to always use the majority vote in any kind of decision-making. Basic rule is – people who will be deeply affected by a decision, should also be involved in the process of decision-making.

5.    Decision-making in the Church context has certain limitations (parameters), such as:

· No decision should go against faith, morals, Church disciplines, higher laws, etc.

· No decision that limits participation or that which could be interpreted as exclusivist or elitist.

· No decision that imposes penalty or punishment for such decision belongs to a higher authority.

6.   Basic questions to be asked in decision-making. Does the group have the competence to make this kind of decision? Will this decision need the approval of a higher authority?

PARADIGM SHIFT

Question. Given the above situations (in our GKKs), where do our problems lie? What are the solutions? Some of the answers may be found in the idea of paradigm shift.

PARADIGM – means model, theory, perception, assumption of how we see things and how they should be. They affect the way we think (attitude) and the way we act (behavior).

PARADIGM SHIFT – means changing the way we look at things (perception) and the way we do things (behavior). It means unlearning “old ways” and learning “new ways”. Among the paradigm shifts that are needed today are the following:

1.       Understanding the BEC as Church,

2.       Use of authority in Church context,

3.       Proactive and participative leadership style

4.       Participative, people-oriented, process-oriented management

5.       Wholistic (integral) approach to mission and evangelization

6.       Promotion of BEC Core Values and Practices

BEC AND BEING CHURCH OF THE POOR. Some guidelines

1.   To be poor does not mean only economically poor. To be poor means to rely on God’s providence (spiritual poverty) and live a simple lifestyle (evangelical poverty).

2.   For the GKK simplicity in lifestyle means the following:

  • To be self-reliant and self-sufficient in plans, programs, personnel, and finances
  • To rely only on what the community can afford to give
  • Not to burden people with so many contributions and fund raising activities
  • Not to put up projects that the people cannot afford
  • To buy only things that are most necessary for their needs
  • To avoid unnecessary expenses or burden people with unnecessary requirements
  • For any group not to rely too much on their GKK for their expenses
  • For the GKK to make a budget at the beginning of the year
  • For the GKK to define limits of support that it can give to any group.
  • For the GKK to be transparent in its finances and make report once a month.

END OF SECTION

(Supplementary Section Follows Below)

BUKAL NG TIPAN

National BEC Assembly (2004)

ANSWERS TO DIOCESAN SURVEY QUESTIONS – Diocese of Marbel

How many BECs in the diocese?  Ans. 1,410 BECs

What percentage of the BECs are active?  Ans. about 80%.

What percentage of parishes has BECs?  Ans. All 24 parishes

When and how did BECs start in the diocese? c.f. history)

BEC organizing process.

Basic Requirements for a BEC:

1.       There should be at least 30 and at most 60 families.

2.       People should have a good knowledge of what BEC is.

3.       People are willing and able to support and sustain the BEC.

4.       They have leaders who are willing to accept responsibilities,

5.       People decide responsibly to become a BEC

Basic Process in Organizing a BEC:

1.   Identify a suitable area where BEC could be established.

2.   Conduct initial survey (PSI or DSI) of people, their situation and needs, get statistics

3.   Establish contact with local leaders and other potential leaders and ask their help.

4.   Organize meetings, conferences, lectures, orientations on BEC

5.   Consult the people whether they are now ready to organize or not.

6.   Have election of 5 Major Officers – President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, and Auditor.

7.   Get other Service Personnel – Lay Minister, Catechist, Kriska Facilitator, Family and Like Worker, Lay Liturgist, Youth Leader, Social Action Worker, etc.

8.   Help BEC leaders to formulate on-going programs for education, training and skills development of BEC leaders and members.

9.   Have regular monitoring and evaluation of progress made.

WHAT IS THE PLACE OF BEC IN THE DIOCESAN STRUCTURE? Ans. For us BEC is “a new way of being Church.” BEC is not an organization but a basic component of the local Church. In fact BEC is in itself a small Church. As such BEC is therefore part of the structure of the local Church which is the Diocese – Parish – BEC.

DOES THE DIOCESE HAVE FULL-TIME (EMPLOYED) BEC PASTORAL WORKERS? Ans. YES in the sense that we have a full-time Diocesan Pastoral Director and a full-time Christian Formation Center Coordinator who supervise and monitor all our pastoral ministry programs including the BEC Ministry in the diocese and parishes.

ARE THERE NEW FORMS OF BECS THAT ARE EMERGING IN YOUR CONTEXT? Ans. No. Because we have set a standard for establishing a BEC. Standard qualifications to become a BEC are as follows:

1.  Adequate size (of about 30-60 families). Not too small, nor too big. It is manageable.

2.  Definite territory (Only people living in the immediate vicinity are members)

3.  Homogeneous membership (there are children, youth, adults)

4.  Self-reliance – self-nourishing, self-sustaining, self-governing (It can support itself, its personnel, its needs and programs)

Note: The term “BEC” is a technical term. Thus, strictly speaking, there could be no BEC in a school, nor a BEC which is Sectoral, etc. Such groupings may only approximate some aspects or characteristics of a BEC but they are not real BECs. Such groups may be called some other names but not BEC.

GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT OF BECS (name three). People in the community are more organized and cohesive. There is greater participation in the life and activities of the BEC.  People respond more easily to the needs of members and even those of other faith.

GREATEST DIFFICULTIES BECS ARE FACING (name three). Poverty. Indifference. Ignorance.

FOREMOST CHALLENGES BECS ARE FACING (name three). Program for Renewed Integral Evangelization, Opportunities for Livelihood Projects, Development of Social Awareness and Empowerment.

(END OF REPORT)

BEC NATIONAL ASSEMBLY (2005)

Holy Family Retreat House (Redemptorist), Lahug, Cebu, Sept. 19-22, 2005

Theme: DEVELOPING A CULTURE OF SUSTAINABILITY IN BECs

ANSWERS TO THE QUESTIONNAIRE (Diocese of Marbel)

UPDATING BEC PROFILE

1.   Number of BECs (Diocese of Marbel 2004) – Ans. 1,517 BECs

2.   Who coordinates BEC efforts in the diocese? – Ans. A fulltime (employed) Diocesan Lay Coordinator

3.   What place does the BEC coordinator / BEC occupy in a parish and diocesan structure? – Ans. BEC is a basic ecclesial community which is a part of the parish, under the direction of the parish priest.

FOCUSED GROUP DISCUSSION

Please assess the growth of your BECs in terms of units. Please plot your growth from the year you started until 2004 in a three-year, 25 unit interval.

  • the late 60s – 27 BECs
  • the 70s – (27 + 277) = 304
  • the 80s – (304 + 747) = 1,051
  • the 90s – (1,051 + 216) = 1,267
  • 2000-2004 – (1,267 + 250) = 1,517 (end of 2004)

What factors could have strengthened / sustained your growth? Please name three.

  • Influence of MSPC and KRISKA in 1971-1976
  • Adoption of BEC as diocesan thrust in1983
  • Systematic organization of BEC Ministry in 1986

What factors could have weakened your growth? Please name three.

  • Lack of skilled BEC leaders and workers
  • Lack of skill in planning, organizing and management
  • Lack of financial support for BEC activities and programs

Please note below the most significant thing that happened to your BECs in the past three years.

  • Significant number of BEC leaders emerged
  • Increased awareness and participation in BEC-parish-diocesan activities
  • Adoption of new skills in participative leadership and decision-making processes

FILIPINO CULTURE

OPERATIVE VALUES

What operative values in the community have helped in strengthening / sustaining your BECs? Please name three.

  • Pakikisama – more appreciation of sense of belonging, cooperation, participation
  • Bayanihan – increase in concern for the needs of others (death, sickness, etc.)
  • Pagsasarili – growth in self-reliance (in planning, programming, financial support)

Please tell (attach or write below) one particular story / experience/ situation.

What operative values in the community have contributed to the weakening of your BECs? Please name three.

  • Ningas cogon mentality – short-lived enthusiasm of some leaders and members
  • Fence-sitting attitude – lack of involvement of some members
  • Weak leadership style

Please tell (attach or write below) one particular story / experience / situation.

What operative values in the community your BECs found difficult or failed to practice?

  • A more developed sense of community
  • A more active participation in community life and activities
  • A more participative leadership style and processes

Please tell (attach or write below) one particular story / experience / situation.

What operative values in the BECs contributed to the wider community?

  • A more positive response to parish and diocesan programs (including financial)
  • A more active participation in parish and diocesan mobilizations
  • A gradual strengthening of the parish community from the grassroot level.

Please tell (attach or write below) one particular story / experience / situation.

POPULAR RELIGIOSITY

Are popular religious practices part of your BEC life?

  • Not much have been noticed and not very significant.

What popular religious practices in your area are practiced by your BECs?

  • Mostly seasonal in nature and connected with standard patronal fiestas and holy week activities.

In what way have those religious practices strengthened BECs?

  • These practices during fiestas and holy week somehow are expressions of the simplicity of the faith of ordinary people.

Please tell (attach or write below) one particular story / experience / situation.

Have there been religious practices which contributed to the weakening of your BECs? If yes, please name them.

  • None that we know of.

In what way have these religious practices weakened your BECs?

  • None that we have noticed.

Please tell (attach or write below) one particular story / experience / situation.

Have your BECs introduced new religious practices? If yes, please name them.

  • None so far.

Have your BECs influenced the general religiosity of the people in your area? If yes, in what ways?

In a way, Yes, through pre-fiesta seminars given by parish trained speakers before the fiesta which includes explanation of the life and virtues of the patron saint.

GLOBALIZATION

What positive aspects of globalization helped in the strengthening / sustaining of BECs? Explain.

  • Very little that we are aware of, like proliferation of cheap goods (from China) made available to the people.

Please tell (attach or write below) one particular story / experience / situation.

What negative aspect of globalization contributed to the weakening of your BECs? Explain.

  • High cost of farming inputs (fertilizers, chemicals, seeds, etc)
  • Non-competitiveness of local products in world market
  • Materialism, consumerism, erosion in values among the youth
  • More poverty, decrease in quality of life among the poor.

Please tell (attach or write below) one particular story / experience / situation.

MEDIA

What aspects of mass media and entertainment helped in the strengthening / sustaining of your BECs? Explain.

  • Very little that we know of, like news coverage and updates of important events, cultural and sports activities.

Please tell (attach or write below) one particular story / experience / situation.

In what aspects of mass media and entertainment contributed to the weakening of your BECs? Explain.

  • Poor programming on Radio and TV which do not offer much variation
  • Inane programs and entertainment which cater mostly to the young
  • Telenovelas that compete with BEC meetings and religious activities

Please tell (attach or write below) one particular story / experience / situation.

CHURCH / BEC CULTURE

PATTERNS OF RELATIONSHIP

Please use a word or a phrase to describe the relationships of the BEC?

Among its members – harmonious

With the BEC leader – openness

With the Parish Priest – full support

With the Parish Pastoral Council – cooperation

With other BECs – camaraderie

With Church Associations / Mandated Organizations – mutual respect

With the Barangay – coordination

CONFLICTS

How do most of your BECs deal with conflicts?

  • Discuss it after emotions have subsided
  • Negotiate resolutions

What could be the reason(s) they respond to conflict in this way?

  • To solve problems in a reasonable way
  • Dialogue among affected parties

LEADERSHIP STRUCTURE

Please describe the leadership structure in your BECs (positions, duration, style).

  • Each BEC has 5 major officers elected by the members from among themselves
  • The 5 major officers are assisted by the BEC service personnel
  • Regular meetings are held

What elements of this leadership structure within your BECs promote their growth?

  • Good relationship
  • Openness
  • Transparency

What elements of leadership structure within your BECs hinder their growth?

  • Authoritative leadership style
  • Poor leadership quality
  • Leaders that cannot inspire people

Please describe the leadership structure in the parish center and how your BEC leaders are linked to it.

  • A Parish BEC Ministry structure has been organized in every parish
  • The BEC Ministry sends 1 representative to the PPC

What elements of the leadership structure in the parish center promote the growth of your BECs?

  • The BEC leaders are organized as a body called Parish BEC Ministry
  • The Parish BEC Ministry formulates its own plans and activities presented to the PPC.

What elements of the leadership structure in the parish center hinder the growth of your BECs?

  • Most PPC members are not pastorally oriented
  • Most PEC and PPC members do not give enough moral and financial support

DECISION-MAKING

Please describe the decision-making process used in your BECs.

  • We promote democratic, participative, pro-active process.

What elements of this decision-making process in your BECs promote their growth?

  • They promote openness, participation and transparency.

What elements of this decision-making process in your BECs hinder their growth?

  • Limited participation, lack of interest of some members, leader-dependency attitude

Is your BEC part of the leadership structure in the parish center? If yes, in what way?

  • Yes, in a way that many parish leaders come from the BEC. No, in the sense that the BEC Ministry is only 1 among the many groups in the parish.

SOCIAL CHANGE

Please note at most three significant social action programs done in your BECs.

  • Sustainable Agriculture, Health and Nutrition, Alay Kapwa initiatives (for sickness, death)

Assess individually each of the above social action programs in your BECs in terms of the following factors on a scale of 1-5 (with 1 as the highest value). (Note: wrong scale value?)

  • Social Action Program – 3
  • Relevance – 2
  • Management of Finances – 3
  • Training of People – 2
  • Impact – 3

What were the factors that sustained the social action programs in your BECs? Please name three.

  • Answer to felt needs, help in times of emergency (sickness, death), communal action.

What were the factors that weakened the social action programs in your BECs? Please name three.

  • Lack of personnel, no clear social action programs, lack of interest among some leaders.

END OF REPORT

FR. ROMING’S OBSERVATION ABOUT THE QUESTIONNAIRE

Looking at the theme (sustainability) and the questions asked, it is difficult to see the correlation between the two. For example, what have operative values, popular religiosity, globalization, media, etc, to do with BEC sustainability?

In other words what kind of information are the formulators of the questionnaire and the organizers trying to get and what do they intend to do with them? Or do the designers of the questionnaire have other purposes, objectives in mind? If they have, then what are they?

The way the questions are asked reveal some kind of confusion on the part of the formulators of the questionnaire as to what BEC is, its nature and its relation to persons who work for BEC (like the BEC Coordinator).

Some of the questions ask whether BEC is an association, organization, ministry, etc. But is it? Can a BEC be under the PPC, or be in the same level as other parish associations and organizations? This should not be so.

But if we talk about persons who promote BEC or work for BEC, then we are not talking about BEC anymore and should use other terms like BEC Ministry or BEC Coordinators. Persons who compose such group can then work in coordination with the PPC and other parish associations and organizations.

I think, a much better questionnaire should be designed!

FR. ROMEO BUENAOBRA
Vicar General
Diocese of Marbel

My Source: marbeldiocese.freeservers.com/Commissions/GKK%20Program%20Printed.htm

Back to: BEC

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Building Small Christian Communities

Team Manual

LIFE IN THE SPIRIT AND COMMUNITY LIFE

The Life in the Spirit Seminars and other renewal programs are life-changing, beginning steps into the full life in the Spirit. But what happens next? Many people follow up on their new experience of the Holy Spirit by participating in a prayer group. But the prayer group is not an end in itself but a means of directing its participants into community life. Christian community is the Biblical context for living the life in the Spirit. The seminars in this book are to lead people from life in the Spirit into community-life in the Spirit.

The team leading these seminars may need help in using this manual to conduct the seminars. Presentation Ministries will talk with you about training your team to lead the seminars and provide videotapes to train your leaders. Call or write:

Presentation Ministries
3230 McHenry Ave.
Cincinnati, Ohio 45211
Phone: (513) 662-5378

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Preface

Introduction

Part 1: The Work of the Team

1. The Goal
2. The Team
3. The Team Leader
4. The Team Meetings
5. The Seminars
6. The Teachings
7. The Small Groups

Part 2: The Seminars

The Explanation Session
1. Christian Community
2. Biblical Brotherhood and Sisterhood
3. “Crucified to the World” (Gal 6:14)
4. “There’s No Place Like Home”
5. Evangelization
6. Sanctity and Service
7. Spiritual Gifts in the Home Meeting
8. Everyday Life in the Home-based Community
9. Preparing to Join a Community
10. The Larger Church and the Home-based Community
11. Networking Home-based Communities
12. The Leadership of the Home-based Community

Concluding Team Meeting

Additional Resources from Presentation Ministries

GUIDEBOOK FOR PARTICIPANTS IN THE SEMINARS

Make your own copies of this Guidebook for those participating in the seminars. A limited number of guidebooks are available from Presentation Ministries.

PREFACE

In 1975, the Lord stirred up the Holy Spirit in me and changed my life. I was immediately very concerned with forming a Christian community. This was a radical change for me, as I had previously shown little interest in Christian community and highly valued my independence. In the next five years, I formed a “covenant community” and a parish community. The Lord worked powerfully in these communities, but they seemed to be lacking something. The superstructure of the “covenant community” was too demanding for most people, and the parish community was not stable because of changes in the parish leadership. Moreover, although these communities were the best expression of Church I had ever seen, they lacked the depth of commitment we see in Acts of the Apostles. Finally, about 1983, several parishioners of Our Lady of Presentation Church in Cincinnati, Ohio began to form home-based communities. The idea for these communities came from Pope Paul VI’s document on evangelization (58). These communities were the closest thing in my experience to the shared daily life of the New Testament Church. In this book, we share what we learned about leadership development, structure, and networking in forming home-based communities.

INTRODUCTION

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ instruction and the communal life, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. A reverent fear overtook them all, for many wonders and signs were performed by the apostles. Those who believed shared all things in common; they would sell their property and goods, dividing everything on the basis of each one’s need. They went to the temple area together every day, while in their homes they broke bread. With exultant and sincere hearts they took their meals in common, praising God and winning the approval of all the people. Day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” —Acts 2:42-47

Many programs have been developed to form small groups, basic communities, or cell groups. The seminars outlined in this book are different from some of these other programs because of our emphasis on Biblical standards for Christian community. We are trying to form something other than faith-sharing groups conducted by a facilitator. As good as these are, they are not all that the Lord intended by the outpouring of the Spirit at the first Christian Pentecost. The Lord intends for His disciples to share life together daily and not just meet together (see Jn 10:10). He is calling us to live out our baptisms in a brotherhood and sisterhood that is just as deep as in Acts of the Apostles. Although many Christians in our society are not ready for the depth of Biblical Christian community, we should not settle for anything less. If only five people join these “Acts of the Apostles Communities,” we will at least have a basis for growth. The communities should branch out and form new communities. What started with five people can be more than fifty people in four or five years. But if we water-down Christian community to appeal to more people, we may start off with fifty participants, but in five years most of the groups will have fallen apart. To receive God’s grace, we must form communities based on His word and on the power of the Spirit. Even if this appeals to only a few people, these communities will grow because they are on a solid foundation (see Mt 7:14).

PART 1: THE WORK OF THE TEAM

1. GOAL

To prepare participants in twelve sessions to make a three month commitment to be members of a home-based community.

2. THE TEAM

Those on the team giving the seminars must be totally committed to Jesus and open to the Holy Spirit. Their lives, marriages, and families must be in God’s order. The team members should have participated in the Life in the Spirit Seminars or received new life in the Spirit in another way. They must be strongly committed to forming home-based communities. Even if the team is very small, it’s important for the team members to meet these criteria.

Role of the Team

  1. Greet the participants, lead worship at the seminars, and teach the seminars.
  2. Intercede daily for the participants.
  3. Lead their small groups.
  4. Pray over the members of their small group after the third, ninth, and twelfth weeks.
  5. Meet individually with members of their small groups.
  6. Help raise up leaders for the home-based communities.

3. THE TEAM LEADER

The team leader must have wisdom, love, and the gift of administration.

Role of the Team Leader

  1. Lead the weekly team meetings.
  2. Encourage an atmosphere of Christian love in the seminars and team meetings.
  3. Make sure that all team members are clear about their responsibilities for the seminar and that everything in the seminars is done according to the guidelines of this book.
  4. After consultation with the team, make any decisions — especially assigning teachers, greeters, worship leaders, and small group leaders.

4. THE TEAM MEETINGS

There should be a team meeting prior to each seminar, preferably not on the day of the seminar. These meetings should primarily be times of intercession for each of the participants in the seminars. The team meetings should also be times to communicate problems and good news to the other team members. Finally, these meetings are for the orderly administration of the seminars.

5. THE SEMINARS

The focal points of the twelve seminars are the third, ninth, and twelfth weeks. On these weeks, the leaders of the small groups pray over the participants. For Catholics, it is ideal to do this after celebrating Mass.

6. THE TEACHINGS

We have refrained from writing out or outlining the teachings for the seminars so as to leave room for the Spirit to work with the teachers in different ways. The goals, Biblical references in the guidebook, comments on the teaching, and supplements should provide enough resource material for the teachers. They can use these as the Spirit leads. (Videotapes of these teachings are also available from Presentation Ministries: V-40A, V-40B, V-40C.)

Guidelines for the Teachings

  1. Teach from 10 to 20 minutes.
  2. Quote several Biblical references.
  3. Share a brief personal testimony related to the teaching.

7. THE SMALL GROUPS

Purposes

  1. Provide an opportunity for participants to seek clarification on aspects of the teachings.
  2. Encourage participants to give personal testimonies of their conversions to Christ.
  3. Pray for miracles in the participants’ hearts and lives.
  4. Remind the participants to pray and read daily the guidebook. (Duplicate additional copies for each participant.)

Size and Formation

  1. Have about five people in a group.
  2. The first week, let everyone go to any group they want to as long as the numbers are about even.
  3. After the first week, the leaders should try to form the most compatible groups by praying for discernment and then assigning people to groups.

Format

  1. Meet for about 15-20 minutes after the teaching.
  2. Begin and end by joining hands and praying.
  3. Encourage brief personal witnesses concerning the theme of the seminar.
  4. Pray with each one personally.

PART 2: THE SEMINARS

THE EXPLANATION SESSION

GOALS:

  • To inform people that they need to be living an active life in the Spirit to benefit from these seminars.
  • To state that the goal of the seminars is to form home-based Christian communities.
  • To pray for all to obey the Lord in regard to their participation in the seminars.

These seminars are intended for those totally committed to Christ and who are open to the Holy Spirit. The participants can be of any Christian denomination. Spouses should participate together. If this is not possible, the one spouse should come with no less than the expressed support of the other.

GUIDELINES:

  1. Show how these seminars begin where the Life in the Spirit Seminars end.
  2. Give a Biblical picture of Christian community by reading and briefly commenting on several Scriptures from the first and second seminars, (See the guidebook.)
  3. Give a personal testimony concerning the necessity and value of Christian community.
  4. Meet in small groups to answer questions and pray for each person to do God’s will.
  5. Announce the time and place for the first seminar and subsequent seminars.
  6. Encourage all to pray for each other concerning participating in these seminars and to invite others to the first seminar, provided they have the necessary background, (i.e., as explained in the paragraph under GOAL, above.)

SEMINAR 1 — CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY

GOAL

To show why Biblical, Christian community is necessary for the full life in the Spirit.

ORDER OF THE SEMINAR

5-10 minutes

1. Opening prayer
2. Praising the Lord. (Praise as long as the majority of the people are participating.)

5 minutes

3. Introductions

Introduce the team and, if the group is not too large, have all the participants introduce themselves and say why they’ve come. Then introduce the twelve seminars and the order of this seminar.

20 minutes

4. The teaching and personal witness

15-20 minutes

5. Small groups

5-10 minutes

6. Announcement of next meeting, distribution of guidebooks, and instructions on the use of the guidebook
7. Concluding praises

COMMENTS ON THE ORDER

Before the seminar, greeters should take the names, addresses and phone numbers of the participants. The seminar should last about an hour. At this seminar, people should go to any of the small groups as long as they are evenly divided. See page 6 on small groups for more details. The leaders should pray for repentance and healing so that there will be no obstacles to receiving the message of the seminars. After the seminar (not before or during) it is good to provide an opportunity for fellowship with light refreshments.

BIBLICAL REFERENCES FOR THE TEACHING

See the Scriptures from the first week of the guidebook.

COMMENTS ON THE TEACHING

After an opening prayer, the teacher should immediately read and briefly comment on several of the Scripture passages in the first week of the guidebook. He should list several reasons for Christian community (1st supplement). Then he should contrast Biblical community with the typical Christian’s life-style today. He should conclude with a few other Biblical references and a personal witness. Although the teacher may not read all the Scriptures listed, he should read and comment on several of them and not merely paraphrase them. He may use one Scripture as a theme-verse with which he begins and concludes. The teacher should communicate the need for and his excitement about Christian community and assure the participants that we can have this kind of community today. The quote from Pope John Paul II from the 2nd supplement may help communicate the Church’s understanding and approval of Christian communities.

1st SUPPLEMENT TO SEMINAR 1

WHY CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY LIFE?

  1. to be baptized brothers and sisters in reality, not just name (1 Cor 12:13).
  2. because we need each other. We’re created that way (1 Cor 12:21).
  3. for full power in evangelization (Jn 17:21).
  4. for the full release of the spiritual gifts, because the gifts are for the common good (1 Cor 12:7).
  5. to experience fully Jesus’ presence (Mt 18:20).
  6. to hear God fully (Jn 10:27).
  7. for protection (Mt 18:12; Eccl 4:12).
  8. for strength (Eccl 4:12; Gn 29:3).
  9. for growth in holiness (Prv 27:17).
  10. for exponential growth in power (Lv 26:8).
  11. to harvest those who have experienced renewal (Hag 1:5-7; 2 Jn 8; Rv 3:2).
  12. for authentic love (1 Jn 3:18).
  13. to obey Jesus (Jn 17:21).

2nd SUPPLEMENT TO SEMINAR 1

A DESCRIPTION OF CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY

“A rapidly growing phenomenon in the young churches — one sometimes fostered by the bishops and their Conferences as a pastoral priority — is that of ‘ecclesial basic communities’ (also known by other names) which are proving to be good centers for Christian formation and missionary outreach. These are groups of Christians who, at the level of the family or in a similarly restricted setting, come together for prayer, Scripture reading, catechesis, and discussion on human and ecclesial problems with a view to a common commitment.” (Pope John Paul II, Mission of the Redeemer, 51)

“These communities are a sign of vitality within the Church, an instrument of formation and evangelization, and a solid starting point for a new society based on a ‘civilization of love.’ ” (Pope John Paul II, Mission of the Redeemer, 51)

3RD SUPPLEMENT TO SEMINAR 1

“A Lesson From the Geese”

As each bird flaps its wings, by flying in a V formation, the whole flock adds 71 percent flying range than if each bird flew alone.

Lesson: People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.

Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the “lifting power” of the bird immediately in front.

Lesson: If we have as much sense as a goose, we will stay in formation with those who are headed where we want to go.

When the lead goose gets tired, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies at the point position.

Lesson: It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks.

The geese in formation honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.

Lesson: We need to make sure our honking from behind is encouraging—not something less helpful.

When a goose gets sick or wounded or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow to help and protect. They stay until the goose is either able to fly again or dies.

Lesson: If we have as much sense as geese, we’ll stand by each other like that.

(A Lesson From the Geese appeared in Issue 97 of Merle W. Boos’ Agricultural Notes from the ELCA)

SEMINAR 2 — BIBLICAL BROTHERHOOD AND SISTERHOOD

GOAL

To show the depth of Biblical brotherhood and sisterhood.

ORDER OF THE SEMINAR

  1. Opening prayer
  2. Praising the Lord
  3. The teaching and personal witness
  4. Small groups
  5. Concluding praises

COMMENTS ON THE ORDER

Participants are assigned to small groups as determined by the team members. The team should appoint someone to meet with any newcomers to give them an overview of the twelve seminars and fill them in on the first two seminars. It should be decided at the next team meeting whether any further newcomers can join the seminars after seminar 2. Any new inquirers should be contacted and informed accordingly. They may be asked to wait and attend the next series of seminars.

Because this seminar includes the most important teaching of the seminars, the team should make sure that anyone missing this seminar is given the teaching individually. If this is not done, the person should not continue with the seminars.

The small group leaders should check to make certain the members of their group are praying and reading the guidebook daily. The leaders should pray for healing from hurtful relationships, especially difficult family relationships. The leaders may suggest that the participants go to Confession in preparation for being prayed over the following week.

BIBLICAL REFERENCES FOR THE TEACHING

See the second week of the guidebook.

COMMENTS ON THE TEACHING

This is the most important teaching. Probably all the Scriptural references should be read and briefly commented on. The leaders should intercede before, during, and after this teaching so that the word will fall on good ground. Choose one of your best teachers to do this teaching. If the teacher can show the depth of Biblical Christian community, the need for all the other things taught in the coming weeks will be clear. Many participants will see no reason why a Christian community should be home-based, structured, or networked unless they realize the depth of Biblical brotherhood and sisterhood. Only when we understand the depth of Biblical brotherhood and sisterhood will we understand why those in Christian community should be striving to daily share their lives in Christ and why we must emphasize greatly the Holy Spirit in forming community. Pope John Paul II’s teaching on “communio” in the supplement should be used to show the depth of our baptismal brotherhood and sisterhood.

SUPPLEMENT TO SEMINAR 2

Pope John Paul II’s teaching on “Communio” is probably one of the best teachings ever on baptismal brotherhood and sisterhood. In Lay Members of Christ’s Faithful People (18-20), the Pope teaches that our communion with other baptized believers is:

  1. a “mystery” (18).
  2. “a living and life-giving communion through which Christians no longer belong to themselves but are the Lord’s very own, as the branches are one with the vine” (18).
  3. Trinitarian. The Trinity is the model, source, and means of our communion with God and other Christians (18).
  4. “present in the Word of God and in the Sacraments” (19).
  5. expressed above all by the image of the Church as the body of Christ (19). “The Church in Christ is a kind of sacrament, that is, a sign and instrument of intimate union with God and of the unity of all the human race” (19, Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, 1).
  6. “the integrating aspect, indeed the central content of the “mystery,” or rather, the divine plan for the salvation of humanity (19).
  7. “organic,” that is, “analogous to that of a living and functioning body” (20).
  8. able to transfer our perspective so that “every member of the lay faithful is seen in relation to the whole body,” and not vice versa (20).
  9. a gift, a great gift of the Holy Spirit to be gratefully accepted by the lay faithful, and at the same time to be lived with a deep sense of responsibility” (20).
  10. living “in a continual interaction with others, with a lively sense of fellowship” (20).

(If you need help applying the Pope’s teachings to our baptismal brotherhood and sisterhood in Christ, you may borrow our half-hour video on “communio.” Please refer to V-76.)

SEMINAR 3 — “CRUCIFIED TO THE WORLD” (Gal 6:14)

GOAL

To show we must leave behind the values and life-style of the world to be free to join Christian community.

ORDER OF THE SEMINAR

  1. Opening prayer
  2. Praising the Lord
  3. The teaching and personal witness
  4. Small groups with praying over the participants
  5. Concluding praises

COMMENTS ON THE ORDER

The small groups should have 5—10 minutes more in this seminar so that leaders can lay hands on the people in their group and pray for them to be crucified to the world. (For Catholics, after the celebration of Mass is the ideal context for this prayer Gal. 4:16). The leaders should have prayed this prayer for each other at their previous team meeting. If any participant is hesitant about receiving this prayer, he should not be prayed over. The group leader should meet with the person before the next seminar and discuss his concerns. The person should continue the seminars if it seems likely he’ll receive this prayer within the next two weeks. Otherwise, he should not continue the seminars.

BIBLICAL REFERENCES FOR THE TEACHING

See the third week of the guidebook.

COMMENTS ON THE TEACHING

The participants in the seminars are not trying to go from no community into Christian community but from the community of the world into Christian community. They first need to be alienated from the ways of the world to be free to enter Christian community. Many Christians have chosen over a period of years the life-style and priorities of the world, so it takes a miracle for them to leave it, but the Lord will do this miracle.

The teacher of this seminar should begin and end the teaching with Galatians 6:14. The whole of the teaching should prepare the participants to be prayed over with the laying on of hands so that they become crucified to the world and the world to them. If the participants receive this prayer, their participation in Christian community is almost certain. If they do not receive this prayer, there is little hope for long-lasting Christian community.

There is usually much spiritual warfare surrounding this teaching and the praying of Galatians 6:14. The small group leaders should remain calm so as to be able to pray (1 Pt 4:7).

SEMINAR 4 — “THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME”

GOAL

To show that a home is the best context for Christian community.

ORDER OF THE SEMINAR

  1. Opening prayer
  2. Praising the Lord
  3. The teaching and personal witness
  4. Small groups
  5. Concluding praises

COMMENTS ON THE ORDER

Last week’s prayer to be crucified to the world is so crucial to entering Christian community that the leader of the seminar should refer to it in the introduction to this seminar’s teaching. Small group leaders may also mention the previous week’s prayer. If someone has questions about the prayer, the group leader should meet with the participant later in the week.

In regard to this week’s seminar, some participants may need healing for hurts received in the context of the home. Small group leaders should begin to minister healing as soon as possible so as to have sufficient time.

BIBLICAL REFERENCES

See the fourth week of the guidebook.

COMMENTS ON THE TEACHING

If the leader of the second seminar communicated the depth of brotherhood and sisterhood in the Bible, this seminar’s teaching will be an almost obvious conclusion. However, because the home is being de-emphasized, ignored, and even destroyed in our society, some participants may struggle to accept this. Copies of a more detailed teaching on home-based community in the Bible can be passed out as a supplement to this seminar’s teaching (see the 1st Supplement to Seminar 4). The second supplement can also help the teacher organize his thoughts.

1st SUPPLEMENT TO SEMINAR 4

HOME-BASED COMMUNITIES IN THE BIBLE

The saying: “There’s no place like home,” is one of the basic principles of God’s word and plan of salvation. In the Old Testament, the home and the Temple were the most important places of worship and celebration. The Passover, the greatest of all the Israelite celebrations, was held in homes. Jesus made the home not only a center for worship but His base for evangelization. He told His apostles: “Look for a worthy person in every town or village you come to and stay with him until you leave. As you enter his home bless it” (Mt 10:11-12). After Pentecost, the early Church met in their homes daily for the breaking of the bread (the Eucharist) and shared meals (Acts 2:46). This resulted in the manifestation of signs and wonders, break-throughs in economic sharing, and wildfire evangelism. “Day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). All the churches for the first 300 years of church history were homes. Saul persecuted the church by breaking up these home-meetings, dragging men and women out of house after house, and throwing them into jail (Acts 8:3). Peter was saved from execution through an all-night prayer-vigil at the home of Mary, John Mark’s mother (Acts 12:12). Lydia, the first convert of the Western world, made her home a church (Acts 16:15, 40). Priscilla and Aquila had the most famous home-based community in history. They strengthened Paul to return to full-time ministry (Acts 18:2-5), converted Apollos, and empowered him to minister in the Spirit (Acts 18:26). All the churches of the Gentiles owed a debt of gratitude to Priscilla and Aquila and the congregation that met in their house (Rm 16:4-5). Other notable home-based communities were those of Nymphas (Col 4:15), Titus Justus (Acts 18:7), Gaius (Rm 16:23), and Philemon (Phlm 2). Throughout the New Testament the home-based community is depicted as a training ground for leadership in the early church (1 Tm 3: 5, 12).

2nd SUPPLEMENT TO SEMINAR 4

WHY HOME-BASED COMMUNITY?

  1. A home provides a family setting (Acts 2:46). The family is the basic cell of the body of Christ.
  2. A home-based community is better integrated into everyday life and into the neighborhood.
  3. The home fosters the right size for growing in brotherhood and sisterhood (i.e., about twelve).
  4. The home is the base for evangelization and ministry (Mt 10:11f).
  5. A community based in a home does not require the super-structure of a large centralized covenant community.

SEMINAR 5 — EVANGELIZATION

GOAL

To help the participants see that home-based communities are the ideal context in which to evangelize and that these communities will branch off and thereby multiply.

ORDER OF THE SEMINAR

  1. Opening prayer
  2. Praising the Lord
  3. The teaching and personal witness
  4. Small groups
  5. Concluding prayers

COMMENTS ON THE ORDER

The worship leader should expect the group to praise the Lord longer and more enthusiastically as the seminars proceed.

BIBLICAL REFERENCES FOR THE TEACHING

See the fifth week of the guidebook.

COMMENTS ON THE TEACHING

Because of the depth of the relationships in home-based communities, some people may expect these communities never to change in membership. But the Lord will give the community growth and then send forth some of its members to branch off and form new communities. The community will divide and multiply as a biological cell does. It is better to think of the communities as branching off. This concept expresses change and growth without implying total separation from the “mother” community.

The two supplements can be used to further develop this teaching. The first supplement quotes official Roman Catholic Church documents concerning extended families, home-based communities, and evangelization. The second supplement lists prime groups which the members of the community should evangelize.

1st SUPPLEMENT TO SEMINAR 5

THE FAMILY, HOME-BASED COMMUNITIES, AND EVANGELIZATION

“At different moments in the Church’s history and also in the Second Vatican Council, the family has well deserved the beautiful name of ‘domestic Church.’ This means that there should be found in every Christian family the various aspects of the entire Church. Furthermore, the family, like the Church, ought to be a place where the Gospel is transmitted and from which the Gospel radiates.

In a family which is conscious of this mission, all the members evangelize and are evangelized … And such a family becomes the evangelizer of many other families, and of the neighborhood of which it forms part” (Pope Paul VI, On Evangelization, 71).

“The future of evangelization depends in great part on the Church of the home. This apostolic mission of the family is rooted in Baptism and receives from the grace of the sacrament of marriage new strength to transmit the faith, to sanctify and transform our present society according to God’s plan” (Pope John Paul II, The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World, 52).

“Thus, these communities become a means of evangelization and of the initial proclamation of the Gospel, and a source of new ministries” (Pope John Paul II, Mission of the Redeemer, 51).

2nd SUPPLEMENT TO SEMINAR 5

GROUPS TO FOCUS ON IN EVANGELIZATION

The evangelization stemming from your home should focus on four groups of people:

  1. blood relatives (Andrew told his brother Simon Peter about Jesus Jn 1:41.)
  2. those with whom you have things in common (The first followers of Jesus were all Jews.)
  3. neighbors (“Philip was from Bethsaida, the same town as Andrew and Peter” Jn 1:44.)
  4. co-workers (One-third of the 12 apostles were fishermen.)

Review these four categories, pray, and make a list of people whom you are committing to pray for daily and invite them to share in your community.

SEMINAR 6 — SANCTITY AND SERVICE

GOAL

To demonstrate that both accelerated growth in holiness and long-term, life-changing ministry require participation in Christian community.

ORDER OF THE SEMINAR

  1. Opening prayer
  2. Praising the Lord
  3. The teaching and personal witness
  4. Small groups
  5. Concluding praises

COMMENTS ON THE ORDER

The group leaders should often remind the members of their group to read and pray the guidebook daily. This is crucial.

BIBLICAL REFERENCES FOR THE TEACHING

See the sixth week of the guidebook.

COMMENTS ON THE TEACHING

The two themes of sanctity and service can be separate seminars, but they are put together here in one seminar to emphasize that true holiness must result in service and that long-term, life-changing service is grounded in holiness (see Col 1:10). The community is both the context for growth in holiness and the base for service.

The teacher should consider having participants give brief, personal witnesses of their growth in holiness. Although a home-based community may not immediately develop its corporate service, the members should be considering a corporate ministry and taking steps in this direction. The supplement quoting Vatican II on the Laity, 11, can be helpful. These ministries suggested for extended families can also apply to home-based communities.

SUPPLEMENT TO SEMINAR 6

MINISTRIES FOR COMMUNITIES

“The family has received from God its mission to be the first and vital cell of society. It will fulfill this mission if it shows itself to be the domestic sanctuary of the Church through the mutual affection of its members and the common prayer they offer to God, if the whole family is caught up in the liturgical worship of the Church, and if it provides active hospitality and promotes justice and other good works for the service of all the brethren in need. Among the multiple activities of the family apostolate may be enumerated the following: the adoption of abandoned infants, hospitality to strangers, assistance in the operation of schools, helpful advice and material assistance for adolescents, help to engaged couples in preparing themselves better for marriage, catechetical work, support of married couples and families involved in material and moral crises, help for the aged not only by providing them with the necessities of life but also by obtaining for them a fair share of the benefits of economic progress” (Vatican II, Laity, 11).

“It can help them achieve the goals of their apostolate more easily if families organize themselves into groups” (Vatican II, Laity, 11).

SEMINAR 7 — SPIRITUAL GIFTS IN THE HOME MEETING

GOAL

To show how each community member can use a variety of spiritual gifts in the community meeting.

ORDER OF THE SEMINAR

  1. Opening prayer
  2. Praising the Lord
  3. The teaching and personal witness
  4. Small groups
  5. Concluding praises

COMMENTS ON THE ORDER

The format of these seminars can begin to show how the gifts of the Spirit are to be used in the community meetings.

BIBLICAL REFERENCES FOR THE TEACHING

See the seventh week of the guidebook.

COMMENTS ON THE TEACHING

The Lord does not tell us in one place in the Bible how the New Testament communities conducted their home meetings. This must be pieced together from several Biblical references. The supplement can help us apply these Scriptures to the home meeting.

SUPPLEMENT FOR SEMINAR 7

THE GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT IN COMMUNITY MEETINGS

Home-based communities should meet formally about every two weeks.

This meeting should be a catalyst motivating an increased sharing of daily life from the community members The members of the community relate with each other frequently, even daily, but there needs to be a set time for the whole community to get together. At this gathering, the gifts of the Holy Spirit should be manifested in power. There are four parts to the meeting:

1. PRAISE — The fruitfulness of the meeting depends primarily on having a good start. In the opening prayer, we ask the Holy Spirit to come to us and pray for freedom from the evil one. We begin to thank and praise God in our native language (Ps 100). We can then sing praises to the Lord, but most importantly we should pray and sing in tongues. It’s very important to enter deeply into God’s presence, but this is usually impossible without long, the gift of tongues is a great help in sustaining our praise to God.

2. BIBLE TEACHING — The foundation for all Christian communities and ministries is the word of God (Mt 7:24). His word should be the center of attention when we gather. The Lord will give one or more members of the community the supernatural gift of teaching (1 Tm 3:2). It is important to accept this gift. The teacher should not primarily be a discussion-leader or facilitator. He or she must teach in the power of the Spirit. This should be a live experience. Audio or video tapes of even the best teachers should not be used for more than a few minutes during the meeting. CD’s and tapes can be good for personal use but not for the community meeting.

3. PERSONAL MINISTRY — Although the gifts of tongues and teaching are the most important in the community meeting, many other gifts of the Spirit need to be used. Each person should put his or her gifts at the service of the community (1 Pt 4:10). Leaders should view the community as a body or team and try to lead all to make their unique contribution.

Each person should have the opportunity to receive ministry for his or her personal needs. Sometimes the community must form small groups to provide this personal attention. Usually we gather around the individual to lay hands on them. At this time the Lord may bring forth prophecy, healing, intercession, encouragement, wisdom, and other gifts of the Spirit.

4. PRAISE — The meeting concludes as it began with praise of God in various ways, especially in tongues. The final and lasting impression of the meeting should be praise.

This four-part structure is very flexible. The meeting can last from thirty minutes to two hours. Every meeting will be unique. At one meeting, we may praise for a half hour, have a ten-minute Bible study, ten minutes of personal ministry, and five minutes of praise. At another meeting, we could have ten minutes of praise, forty minutes of Bible study, thirty minutes of personal ministry, and five minutes of praise. Great variety is possible within this structure. It is ideal to begin the meeting with morning prayer or evening prayer. from the Liturgy of the Hours. The following are criteria of a good community meeting:

  1. Was God praised?
  2. Was His word proclaimed?
  3. Were several gifts of the Spirit manifested?
  4. Did each person participate by using his or her spiritual gifts?
  5. Was each person given personal attention and ministry?
  6. Did the meeting spin off a better sharing of community life. When we have a well conducted meeting with good participation the Lord will usually work through the meeting to inspire the community members to share together many aspects of daily life.

After the meeting, there can be an open-ended time of fellowship. We can also use our gifts to serve each other in this context. The fellowship should never precede or be part of the meeting. But, in its proper place, it can be a very important time when the Lord can build community.

SEMINAR 8 — EVERYDAY-LIFE IN A HOME-BASED COMMUNITY

GOAL

To show that Christian community is sharing everyday-life and not just meetings and activities.

(The meeting every two weeks is such a valuable tool in building community that some community members almost identify the meeting with the community. This seminar should help prevent this from happening and encourage the participants to see that Christian community cannot be scheduled but is the result of obeying the daily callings of the Spirit.)

ORDER OF THE SEMINAR

  1. Opening prayer
  2. Praising the Lord
  3. The teaching and personal witness
  4. Small groups
  5. Concluding praises

COMMENTS ON THE ORDER

The small group leaders should mention to the members of their group the following week’s prayer based on Acts 2:42.

BIBLICAL REFERENCES FOR THE TEACHING

See the eighth week of the guidebook.

COMMENTS ON THE TEACHING

As with the previous seminar, the Church through the Bible does not tell us in one place about the everyday-life of the early Church communities. The supplement can help us integrate the Scriptures into a realistic picture of everyday community-life.

SUPPLEMENT TO SEMINAR 8

KEYS TO DAILY SHARING IN A HOME-BASED COMMUNITY

The life of a home-based community is not a formal meeting every week or two. While a meeting is a necessary focal point, we should live and grow in Christian community on a daily basis. The following circumstances will promote daily community life:

1. SUNDAY

We should make the most of Sunday. It should be truly the first day of the week, the center our attention and an essential mark of their identity as Christians. Many communities have their formal meetings on Saturday evening or Sunday. If possible, members of the community should worship together on Sunday. At least we should try to get together with some community members on Sunday.

2. MEALS

Biblically, meals are holy times. We should try to eat together more often. Two families can take turns inviting each other for supper. Some of the men may have breakfast together each week; some of the women share lunch. “With exultant and sincere hearts they took their meals in common” (Acts 2:46).

3. OPEN HOUSE

In order for our daily lives to be transformed in community, we need a home that is almost always open, where we can drop in and find someone there. Good communication is important in home-based communities and is facilitated by having a communication-center where we can “get through” and get the word out. If at least one person in the community is usually at home, he or she can be that communication-center. This allows us to be up-to-date with the current needs in our brothers’ and sisters’ lives, so that we can intercede for and serve one another.

4. THE EUCHARIST

The members of a Christian community are united as brother and sisters through baptism. Some of the members are bonded through matrimony. This unity can be strengthened through Mass and Communion. If at least some of the community could go to Mass and Communion together daily or as often as possible, their growth in Christian love will be greatly accelerated.

SEMINAR 9 — PREPARING TO JOIN A COMMUNITY

GOAL

To show that a few basic agreements are necessary to focus and make practical our baptismal covenant our brothers and sisters in Christian community.

ORDER OF THE SEMINAR

  1. Opening prayer
  2. Praising the Lord
  3. The teaching and personal witness
  4. Small groups with praying over the participants
  5. Concluding praises

COMMENTS ON THE ORDER

The small groups will need an extra 5-10 minutes so that the leaders can lay hands on the people in their group, and pray for them to be open to join a community in another month. They should use Acts 2:42 as the Biblical basis for this prayer. For Catholics, the celebration of Mass is the ideal context in which to pray in preparing to join a community. The leaders should speak individually to the members of their groups and ask if they have any questions about joining a community in the next month.

Prayers for healing often should precede the prayer in preparation for joining a community. Most people have been hurt and are therefore afraid of deep, Christian relationships. Because this ninth seminar is so important, the leaders should ask several people to intercede before, during, and after this seminar.

BIBLICAL REFERENCES FOR THE TEACHING

See the ninth week of the guidebook.

COMMENTS ON THE TEACHING

Focusing and making practical our baptismal covenant is a logical implication of the depth of Christian community taught in the second seminar. The teacher should review some of the Scriptures from the second seminar. He should give examples of basic agreements made among the members of communities. (See the supplement for further details.)

SUPPLEMENT TO SEMINAR 9

WHY BASIC AGREEMENTS?

  1. To live out our baptismal covenant in reality (1 Jn 3:18).
  2. The depth of Biblical community demands some basic agreements (Jn 17:21).
  3. For discipline (Heb 12:5). When we formally commit ourselves to one another, we enter the school of unconditional love.
  4. For affirmation of those in the community. Spending time with them is a priority.
  5. For clarity in knowing whom we’re responsible to and what we’re responsible for.
  6. For stability. When we make some basic agreements in the communities, members will not be prone to drop out of the community.

EXAMPLES OF BASIC AGREEMENTS

At first, the agreements among those in a community should be minimal and measurable. Since agreements are usually written and signed in our culture, we should do this when we make community agreements. The following basic agreements are customary in small communities:

  1. To pray daily for the other members of the community.
  2. To celebrate Mass with the community regularly.
  3. To attend the community’s meetings.
  4. To share meals with the community regularly.
  5. To share in the community’s ministry.
  6. To celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation monthly.
  7. To participate in the community’s fast days.

SEMINAR 10 — THE LARGER CHURCH AND THE HOME-BASED COMMUNITY

GOALS

To show that the home-based community is the building block for the local church.

To show how the home-based community and the local church must interrelate.

ORDER OF THE SEMINAR

  1. Opening prayer
  2. Praising the Lord
  3. The teaching and personal witness
  4. Small groups
  5. Concluding praises

COMMENTS ON THE ORDER

Small group leaders should remind those in their groups to persevere in praying and studying the guidebook daily.

BIBLICAL REFERENCES FOR THE TEACHING

See the tenth week of the guidebook.

COMMENTS ON THE TEACHING

The most helpful resource on this subject is a section from Pope Paul VI’s document on evangelization. This should be made available and incorporated into the teaching. (See the supplement.)

SUPPLEMENT TO SEMINAR 10

GUIDELINES FOR THE HOME-BASED COMMUNITY

Communautes de base (basic communities) “will be a hope for the universal Church to the extent:

  • that they seek their nourishment in the word of God and do not allow themselves to be ensnared by political polarization or fashionable ideologies, which are ready to exploit their immense human potential;
  • that they avoid the ever present temptation of systematic protest and a hypercritical attitude, under the pretext of authenticity and a spirit of collaboration;
  • that they remain firmly attached to the local Church in which they are inserted, and to the universal Church, thus avoiding the very real danger of becoming isolated within themselves, then of believing themselves to be the only authentic Church of Christ, and hence of condemning the other ecclesial communities;
  • that they maintain a sincere communion with the pastors whom the Lord gives to His Church, and with the magisterium which the Spirit of Christ has entrusted to these pastors;
  • that they never look on themselves as the sole beneficiaries or sole agents of evangelization — or even the only depositories of the Gospel — but, being aware that the Church is much more vast and diversified, accept the fact that this Church becomes incarnate in other ways than through themselves;
  • that they constantly grow in missionary consciousness, fervor, commitment and zeal;
  • that they show themselves to be universal in all things and never sectarian.

“On these conditions, which are certainly demanding but also uplifting, the ecclesial communautes de base will correspond to their most fundamental vocation; as hearers of the Gospel which is proclaimed to them and privileged beneficiaries of evangelization, they will soon become proclaimers of the Gospel themselves” (Pope Paul VI, On Evangelization, 58).

“These communities decentralize and organize the parish community, to which they always remain united” (Pope John Paul II, Mission of the Redeemer, 51).

“Because the Church is communion, the new ‘basic communities,’ if they truly live in unity with the Church, are a true expression of communion and a means for the construction of a more profound communion. They are thus cause for great hope for the life of the Church” (Pope John Paul II, Mission of the Redeemer, 51).

“So that all parishes of this kind may be truly communities of Christians, local ecclesial authorities ought to foster the following: a) adaptation of parish structures according to the full flexibility granted by canon law, especially in promoting participation of the lay faithful in pastoral responsibilities; b) small, basic or so-called ‘living’ communities, where the faithful can communicate the word of God and express it in service and love to one another. These communities are true expressions of ecclesial communion and centers of evangelization, in communion with their pastors” (Pope John Paul II, The Lay Members of Christ’s Faithful People, 26).

“Internal to the parish, especially if vast and territorially extensive, small Church communities, where present, can be notable help in the formation of Christians by providing a consciousness and an experience of ecclesial communion and mission which are more extensive and incisive” (Pope John Paul II, The Lay Members of Christ’s Faithful People, 61).

SEMINAR 11 — NETWORKING HOME-BASED COMMUNITIES

GOAL

To help the participants see the wisdom of networking home-based communities, for communities, like individuals, also need community.

ORDER OF THE SEMINAR

  1. Opening prayer
  2. Praising the Lord
  3. The teaching and personal witness
  4. Small groups
  5. Concluding praises

COMMENTS ON THE ORDER

The leaders should mention to the members of the small groups next week’s special prayer based on John 2:5.

BIBLICAL REFERENCES FOR THE TEACHING

See the eleventh week of the guidebook.

COMMENTS ON THE TEACHING

Home-based communities are not another program but a way of life. They need to be networked for their own protection and to insure long-term stability (see the 1st supplement of this seminar).

Seeing the need for networking home-based communities depends on two insights. We must recognize how challenging deep Christian relationships are and how weak is our human nature. We definitely need help from the Lord as He works through other HBCs.

The difficulty with this teaching on networking is that home-based communities usually have no network available. Therefore, Presentation Communities provides BASIC, a national network for home-based communities. See the second supplement to this seminar and contact us for more information.

This teaching should end with a clear statement that each participant, if they have not already stated their intentions, will be contacted in the next week about joining a home-based community.

1st SUPPLEMENT TO SEMINAR 11

WHY NETWORK HOME-BASED COVENANT COMMUNITIES?

BIBLE

1. Biblical model of 72 or 120 disciples (Lk 10:1; Acts 1:15).

EVANGELIZATION

2. Greater evangelistic impact if communities are networked (Jn 17:21).

MINISTRY

3. Greater outreach in ministry when several HBCs link together.

FORMATION (GROWTH)

4. To learn from other communities and receive support (Rm 16:4).

LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

5. Leadership training provided by the leaders of the network.

SPIRITUAL WARFARE

6. Protection from making bad decisions (Prv 11:14).
7. Recourse for those in disagreement (Acts 15:2).
8. Defense against isolation (see supplement to seminar 10, Pope Paul VI, On Evangelization, 58).
9. Assistance in appointing and changing leaders (see Ti 1:5).
10. Better protection against the influences of secular humanism.

2nd SUPPLEMENT TO SEMINAR 11

BASIC COMMUNITIES (BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN CHRIST)

What is BASIC?

A national network of home-based Christian communities.

Who are in BASIC?

Committed Spirit-filled Christians who are willing to lay down their lives for each other in a real way (1 Jn 3:16-18).

Why are these communities networked?

For more powerful evangelization, better leadership development, and greater strength in spiritual warfare.

Will these communities interfere with my local church?

No, the relationship between these communities and the local church will conform to the guidelines expressed in Pope Paul VI’s document on evangelization.

How can I find out more?

Write or call:

Presentation Ministries
3230 McHenry Ave
Cincinnati, OH 45211
(513) 662-JESU

SEMINAR 12 — THE LEADERSHIP OF THE HOME-BASED COMMUNITY

GOAL

To prepare leaders for the home-based communities which will be formed when the seminars conclude.

ORDER OF THE SEMINAR

  1. Opening prayer
  2. Praising the Lord
  3. The teaching and personal witness
  4. Small groups with praying over the participants
  5. Concluding praises

COMMENTS ON THE ORDER

Because this is the final seminar, it is even more important for the participants to be strong in praise, deep in love, and committed to obey the Lord. The leaders should encourage a spirit of thanksgiving to the Lord, for the leaders, and for every participant for the privilege of sharing these twelve seminars.

For the third time in the seminars, the leaders of the small groups lay hands on and pray over the people of their groups. This prayer is based on John 2:5 and simply asks that each one do God’s will. Ten minutes extra should be allowed for this prayer. For Catholics, the prayer is ideally placed in the context of the Mass, if so, a longer time must be allotted for this seminar.

Within a week the leaders of each small group should meet personally with their members to discuss joining a home-based community. The participants should pray about making a three-month commitment. After the three months, they can renew their commitment for a longer period of time.

BIBLICAL REFERENCES FOR THE TEACHING

See the twelfth week of the guidebook.

COMMENTS ON THE TEACHING

If we have everything but the leaders of the HBCs, we have nothing for the future. If we have nothing but the leaders, the Lord will provide everything else. The Lord will equip His leaders with everything necessary to form and develop Christian community. Forming HBCs hinges on raising up and empowering leaders.

Presentation Communities (or whoever is networking your home-based community) should work with the seminar-team in the process of proposing leaders to the participants of the seminar. It’s very important to recognize the leaders whom the Lord has chosen for the first three months of the home-based communities. These leaders are usually members of the team, although some participants in the seminars may be raised up as leaders.

If possible, there should be twice as many people in leadership than what seems necessary, although one person should be the main leader and have the final word. This additional leadership makes the community stronger and prepares it to branch off and multiply.

The leaders of the small groups should directly ask the members of their groups if they will accept as leaders those proposed by the team for the first three months of the home-based community. If anyone has any difficulties, the leader of the small group should address these by meeting with the person later in the week. If there is not unanimous or almost unanimous acceptance of the proposed leaders, the team should consider other leaders for the first three months.

In the beginning of the teaching, the proposed leaders for the home-based communities should be asked to stand up and introduce themselves. This helps the participants realize that these seminars are actually going to result in the formation of home-based communities. This will help them prepare for the decision that they will make about becoming members of a home-based community.

CONCLUDING TEAM MEETING

GOAL

To determine the members of the home-based communities for three months.

ORDER OF THE MEETING

  1. Prayer and praise
  2. Prophecy
  3. Intercessions and petitions for each participant by name
  4. Determining the members of the home-based communities
  5. Concluding praises

COMMENTS ON THE ORDER

Those who will be leading the home-based communities should discern the membership of these communities. They should choose their members based on the members’ openness to and availability for sharing daily Christian life with the other members of the community. For example, people should probably not join a community if they have very little opportunity of seeing the other members outside the formal meeting time. If both spouses are not joining a community together, one spouse may participate in the life of the community, but should not make a formal commitment to the community.
The leaders of the communities should resolve as many details as possible as far as scheduling the home meetings and networking with other communities. They should gather the members of their home-based communities within two weeks after the last seminar. At that meeting, they should make a few simple agreements to further the sharing of daily Christian life by the brothers and sisters of the HBC. All agreements should last three months, and then be renewed for three, six, or twelve months. The networking group can assist with the making of these agreements.
The development of the home-based communities depends primarily on the leaders following the lead of the Spirit (Gal 5:25). Although the community leaders may feel inadequate, they have reason to be confident. The Lord continues to raise up hundreds of thousands of home-based communities throughout the world. “He Who calls us is trustworthy, therefore He will do it” (1 Thes 5:24). Alleluia!

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES FROM PRESENTATION MINISTRIES

VHS Video tapes

Each of these three tapes contain four 30-minute teachings.

V-40A

  1. Christian Community
  2. Biblical Brotherhood & Sisterhood
  3. Crucified To The World
  4. There’s No Place Like Home

V-40B

  1. Evangelization
  2. Sanctity & Service
  3. Spiritual Gifts In The Home Meeting
  4. Everyday Life In The Home-based Community

V-40C

  1. Covenanting
  2. The Larger Church & The Home-based Community
  3. Leadership In The Home-based Community
  4. Networking Communities

V-76 – Program #2 is entitled: “What Is Christian Community?”

Audio Tapes

BI91-01 Christian Community in the Acts of the Apostles

BI91-12 Why Covenant?

BI91-13 Leadership in the Home-based Community

Nihil obstat: Rev. Robert J. Buschmiller, July 19, 1991
Imprimatur: † Most Rev. James H. Garland, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, July 23, 1991

Excerpts from Scripture are taken from The New American Bible, copyright 1970 by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C., and are used by permission of the copyright holder. All rights reserved.

The Nihil obstat and Imprimatur are a declaration that a book or pamphlet is considered to be free from doctrinal or moral error. It is not implied that those who have granted the Nihil obstat and Imprimatur agree with the contents, opinions, or statements expressed.

The cost of this publication is a donation. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit what amount He would have you contribute.

Copyright © 2011 Presentation Ministries
3230 McHenry
Cincinnati, Ohio 45211
Phone: (513) 662-5378
http://www.presentationministries.com

My source: http://www.presentationministries.com/brochures/CommunityManual.asp

Back to: BEC

How to Renew Your Parish

Nothing Is Impossible with God (Lk 1:37)

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Dedication
Opening Prayer for the Church
Love the Bride

1. The Community of Communities
What is a Parish?

2.”Give Me That Old-Time Religion”
Evangelizing through Sacraments and Sacramentals

3. “Power From on High” (Lk 24:49, Acts 1:8)
Gifts of the Spirit

4. Spiritual Anorexia
Ministry of the Word

5. “There’s No Place Like Home”
Commitment and Community

6. “Great, Intense, and Growing Prayer
Eucharistic Adoration and Intercession

7. The War Of Parish Renewal
Spiritual Warfare

8. Growing Pains
Equipping the Saints

9. Renewal Or “Newal”?
Evangelization

DEDICATION

This book is dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the mother of the Church. Through her intercession and ministry, may we accept Jesus as our Lord.

OPENING PRAYER FOR THE CHURCH

My sweet Lord, look with mercy upon Your people and especially upon the mystical body of Your Church. Greater glory is given to Your name for pardoning a multitude of your creatures than if I alone were pardoned for my great sins against Your majesty. It would be no consolation for me to enjoy Your life if Your holy people stood in death. For I see that sin darkens the life of Your bride, the Church — my sin and the sins of others. It is a special grace I ask for, this pardon for the creatures you have made in Your image and likeness.

St. Catherine of Siena

LOVE THE BRIDE

“Christ loved the Church.” —Ephesians 5:25

Jesus gave His life for His bride, the Church (Eph 5:25-26), which is His body (Col 1:18). The Church is “God’s household, the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of truth” (1 Tim 3:15). It is the fullness of Him (Jesus) Who fills the universe in all its parts” (Eph 1:23). To the Church Jesus makes His most precious promises of power and victory. The Church holds the keys to the kingdom and can attack the gates of hell which cannot prevail against it (Mt 16:18-19). Imagine a church of Spirit-filled people overflowing with God’s love; a body deeply touching and transforming lives, marriages, and families; a people proclaiming good news to the poor and freedom to the oppressed.

Because of human weakness and sin, the Church has made horrendous mistakes throughout history. The devil has done an amazing job of disfiguring the Church and making it look as unattractive as possible. It takes a miracle of faith to believe that the Church is the body of Christ when we see it broken into thousands of pieces. Consequently, many people have given up hope for anything other than individual renewal. Contrary to the Scriptures, some even pretend there is a churchless Christianity. But Jesus is looking for people who love the Church as His body and bride despite her divisions, pettiness, and lukewarmness. Jesus is cleansing and beautifying the Church. He promised He will come back for a bride “holy and immaculate, without stain or wrinkle or anything of that sort” (Eph 5:27). This book is for those who love the bride. It contains practical ways for Spirit-filled Christians to beautify the Church by renewing its parishes. We believe the fruit of this book will be confidence, increased initiative, and, ultimately, victory in parish renewal. Alleluia!

1. THE COMMUNITY OF COMMUNITIES

What Is a Parish?

“Write down the vision clearly upon the tablets, so that one can read it readily. For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; If it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late.” —Habakkuk 2:2-3

Pope John Paul II teaches: “It is necessary that in light of the faith all rediscover the true meaning of the parish” (The Lay Members of Christ’s Faithful People, 26) A parish is not just what we decide it should be or what we may have experienced. Through the Scriptures and the official teaching of the Church, God gives us His vision for the parish. Although variations can exist within this vision, a parish has objective, essential qualities.

A Communities’ Center

“These communities decentralize and organize the parish community, to which they always remain united.” —Mission of the Redeemer, 51

“The parish is not principally a structure, a territory, or a building, but rather, ‘the family of God, a fellowship afire with a unifying spirit,’ ‘a familial and welcoming home,’ the ‘community of the faithful.'” (The Lay Members of Christ’s Faithful People, 26) The parish is a family, fellowship, home, and community. However more precisely, the parish is primarily a family of families, a community of communities (e.g., see Pope John Paul II’s homily at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Rome, November 8, 1992). The parish is not intended to be a community only of individuals or even of nuclear families, but a community of communities. The basic building blocks of a parish are small communities. Just as individuals need community, communities need communities. Small communities need to be united with each other in the parish.

Although this is the way the parish was historically intended to be, this is not how parishes are in most first world countries. Consequently, there is a critical need to build small communities (see Chapter 5) and then to restructure the parish.

A Eucharistic Center

“Plainly and simply, the parish is founded on a theological reality because it is a Eucharistic community. This means that the parish is a community properly suited for celebrating the Eucharist.” —The Lay Members of Christ’s Faithful People, 26

The parish ideally is a Eucharistic community of small Eucharistic communities — not just a unity of people but a unity of communities centered around the worship of God in the Eucharist; not just people who go to Mass, but communities of brothers and sisters brought into deep Christian relationships because they go to Mass and are in communion. Masses by themselves do not make a parish, but Masses that express and build Christian community make a parish. The Scriptures and official Church teachings testify to this. “They went to the temple area together every day, while in their homes they broke bread” (the Eucharist) (Acts 2:46). Vatican II teaches: “No Christian community, however, can be built up unless it has its basis and center in the celebration of the most Holy Eucharist. Here, therefore, all education in the spirit of community must originate” (On Priests, 6). The parish Eucharist is the communion of the small communities within the parish with each other and with the diocese and with the universal Church.

A Discipleship Center

“For a whole year they met with the church and instructed great numbers. It was in Antioch that the disciples were called Christians for the first time.” —Acts 11:26

The parish is a center for making disciples of Jesus through teaching God’s word (Mt 28:19-20). The small communities and families within the parish are the first centers for discipling, but they need the parish, which has more gifts for discipling since it draws from several communities. This complementarity in discipling within the small communities and the larger Church is illustrated in the early Church: “Day after day, both in the temple and at home, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news of Jesus the Messiah” (Acts 5:42).

An Evangelization Center

“The Church exists in order to evangelize.” —On Evangelization, 14

The parish should be composed of small communities who are evangelized and evangelizing. It is not a hide-out for Christians, but a launching pad to expand the evangelistic witness of these small communities “even to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The pastor of the parish should annually visit and bless the homes of all his parishioners, as called for by canon law (see the Church’s Book of Blessings, 63). This blessing is not only the pastor evangelizing but equipping and empowering the families and communities of the parish to evangelize.

Restoring The Vision

As we look at the Church, we see many parishes lack identity and vision. Some do not see themselves as a community of communities, but as social groups, service agencies, educational institutions, or recreational facilities. Many are “Sundays only” and not communities of Eucharistic communities. In some parishes, the words “brother” and “sister” seem out of place. In many parishes, the word of God is taught in a ten-minute sermon once a week. This is only about ten hours per year. How could these parishes be centers for discipleship through teaching the word? In many parishes faith is considered a private matter which is not to be shared with someone else. Some have lost their early love and are neither hot nor cold but lukewarm (Rv 2:4, 3:16).

Nevertheless, we trust God for parish renewal. He has given us a plan for the Church and the local parish through the Scriptures and through official Church teaching. At first, we may have no idea how to restore the parish according to God’s vision. But God does not give us the truth without giving us the power to make it a reality. “Nothing is impossible with God” (Lk 1:37).

2. “GIVE ME THAT OLD-TIME RELIGION”

Evangelizing Through Sacraments and Sacramentals

Jesus performed this first of His signs at Cana in Galilee. Thus did He reveal His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.” —John 2:11

The first and major task in parish renewal is to convert many of the parishioners, to evangelize them. Most parishioners are lukewarm and not totally committed to Jesus (see Rv 3:16). However, it’s difficult to evangelize most parishioners through special programs because only a small minority will come to these programs. Therefore, most evangelization must take place through the Sunday Mass, the celebration of the sacraments, and the traditional religious practices of the parish.

Sacraments and sacramentals are means of evangelization for they are signs to lead us to faith in Jesus. Some people involved in parish renewal feel they must reject these traditional forms of prayer. However, the Lord is not calling us to reject anything that is authentically part of the Scriptures and the work of the Spirit. We need not drop anything except our unfaithfulness and sin. We should not reject sacraments and sacramentals or minimize their importance but enter into them in greater depth. In these ways, we can let Jesus renew our parishes.

Baptism

“Are you not aware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” —Romans 6:3

When we live this sacrament, the Church will be renewed. We have many opportunities to come alive to the reality of our baptism. For example, Lent’s traditional intent is to prepare us to renew our baptismal promises at the greatest of all moments in the Christian liturgy, the Easter Sunday Mass. In these baptismal promises, we reject the devil, all his works, and all his empty promises. We decide to make a break with the world and live a new life-style. We totally commit our lives to the Lord Jesus.

The catechumenate (Order of Christian Initiation for Adults) is an ideal way for a whole parish to renew its baptismal promises. Through the rite of election and the scrutinies, the catechumenate involves all those assembled for Sunday Mass in the preparation for baptism.

Each parish should encourage celebrating baptismal anniversaries. Parishioners should know the date of their baptisms and celebrate their new birth. The candle and garment given at baptism can be used as visual aids to help us celebrate our baptismal anniversaries.

Confirmation

“For this reason, I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God bestowed when my hands were laid on you. The Spirit God has given us is no cowardly Spirit.” —2 Timothy 1:6-7

Each of us received the Holy Spirit at Confirmation; however, we all have stifled the Spirit (1 Thes 5:19; Eph 4:30). Therefore, we must open the members of our parish to receive a renewal of their Confirmation. Until most parishioners have the Spirit stirred up, there cannot be renewal.

Pentecost (the end of the Easter season) and the Baptism of Jesus (the end of the Christmas season) are ideal times to stir up the Spirit in our parishes. There must be some preparation for this through teaching and praying. In the l890’s, Pope Leo XIII called for every parish in the world to have a Holy Spirit novena (nine days of prayer from Ascension Thursday to Pentecost), just as at the first Pentecost. The Holy Spirit novena is an ideal way to prepare for Pentecost and to bring about the renewal of our Confirmation. Furthermore, when parishioners receive the sacrament of Confirmation, the whole parish has the opportunity to renew their Confirmation.

Confession (the Sacrament of Reconciliation)

“Any forgiving I have done has been for your sakes and, before Christ, to prevent Satan — whose guile we know too well — from outwitting us.” —2 Corinthians 2:10-11

Until we are freed from our sins, reconciled with God and His people, and healed of guilt, we will not be able to renew our parish. Christ’s blood has been shed to wash away our sins, but we must apply His blood to our sins by confessing them. Therefore, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is extremely important.

Pope John Paul has taught: “The potential for an authentic and vibrant renewal of the whole Catholic Church through the more faithful use of the Sacrament of Penance is unmeasurable” (San Antonio, Texas, September 13, 1987). He also remarked in the same homily: “The state of the Sacrament of Penance in each parish and in each local Church is a good indicator of the authentic maturity of the faith of the priests and the people.” However, in most parishes, this sacrament is neglected. Many are confessing their sins to God, but not to a priest. While confessing our sins to God is necessary, we must also be reconciled both with God and the community by confessing our sins to the priest who represents the community. Confession without reference to the community promotes an unbiblical attitude of individuality and ignores the effect of our sins on the community. (For further information, see our pamphlet The Secret of Confession.) To renew the Sacrament of Reconciliation in our parishes, we should go to Confession at least once a month, invite others to join us, and intercede at the time Confessions are scheduled. If two, three, or more people make a commitment to intercede in the church at Confession time, they can transform the situation. We can also consider having “Confession parties,” where we invite people to go to Confession, pray together as each one goes to Confession, and then have a celebration (see Lk 15:7, 10, 32). Confession parties express the true spirit of forgiveness and change people’s warped attitudes toward this joyful sacrament.

Holy Eucharist

“Be as eager for milk as newborn babies — pure milk of the Spirit to make you grow unto salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” —1 Peter 2:2-3

Most Christians are starving to death spiritually because they are not frequently receiving God’s word and the Eucharist. Under these conditions, we cannot expect to renew our parishes. We need spiritual nourishment through the reception of Jesus in His word and the Eucharist. At Sunday Mass, we must give our parishioners such a taste of “the good word of God” (Heb 6:5) that they will break the barrier of Sunday-only attendance. This means more Bible-based preaching, longer homilies, more joyful worship, a better family atmosphere, and deeper communion with the Lord and one another.

The liturgical celebrations of Holy Thursday and Corpus Christi are ideal for leading “Sunday-only” Catholics to commit themselves to daily nourishment through the Eucharist. The annual “Forty Hours” devotion or some other form of solemn annual exposition and the parish celebration of First Communion are other opportunities to transform parishioners’ commitment to the Eucharistic Lord. It’s a serious loss that “Forty Hours” is so neglected in many parishes. In contrast, a few churches are hearing God’s calling toward perpetual adoration.

Anointing of the Sick

“Is there anyone sick among you? He should ask for the presbyters of the church. They in turn are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the Name (of the Lord). This prayer uttered in faith will reclaim the one who is ill, and the Lord will restore him to health.” —James 5:14-15

The celebration of this sacrament will result not only in happy deaths but also in dramatic physical healings. This will both confirm the message of the gospel (Mk 16:17) and provide an opportunity for proclaiming God’s word in such a way as to lead parishioners to total commitment to Jesus (see Acts 3:12-13). We should expect great healings through the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick and, through prayer, Confession, and personal ministry, carefully prepare those who are to receive the sacrament.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart

“You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart.” —Matthew 22:37

Enthronement of the Sacred Heart is an ideal way to accept Jesus as Lord, give Him everything, and love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

The Prayer of St. Michael and the Scapular

“At that time there shall arise Michael, the great prince, guardian of your people.” —Daniel 12:1

The Prayer of St. Michael is a simple, practical way to claim victory in spiritual warfare. The St. Michael prayer is based on the books of Jude, Daniel, and Revelation, and on a prophetic vision of Pope Leo XIII. In addition, the scapular is a prayer against Satan. It originated at Mt. Carmel where Elijah had a great victory over the false prophets of the evil one (1 Kgs 18). As we rout Satan, we will see many parishioners open up to the Gospel.

Holy Water and Holy Oil

“They expelled many demons, anointed the sick with oil, and worked many cures.” —Mark 6:13

Holy water and holy oil can be blessed at the time of the Mass and put in handy small vials. It should be made available on the condition that parishioners use it to pray, not only for themselves, but also for others. As parishioners receive healing, they are drawn to the Healer, Jesus.

Mealtime and Family Prayers

“Everything God created is good; nothing is to be rejected when it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by God’s word and by prayer.” —1 Timothy 4:4-5

We are accustomed to prayer before and after meals; however, 1 Timothy speaks of both prayer and God’s word. It encourages us to have Bible reading at mealtime and take more than a few seconds for meal prayers. Instead of only a rote prayer, we might pray in our own words and read the Bible, at least a minute or two. These few moments will in time mean great changes in our lives and parishes. Imagine a parish where large numbers of parishioners take just one minute a day (or one minute a meal) to look into God’s word. This small action may be more effective than some of our most ambitious renewal programs.

Step Out in Faith

Encourage the celebration of sacraments and the use of sacramentals. You don’t have to be the head of the liturgy committee to try some of these suggestions. Start by implementing just one or two things. Give that loaf and fish to the Master. He will bless and multiply them.

3. “POWER FROM ON HIGH (Lk 24:49; Acts 1:8)

The Gifts of the Spirit

“Come Holy Ghost, Creator blest, and in our hearts take up Thy rest…and may the Son on us bestow the gifts that from the Spirit flow.”

When we were confirmed, the Church prayed for us to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit especially those mentioned in Isaiah 11. A number of gifts are also referred to in 1 Cor 12, Rom 12, Eph 4 and throughout the Scriptures. (See our book, Seek the Gifts of the Spirit.) These gifts of the Holy Spirit are not optional extras, but necessities to do the work of God. Jesus told the apostles to wait in Jerusalem until they received power from on high, the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4). The Church began only when the Spirit’s gifts were poured out and received by the apostles. How are the gifts of the Spirit affecting your parish? Possibly the Spirit is stifled (1 Thes 5:19), saddened (Eph 4:30), or even lost (Gal 3:3). If a parish is to be what God wants it to be, we must not stifle the Spirit. We must not be ignorant of spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12:1), but set our hearts on them (1 Cor 14:1), especially those which will have the greatest effect on renewing our parishes.

Wisdom

“If any of you is without wisdom, let him ask it from the God Who gives generously and ungrudgingly to all, and it will be given him.” —James 1:5

Wisdom is the first spiritual gift mentioned, both in Isaiah 2 and 1 Corinthians 12. It is given to everyone who asks for it without doubting. Wisdom is applying divine revelation to practical decisions, often in critical situations. For example, Peter and the Pentecost-community wisely dealt with the problem of Judas’ replacement (Acts 1:15ff). When the mission to the Gentiles was questioned, Peter and James used the gift of wisdom to further the acceptance of Gentiles into the Christian community (Acts 15:13ff). And Paul wisely decided never to eat meat again because it was an occasion of sin to some Christians (1 Cor 8:13,10:28).

Many aspects of parish life require supernatural wisdom. For example, are we effectively discipling our young people through Catholic education? What is the solution to the mass exodus of young people from the Christian community (at least from the mainstream churches)? What should we do about the breakdown of Christian marriage and family life? A supernatural gift of wisdom empowers us to apply divine revelation to taking advantage of opportunities for renewal and to dealing with threats against the fabric of Christian life.

Faith

“If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this sycamore, ‘Be uprooted and transplanted into the sea,’ and it would obey you.” —Luke 17:6

All who accept Jesus have faith; however, Paul tells us that there is a special gift of faith (1 Cor 12:9). Through it, we can move mountains and uproot the most entrenched positions of the evil one. By faith, we can destroy strongholds, demolish sophistries, bring down every proud pretension, and make every thought captive to the Lord (2 Cor 10:4). Faith will shield us against the attacks of the evil one (Eph 6:16) and will conquer the world (1 Jn 5:5). Parish life is lived in the midst of many obstacles, mountains, and entrenched positions which are not of the Lord. We are in a war and the parish is one of the battlefronts. Without the gift of faith, we are doomed to frustration. So many who have had a vision for parish renewal eventually just quit because it seems impossible. We need mountain-moving, uprooting, shielding, and conquering faith. “Who, then, is conqueror of the world? The one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” (1 Jn 5:5).

Healing

“Then He summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority to expel unclean spirits and to cure sickness and disease of every kind.” —Matthew 10:1

When Jesus sent the apostles out on mission, He promised to confirm the word by signs, especially healing (Mk 16:18). We see throughout the Scriptures and human experience that often the first breakthrough in a person’s life has been through God’s healing. This is also true of parishes. For example, the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick can open the door for renewal. Sometimes parishes will rally around a situation where there is an especially tragic illness or injury. The parish is often healed along with the sick or injured person. Also, through a Mass of healing or a healing service, God will work wonders in a parish. (See our booklet, Healing: The Imitation of Christ.)

Prophecy

“Set your hearts on spiritual gifts — above all, the gift of prophecy.” —1 Corinthians 14:1

God is already working to renew our parishes. The key to parish renewal is not coming up with a great idea but hearing God’s idea. Parish renewal is simply jumping on God’s bandwagon. But what is God doing? He’ll tell us through prophecy. God always tells His prophets what He is doing (Am 3:7). The early Church was founded on prophecy (Eph 2:20). The first missionary work was the result of prophecy (Acts 13:2-3). Many reading this right now have the gift of prophecy but have never expressed it. Above all the gifts, we need your gift of prophecy for parish renewal. We must not despise prophecy (1 Thes 5:20) but prophesy to the dry bones of the Church (Ez 37:4). (See our pamphlet, Seek Prophecy.)

Discernment of Spirits

“False messiahs and false prophets will appear performing signs and wonders to mislead, if it were possible, even the chosen.” —Mark 13:22

We are not fighting human forces, but principalities, powers, the princes of darkness, and the evil spirits of the regions above (Eph 6:12). The devil is a fallen angel who tries to outwit us, even appearing as an angel of light (Rv 12:7; 2 Cor 11:14). Furthermore, the devil, “the father of lies” (Jn 8:44), will seduce large numbers of Christians in the last days (2 Thes 2:3). When battling a host of fallen angels, how can we know what is of the Lord and what is of the evil one? In the average parish, secular humanism is often enshrined as the new gospel. Man, not God, is made top priority, and life is lived as if only this world counted. Believers are more indoctrinated by TV than nourished by God’s word. Many Catholic communities carelessly promote drinking, gambling, and fund-raising in such a way as to worsen alcoholism, addictive behavior, and greed. Christian communities of all denominations are often racially prejudiced and compromised with the world. We must discern the spirits behind the things that form and sometimes warp our lives. Until we know well the devil’s guile (2 Cor 2:11), we are doomed to be deceived, snatched, scattered, and destroyed. Those who have the gift of discernment of spirits can make a life-saving contribution to parish life.

Tongues

“He who speaks in a tongue builds up himself.” —1 Corinthians 14:4

In the Scriptures, two types of tongues seem to be mentioned. One is a public gift of tongues. This requires an interpretation so as to convey a message to the community. The other is a personal gift of tongues to help us pray in praise and thanksgiving (1 Cor 14:16). Some say that everyone can receive this personal gift of tongues. This gift is of extreme importance in a church because praise and thanksgiving are spiritual weapons that open gates and break down barriers (see Is 60:18; 2 Chr 20:21; Acts 16:25). This is exactly what we need in parish renewal. (See our pamphlet Speaking in Tongues.)

Fear of the Lord

And His delight shall be the fear of the Lord.” —Isaiah 11:3

Fear of the Lord is not a fear of God hurting us but an awe of His presence. When we were confirmed, we were prayed for especially to receive the fear of the Lord. This gift was important in the development of the early Church and is of special importance to renewing parish life. “A reverent fear [of the Lord] overtook them all” (Acts 2:43). The early Church made progress in the fear of the Lord (Acts 9:31). Great fear came upon the whole Church at the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira and also at the signs and wonders worked through Peter’s shadow (Acts 5:13,15). In many places, Scripture says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (see Sir 1). As this particular gift is poured out upon the parish, the spiritual atmosphere is dramatically altered, the pollution of secular humanism is blown away, and the fresh air of the Spirit fills Christ’s body, His Church.

Leadership

“Presbyters who do well as leaders deserve to be paid double, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.” —1 Timothy 5:17

The Lord gives some members of Christ’s body the spiritual gift of leadership (Rom 12:8). This is different from the natural gift of leadership. The spiritual gift of leadership is the key to the vitality of the parish and its ministries. When the Lord raises up leaders, everything else — workers, finances, planning, energy, etc. — comes to them. But without spiritual leadership, even the best staffed, planned, and financed ministry will fail. Because of the importance of leadership, the devil discourages people from accepting the gift of leadership. “So act that they may fulfill their task with joy, not with sorrow, for that would be harmful to you. Pray for us” (Heb 13:17-18). Obey your leaders; seek God’s will about being a leader and about raising up new leaders.

Redemptive Suffering and Courage

“I wish to know Christ and the power flowing from His resurrection; likewise to know how to share in His sufferings by being formed into the pattern of His death.” —Philippians 3:10

The most important gifts for parish renewal are redemptive suffering and the courage to expose ourselves to persecution. To renew our parishes, we must suffer rejection and persecution. Jesus did not save us primarily through His teachings, healings, and deliverances, but through His sufferings and death. Suffering and laying down our lives for Jesus and His Church are the principal and most powerful ways of renewing the Church. Jesus said: “I solemnly assure you, unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat. But if it dies, it produces much fruit” (Jn 12:24).

For a parish church to grow from 200 parishioners to 400 parishioners it will often follow a pattern like this:


400
350         /
250         /       \       /
200       190         /      \      /           330
\      /      \      /         240
150        180

Especially as a parish begins to try to grow, it will lose parishioners before gaining parishioners. Like a vine, it must be pruned if it is to bear fruit (see Jn 15). Many people in the parish must die to self for the parish to be fruitful.

When a parish isn’t growing, there’s something wrong, for anything attached to Jesus, the Vine, will certainly grow. To grow, we must repent of what is wrong and change our lives and the lives of our parish. This means repenting of compromises with the world, correcting false yet poplar teachings, submitting ourselves to the authority of the universal Church, the Bible and the Pope, changing from the things, groups and programs that we’re comfortable with to our God-given calls which can be very uncomfortable, etc. Those who call for the parish’s repentance, correction, submission, and change will very likely be rejected and persecuted. They know this but must have the courage to do it anyway. Pope John Paul II teaches: “It is suffering, more than anything else, which clears the way for the grace which transforms human souls. Suffering, more than anything else, makes present the history of humanity the powers of Redemption” (On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering, 27).

“Onward Christian Soldiers”

God will use our spiritual gifts to renew the Church. But we must be careful not to stifle the Spirit by being overly concerned about being sensitive to those not accustomed to the spiritual gifts. We don’t have to help the Spirit be sensitive. He has already considered other people’s concerns. All we need do is obey (see Acts 5:32).

We should pray for the Spirit to be stirred up (2 Tim 1:6), His gifts poured out, and our Confirmations renewed. If we thirst for the Spirit (see Jn 7:37) and repent of sin (Acts 5:31-32) we will receive a new Pentecost in our parish. “If you, with all your sins, know how to give your children good things, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him” (Lk 11:13). Our parishes will be renewed not be might, not by power, but by the Spirit. (Zech 4:6).

4. SPIRITUAL ANOREXIA

Ministry of the Word

“Not on bread alone is man to live but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” —Matthew 4:4

The word of God is crucial to God’s plan of salvation and, therefore, to parish renewal. According to St. Jerome, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ”. Jesus told us: “If you love Me, feed My sheep” (see Jn 21:17). We feed the people of God through the word of God. The early Church emphasized God’s word, for “day after day both in the temple and at home, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news of Jesus the Messiah” (Acts 5:42). The words of Pope John Paul II to priests can apply to us all: “Only if he ‘abides’ in the word will the priest become a perfect disciple of the Lord. Only then will he know the truth and be truly free, over-coming every conditioning which is contrary or foreign to the Gospel (cf. Jn 8:31:32) (I Will Give You Pastors, 26).

Spiritual Anorexia, Starvation, and Retardation

“They loathed all manner of food, so that they were near the gates of death. They cried to the Lord in their distress; from their straits He rescued them. He sent forth His word to heal them.” —Psalms 107:18-20

Many Christians are spiritually anorexic. They choose to spiritually starve, even in the midst of many opportunities to be nourished by God’s word. They perish for lack of knowledge (Hos 4:6) and are spiritually retarded for lack of spiritual nourishment (Heb 5:12). The devil has many of us in “intensive care,” on a starvation diet. If we go to church every Sunday and the sermon is based on the Bible, we still probably have only ten hours of Bible teaching per year. We can stay breathing on that diet, but we certainly can’t do any work. Without greatly increasing the nourishment of God’s people; spiritual anorexia, starvation and retardation will continue, and parish renewal will be indefinitely delayed.

Life-Style or Death-Style?

“Lust indulged starves the soul.” —Proverbs 13:19

To greatly increase the spiritual nourishment of our parishioners, we must not only increase their exposure to the Bible but deal with the cause of their spiritual starvation and anorexia. Many have lost their appetite for the things of God because they have stuffed themselves with the junk-food of worldly pleasures. “Beloved, you are strangers and in exile; hence I urge you not to indulge your carnal desires. By their nature they wage war on the soul” (1 Pt 2:11). “This superdevelopment, which consists in an excessive availability of every kind of material goods for the benefit of certain social groups, easily makes people slaves of ‘possession’ and of immediate gratification”. (On Social Concern, 28, Pope John Paul II) “My point is that you should live in accord with the Spirit and you will not yield to the cravings of the flesh. The flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh; the two are directly opposed” (Gal 5:16-17). We must strongly oppose the worldly, pleasure-seeking life-style, so prevalent today even among Christians. We do this by following “the Spirit’s lead” (Gal 5:25) and making “no provision for the desires of the flesh” (Rom 13:14). Pope John Paul II teaches: “‘Fight hunger by changing your lifestyle’ is the motto which has appeared in Church circles and which shows the people of the rich nations how to become brothers and sisters of the poor. We need to turn to a more austere way of life” (Mission of the Redeemer, 60). “I therefore exhort the disciples of Christ and all Christian communities — from families to dioceses, from parishes to religious institutes — to carry out a sincere review of their lives regarding their solidarity with the poor” (Mission of the Redeemer, 60).

Everybody’s Job

“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I do not need you,’ any more than the head can say to the feet, ‘I do not need you.'” —1 Corinthians 12:21

Ministering of God’s word is the responsibility of the whole people of God, with each part of Christ’s body functioning in its own way. Some are called to concentrate on the ministry of the word (Acts 6:4), but everyone is involved. There are differences in manner and degree, but every part of Christ’s body should be active in the ministry of the word. Different ways of ministering the word are:

  • Witnesses: Every Christian is to be a witness (Acts l:8) — a living, speaking, walking sign of Jesus’ life and love. By witnessing to the utmost, we will move ourselves into additional ways of ministering God’s word.
  • Preachers (Evangelists): They announce the good news to the unbeliever and the uncommitted Christian (Mt 10:7; Eph 4:11).
  • Teachers: Pastor-teachers teach the Bible to empower the evangelized to evangelize and to equip the saints to build up the body of Christ (Eph 4:11).
  • Apostles: They have the responsibility of teaching the teachers and assuring the Christian communities of orthodox teaching (Eph 4:11).
  • Prophets: They give God’s “now-word,” what God is saying at the moment in a particular situation (Eph 4:11).
  • Encouragers: Through this ministry of the word, great numbers are added to the Christian community and its commitment is strengthened (Acts 11:24).

Knowing our primary ways of ministering God’s word will help us use our gifts well and focus on areas where we can be best used of God. God will send people to us who need our particular gifts. Occasionally, He will send people who need to be served with gifts other than those we have. In that case, we should call in someone else. For example, Barnabas didn’t try to teach the church in Antioch but called in Paul to teach (Acts 11:25).

We Shall Overcome

Jesus said: “I gave them Your word, and the world has hated them for it” (Jn 17:14). Both the devil and the world hate God’s word and those ministering the word. Although we might think of ourselves as harmless, we should expect persecution (2 Tim 3:12). It can be as simple as others laughing at or slandering us. It can mean losing friends, losing a job, or being embarrassed at the parish council.

When ministering God’s word in our parishes, we must not give in to discouragement. For example, Paul was on death row, and some were preaching the Gospel to further antagonize his enemies (Phil 1:17). What a perverted reason for preaching the Gospel! Yet even in this worst of circumstances Paul continued to lead others to Christ (Phil 1: l2-14). He’s a model for word-ministry in tough situations, like the parish.

God promises that He will not permit His word to be without effect (see 1 Sm 3:19). So take advantage of every opportunity — personal conversation, cards, letters, phone conversations (see Col 4:5). Consider distributing little portions of the Bible. Distribute the Bible, or New Testament, or one gospel. Gather two or three people in your home to read and share God’s word. Encourage praying the Liturgy of the Hours, especially morning and evening prayer. This is a proven way to enter into praying the Bible. Learn to talk in the words of the Bible. People won’t know you’re talking the Bible, but it always achieves the end for which it was sent (Is 55:11). “All that matters is that in any and every way, whether from specious motives or genuine ones, Christ is being proclaimed! That is what brings me joy” (Phil 1:18).

Your sharing of God’s word may seem insignificant in the context of the large parish, but do what you can (see Mk 14:8). Let God take it from there. He can multiply your loaves and fish. Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything. Put in your widow’s mite (Lk 21:4). “He who sows sparingly, will reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will reap bountifully” (2 Cor 9:6).

5. “THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME”

Commitment and Community

“The community of believers were of one heart and one mind. None of them ever claimed anything as his own; rather, everything was held in common. With power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great respect was paid to them all; nor was there anyone needy among them, for all who owned property or houses sold them and donated the proceeds.” —Acts 4:32-34

If you have worked in a parish for more than a couple days, you begin to repeatedly mouth the word, “commitment”. For example, usually about 15% of the parishioners pay 80% of the parish’s bills because most the parishioners are not committed to the parish. Raising money in other ways is refusing to face the problem of non-commitment. Continuing to lament the lack of commitment also does nothing to create commitment.

Commitment is partly based on certainty, which is partly based on clarity. Pope Paul VI taught: “Yet another sign of love will be the effort to transmit to Christians not doubts and uncertainties born of an erudition poorly assimilated but certainties that are solid because they are anchored in the Word of God. The faithful need these certainties for their Christian life; they have a right to them, as children of God who abandon themselves into His arms (On Evangelization, 79). Pope John Paul II teaches that “certainty of truth”…is the only firm basis for a total giving of oneself to Jesus and to the Church…If we are not certain about the truth, how can we put our whole life on the line? (I Will Give You Pastors, 52). Commitment is based on certainties about the basic truths of divine revelation. Certainty is partly based on clear, orthodox teaching. Without this, we cannot expect commitment to a parish which will be deep enough to stand the test of time.

However, commitment is not only based on certainty, for many Catholic Christians are certain about the faith but not committed to their parishes. Commitment is also based on community. If, by God’s grace, we are committed to one other person, we will be led to be committed to other people. For example, the commitment of a married couple to each other will naturally lead to a commitment to their children. The commitment to a pastor will lead to a commitment to at least a few other parishioners. This is the beginning of Christian community. These small Christian communities are the breeding ground of greater commitment. Rarely are people committed to the large group if they are not committed to a small community. The small community takes commitments between one or two people, expands them, and transforms them into commitment to the parish. The parish, in turn, is to take this commitment and transform it into commitment to the diocese and the universal Church. The seed of commitment grows in the “hot bed” of small Christian community. That’s why these communities are the building blocks of the parish.

“But they were searching for a better, a heavenly home.” —Hebrews 11:16

Many of you have “gone through the mill” in parish renewal. You’ve been through program after program and been repeatedly excited and disillusioned. Many of these programs were good but only introductory and transitional. You’re looking for a structure of renewal which goes beyond the introduction and is permanent. You’re not looking for a good idea but God’s idea — for something Biblically based, accepted by the Church, and historically proven. You are looking for home-based communities (HBCs)

The home was the first building to be used as a church. Originally, the parish church was not a grouping of individuals but of HBCs. Pope John Paul II calls these communities “a solid starting point for a new society based on a ‘civilization of love'” (Mission of the Redeemer, 51). “‘Ecclesial basic communities’ (also known by other names)…are proving to be good centers for Christian formation and missionary outreach. These are groups of Christians who, at the level of the family or in a similarly restricted setting, come together for prayer, Scripture reading, catechesis, and discussion of human and ecclesial problems with a view to a common commitment” (Mission of the Redeemer, 51).

A HBC is different from other homes in that each committed member of the community is under Jesus’ lordship and filled with the Spirit, although others can visit and participate in aspects of the HBC. A HBC is also different in that it is an extended family. It can include married couples and their families, single people, single parents and their children, godparents, relatives, neighbors, and co-workers.

The History of Home-Based Communities

“Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. Remember me also to the congregation that meets in their house.” —Romans 16:4-5

For the first three hundred years of the Church’s history, HBCs were the main places Christians gathered. After Pentecost, the early Church broke bread (Eucharist) and shared meals daily in homes (Acts 2:46). Priscilla (Prisca) and Aquila were the core of the most significant HBC in the Bible. They were lifesavers to Paul (Acts 18:3), and teachers to Apollos (Acts 18:24-26). Some other HBCs mentioned in the Bible are Gaius’ (Rom 16:23), Lydia’s (Acts 16:15, 40), Titus Justus’ (Acts 18:7), Nymphas’ (Col 4:15) and Philemon’s (Phlm 2). The HBC was seen as a training ground for leadership in the Christian community (1 Tim 3:5).

Throughout history, HBCs continued to be the principal centers of Christian life. Today there are hundreds of thousands of HBCs in South America, Africa, Russia, China, the Philippines, and South Korea. The HBC remains the principal center of Christian life even in the 20th century world. “These communities are a sign of vitality within the Church, an instrument of formation and evangelization” (Mission of the Redeemer, 51).

The Home-Based Community and the Parish

HBCs “decentralize and organize the parish community, to which they always remain united.” —Mission of the Redeemer, 51

The parish church and the HBC need each other. The HBC draws its strength from the parish church. The parish supplies the preaching of the word, the celebration of the sacraments, the fellowship of the larger community, and direction from its pastoral leaders. However, the HBC also serves the parish church by doing things the parish can’t do, and doing other things better than the parish is able to do. For example:

  • Pope John Paul II said that “these communities become a means of evangelization and of the initial proclamation of the Gospel, and a source of new ministries” (Mission of the Redeemer, 51).
  • Growth in Christian character and the practical application of God’s word can be much more developed in the daily communal life of the HBC than in the parish.
  • Also, in the context of the HBC, the poor are better served, and there is more opportunity to break the cycle of poverty by getting to the root of problems. HBCs “become a leaven of Christian life, of care for the poor and neglected, and of commitment to the transformation of society” (Mission of the Redeemer, 51).

Starting a Home-Based Community

“For even they who were scornful on that day of small beginnings shall rejoice.” —Zechariah 4:10

To begin a HBC

  • Pray for the guidance of the Spirit, but don’t pray indefinitely. Make it less than a month.
  • Gather people who might be called to participate in a HBC.
  • Pray together with these brothers and sisters regularly for a few weeks.
  • Share this teaching, especially the Biblical references and the Church documents from our booklet, “Christian Home-Based Communities.”
  • Call for a commitment of three months. Write down specific responsibilities.
  • Sign a commitment statement. Begin with Mass or a prayer service. Pray over each person to be faithful to their commitment. (For twelve seminars in preparation for forming HBCs, order our book, Building Community Life in the Spirit. There are manuals for the leaders of the seminars and guidebooks for the participants.)

The Home-Based Community and Society

The HBC is directly contrary to the trends of our society. The home is usually insignificant today. We are an extremely mobile society, constantly changing residences and jobs. We jump from apartment to apartment. We even eat on the run with fast-foods and drive-through windows. Home is a layover, a sleeping room. But Biblically home is where the action is (see Prv 31:10ff). It is the center of community, business, education, social services, and more. It’s the center of life.

Our technology has made it possible to begin an experiment. Our independent life-style is unprecedented in world history, totally experimental. We have no idea how it will turn out. Early indications are frightening. According to our new life-style, homemakers have meaningless lives, and children may be seen as a great inconvenience to their parents and a hindrance to living the “good life”. There is nothing sacred in life, including sex, love, marriage, family, and fellowship. Talents and skills highly respected traditionally are considered unimportant. We are taking an extreme risk with the most basic elements of life. We may be creating a Frankenstein world.

In such an alien environment, the concept of a HBC may sound idealistic, but it is not. HBCs have been formed as a matter of normal course throughout Church history. They are flourishing right now throughout the world. There’s no reason why God cannot form HBCs in our country. As they are formed, parishes will be renewed, for HBCs can be “a true expression of communion and a means for the construction of a more profound communion. They are thus cause for great hope for the life of the Church” (Mission of the Redeemer, 51).

6. “GREAT, INTENSE, AND GROWING PRAYER”

Eucharistic Adoration and Intercession

“Upon your walls, O Jerusalem, I have stationed watchmen; never, by day or by night, shall they be silent. O you who are to remind the Lord, take no rest and give no rest to Him, until He re-establishes Jerusalem and makes of it the pride of the earth.” —Isaiah 62:6-7

A significantly heightened level of adoration and intercession almost always precedes true renewal in the Spirit. For example, before the first Christian Pentecost, 120 disciples prayed for nine days (see Acts 1:14). The man lame from birth was healed at the 3 o’clock hour of prayer (Acts 3:1ff). This was followed by a second Pentecost in which thousands gave their lives to Jesus (see Acts 4:4). The early Church was so intent on prayer that on one occasion “the place where they were gathered shook as they prayed. They were filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 4:31). The apostles concentrated on prayer (Acts 6:4). Stephen prayed before being martyred (Acts 7:59-60). Saul prayed before converting (Acts 9:12). Cornelius “constantly prayed” before becoming the first Gentile Christian (Acts 10:2). The early Church prayed Peter out of jail (Acts 12:12). A greater commitment to prayer, especially the prayer of adoration and intercession, usually preceded the reception of the Holy Spirit.

“This is My Body”

“All of us, gazing on the Lord’s glory with unveiled faces, are being transformed from glory to glory into His very image by the Lord Who is the Spirit.” —2 Corinthians 3:18

Throughout the world, many of the parishes that are most renewed encourage frequent, daily, or perpetual adoration. The Holy Father calls a deepening of Eucharistic adoration and devotion a touchstone of authentic renewal. “The encouragement and the deepening of Eucharistic worship are proofs of that authentic renewal which the Council set itself as an aim and of which they are the central point... The Church and the world have a great need of Eucharistic worship” (On the Mystery and Worship of the Eucharist, 3). “The celebration of the Eucharist is the center of the entire Christian life, both for the Church universal and for the local congregations of the Church. ‘The other sacraments, all the ministries of the Church, and the works of the apostolate are united with the Eucharist and are directed toward it. For the Holy Eucharist contains the entire spiritual treasure of the Church, that is, Christ Himself, our Passover and living bread'” (Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharistic Outside Mass, 1). The parish is a Eucharistic community, and the celebration of Mass and Eucharistic adoration will be both the source and fruit of parish renewal. With love for the Eucharistic Jesus growing ever deeper, the parish will focus on Jesus as Lord. Right priorities will be restored. As God feeds His people with the finest wheat, parishioners will grow in love, strength and maturity. New people will be drawn into the parish community as Jesus draws all people to Himself (Jn 12:32). (See our booklet, This is My Body.)

Eucharistic Adoration and Vatican II

“With great desire, I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” —Luke 22:15, our translation.

Some mistakenly thought that Eucharistic adoration was de-emphasized by Vatican II. Consequently, we see the demise of exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Forty Hours, and visits to the Blessed Sacrament. However, Vatican II officially gave a greater emphasis to the Eucharist, although this has often not been applied locally.

After the Council Pope Paul VI said, “We therefore earnestly hope that rich fruits of Eucharistic devotion will grow from the restored sacred liturgy…” (On the Holy Eucharist, 6). The Council stated that the Eucharist is “the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the fountain from which all her power flows” (Vatican II, Liturgy, 10). Pastors are exhorted to make Eucharistic adoration readily available to the faithful that they may “easily, fruitfully, and constantly honor the Lord, present in the Sacrament” (Holy Communion and Worship, 9). “Both private and public devotion toward the Eucharist, therefore, including devotion outside Mass are strongly encouraged…” (Holy Communion and Worship, 79).

Intercession and the Parish

The primary purpose of Eucharistic adoration is to extend our worship we give to Jesus at Communion time. Our worship can naturally flow into intercession as we focus on Jesus — eternal High Priest and Intercessor (Heb 7:25) at the right hand of the Father. When there is serious prolonged intercession for a parish, the works of the evil one are bound and God’s grace loosed (see Mt 16:19). New things begin to happen. Dry bones begin to rattle (Ez 37:4). Parishioners come under conviction (Jn 16:8). The Holy Spirit brings renewal. (See our pamphlet Ten Commandments of Intercession.)

Pope John Paul II taught in his first encyclical: “We feel not only the need but even the categorical imperative for great, intense and growing prayer by all the Church. Only prayer can prevent all these great succeeding tasks and difficulties from becoming a source of crisis and make them instead the occasion and, as it were, the foundation for ever more mature achievements on the People of God’s march toward the Promised Land in this stage of history approaching the end of the second millennium” (The Redeemer of Man, 22).

7. THE WAR OF PARISH RENEWAL

Spiritual Warfare

“The weapons of our warfare are not merely human. They possess God’s power for the destruction of strongholds. We demolish sophistries and every proud pretension that raises itself against the knowledge of God; we likewise bring every thought into captivity to make it obedient to Christ.” —2 Corinthians 10:4-5

The devil has strongholds, sophistries, and entrenched positions in the average parish. We can pray, work, and plan forever, but these works of the evil one must be dealt with, or they will continually impede the work of the Spirit. Therefore, spiritual warfare is most important for parish renewal.

However, many in our society and in the Church are more formed by secular humanism than by the Bible and the teaching of the Church. Therefore they no longer believe the devil is real, although the Bible and the Church are very clear about this. Furthermore, the average Christian today knows little about spiritual warfare because many priests and ministers won’t mention the evil one from the pulpit. We would be rejected in the average parish council meeting if we made a statement about spiritual warfare. We need to clear up this confusion. We can’t win a war if we don’t believe we have an enemy. And if we can’t win the war against the devil, we can’t renew our parish. We must know the devil’s guile only too well and thereby prevent him from outwitting us (2 Cor 2:11).

Victory Over Evil Spirits

“Our battle is not against human forces but against the principalities and powers, the rulers of this world of darkness, the evil spirits in regions above.” —Ephesians 6:12

Satan and his demons have revolted against God, lost their place in heaven, and now are trying to seduce us into joining a rebellion that has already been defeated (Rv 12:7-9). Our battle is against these demons and not against people.

Although these fallen angels are far superior to us, we have power, authority, and victory over them because of our relationship with Jesus (Mt 10:1). We can attack the gates of hell, which cannot prevail against us (Mt 16:18). We can drive out, disarm, and despoil Satan (Mk 16:17; Lk 11:22). By Jesus’ power in us (1 Jn 4:4), we can bring down Satan’s strongholds, sophistries, and proud pretensions (2 Cor 10:4). We can quickly crush him (Rom 16:20), make a public show of him (Col 2:15), and put him beneath Jesus’ and our feet (Heb 10:13).

We overpower Satan by wielding various spiritual weapons by the power of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 10:4).

  1. We command Satan to leave.
  2. Using the truth of God’s word unmasks Satan’s lies.
  3. Praising the Lord disturbs Satan and he runs away.
  4. Proclaiming the name of Jesus reminds Satan of the One Who conquered him.
  5. “Pleading the blood of Jesus” brings back bad memories for Satan, covers us with protection, and washes away our sins.
  6. & 7. Praying and fasting are the only ways to drive out some demons (Mt 17:21).

Many of our problems will never be solved unless we recognize the 1) existence and 2) conspiracy of Satan. We will not have a free and victorious life unless we know 3) we’re in a war, 4) who the enemy is, 5) our authority over that enemy, and 6) our spiritual weapons. All these realities must be seen in the context of the ultimate reality of 7) Jesus Christ’s total, irreversible victory over the kingdom of darkness through His death and resurrection. (For more information, see our pamphlet, Do You Renounce Satan?)

Spiritual Warfare and the Church

The Catholic Church has always stated unequivocally the reality of Satan and spiritual warfare. Pope Paul VI stated the traditional teaching: “Evil is not merely a lack of something but an effective agent, a living spiritual being, perverted and perverting, a terrible reality…This question of the devil and the influence he can exert on individual persons, as well as on communities, whole societies, and events, is a very important chapter of Catholic doctrine” (L‘Osservatore Romano, English edition, Nov. 23, 1972, p. 3).

Because of the influence of Satan on parishes, we need Michael, Satan’s ancient, heavenly adversary (Rv 12:7; Dn l2:1; Jude 9), once again to lead the charge against the gates of hell. We also need Mary to lead us, the members of the Church, in quickly crushing the devil under our feet (see Rom 16:20). By obedience to the Lord, we will bring down the strongholds of the evil one in our parish churches. When this is done, the door will be opened to full-scale parish renewal.

8. GROWING PAINS

Equipping the Saints

“It is He Who gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ.” —Ephesians 4:11-12 (our translation)

Pope Paul VI and many bishops throughout the world have pointed out that many Catholics are not evangelized by the standards of the Church and the Bible. To be evangelized is not to be perfect but to have definitely decided to love the Lord with all our hearts and souls. Many Catholic Christians have not made this decision. In many parishes, most of the parishioners have not decided to accept the good news of Jesus on His terms. For example, in the parish of 1,000 people, 80%, that is, 800 people, may need to be evangelized. These 800 people will primarily be evangelized by the 20%, 200 people, who have been evangelized. These 200 people need to be equipped to evangelize and minister in Jesus’ name. Of these 200 people who are at various stages of discipleship, possibly 50 are apostles, prophets, evangelists, or pastor-teachers — the four ministries by which Christians are equipped to evangelize and serve (see Eph 4:11). The parish church must make it a priority to raise up, equip, and empower the 50 people who will equip the other 150, who will lead the way in evangelizing the 800. Parish renewal depends on working with the 5% who will equip the 15% to evangelize the 80%.

Paul said: “The trouble was that I could not talk to you as spiritual men but only as men of flesh, as infants in Christ” (1 Cor 3:1). As long as the overwhelming majority of parishioners are “infants in Christ,” parish renewal is delayed indefinitely and the whole parish church becomes a large “cry room”. Instead of being a center for worship and evangelization, the parish becomes a place where adult infants amuse themselves and fight with each other. Church leaders become baby sitters rather than apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors. God the Father, like all parents, wants His children to grow up. He has raised up equipping ministries to promote our growth.

Maturing into Ministry

“Let us profess the truth in love and grow to the full maturity of Christ the Head. Through Him the whole body grows, and with the proper functioning of the members joined firmly together by each supporting ligament, builds itself up in love.” —Ephesians 4:15-16

Equipping is a process in which we are taught to use our spiritual gifts and are prepared for ministry. For example, we may have difficulty witnessing for Christ at work. To change this, we begin by talking with a pastor-teacher (see below). That person listens and shares with us from God’s word and his personal experience about witnessing at work. Then we go to work and give it a try. We come back to the pastor-teacher and share our successes and failures. We receive prayer, encouragement, and direction. We are growing and becoming “fully mature and lacking in nothing” (Jas 1:4).

Jesus working through His Church equips us, the Holy Spirit will accelerate the equipping process, and certain members of His body have special responsibilities. Priests are called “to coordinate all the gifts and charisms which the Spirit inspires in the community, to discern them and put them to good use for the upbuilding of the church in constant union with the bishops” (I Will Give You Pastors, 26, Pope John Paul II). Many religious and some lay people are called to equip the saints for ministry. There are four equipping ministries. These complement each other. (For more teaching on this subject see our book, Seek the Gifts of the Spirit)

  • The apostle sees the big picture, the vision for the worldwide body of Christ. He establishes communities and ministries while providing direction from and connection to the larger church.
  • The prophet reveals what God is saying. God uses the prophet’s words to state and create specific courses of action in the Church and local parish.
  • The evangelist leads people to Christ in such a way as to motivate and equip others also to evangelize.
  • The pastor-teacher teaches, guides, and supports those growing in using their spiritual gifts in ministry.

Beginning the Process

“All Scripture is inspired of God and is useful for teaching — for reproof, correction, and training in holiness so that the man of God may be fully competent and equipped for every good work.” —2 Timothy 3:16-17

First of all, to begin to mature we must be fully evangelized. This means we are in Christ, in His Church, and in the Spirit. To be in Christ and yet not in His Church is like being in the head without being in the body (Eph 1:22-23). To be in the Spirit and not in the Church makes no sense because the Spirit is given through the Church and for the Church (1 Cor 12:7; 14:4). To be in Christ and not in the Spirit is only having part of God’s will. How could we meet Jesus, the Baptizer in the Spirit, and not receive the Spirit? (Mk 1:8) If we’re not in Christ, we don’t want to be equipped. If we’re not in the Church, we don’t have co-workers and a place to work when equipped. If not in the Spirit, we don’t have the power to be equipped.

When we are fully evangelized, then we must let ourselves be equipped. We decide to deny ourselves and take up the daily cross (Lk 9:23). We decide to do not what we want but to obey God’s word, which is the primary means of equipping us.

Equipping the Parish

To apply this teaching to your parish:

  • Find out if you are a builder or an equipper. As you pray and look at the circumstances of your life, the Spirit will guide you (Jn 16:13).
  • Share this teaching and encourage others to do the same.
  • Seek out someone who will help equip you. If you believe you are in one of the equipping ministries, begin working with others to assist their growth. Even if your community is not developed in the equipping ministries, do what you can (see Mk 14:8).
  • Pray for many Christians to grow in the use of their spiritual gifts and to minister in the full power of the Spirit.

9. RENEWAL OR “NEWAL”?

Evangelization

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations. Baptize them in the name ‘of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.'” —Matthew 28:19

A cause and effect of parish renewal is evangelization. If the parish is alive, and attached to Christ the Vine (Jn l5:5), it will bear fruit and thereby become more alive and bear more fruit. A renewed church is evangelized and evangelizing.

A Parish In Love Must Evangelize

“The Church exists to evangelize.” —Pope Paul VI, On Evangelization, 14

Pope John Paul II teaches: “The number of those who do not know Christ and do not belong to the Church is constantly on the increase. Indeed, since the end of the Council it has almost doubled. When we consider this immense portion of humanity which is loved by the Father and for whom He sent His Son, the urgency of the Church’s mission is obvious” (Mission of the Redeemer, 3). “What moves me even more strongly to proclaim the urgency of missionary evangelization is the fact that it is the primary service which the Church can render to every individual and to all humanity in the modern world” (Mission of the Redeemer, 2). “I sense that the moment has come to commit all of the Church’s energies to a new evangelization and to the mission ‘ad gentes’. No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples” (Mission of the Redeemer, 3).

When we have deeply experienced Jesus, we evangelize, compelled by the Holy Spirit as at Pentecost (Acts 2:4). Because we believe, we speak out (2 Cor 4:13). If our hearts are overflowing with the love of Jesus, we will speak out of the abundance of our hearts (Lk 6:45). “Surely we cannot help speaking of what we have heard and seen” (Acts 4:20). Those in love share about the one who loves them.

Teaching on evangelization is of little consequence until we are grasped by Christ. Paul said: “I am racing to grasp the prize if possible, since I have been grasped by Christ [Jesus]” (Phil 3:12). If we experience and are grasped by the crucified and risen Jesus, we will run out proclaiming “He died for me; He’s alive!” We will make any sacrifice to express this message.

We will say with Paul: “I have made myself all things to all men in order to save at least some of them. In fact, I do all that I do for the sake of the gospel in the hope of having a share in its blessings” (1 Cor 9:22-23). The greatest evangelists of all times have been greatly evangelized. They experienced Jesus in a dramatic way, and never got over it. Their experience demanded a total commitment to sharing the good news of what Jesus had personally done for them.

“NEWING”

Clearly, evangelization in the parish context has special difficulties. We talk about “renewal” but many people in the Church need “newal”. They have never been “new” to be “renewed”. Many have never become Christians in the practical and full sense. Because this is hard to admit, we often use the euphemism “renewal” when we evangelize those who do not know Christ. We also use the term “fallen away” or “backsliders”. Most of these people may have fallen away from their baptismal graces and from church attendance, but not from Jesus Whom they never knew in the first place. It is important to know if we are working with someone in need of “renewal” or “newal”.

To those in need of “renewal,” we should ask the question: What happened? How did you lose your peace and joy? We must help the people recognize the cause of their change, the point of departure, and then call them to repentance. To those in need of “newal,” we should ask: What did not happen in your life? Why are you feeling empty? What are you missing? We should invite them to come to Jesus just as they are, repent of sin, and accept Jesus as Lord of their lives.

Some missionaries say it’s much easier to lead a pagan to Christ than evangelize those who are in church but not in Jesus as Lord. But Jesus eventually transformed the religious Nicodemus, and He continues this work to the present day through the celebration of the Sacraments (see chapter 2), intercessory prayer (see chapter 6), and especially through redemptive suffering. Expect to win the world for Christ, beginning with those in your parish who have not yet made the total commitment to Jesus. “As the third millennium of the redemption draws near, God is preparing a great springtime for Christianity, and we can already see its first signs” (Mission of the Redeemer, 86). The evangelization of the parish is impossible for us, but nothing is impossible with God (Lk 1:37). (For more information, see our pamphlet, Evangelism And Worship).

Brothers and Sisters,

Thanks for your love for Jesus and His body, the Church. Thanks for caring enough to read and live this book. Do not fear or be discouraged.

When we love Jesus and His Church enough to lay down our lives for them (see Jn 12:24; Ps 102:14-15), the Lord will work the miracle of parish renewal. He will certainly get all the credit for this because it will not have been done by our power or might, but by the Holy Spirit (Zech 4:6). He will do it (see 1 Thes 5:24). Our part is to let it be done (Lk 1:38) by obeying the Spirit.

Excerpts from Scripture are taken from The new American Bible, copyright 1970 by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C., and are used by permission of the copyright holder. All rights reserved.

Nihil obstat:Rev. Edward J. Gratsch, May 4, 1993
Imprimatur:
Rev. R. Daniel Conlon, June 1, 1993 Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Ohio

The Nihil obstat and Imprimatur are a declaration that a book or pamphlet is considered to be free from doctrinal or moral error. It is not implied that those who have granted the Nihil obstat and Imprimatur agree with the contents, opinions, or statements expressed.

The cost of this publication is a donation. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit what amount He would have you contribute.

Copyright © 2011 Presentation Ministries
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Cincinnati, Ohio 45211
Phone: (513) 662-5378
http://www.presentationministries.com

My source: http://www.presentationministries.com/brochures/HowToRenewParish.asp

Back to: BEC

Introduction to Small Christian Communities

(Revised)

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Small Christian Communities

  • In the Church
  • In the Bible
  • In the world

Love in a Small Christian Community

  • A unique love
  • Love in family relationships
  • Love and alienation

Leadership in a Small Christian Community

Networking Small Christian Communities

SMALL CHRISTIAN COMMUNITIES

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ instruction and the communal life, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” —Acts 2:42

This is an introduction to forming small Christian communities. These communities appeal to those who are zealous for evangelization, love the Church, and have “gone through the mill” in church renewal. In about .thirty years of working to renew the Church, I myself have been involved in countless groups, committees , and programs. I have come to a point where I don’t think the Lord is calling me to merely put on more programs but to form the basic structure of Church-.life, that is, the small community. Although this type of community is not popular in an individualistic, secularized world and church, it is God’s will. Therefore, even if it starts small, it will flourish by God’s grace.

Life in a small Christian community is simply our baptismal brotherhood and sisterhood lived out practically with a few people. We share God’s word, the Eucharist, prayer, our possessions, our gifts, time, and meals. We share daily life.

These communities are:

  • approved and encouraged by the universal Church.
  • Biblically based.
  • historically proven to be a leaven for world evangelization and Church renewal.

These communities are basic Christianity. We can devote our lives to forming them and know that we are building something that will last.

SMALL CHRISTIAN COMMUNITIES IN THE OFFICIAL TEACHINGS OF THE CHURCH

“You will know what kind of conduct befits a member of God’s household, the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of truth.” —1 Timothy 3:15

The following quotations from Pope John Paul II, and Pope Paul VI indicate how the Spirit is developing small Christian communities and that the Church approves and encourages the formation of small communities.

Communautes de base (basic communities) “will be a hope for the universal Church to the extent:

  • that they seek their nourishment in the Word of God and do not allow themselves to be ensnared by political polarization or fashionable ideologies, which are ready to exploit their immense human potential;
  • that they avoid the ever present temptation of systematic protest and a hypercritical attitude, under the pretext of authenticity and a spirit of collaboration;
  • that they remain firmly attached to the local Church in which they are inserted, and to the universal Church, thus avoiding the very real danger of becoming isolated within themselves, then of believing themselves to be the only authentic Church of Christ, and hence of condemning the other ecclesial communities;
  • that they maintain a sincere communion with the pastors whom the Lord gives to His Church, and with the magisterium which the Spirit of Christ has entrusted to these pastors;
  • that they never look on themselves as the sole beneficiaries or sole agents of evangelization — or even the only depositories of the Gospel — but, being aware that the Church is much more vast and diversified, accept the fact that this Church becomes incarnate in other ways than themselves;
  • that they constantly grow in missionary consciousness, fervor, commitment and zeal;
  • that they show themselves to be universal in all things and never sectarian.”

“On these conditions, which are certainly demanding but also uplifting, the ecclesial communautes de base will correspond to their most fundamental vocation; as hearers of the Gospel which is proclaimed to them and privileged beneficiaries of evangelization, they will soon become proclaimers of the Gospel themselves” (Pope Paul VI, On Evangelization, 58).

“A rapidly growing phenomenon in the young churches — one sometimes fostered by the bishops and their Conferences as pastoral priority — is that of ‘ecclesial basic communities’ (also known by other names) which are proving to be good centers for Christian formation and missionary outreach. These are groups of Christians who, at the level of the family or in a similarly restricted setting, come together for prayer, Scripture reading, catechesis, and discussion on human and ecclesial problems with a view to a common commitment. These communities are a sign of vitality within the Church, an instrument of formation and evangelization, and a solid starting point for a new society based on ‘civilization of love.’

“These communities decentralize and organize the parish community, to which they always remain united” (Pope John Paul II, The Mission of the Redeemer, 51).

“Because the Church is communion, the new ‘basic communities’, if they truly live in unity with the Church, are a true expression of communion and a means of construction of a more profound communion. They are thus cause for great hope for the life of the Church” (Pope John Paul II, The Mission of the Redeemer, 51).

“So that all parishes of this kind may be truly communities of Christians, local ecclesial authorities ought to foster…small, basic or so-called ‘living’ communities, where the faithful can communicate the word of God and express it in service and love to one another; these communities are true expressions of ecclesial communion and centers of evangelization, in communion with their pastors” Pope John Paul II, {The Lay Members of Christ’s Faithful People).

“Internal to the parish, especially if vast and territorially extensive, small Church communities, where present, can be a notable help in the formation of Christians by providing a consciousness and an experience of ecclesial communion and mission which are more extensive and incisive” (Pope John Paul II, The Lay Members of Christ’s Faithful People, 61).

HOME-BASED COMMUNITIES IN THE BIBLE

“The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the assembly that meets in their house, send you cordial greetings in the Lord.” —1 Corinthians 16:19

The saying: “There’s no place like home,” is one of the basic principles of God’s word and plan of salvation. In the Old Testament, the home and the Temple were the most important places of worship and celebration. The Passover, the greatest of all Israelite celebrations, was held in homes. Jesus made the home not only a center for worship but also His base for evangelization. He told His apostles: “Look for a worthy person in every town or village you come to and stay with him until you leave. As you enter his home bless it” (Mt 10:11-12). After Pentecost, the early Church met in their homes daily for the breaking of the bread (the Eucharist) and shared meals (Acts 2:46). This resulted in the manifestation of signs and wonders, break-throughs in economic sharing, and wildfire evangelism. “Day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). All the churches for the first 300 years of Church history were homes. Saul persecuted the Church by breaking up these home-meetings, dragging men and women out of house after house, and throwing them into jail (Acts 8:3). Peter was saved from execution through an all-night prayer-vigil at the home of Mary, John Mark’s mother (Acts 12:12). Lydia, the first convert of the Western world, made her home a church (Acts 16:15, 40). Priscilla and Aquila had the most famous home-based community in history. They strengthened Paul to return to full-time ministry (Acts 18:2-5), converted Apollos, and empowered him to minister in the Spirit (Acts 18:26). All the churches of the Gentiles owed a debt of gratitude to Priscilla and Aquila and the congregation that met in their house (Rm 16:4-5). Other notable communities were those of Nymphas (Col 4:15), Titus Justus (Acts 18:7), Gaius (Rm 16:23), and Philemon (Phlm 2). The home-based community was seen as a training ground for leadership in the early Church (1 Tm 3: 5, 12).

SMALL CHRISTIAN COMMUNITIES THROUGHOUT THE WORLD

“But they were searching for a better, a heavenly home.” —Hebrews 11:16

The home-based community is directly contrary to the trends of our American society. The home is usually considered insignificant today. We are an extremely mobile society, constantly changing residences and jobs. We jump from apartment to apartment. We even eat on the run, picking up “fast foods” at drive-through windows. Home is a layover, a sleeping room. But Biblically, home is where the action is (Prv 31:10ff). It is the center of community, business, education, social services, entertainment, and more. It is the center of life.

Our technology has made it possible to begin an experiment. Our independent life-style is unprecedented in world history — totally experimental. We have no idea how it will turn out. Early indications are frightening. According to our new life-style, home-makers have meaningless lives, and children are see as a great inconvenience to their parents and a hindrance to living the “good life.” There seems to be nothing sacred in life — including sex, love, marriage, family, and community. Talents and skills which have been traditionally valued are now considered unimportant. We are taking an extreme risk in the most basic elements of life. We may be creating a Frankenstein world.

In such an alien environment, the concept of a community may sound and idealistic, but these have been formed as a matter of course throughout Church history and today hundreds of thousands of communities are flourishing throughout the world. These remain the principal center of Christian life, even in the twentieth century world. In South America, Africa, and the Philippines they are called “basic communities,” in Russia and China “house-churches,” and in Korea and America “cell groups.” The terminology used in official Catholic documents is “church of the home,” “domestic church,” “communautes de base,” or “basic communties.”

There are some differences indicated by these various names. Basic communities usually emphasize social change by the power of Christ’s gospel. Church-homes are focused on building up marriage and family life. Cell groups are designed to evangelize the world by multiplying new groups. However, these are not significant differences, and the communities have one major thing in common. Wherever they function, there is an evangelistic explosion that is much greater even than at the first Pentecost. Miraculous evangelistic success in Africa, South Korea, Russia, and China are attributable to God’s power working through small Christian communities.

THE UNIQUE LOVE IN A SMALL CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY

“The way we came to understand love was that He laid down His life for us; we too must lay down our lives for our brothers.” — 1 John 3:16

A Christian community is different from families and groups in at least four ways. First, each committed member of the community must be under Jesus’ lordship and open to the Spirit, although others can visit and participate in various aspects of the community.

Second, a small Christian community has ecclesial, Biblical standards for brotherhood and sisterhood as its ideal. It is not only a support group, prayer group, or study group. In a community, we are trying to be one as Jesus and the Father are one (Jn 17:21). We want to love each other to the point that we will lay down our lives for one another (1 Jn 3:16). We hope to so identify with each other that if one suffers we all suffer and if one is honored we all rejoice (1 Cor 12:26).

Third, a small Christian community is similar to an extended family. Twelve adults are usually the maximum number before the community branches off to form a second community. Like Jesus’ twelve apostles, this community is small enough to be personal and large enough to have many varied gifts for the upbuilding of all the members. The community often centers around two or more Christian married couples and their families. Sometimes the community can form around a single person, as may have been the case with Lydia and John Mark’s mother. The community includes single people, single parents and their children, godparents, relatives, neighbors, or anyone called to share in family life. Not all members must live under one roof, but all the members should be trying to share daily God’s word, the Eucharists, prayer, time, possessions, and meals with at least some of the community’s members.

Fourth, a home-based community is an “intentional” community. Many families and groups of friends are living a Biblical community life but, because they are not aware of it, they will probably not plan for continuity of leadership and branch off into new communities. Thus, they will not have their full impact on society and probably won’t last until Jesus’s second coming.

COMMUNITIES, AND LOVE IN FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS

“One who has no love for the brother he has seen cannot love the God he has not seen.” —1 John 4:20

God’s love motivates us to form Christian communities (see 2 Cor: 5:14), and through these communities we grow in love for God and one another.

There are four major relationships in love, life, and community.

1. CHILD-PARENT — By God’s design, the first relationship for all human persons is to honor, love, respect, and obey our parents. If we live this relationship according to God’s will, our lives will go well (Eph 6:2-3), and we will have a good foundation for all other relationships. A good relationship with our parents is a prerequisite for the brotherhood and sisterhood relationships in communities. In turn these community-relationships will further motivate us to love, honor, and obey our parents no matter how old we are. Even if our parents have died, we should be at peace with them and have forgiven them for anything they have done against us.

2. BROTHER-SISTER — The relationships we have with brothers and sisters constitute over 99% of our relationships. Brotherhood and sisterhood have been radically transformed by our Baptism into Jesus’ body (1 Cor 12:13). We are brothers and sisters in Christ in a way that transcends our relationships with blood brothers and sisters. In Christian brotherhood and sisterhood, we learn to love in the fullness of God’s grace. Without good brother-sister relationships, we have no foundation for the vocation of marriage or the single life in the Lord.

Brotherhood and sisterhood are so important that the devil tries to rob us of them. He has cut down the size of our families so that many people have little experience of relating to blood brothers and sisters. He has also moved up the age for romantic relationships so that brother-sister relationships are left to the first few years of life. Furthermore, in our warped society, we can view even brothers and sisters in Christ as competition.

We have let ourselves be robbed of significant brother-sister relationships because we have yielded to the flesh and stifled the Spirit (see Gal 5:17). Our flesh (our human nature) values individualism, independence, and self-centeredness. We must break with this worldly nature if we are to value brotherhood and sisterhood. By living our Baptism, we must keep our old nature buried and choose to be crucified to the world (Gal 6:14).

3. HUSBAND-WIFE — In addition to the bond of baptism, the bond of Matrimony holds communities together. Marriage and family life are often the training ground for leadership in communities. Husbands and wives must understand and live their complimentary roles of sacrificial love and submission so they can lead their community in living according to the same principles. Married couples must put a high priority on praying together daily. This helps them participate in the prayer of the community.

4. PARENT-CHILD — Parents must take initiative in making their children disciples of Christ. They should “bring them up with the training and instruction befitting the Lord” (Eph 6:4). They should raise their children as if they were Mary and Joseph raising Jesus. Parents are the primary educators of their children. Because of this, many Christian parents decide to home-school their children.

The discipling of children by their parents is part of the discipleship by the whole community. Children of single parent families are given full parenting through the support of the community (Sir 4:10). Godparents take an active role in discipling their godchildren. Older men disciple younger men (1 Tm 1:2; 1 Pt 5:13). Older women spiritually adopt younger women (Ti 2:3-4). The result is accelerated growth in holiness for the members of the home-based community.

In summary, because the brotherhood and sisterhood we live in Christian community should strengthen all our relationships, those in communities should be able to answer “yes” to the following questions:

  1. Do I love my parents more?
  2. Do I have meaningful Christian relationships outside of marriage and immediate family.
  3. Can I relate to people of the same sex without competition or jealousy?
  4. Can I relate to people of the opposite sex without romantic overtones?
  5. Do I pray daily with my spouse?
  6. Are my marriage and family life under Biblical principles?
  7. Am I discipling my children for Jesus and am I really in charge of their education?

There are many other criteria for quality Christian relationships, but the answers to these questions will clearly show whether we have let the Spirit pour out the love of God in our hearts (Rm 5:5).

LOVE ALIENATION, AND COMMUNITY

“Beloved, you are strangers and in exile; hence I urge you not to indulge your carnal desires.” —1 Peter 2:11

If we believe we are “beloved,” we become aware of being strangers and in exile in this world. Then we believe that Jesus chose us out of the world (Jn 15:19), and we become alienated from the world and desirous of Christian community.

When we were baptized, we received a new nature. This makes us different from the way we were before and different from most of the people in the world. If we live our Baptisms, we become aware of our alienation from the world. Then we seek to be in community with those who also have a new nature and are thereby becoming aware of their alienation from the world. The most important concern for forming Christian community in the Western world of the twentieth century is the necessity of radical alienation from the world, that system which refuses to acknowledge Jesus’ lordship. Without this, we are so involved in a non-Christian community that Christian community seems superfluous at best.

The Holy Spirit takes us to the cross, proves the world wrong (Jn 16:8), and crucifies us to the world (Gal 6:14). The apostles did not develop in Christian community until after they received the Spirit. The Spirit surfaces our alienation from the world by spotlighting the irreconcilable differences between God’s kingdom of light and Satan’s kingdom of darkness. Here are a few of these differences:

KINGDOM OF GOD KINGDOM OF SATAN AND THE WORLD
Identity in Christ Identity in things
Sunday as focus of week Weekend as focus
Parents as primary educators School or state as primary educators
Human life as sacred from conception The absolute authority of a woman to kill anyone in her body
Sex only in marriage “Safe sex” without marriage
Church as community and worship Church as only an obligation custom
Suffering valued Escape from suffering, often through alcohol, drugs, overeating, and other compulsions
Brotherhood/Sisterhood Friendship based on business, sexual attraction, or common interests
Christian fellowship Parties
Forgiveness and mercy Lawsuits and justice
Spiritual warfare Technological warfare
No artificial birth-control Birth-control and abortion
At least weekly fasting Maximum pleasure, dieting if necessary
Large families “Nuclear” families or no families
Work for God, not money Work for money and self
Persecution Popularity
Holydays Holidays
Simple life-style Consumerism
Limited or no TV TV as center of life
Service-oriented Entertainment-oriented
Tithing and almsgiving Spending and/or savings
No debts Credit cards, loans, and debts
Praise Gossip and self-centered conversation
International brotherhood/sisterhood National interests
Clothes that cover the body Clothes that draw attention to parts of the body
Men and women as equal and different Unisex
Family meals together frequently Drive-through
Death as the beginning Death as the end

The Spirit must show us these and other differences between the Christian life and the world, or we will not separate from the world and see the need for the brotherhood and sisterhood of Christian community.

LEADERSHIP IN SMALL COMMUNITY

“With a leader to break the path they shall burst open the gate and go out through it; their king shall go through before them, and the Lord at their head.” —Mic 2:13

Supernaturally gifted leaders are necessary for forming small communities. The Lord will give a leader everything necessary to form a Christian community.

Leaders should:

  • have the vision of God’s plan for the community.
  • help people become more aware of their baptismal alienation from the world.
  • give the Church’s teaching on small communities by using the Church’s official documents and especially the Bible.
  • unite the community with other communities, the parish, diocese, and universal Church.
  • recognize the gifts of each member of the community and delegate responsibilities.
  • maintain God’s order in the community.
  • inspire a zeal to evangelize and serve in the community.
  • strengthen the unity of the members of the community with each other by praying for God’s grace and fostering a “continual interaction” among the members of the community (The Lay Members of Christ’s Faithful People, Pope John Paul II, 20).

NETWORKING HOME-BASED COMMUNITIES

“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I do not need you.’ ” —1 Corinthians 12:21

The small communities of the early Church were not isolated but rooted in the Temple or synagogue. “They went to the temple area together every day, while in their homes they broke bread” (Acts 2:46). “Day after day, both in the temple and at home, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news of Jesus the Messiah” (Acts 5:42). Even when official Judaism became hostile to Christians, they stayed in the synagogue until they were expelled in 85 A.D. In addition to their roots in Judaism, the early Christian communities were united with one another in a network of support, teaching, and accountability.

Today’s communities should not be islands to themselves. They should be rooted in the universal Church by all the community members being under the authority of their pastors. Pope Paul VI stated that “basic communities” should “remain firmly attached to the local Church in which they are inserted, and to the universal Church thus avoiding the very real danger of becoming isolated within themselves.” Communities should “maintain a sincere communion with the pastors whom the Lord gives to His Church, and with the magisterium” (On Evangelization in the Modern World, 58).

The relationship with the local churches and their pastors is an invaluable help to communities. However, we need another structure to network and foster home-based communities because:

  1. Sometimes the pastor of a parish is unable or unwilling to do much to help the community.
  2. Even if a pastor of a parish supports Christian community, he will probably not stay at that parish for more than a few years. Thus, there is no assurance of continuity in leadership of a small community. This is a serious problem because the leadership in a small community is so important!

Therefore, most communities are in a dilemma. They need a larger structure 1) to impact the world, 2) provide good leadership training, and 3) protect themselves in spiritual warfare. But they probably have nowhere to turn.

We at Presentation Ministries want to serve your community by offering you the opportunity to join a network of communities. Contact us if the Lord leads you to do so:

Presentation Ministries
3230 McHenry Ave.
Cincinnati, Ohio 45211
(513) 662-JESU
Further resources: Presentation Ministries offers the book, Building Small Christian Communities, There are 12 half-hour video programs which go with this book. We are willing to come to your city to train leaders to conduct these seminars.

Nihil obstat: Reverend Robert L. Hagedorn, June 24, 1996
Imprimatur: † Most Reverend Carl K. Moeddel, Vicar General and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, July 1, 1996

The Nihil obstat and Imprimatur are a declaration that a book or pamphlet is considered to be free from doctrinal or moral error. It is not implied that those who have granted the Nihil obstat and Imprimatur agree with the contents, opinions, or statements expressed.

The cost of this publication is a donation. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit what amount He would have you contribute.

Copyright © 2011 Presentation Ministries
3230 McHenry
Cincinnati, Ohio 45211
Phone: (513) 662-5378
http://www.presentationministries.com

My source: http://www.presentationministries.com/brochures/IntroCommunity.asp

Back to: BEC

Unless the Lord Build the House

“Unless the Lord Build the House…” —Psalm 127:1

Questions and Answers on Building Small Christian Communities

PREFACE

In 1975, the Lord stirred up the Holy Spirit in me and changed my life. I was immediately very concerned with forming a Christian community. This was a radical change for me, as I had previously shown little interest in Christian community and highly valued my independence. In the next five years, I formed a “covenant community” and a parish community. The Lord worked powerfully in those communities, but they seemed to be lacking something. The superstructure of the “covenant community” was too demanding for most people, and the parish community was not stable because of changes in parish leadership. Moreover, although these communities were the best expression of Church I had ever seen, they lacked the depth of commitment we see in Acts of the Apostles. Finally, about 1983, several parishioners of Our Lady of Presentation Church in Cincinnati, Ohio began to form home-based communities. The idea for these communities came from Pope Paul VI’s document On Evangelization in the Modern World, (58). These communities were the closest thing in my experience to the shared daily life of the New Testament Church. In this book, we share what we have learned about leadership development, structure, and networking in forming small Christian communities.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. WHAT IS CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY?

What does God mean by Christian community?

What Christian community is not?

What does the Church teach about Christian communities?

What does the Lord and the Church say in the Bible about Christian communities?

What is the essence of Christian community?

How much emphasis should a Christian community place on the Holy Spirit?

What are the prerequisites for joining a small Christian community?

How many people should be in a Christian community?

Are the children of members of a community also members of the community?

How long will our small Christian communities last?

Does everyone need to belong to a formal Christian community?

Why should Christian communities be based in a home?

Describe everyday life in a Christian community

How will Christian community help my family?

What is the relationship between our natural family and our Christian community?

Do members of the community live in the same house?

What is the difference between these small Christian communities and large “covenanted Christian communities” such as People of Praise, Word of God, Sword of the Spirit, etc?

II. WHY CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY?

Why Christian community?

Why do those who have recently given their lives to Christ need to be in Christian community right away?

How can a Christian community evangelize extensively?

When does a community form a branch?

What does nature tell us about Christian community?

How would Christian community change my life?

How would Christian community change the Church?

How would Christian community change the world?

III. WHO LEADS CHRISTIAN COMMUNITIES?

Why is leadership so important to Christian community?

What are most important qualities for leaders of Christian community?

What are responsibilities of the leaders of a Christian community?

How are leaders of a community chosen?

How many leaders should a community have?

How do leaders of a community make decisions for the community?

How long should a person lead a Christian community?

How do I start a small Christian community?

IV. HOW DOES THE LORD BUILD CHRISTIAN COMMUNITIES?

How does the Lord grace us with “communio”?

How quickly will these Christian communities grow in holiness and numbers?

How can I speed up the growth of a Christian community?

How do I lead someone into a Christian community?

Who are the people most likely to accept God’s call to join Christian communities?

What are the tools the leaders of Christian communities need so as to be effective?

A. COVENANTS

What are “covenants?”

Why “covenant?”

What are examples of covenants?

How are covenants formed?

What is the nature of our responsibility to be faithful to our covenant with the other members of our community?

How often should members of a Christian community celebrate Mass together?

How often should members of communities celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation?

How often should members of a Christian community share meals together?

What are the advantages of a regular fast day by a Christian community?

Should a Christian community have a corporate ministry?

B. MEETINGS

What is the format for the meetings of small Christian communities?

How often do Christian communities meet?

What do children do at the community’s meetings?

What are the advantages of having a part of the community’s meetings in which the men and women of the community meet separately?

C. NETWORKING

Why should Christian communities be networked with other communities?

What are the advantages of networking communities outside the parish—in a transparochial setting?

How does a community nationally networked relate to the pastor of the church where the community is based?

What are the advantages of networking communities in a parish?

When should Christian communities be networked within a parish?

What are the advantages of a community being networked with Presentation Ministries?

How can a community in the Greater Cincinnati area be networked with Presentation Ministries?

What are the responsibilities of the networking team of Presentation Ministries to each community in the network?

How can a community outside the Cincinnati area be networked with Presentation Ministries?

What is an example of a networking agreement between a non-Cincinnati community and Presentation Ministries?

Conclusion

I. WHAT IS CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY?

What does God mean by Christian community?

Christian community has come to mean almost anything and therefore almost nothing. Some people think a social after Mass is Christian community. Others believe that Christian community has something to do with suicidal cults. Still others consider Christian community to be groups of parishioners meeting periodically in prayer groups, Bible studies, Renew groups, faith-sharing groups, etc.

We must know what God means by Christian community because God has committed Himself to give us all we need to do His will, but He is not committed to provide for what is not His will — even though our terminology may make it sound as if we are doing God’s will. “The Lord brings to naught the plans of nations; He foils the design of peoples. But the plan of the Lord stands forever; the design of His heart, through all generations” (Ps 33:10-11).

Christian community, by God’s standards, is to accept God’s grace to become one with the Lord and our brothers and sisters in Christ as the Father and Jesus are one (Jn 17:21). It is participating in Trinity unity.

Christian community is what we see in Jesus’ ministry. It is an “intentionalcommunity. Jesus intentionally chose twelve apostles in whom He invested His life. We too should discern our own “twelve,” with whom the Lord has called us to share our lives in a special way. We will love these brothers and sisters in deed and truth and not merely talk about it (1 Jn 3:18).

Christian community is what we see in the Acts of the Apostles. The early Church devoted themselves to the apostles’ instructions, the communal life, the breaking of bread, and the prayers (Acts 2:42). Christian community is the daily sharing of life in Christ.

Christian community is Trinitarian in that we have been baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. “It was in one Spirit that all of us, whether Jew or Greek, slave or free, were baptized into one body” (1 Cor 12:13). Because Christian community is baptismal, it is Christian brotherhood and sisterhood. Because it is Trinitarian, baptismal, and fraternal, the heart of Christian community is “communio”, i.e. a supernatural communion given us by the Spirit (Lay Members of Christ’s Faithful People, Pope John Paul II, 20). Because Christian community is based on our Baptism into the new and abundant life of the Trinity, Christian community is the daily sharing of life in Christ.

What Christian community is not?

Christian community is:

  • not a group that merely meets.
  • not merely friendship. You can make friends and leave friends, but only God can make brothers and sisters, and we are brothers and sisters forever.
  • not a nuclear family, or even an extended family.

Unlike a Christian community, an extended family does not usually intentionally plan to branch off into new communities and expand in evangelistic outreach. Also, an extended family does not usually plan for continuity of leadership into the next generation.

What does the Church teach about Christian communities?

The Church is “the pillar and bulwark of truth” (1 Tm 3:15). The Lord has given the Church the authority to speak in His name. Therefore, what the Church teaches about Christian communities is what the Lord means by Christian community.

Pope Paul VI said that Christian communities “will be a hope for the universal Church,” if they avoid becoming isolated from the larger Church and other Christian communities (On Evangelization in the Modern World, 58). Pope John Paul II has stated that Christian communities are a “great hope for the life the Church” (Mission of the Redeemer, 51).

Pope John Paul II has taught: “A rapidly growing phenomenon in the young churches — one sometimes fostered by the bishops and their conferences as a pastoral priority — is that of ‘ecclesial basic communities’ (also known by other names) which are proving to be good centers for Christian formation and missionary outreach. These are groups of Christians who, at the level of the family or in a similarly restricted setting, come together for prayer, Scripture reading, catechesis, and discussion on human and ecclesial problems with a view to a common commitment” (Mission of the Redeemer, 51). Pope John Paul II has also taught: “These communities are a sign of vitality within the Church, an instrument of formation and evangelization, and a solid starting point for a new society based on a ‘civilization of love’ ” (Mission of the Redeemer, 51).

What does the Lord and the Church say in the Bible about Christian communities?

All the churches for the first three hundred years of Church history were small communities. Jesus and His apostles were a Christian community. After the first Christian Pentecost, the early Church continued steadfastly in the communal life (Acts 2:42). The small community based at the home of Mary, John Mark’s mother, was instrumental in freeing Peter from imminent execution (Acts 12:12). Lydia, the first convert of the Western world, formed a small Christian community (Acts 16:15). Priscilla and Aquila had the best known small Christian community in history. All of the churches of the Gentiles owed a debt of gratitude to their community (Rm 16:4-5). Other Christian communities were those of Nymphas (Col 4:15), Titus Justus (Act 18:7), Gaius (Rm 16:23), and Philemon (Phlm 2).

What is the essence of Christian community?

The essence of Christian community is baptismal brotherhood and sisterhood. Pope John Paul II has called this “communio.” “This is our highest vocation: to enter into communion with God and with our brothers and sisters” (Fraternal Life in Community, Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life, 9 ). Pope John Paul II has given what is probably one of the best teachings ever on baptismal brotherhood and sisterhood when he explained the nature of “communio” in Lay Members of Christ’s Faithful People, 18-20. In this document, the Pope has taught that our communion with other baptized believers is:

  1. a “mystery” (18).
  2. “a living and life-giving communion through which Christians no longer belong to themselves but are the Lord’s very own, as the branches are one with the vine” (18).
  3. Trinitarian. The Trinity is the model, source, and means of our communion with God and other Christians (18).
  4. “present in the Word of God and in the Sacraments” (19).
  5. expressed above all by the image of the Church as the body of Christ (19). “The Church in Christ is a kind of sacrament, that is, a sign and instrument of intimate union with God and of the unity of all the human race” (19, from Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, 1).
  6. “the integrating aspect, indeed the central content of the ‘mystery,’ or rather, the divine plan for the salvation of humanity” (19).
  7. “organic,” that is, “analogous to that of a living and functioning body” (20).
  8. able to transfer our perspective so that “every member of the lay faithful is seen in relation to the whole body,” and not vice versa (20).
  9. a gift, a great gift of the Holy Spirit to be gratefully accepted by the lay faithful, and at the same time to be lived with a deep sense of responsibility” (20).
  10. living “in a continual interaction with others, with a lively sense of fellowship” (20).

How much emphasis should a Christian community place on the Holy Spirit?

Because Christian community is Trinitarian (see Jn 17:21), we must emphasize the Spirit greatly, for without the Holy Spirit we cannot call God the Father our “Abba” (Gal 4:6), or say “Jesus is Lord” and live it (1 Cor 12:3). Because community is living our baptismal brotherhood and sisterhood, the Holy Spirit is of extreme importance. For it was in the Spirit that we were baptized into one body (1 Cor 12:13). Without the Spirit we will not have the gifts necessary to form Christian community. Also, without the Holy Spirit we will not be holy, and without holiness Christian community is impossible. In summary, without a strong emphasis on the whole activity of the Holy Spirit in our lives, Christian community is nearly impossible.

Nevertheless, many people try to form what they call Christian communities and de-emphasize the Holy Spirit. They recognize that people usually differ greatly in their emphasis on the Holy Spirit. Therefore, they see the Holy Spirit of unity (see Eph 4:3) as divisive. However, that the Holy Spirit is not so much divisive as incisive. The Holy Spirit does not cause divisions as much as penetrate our hearts and surface divisions that are already there.

Despite the difficulties resulting from surfacing divisions, we must emphasize the Spirit. Without the Spirit we do not have the love, power and wisdom for Christian community, and our divisions are still there. Although we can quench the Spirit (1 Th 5:19) and temporarily keep our divisions below the surface, they will eventually come to the surface and destroy any facsimile of Christian community. If we begin a community with five people very open to the Holy Spirit, that community in the next five years may well branch out into four other communities totaling fifty people. If we begin a community with fifty people who are not emphasizing the Spirit, within five years possibly only five of those original fifty people will be hanging on to the idea of community.

What are the prerequisites for joining a small Christian community?

Committed members of a community should be under Jesus’ lordship, committed to living their Baptisms to the full, and letting the Spirit move freely in their lives. These communities appeal to those who are zealous for evangelization, love the Church, and have “gone through the mill” in church renewal.

Dorothy Day, one of the founders of the Catholic Worker movement, said that Americans were not poor enough, humble enough, or holy enough to live in Christian community. Thus, she maintained that living the Beatitudes, especially the first, third, and fourth Beatitudes, was a prerequisite for living in Christian community (see Mt 5:3ff). The Church teaches: “The one in authority needs to remind members that life in common sometimes requires sacrifice and can become a form of ‘grave penance’ ” (Fraternal Life in Community, Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life CICLSAL, 38). “When we lose ourselves for our brothers and sisters, then we find ourselves” (Fraternal Life in Community, Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life, 24). “To build community together with the Lord, in patience every day, takes place on the way of the Cross; it requires frequent self-denial” (Pope John Paul II to the Plenary Meeting of CICLSAL, November 20, 1992).

Ideally, the community’s members should have good relationships with their parents and thereby have the basis for relating to the other members of the community as brothers and sisters. The child-parent relationship is a prerequisite for the brother-sister relationship. Therefore, it is important for community life. If members of the community have had difficult relationships with their parents, the Lord wants to restore these relationships through forgiveness and healing.

The nature of Christian community is to live our baptismal brotherhood and sisterhood. Therefore, those seriously considering the possibility of marriage should not be committed members of a Christian community, because it is not good to begin a husband-wife relationship and develop brother-sister relationships simultaneously.

Because Christian community is the daily sharing of life in Christ, it will greatly affect a person’s whole life. Therefore, a married person should, as a general rule, make a commitment to a Christian community only if the other spouse is also willing to commit. If this is not the case, a married person can participate in the community’s life but not make a commitment which could conflict with marital responsibilities.

How many people should be in a Christian community?

We have been baptized into the miraculous unity of the Trinity. This unity is so deep that it is usually impossible to live it with a large number of people. Therefore, we usually have less than twelve committed adults in a Christian community.

Are the children of members of a community also members of the community?

Yes, children of parents who are committed to the community are full-fledged members of the community. Adolescent children of community members can decide not to be a part of the community, if the community members are not living at the same location.

How long will our small Christian communities last?

Because Christian communities are a share in the life of the Trinity, they are to last on this earth until Jesus’ second coming and then continue forever in heaven.

Does everyone need to belong to a formal Christian community?

Although everyone needs to be in a Christian community, not everyone has the calling and opportunity to belong to a formal Christian community. Christians through the centuries have lived in Christian community without anyone formally organizing these communities in detail. However, in our anti-Christian, secular humanistic “culture of death”, a Christian community that is not formally organized will probably not survive. Moreover, only a formal organization of Christian community will define the community’s leadership, provide continuity of leadership, encourage the development of new communities, and increase the community’s impact in evangelization.

Why should Christian communities be based in a home?

  1. A home provides a family setting (see Acts 2:46), and both a Christian community and a family are modeled on the Trinity.
  2. The home continues to be Christ’s base for evangelization and ministry (Mt 10:11ff).
  3. Christian community is the daily sharing of life in Christ. A home-based community is better integrated into everyday life and into its neighborhood.
  4. The home fosters the right size for growing in brotherhood and sisterhood (i.e., about 12 committed members).
  5. A community based in a home does not require the super-structure of a large, centralized, covenant community. While a Christian community in our culture needs to be formal and intentional, the daily workings of the Christian community must be informal and not necessitate the amassing of many meetings.

Describe everyday life in a Christian community.

Christian community is not a series of meetings but a daily sharing of life in Christ. It is being brothers and sisters in the Lord and by the power of the Spirit. Each day members of the Christian community should pray for one another. Ideally, each day they should be in contact with at least some members of the community. This can happen through praying together, sharing meals, working together, phone conversations, and by having fellowship, recreation, or ministry together.

Although in the early months of a community’s life, the interaction between community members may leave something to be desired, they will eventually grow significantly in their baptismal brotherhood and sisterhood, if they do their best to frequently relate to at least some of the community’s members in some way. The key to depth in Christian community is not prolonged, occasional contact with members of the community, but daily, even brief, contact with several members of the community.

How will Christian community help my family?

Christian community will:

  1. help you grow in loving people, and of course this will help your family.
  2. give your family the benefits of the gifts of the Holy Spirit manifested through other members of the body of Christ.
  3. put both you and also your family in the context of community life. This is the context for maximum growth in holiness.
  4. present more frequent opportunities for members of your family, i.e. your spouse, children, brothers, sisters, or parents to be evangelized by other community members. You yourself may not be able to reach these members of your family for the Lord. Thank God for new workers in His harvest, who may lead your family members closer to Him!

What is the relationship between our natural family and our Christian community?

Jesus taught: “If anyone comes to Me without turning his back on his father and mother, his wife and his children, his brothers and sisters, indeed his very self, he cannot be My follower” (Lk 14:26). Our relationship with Jesus is first. Jesus also taught: “There are My mother and My brothers. Whoever does the will of My heavenly Father is brother and sister and mother to Me” (Mt 12:50). This does not mean that our natural family is neglected. In Jesus and Christian community, we will treat the members of our family better than ever before. We will honor our parents (Ex 20:12), be submissive to our husbands (Eph 5:22), sacrificially love our wives (Eph 5:25), make disciples of our children in a way befitting our relationship with the Lord (Eph 6:4). We are responsible to provide for all the basic needs of our family members. If we fail to do this, we have “denied the faith” and are “worse than unbelievers” (1 Tm 5:8).

Our Christian community and our family relationships are complementary. They should not conflict. For example, if one spouse in a marriage wishes to be involved in a Christian community, we encourage him or her to participate in the life of the community but not to make a commitment to the community. Thus, there will never be a conflict between their life in community and their marriage. Also, we encourage community members to celebrate holidays with their natural families but leave room for celebrating with their Christian communities at another time. For example, many of our Christian communities celebrate the baptismal days of their members and leave the birthday celebrations to their natural families.

Do members of the community live in the same house?

It is usually ideal for a network of communities to have a single men’s house and a single women’s house. This helps them integrate the many aspects of community life and makes it easier for them to interact and thereby grow in baptismal brotherhood and sisterhood.

However, members of a Christian community in the United States and Canada usually do not live in the same house, but they try to keep in touch with each other in many different ways as often as possible, even daily.

What is the difference between these small Christian communities, and large “covenanted Christian communities”, such as People of Praise, Word of God, Sword of the Spirit, etc?

The superstructure of the large covenant community makes it impossible for most Christians to participate. The large covenant communities require a great deal of commitment. There are months and even years of orientation. Moreover, there is the need to pastor those who have made a covenant as well as the need for leadership, teaching, administration, and ministry. The small community because of its limited size is able to provide orientation, pastoring, formation, and ministry on an informal basis and does not require the superstructure of many meetings and complex organization. This makes Christian community available to most Christians.

Because the communities described in this book are smaller than the People of Praise, etc., a much higher percentage of the members of small communities are involved in leadership. This is good, but it also means that small Christian communities usually have a lower quality of leadership than a large covenanted community would have.

II. WHY CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY?

Why Christian community?

Because we are baptized into Christian community (1 Cor 12:13), we are already in Christian community whether or not we are aware of it. Some reasons for living this fact of our incorporation into Christian community through Baptism are:

  1. because the Lord created us to need each other (1 Cor 12:21).
  2. for full power in evangelization (Jn 17:21).
  3. for the full release of the spiritual gifts, because the gifts are for the common good (1 Cor 12:7).
  4. to experience fully Jesus’ presence (Mt 18:20).
  5. to hear God fully (Jn 10:27).
  6. for protection (Mt 18:12; Eccl 4:12).
  7. for strength (Eccl 4:12; Gn 29:3).
  8. for growth in holiness (Prv 27:17).
  9. for exponential growth in power (Lv 26:8).
  10. to harvest those who have experienced renewal (Hag 1:5-7; 2 Jn 8; Rv 3:2).
  11. to strengthen us against persecution.
  12. to decentralize and organize the parish community, to which Christian communities “always remain united” (Mission of the Redeemer, Pope John Paul II, 51).
  13. for authentic love (1 Jn 3:18). A Christian community becomes “a school in which all learn to love God, to love the brothers and sisters with whom they live, and to love humanity” (Fraternal Life in Community, Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life, 25).
  14. to obey Jesus (see Jn 17:21).

Why do those who have recently given their lives to Christ need to be in Christian community right away?

To grow in their new life in Christ, newly committed Christians need to be in community with other brothers and sisters in Christ. If they don’t do this, they will probably lose their first love for the Lord (see Rv 2:4). For this reason, those leading Cursillo, Life in the Spirit Seminars, and other renewal programs emphasize that those who experience renewal in these programs need to participate in prayer groups or small group gatherings. Unfortunately, many people transformed in these programs are not continuing in the small groups. However, the Lord seems to be raising up small Christian communities to harvest, that is, to gather and develop those who have experienced renewal. (See #10 in the question above.)

How can a Christian community evangelize extensively?

One of the reasons for Christian community is to create the context for massive evangelization, that is, for permeating the culture with the Gospel (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 899) and converting to Jesus whole strata of society (On Evangelization, Pope Paul VI, 19). Therefore, Christian communities need to be an evangelistic outreach and not exclusive clubs.

Some teachers on Christian community talk about cell groups. Cell groups are not exactly the same as Christian communities. But there are significant similarities. The word “cell” refers to a biological cell that divides. We prefer not to speak of “cells,” but “branches”. This term indicates that a new Christian community is an extension of the “mother community”. If our Christian communities are healthy, every year we should see new branches or at least the preparation for new branches.

When does a community form a branch?

We live out our baptismal brotherhood and sisterhood in Christian communities. These are deep commitments. For most people it is impossible to have deep committed relationships with a large number of people. Consequently, as a general rule, when a Christian community reaches about twelve committed adult members, they should consider branching off and forming a new community. Ideally, two or three people of the community’s leadership team will be the leaders of the new community.

What does nature tell us about Christian community?

Many aspects of nature, especially as viewed from the ecological perspective, show the importance of Christian community. For example, we can learn a lesson from geese.

“As each bird flaps its wings, by flying in V formation, the whole flock adds 71 percent flying range than if each bird flew alone.

Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the ‘lifting power’ of the bird immediately in front.

When the lead goose gets tired, it rotates back to the formation and another goose flies at the point position.

The geese in formation honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.

When a goose gets sick or wounded or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow to help and protect. They stay until the goose is able to fly again or dies.”

(A Lesson From the Geese appeared in Issue 97 of Merle W. Boos’ Agricultural Notes from the ELCA.)

How would Christian community change my life?

In Christian community, you will be called to a discipline by which you can grow in unconditional love. Living in Christian community will not be one more thing to do but will help you to focus the many activities of your life. So, if you are very busy, Christian community is a good way to screen and focus your various activities. In Christian community, you will also be a called to deny yourself and make sacrifices. This will help you grow in holiness. For example, in Christian community, you will be repeatedly challenged to evangelize, make disciples of all nations, redemptively suffer, and rejoice in the Holy Spirit.

How would Christian community change the Church?

Christian community will result in deeper holiness and massive evangelization. It will promote religious vocations and provide a basis for exceptionally loving marriages, holy families, and a strong permeation of secular society with the Gospel (see Catechism, 899). Christian community will raise up grass-roots lay leaders for the Church and be “a solid starting point” for a new civilization of love overcoming and displacing our culture of death (Mission of the Redeemer, 51). Pope John Paul II told the Philippine Bishops’ Conference on September 27, 1996: “If the experience of basic ecclesial communities proves successful in fostering a deeper, more fraternal and more practical witness of Christian life and solidarity, then a new image of the Church will appear, the image of an active and responsible community which truly reflects the model offered by the early Christians of Jerusalem as described in the Acts of the Apostles.”

How would Christian community change the world?

Through living Christian community we would discover and invent the means of permeating our culture with the Gospel (Catechism, 899). Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran theologian executed by the Third Reich, taught in his book, Life Together: “Every day brings the Christian many hours of being alone in an un-Christian environment. These are times of testing. This is the proving ground of a genuine time of meditation and genuine Christian community. Has the community served to make individuals free, strong, and mature, or has it made them insecure and dependent? Has it taken them by the hand for awhile so that they would learn again to walk by themselves, or has it made them anxious and unsure? This is one of the toughest and most serious questions that can be put to any form of everyday Christian life in community (Lebensgemeinschaft). Moreover, we will see, at this point, whether Christians’ time of meditation has led them into an un-real world, from which they awaken with a fright when they step out into the workaday world, or whether it has led them into a real world of God, from which they enter into the day’s activities strengthened and purified. Has it transported them for a few short moments into a spiritual ecstasy that vanished when everyday life returns, or has it planted the Word of God so soberly and so deeply in their hearts that it holds and strengthens them all day long, leading them to active love, to obedience, to good works? Only the day can decide.”

III. WHO LEADS CHRISTIAN COMMUNITIES?

Why is leadership so important to Christian community?

Jesus raised up His apostles to be leaders of Christian communities by forming a community of these leaders. After those leaders received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, they went forth and formed other Christian communities. The Lord created the Church and called her the body of Christ. He has chosen those members of the body with the charism of leadership to order, protect, motivate, and develop the other parts of the body. Therefore, leaders are extremely important in forming and developing Christian communities. To form a Christian community we must raise up a leader and a leadership team to whom God will give the grace to do everything necessary for the founding and developing of Christian community.

What are most important qualities for leaders of Christian community?

Leaders are “to break the path…burst open the gate and go out through it” (Mi 2:13). Leaders of Christian communities are trailblazers. They need the vision to know where the Lord wants them to lead their communities and the courage to overcome all obstacles.

What are responsibilities of the leaders of a Christian community?

Leaders should:

  1. have the vision of God’s plan for community.
  2. lead others to join the community.
  3. give the Church’s teaching on small communities by using the Church’s official documents and especially the Bible.
  4. recognize the gifts of each member of the community and delegate responsibilities.
  5. maintain God’s order in community.
  6. inspire in the community a zeal to evangelize and serve.
  7. strengthen the unity of the members of the community with each other by praying for God’s grace and fostering a “continual interaction” among the members of the community.

The leaders of a community are responsible especially to call each member of the community to be responsible for the life and growth of Christian community. “Right from the beginning, it is necessary to prepare to be not only consumers of community, but above all its builders; to be responsible for each other’s growth” (Fraternal Life in Community, Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life, 24).

How are leaders of a community chosen?

If a community is branching off another community, the first community’s leaders should choose the leaders of the new community. If a community is changing its leadership, it should seek help from the leaders of other communities.

How many leaders should a community have?

Each community should have a leadership team possibly comprising one-third or one-fourth of the community. One person should lead the leadership team and make final decisions. The main leader should be unanimously chosen by the leaders that he or she is accountable to outside the community and by the other leaders on the leadership team.

How do leaders of a community make decisions for the community?

Leaders of a Christian community should make decisions after repeated prayer and consultations with the members of the community. They should not vote on matters but try to discern God’s will. They should rely on those in the community with the charisms of wisdom, prophecy, and discernment of spirits. At the beginning of the community’s life, they may decide to make decisions by consensus. This forces the leaders to grow in unity. However, consensus decision-making is not realistic in the long run because it requires that all the leaders of the community hear God on the same point at about the same time.

How long should a person lead a Christian community?

Because the charism of leadership is so important to the body of Christ, those with the gift of leadership should use their gift to the fullest for their whole lives. However, a leader should not lead exactly the same people for years, for the community should be receiving new members and be branching into new communities. Moreover, because of special circumstances the main leader of a community may not continue as the main leader but remain in the leadership team of the community.

How do I start a small Christian community?

If you are called to lead a community, begin by praying for and seeking other leaders. Then pray and invite others who may be called to join your community to gather for a couple hours to learn more about the Church’s teachings on Christian community. Presentation Ministries’ booklet, Introduction to Small Christian Communities, can be used as a supplement to your teaching. Ask everyone at the gathering to pray and invite them to a series of Bible teachings on Christian community. Our twelve seminars on building small Christian communities can be used as a format for these teachings. Next, make a first draft of a covenant-commitment for the community. After receiving feedback and re-drafting the covenant, pray and invite those called to sign for an initial three-month commitment.

This process emphasizes prayer, leadership, teaching, and commitment. In our culture, probably few people will respond to this approach to building Christian community. However, for a community to grow in the long run, it is best to start small—with those strongly committed to community life.

IV. HOW DOES THE LORD BUILD CHRISTIAN COMMUNITIES?

How does the Lord grace us with “communio”?

The Lord usually graces us incarnationally, since He has decided to save us through His incarnation, death, and resurrection. Therefore, the graces of “communio” usually come through the members of the community sharing the diverse experiences of everyday life. The Pope calls this “continual interaction” (Lay Members of Christ’s Faithful People, 20).

We accept God’s incarnational graces by asceticism, that is, self-denial and sacrifice. “The ascetic commitment…is necessary and irreplaceable for any liberation capable of transforming a group of people into a Christian fraternity…community that is not mystical has no soul, but community that is not ascetic has no body” (Fraternal Life in Community, Congregation of Institutes of Consecrated Life, 23).

How quickly will these Christian communities grow in holiness and numbers?

Christian community may not be very deep in holiness or gifted with large numbers for some time. For the first year or two, Christian community is usually more shallow than some of our friendships and family relationships. However, eventually these relationships deepen and can become the deepest and most fruitful relationships of our lives.

How can I speed up the growth of a Christian community?

Pope John Paul II has taught that Christian community is a gift of the Holy Spirit and usually is the result of the “continual interaction” of the community’s members (Lay Members of Christ’s Faithful People, 20). Therefore, members of a community should make decisions that will build into their daily lives occasions for many interactions with members of their community. To speed up the growth of Christian community, members of the community should consider living in the same house, belonging to the same parish, doing some of the same ministries, living in the same neighborhood, schooling their children together, sharing materially with one another, and simplifying their lives. If God unites communities in some of these major decisions, they will grow in holiness and numbers much more quickly.

How do I lead someone into a Christian community?

All human beings are, by nature, communitarian. Therefore, to some degree we all are in communities, although these communities may not be Christian. These non-Christian communities are often related to family, business, entertainment, sports, hobbies, etc. Because most people are already involved in non-Christian communities, they are not free to enter into the total commitment of Christian community. However, they do not realize this. To lead someone into Christian community we must lead them out of non-Christian communities.

Because non-Christian communities do not adequately fulfill our basic human desires, there is always at least a subtle sense of alienation in non-Christian communities. When a person is baptized, this alienation becomes more pronounced. Therefore, to lead a person out of non-Christian communities we simply need to help him get in touch with the natural and baptismal alienation he is already experiencing. The Holy Spirit will do this by leading him to renew his Baptism. The Spirit will work especially through those preaching, teaching, interceding, redemptively suffering, and fasting. The Spirit, “will prove the world wrong about sin, about justice, about condemnation” (Jn 16:8) and will crucify us to the world and the world to us (Gal 6:14). After a person is in touch with the natural and baptismal alienation he feels in non-Christian communities, he realizes that he is a stranger and in exile in this world (1 Pt 2:11). Then he will be open to Christian community, for he will still have a need for community but realize that non-Christian communities will not adequately fulfill him.

Who are the people most likely to accept God’s call to join our Christian communities?

  1. blood relatives (Andrew told his brother Simon Peter about Jesus [Jn 1:41].)
  2. those with whom you have things in common (The first followers of Jesus were all Jews.)
  3. neighbors (“Phillip was from Bethsaida, the same town as Andrew and Peter” [Jn 1:44].)
  4. co-workers (One-third of the 12 apostles were fishermen.)

From these four categories, make a list of people for whom you are committing to pray daily, and invite them to share in your community.

What are the tools the leaders of Christian communities need so as to be effective?

When we have God’s plan for Christian community and the makings of Christian community, we then need tools to build community. Possibly we should refer to these tools as “boxes of tools”. First, the community’s covenant includes several commitments that can be used as tools by the leaders of a Christian community to develop “communio”. For example, the leaders of a community could help their community’s members work out their differences by calling them to be faithful to such covenant-commitments as to pray for each other, serve together, eat together, and to celebrate the Eucharist together. The community’s covenant provides the opportunity for discipline, accountability, and solidarity.

A second important “box of tools ” is the community’s meeting. Through the worship, teachings, personal ministry, communication, and hospitality at the community’s meetings, the leaders have many tools at their disposal to promote the “continual interaction” in which the Lord graces the communities with a deepening of “communio.”

Also, the networking of the community with other communities is a box of tools that can be used by leaders of communities to further the growth of “communio.” For example, one community may be weak in worship. If it grows in this most important aspect of Christian life, its members will grow in love for the Lord and each other. If this community belonged to a network of small communities which gathered for a monthly Mass, its members would see communities who are much stronger in giving worship to God. Worshipping with these other communities would be a critical growing experience.

A. COVENANTS

What are “covenants”?

The major covenant of our lives is our baptismal covenant in which we commit ourselves to love the Lord totally, our brothers and sisters in Christ specially (Gal 6:10), and all people unconditionally. In covenanting to a small Christian community, we focus our baptismal covenant on a small number of Christian brothers and sisters. We are not making an additional covenant but living our baptismal covenant practically (1 Jn 3:18).

Why “covenant”?

Applying our baptismal covenant to particular people is a discipline (Heb 12:5). This helps us grow in unconditional love for our brothers and sisters. We are saying that God has called us to commit ourselves to these people. This is an affirmation of them. Moreover, by applying our baptismal covenant to particular brothers and sisters we clarify to whom we are primarily responsible. This clarity will help us discern our priorities. Finally, making a covenant gives stability to a community and to its ministries. This is necessary for discipline, evangelization, and growth.

What are examples of covenants?

The following agreements are part of the covenants of some small Christian communities:

  1. Pray daily for the other members of the community.
  2. Celebrate Mass with the community regularly.
  3. Attend the community’s meetings.
  4. Share meals with the community regularly.
  5. Work in the community’s ministry.
  6. Celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation monthly.
  7. Participate in the community’s fast day.

The aspects of our baptismal covenant which we apply to our community life should be minimal and measurable. In our Western culture, covenants are usually written and signed. Community covenants should be signed for three months initially and after that for one year. It is good to review, revise, and renew covenants annually. Because Presentation Ministries is named after Our Lady of Presentation, our patronal feast day is November 21. We encourage annual covenants to begin and end on November 21.

An example of a covenant

Presentation Promised Community
(November 21, 1995—November 21, 1996)

The members of Presentation Promised Community have expressed their commitment to support each other in their Christian life in the following covenant made November 21, 1995 until November 21, 1996.

CELIBACY AND POVERTY:

We promise to live and encourage one another in a life-long commitment to Presentation Ministries, celibate life for the Kingdom and simple life-style.

APOSTLES’ INSTRUCTIONS:

We promise to devote ourselves to the Apostles’ instruction (Acts 2:42) through scripture study and daily spiritual and scriptural reading, including some readings from the Pope’s encyclicals and exhortations. By a lifetime commitment to Presentation Ministries and Communities, we have promised to work for the spread of the Gospel.

COMMUNAL LIFE:

We promise to grow in our Baptismal relationship through sharing each others’ burdens, daily prayer for one another, and personal prayer in times of need. We will have a spiritual director (required by the statutes for lifelong members of P.M. and we will receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation at least monthly (1 Cor 12:26). We’ll celebrate our baptismal days, and major Church feasts.

We will meet and share a meal monthly, and attend the annual communities’ and/or co-worker retreats. We will work together in a life-time commitment as Co-workers for Presentation Ministries.

BREAKING OF BREAD:

We will attend Mass each day (together when possible), and spend some time in Eucharistic adoration.

We promise to celebrate Mass with Presentation Communities the last Friday of every month.

PRAYERS:

We will pray part of the Liturgy of the Hours (Morning Prayer, and Evening Prayer). We promise to fast according to God’s call for each individual.

LEADERSHIP:

Decisions will be made by leader after consultation with the group. The current leader is Vivian Jansen.

CORPORATE MINISTRY:

Discipleship and Guadalupe Bible College.

ORIENTATION:

We will accept new members into the group through mutual discernment in prayer and establish the following as part of our orientation procedure:

• introduction to Presentation Ministries and co-workers commitment

• involvement in SFO formation and postulancy

• begin process for lifetime commitment to Presentation Ministries with a spiritual director

An example of a covenant

TRINITY HOME-BASED COMMUNITY COVENANT

Leaders: Paul & Denise Autenrieb

“I therefore, a prisoner in the Lord, exhort you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all humility and meekness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, careful to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, even as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one Baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and throughout all, and in us all.” —Ephesians 4:1-6

We, the undersigned, commit to each other and to Presentation Ministries the following until November 21, 1996:

A. Pray each day for all covenanted members of all HBCCs in the network and for all the work of Presentation Ministries.

B. Attend each monthly Mass of the total Presentation community.

C. Attend the scheduled annual retreat of the total Presentation community.

D. Receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation monthly.

E. Pray the family rosary at least once weekly.

F. Fast in some way on Friday.

G. Attend at least one additional Mass during the week.

H. Spend at least one hour monthly in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

Through the upholding of this covenant, we strive to build up and strengthen family life and deepen our Catholic faith as well as increase our trust in our Lord Jesus Christ, so that we may surrender ourselves more fully to Him.

How are covenants formed?

The leaders of a community pray and seek God’s will about the agreements they need among the community’s members to promote growth in brotherhood and sisterhood. The leaders then propose a covenant to the members of the community. After prayer and discussion, whatever is accepted unanimously in the proposed covenant is submitted for approval to the leaders of the network of communities to which the community belongs.

What is the nature of our responsibility to be faithful to our covenant with the other members of our community?

The covenant-commitments of a community are not binding under pain of sin. However, it is very important to keep our word to everyone, especially to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Faithfulness to a community’s covenant is an expression of love.

How often should members of a Christian community celebrate Mass together?

Because Christian community is greatly deepened by the Eucharist, members of a Christian community should frequently celebrate Mass together. If the community’s members are in the same parish, they should celebrate Mass together more than once a week. If they are from different parishes, they should celebrate weekday Mass together at least a couple times a month. In addition to these scheduled times for the whole community to celebrate Mass together, at least some of the community members should celebrate Mass together as frequently as possible, even daily. The Church teaches: “No Christian community, however, can be built up unless it has its basis and center in the celebration of the most Holy Eucharist. Here, therefore, all education in the spirit of community must originate” (On Priests, Vatican II, 6).

How often should members of communities celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation?

Members of communities sin, and sin makes life and Christian community extremely difficult. Therefore, it is important to commit ourselves to regularly confess our sins and be forgiven of them.

In frequent Confession not only are our sins forgiven, but we are strengthened to overcome temptations and are graced to grow in holiness. These are exceptionally important graces for those living in Christian community. Several years ago only a few of our communities thought that their members should make a commitment to monthly Confession. After a few years of experience, almost all of our communities include a commitment to monthly Confession as part of their covenants.

How often should members of a Christian community share meals together?

The Lord works in powerful ways through our sharing of meals. The Mass is in the context of the sharing of a meal. Meals, according to Biblical revelation, are sacred times. Therefore, it is good for members of a Christian community to try to share at least one meal together per week. If the community’s members are not in the same geographical area or have extremely demanding family responsibilities or work schedules, they may be able to share a meal only once or twice a month. However, in addition to these scheduled times for the whole community to share meals, the Holy Spirit will probably inspire several members of the community to share in meals frequently, sometimes even daily (Acts 2:46).

What are the advantages of a regular fast day by a Christian community?

The Lord frees us through fasting (Is 58:6). Some demons cannot be driven out except through prayer and fasting (Mt 17:21). Pope John Paul II has taught that prayer and fasting are the “first and most effective weapons” against the forces of evil (The Gospel of Life, 100). All the communities networked in Presentation Ministries fast on Fridays or on another day of the week. Especially at this present time, the Lord has decided to give His people victory through fasting.

Should a Christian community have a corporate ministry?

Yes, each community should have a ministry in which all the members of the community participate. Although each member of a community may have other individual ministries, a corporate ministry is necessary, for it is a great opportunity to grow in baptismal brotherhood and sisterhood. Some people grow more in unity by serving together than they do through other ways of sharing.

B. MEETINGS

What is the format for the meetings of a small Christian communities?

The community’s leader should consider having the community’s meetings in the context of the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours. The Church teaches: “Gatherings of laity — for prayer, apostolic work or any other reason — are encouraged to fulfill the Church’s office by celebrating part of the Liturgy of the Hours” (General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours, 27). Because meetings are often held in the evening, the community’s meeting could begin with the evening prayer of the Church.

The community’s meeting could continue with the following format:

1. PRAISE — The fruitfulness of the meeting depends on having a good start. We begin by thanking and praising God in our native language. We then sing praises to the Lord, but most importantly we should pray and sing in tongues. It is very important to enter deeply into God’s presence. The Lord usually brings us into His presence by gracing us to worship Him in long, sustained praise (Ps 100:4). The gift of tongues is invaluable in praising the Lord for an extended time. (For more teaching on this, read our pamphlet: Speaking in Tongues.)

2. BIBLE TEACHING — The foundation of all Christian communities is the word of God (Mt 7:24). Pope Paul VI has taught that basic communities “will be a hope for the universal Church to the extent that they seek their nourishment in the Word of God” (On Evangelization, 58). The Lord has probably given one or more members of the community the supernatural gift of teaching God’s word (see Eph 4:11; 1 Tm 3:2). It is important to accept this gift. The teachers should not primarily be discussion-leaders or facilitators. They must teach in the power of the Spirit. This teaching should usually be given live. Audio tapes or video tapes of even the best teachers generally should not be used except for more than a few minutes during the meeting. Tapes can be good for personal use but not for the community meeting.

3. PERSONAL MINISTRY — In addition to the gifts of teaching and of praying in tongues, we need to use many other gifts of the Spirit in the community’s meetings. Each person should put his gifts at the service of the community (1 Pt 4:10). Leaders should view the community as a body and try to lead each one to make his unique contribution. At the community’s meeting each person should have the opportunity to receive ministry for his personal needs. Sometimes the community should break into small groups to provide this personal ministry. Usually we gather around each individual to lay hands on them. At this time the Lord may bring forth prophecy, healing, intercession, encouragement, wisdom and other gifts of the Spirit.

4. PRAISE — We conclude the meeting as we began it. We praise God in various ways, especially in tongues. The final and lasting impression of the meeting should be “praise.”

How often do Christian communities meet?

Because Christian community is a daily living of baptismal brotherhood and sisterhood, we want to promote God’s call to share our lives with each other frequently and informally. Therefore, we do not want to put too much emphasis on the community’s meetings and make people think that the meetings are the main activities of the community. This does not mean that the meetings should be uneventful and lacking in preparation and content. The meetings should be a special opportunity for all to receive the grace of God and a catalyst for sharing together informally our lives in Christ. As a general rule, the whole community should meet formally about every two weeks.

What do children do at the community’s meetings?

Because the children are full-fledged members of the community, they participate in the community meetings. It is ideal for them to be at the opening of the meeting to join in the whole community’s praise of God. Then, if possible, one or more adult community members should take the children to another part of the house to teach them divine revelation, especially the Bible as taught by the Church. After the teaching, the leaders of the children should lead them in crafts and games. Finally, refreshments can be served.

Those ministering to the children are not leaving the community’s meeting but are leading one part of the community’s meetings. The children’s meeting is not baby-sitting. It is as much a part of the community’s life as the meeting of the adult community members.

What are the advantages of having a part of the community’s meetings in which the men and women of the community meet separately?

Witnessing to what the Lord has done in our lives is one of the most powerful ways of leading others to a commitment to Christ and of helping others and ourselves to grow in holiness. Witnessing usually should be specific. However, some parts of a person’s witness may not be appropriate for a mixed gathering. Consequently, separate male and female groupings can make personal witnessing more effective. The psychology of men and women is obviously and significantly different. Men will participate and share more in an all-male gathering. Also, personal ministry is more effective in all-male and all-female groupings. In an all-male gathering, men can be more confrontational and hold each other accountable to their Christian commitments. In an all-female gathering, there can be an empathy that is not often found in mixed groupings. Moreover, men ministering to men and women to women diminishes the possibility of spiritual warfare related to lustful thoughts, jealousy, and misunderstandings.

Because of the advantages of separate male and female groupings, we recommend scheduling separate gatherings at other times if they cannot be practically done at the community’s meetings.

C. NETWORKING

Why should Christian communities be networked with other communities?

Jesus, not only had a community of twelve people, but also a network of seventy-two and later one hundred and twenty disciples (Lk 10:1; Acts 1:15). This is a model for all Christian communities. Just as individuals need community, so communities need communities. Pope Paul VI warned Christian communities that there is a very real danger of becoming “isolated” (On Evangelization, 58). Communities should be networked with one another:

  1. to have greater evangelistic impact (Jn 17:21).
  2. to have greater outreach in ministry.
  3. to learn from other communities and receive support (see Rm 16:4).
  4. to protect the community’s leaders from making bad decision (Prv 11:14).
  5. to provide recourse for those who disagree with decisions of the leaders (see Acts 15:2).
  6. to assist communities in appointing and changing leaders (see Ti 1:5).
  7. to better protect communities from being influenced by secular humanism.

What are the advantages of networking communities outside the parish — in a transparochial setting?

  1. This incarnates and symbolizes the universal (catholic) nature of the Church (Lay Members of Christ’s Faithful People, 25). Examples of Catholic organizations in transparochial networks are the Legion of Mary, St. Vincent de Paul Society, third orders, Knights of Columbus, etc. These organizations love and devotedly serve the parish, but they are not parish structures.
  2. Networking communities outside the parish better assures continuity of leadership. In other words, the transfer of your pastor will not be a major problem for your community.
  3. A transparochial network helps members of a community resist the temptation of unjustly expecting a new pastor to fit into the priorities and ministries of the previous pastor.
  4. By not being officially part of the parish structure, a community is not a threat to parish organizations. Thus, a pastor will not be “put on the spot” to choose between a community and some of the parish groups.
  5. A community, if it is transparochial, can work on an ongoing basis with communities throughout its diocese and the world. Otherwise, ongoing outreach to another parish would be perceived as meddling in another parish.
  6. A community may have members from several parishes. Transparochial networking allows members from several parishes to remain under the authority of their respective pastors while being joined to the larger Church.
  7. Transparochial networking means a community can join an existing network and not have the responsibility of creating their own network within a parish.

How does a community nationally networked relate to the pastor of the church where the community is based?

Pope Paul VI has taught that the community should have a “sincere communion” with the pastor (On Evangelization, 58). The community loves, prays for, serves, and communicates with the pastor. He should be invited to participate in the community’s life to the extent which he chooses. The pastor can choose to relate to the community as he relates to other transparochial ministries, such as the Legion of Mary, St. Vincent de Paul Society, the Knights of Columbus, Cursillo, etc.

What are the advantages of networking communities in a parish?

  1. A parish was originally intended to be a community network of small communities. The bishops at the 1987 Synod at Rome proclaimed: “We note with great satisfaction that the parish is becoming a dynamic community of communities, a center where movements, basic ecclesial communities and other apostolic groups energize it and in turn are nourished” (Final Message to the People of God, 10). Networking communities in a parish decentralizes and organizes the parish (Mission of the Redeemer, 51).
  2. A parish is usually more effective in pastoring its communities than a transparochial network can be.
  3. Networking communities in a parish has a greater, immediate impact on parish renewal.
  4. According to Pope John Paul II (Lay Members of Christ’s Faithful People, 61), most Christian communities will eventually be networked in parishes. So why not be the pioneers in the U.S.A and Canada?

When should Christian communities be networked within a parish?

Because leadership is so important for the development of Christian community, it is necessary that continuity of leadership for communities be assured. In other words, will the pastor support the small communities, and will his successor and the successor to his successors also support these communities? If there is no realistic assurance of this, then communities should not be networked within the parish at this time. Although pastors throughout most of the world are trained to help form Christian communities, this is not the case in the United States and Canada. Therefore, to network communities in the parishes of North America is not practical at this time. However, as Christian communities become places where people recognize and accept their vocations to the priesthood, more and more priests will have a community background. Therefore, in later generations most Christian communities, even in the United States and Canada, should be networked in parishes.

What are the advantages of a community being networked with Presentation Ministries?

Due to changing pastoral leadership, parishes in the United States are not usually ready to network communities. Other international networks of communities (i.e. Communion and Liberation, Neo-Catechumenate, Focolare, etc.) are not developed and available in most of the United States. The Secular Franciscans have a beautiful rule of life in which they speak eloquently of networking their fraternities in small communities. However, this has not been implemented widely. Therefore, Presentation Ministries is often the only option in which communities can be networked.

Presentation Ministries is a canonically established association of the laity under the Archbishop of Cincinnati. Presentation Ministries is focused on God’s word, submissive to the authority of the Church and the Pope, and zealous for evangelization and discipleship. Presentation Ministries offers communities structural unity with the universal Church, a foundation on the authority of the Church and God’s word, a commitment to make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19), and several years of experience in forming and networking Christian communities.

How can a community in the Greater Cincinnati area be networked with Presentation Ministries?

In the Greater Cincinnati area, a community meets with the some of the leaders of Presentation Communities and works out an agreement by which the community can relate to the other communities in Presentation. This agreement includes:

1. PRAYER – The covenanted members of our community pray each day for the covenanted members of all communities in the network and for all the work of Presentation Ministries.

2. MONTHLY MASS – The covenanted members of our community attend each monthly Mass of the network of communities, unless excused by their community’s leadership.

3. ANNUAL RETREAT – The covenanted members of our community attend the annual retreat of the network of communities, unless excused by their community’s leaders.

4. LEADERSHIP TRAINING – All leaders in their communities attend leadership training meetings, unless excused by the networking team.

5. OUTREACH – Each community is responsible to develop an outreach ministry.

6. EVANGELIZATION – Each community evangelizes. It is committed to growth in membership and to branching into new communities.

7. ANNUAL REPORT – The leaders of each community prepare an annual report to the networking team.

8. LEADERSHIP CHANGES – When changing leaders, a community must work with those networking Presentation’s communities. New leaders must be accepted by the networkers of Presentation Ministries.

9. RATIFICATION OF DECISIONS – Decisions of the community must be ratified by the networkers of Presentation Ministries.

What are the responsibilities of the networking team of Presentation Ministries to each community in the network?

The networking team of Presentation Ministries are responsible:

  1. to provide leadership training for present and potential lead- ers.
  2. to shepherd all the communities’ leaders.
  3. to visit with a community at least annually to promote unity between the communities in the network.
  4. to assist in choosing new leaders for a community.
  5. to ratify the covenants of the communities.
  6. to ratify decisions of the leaders of a community.
  7. to give community members recourse if they want to appeal leaders’ decisions to be reviewed and possibly changed.

How can a community outside the Cincinnati area be networked with Presentation Ministries?

Communities outside the Cincinnati area need to adapt the agreements made by the communities in the Cincinnati area. We encourage an out-of-town community to write a letter of intent. The leaders of this community should look at page 29 in our book, Building Small Christian Communities. On this page concerning networking, the leaders should look at the various reasons for networking and pick two or three major reasons why their community is called to network with the other communities in Presentation Ministries. Based on these reasons, the leaders should discern God’s will concerning two or three goals for the next year. Then the leaders should state in their letter of intent how these goals can be realized. For example, in its letter, a community may propose regular conference calls between its leaders and/or community and some of the people helping with the networking of communities in Presentation Ministries. They may also agree to send written communications to Presentation Ministries a certain number of times per year. The leaders usually commit themselves to one or two face-to-face meetings each year in order to meet the goals of networking with the communities of Presentation Ministries.

In summary, the leaders of a Christian community outside of Cincinnati should write a letter of intent to those working with networking the communities in Presentation Ministries. They should list their goals for networking and the means to accomplish these goals, and they should date this from the present date to November 21. If that commitment seems too long initially, the leaders of the community should date their community’s commitment for three months.

What is an example of a networking agreement between a non-Cincinnati community and Presentation Ministries?

Presentation Ministries
3230 McHenry Ave.
Cincinnati, OH 45211

Dear Presentation Ministries:

Our core group met last evening and discussed setting goals for our Home Based Communities and how Presentation Ministries can be a help to us. We have enclosed a copy of our mission statement and charter for your review also.

GOALS

1. Learn to be more effective in proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ in our community.

  1. Send a delegate to attend Presentation Ministries’ discipleship training at least once a year (i.e. Bible Institute).
  2. Obtain Presentation Ministries’ materials to distribute (i.e. One Bread, One Body and John Paul Speaks).
  3. Use Presentation Ministries’ video/audio tapes for teachings at weekly meetings.

2. Be affiliated with Presentation Ministries so as to prevent spiritual isolation and be protected from spiritual warfare.

  1. Keep in contact by phone once per month.
  2. Give quarterly and annual written reports as to what we have accomplished.

3. Seek information from Presentation Ministries as to best ways to birth new groups and seek good leaders.

4. Seek the prayerful support of Presentation Ministries for special intentions of our community, such as when we conduct Life in the Spirit Seminars or when we are seeking the Holy Spirit’s direction for our groups.

We hope that this is what you had in mind for goals. Let us know if these sound realistic. Thank you for your prayers as we continue to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit for Home Based Communities at Assumption.

Sincerely,

CONCLUSION

“Humbly welcome the word that has taken root in you, with its power to save you. Act on this word. If all you do is listen to it, you are deceiving yourselves” (Jas 1:21-22). Don’t abort the word you have received, but do it. Even if you feel inadequate, you can be confident “that He Who has a begun the good work in you will carry it through to completion, right up to the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:6). “He Who calls us is trustworthy, therefore He will do it” (1 Th 5:24). Alleluia!

Nihil obstat: Reverend Robert J. Buschmiller, June 5, 1997.
Imprimatur: † Most Reverend Carl K. Moeddel, Vicar General and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, June 12, 1997.

Scripture references are taken from The New American Bible, copyright 1970 by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C., and are used with permission for the copyright holder. All rights reserved.

The Nihil obstat and Imprimatur are a declaration that a book or pamphlet is considered to be free from doctrinal or moral error. It is not implied that those who have granted the Nihil obstat and Imprimatur agree with the contents, opinions, or statements expressed.

The cost of this publication is a donation. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit what amount He would have you contribute.

Copyright © 2011 Presentation Ministries
3230 McHenry
Cincinnati, Ohio 45211
Phone: (513) 662-5378
http://www.presentationministries.com

My source: http://www.presentationministries.com/brochures/UnlessTheLordBuild.asp

Back to: BEC

Building Small Christian Communities

Guidebook

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ instruction and the communal life, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. A reverent fear overtook them all, for many wonders and signs were performed by the apostles. Those who believed shared all things in common; they would sell their property and goods, dividing everything on the basis of each one’s need. They went to the temple area together every day, while in their homes they broke bread. With exultant and sincere hearts they took their meals in common, praising God and winning the approval of all the people. Day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” —Acts 2:42-47

This book will guide us through the seminars. We must grow greatly in our faith in the next twelve weeks, or we will not be ready for the Christian community promised to us in God’s word. Therefore, it is very important to read and pray the Scriptures listed for each day of the twelve weeks. Studying the two chapters of the Bible assigned for each week will give us an even deeper experience of God’s word. In the twelve weeks of the seminars, we expect God’s word to be like a two-edged sword that will penetrate, divide, and judge the reflections of our hearts (Heb 4:12). We also expect to grow in an accelerated way in our faith-commitment to Jesus, for “faith comes through hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rm 10:17, our translation). Forming Biblical, Christian community in our society will be nothing less than a miracle. The Lord will work this miracle by His grace through our faith rooted in His word.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Week 1 – Christian Community
Week 2 – Biblical Brotherhood and Sisterhood
Week 3 – “Crucified to the World” (Gal 6:14)
Week 4 – “There’s No Place Like Home”
Week 5 – Evangelization
Week 6 – Sanctity and Service
Week 7 – Spiritual Gifts in the Home Meeting
Week 8 – Everyday Life in the Home-based Community
Week 9 – Preparing to Join a Community
Week 10 – The Larger Church and the Home-based Community
Week 11 – Networking Home-based Communities
Week 12 – The Leadership of the Home-based Community
Conclusion

Christian Community — Week 1

“It was in one Spirit that all of us, whether Jew or Greek, slave or free, were baptized into one body. All of us have been given to drink of the one Spirit.” —1 Cor 12:13

Theme: Christian community is not an option but a necessity, for it is a practical expression of our baptismal covenant.

Day 1 “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I do not need you,’ any more than the head can say to the feet, ‘I do not need you.'” —1 Cor 12:21

Because we have been baptized into one body, we need each other even more than we need every part of our physical bodies.

Day 2 “I pray that they may be (one) in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.” —Jn 17:21

The Lord promised that we would lead to Him our neighborhoods, many of our co-workers, and our cities (see Acts 8:8; 9:35; Jn 4:39). But we must be one as He and the Father are one, then the world will believe that the Father sent Him.

Day 3 “To each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” —1 Cor 12:7

Because the gifts of the Spirit are given for the common good, they will not be fully released until we are in Christian community.

Day 4 “Where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I in their midst.” —Mt 18:20

Many people in our society, even Christians, have little awareness of Jesus’ presence. When we are in one accord, we experience Jesus’ presence in an exceptional way.

Day 5 “My sheep hear My voice. I know them, and they follow Me.” —Jn 10:27

Only the Lord’s sheep (plural) can fully hear the Lord. We need each other to hear all that the Lord is saying to us.

Day 6 “Where a lone man may be overcome, two together can resist. A three-ply cord is not easily broken.” —Eccl 4:12

Most of us have seen several active Christians fall away from their faith in Jesus. In Christian community, we are strengthened and protected against this.

Day 7 “Little children, let us love in deed and in truth and not merely talk about it.” —1 Jn 3:18

Our baptismal commitment to the Lord and one another must be more than talk. We must live it out in practical ways.

Study for the week: John 17; 1 Corinthians 12

Biblical Brotherhood and Sisterhood — Week 2

“I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their word, that all may be one as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You.” —John 17:20-21

Theme: There is an amazing depth to Biblical brotherhood and sisterhood.

Day 1 “The way we came to understand love was that He laid down His life for us; we too must lay down our lives for our brothers.” —1 Jn 3:16

We are called to love our brothers and sisters in Christ so much that we would actually die for them.

Day 2 “If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members share its joy.” —1 Cor 12:26

Brothers and sisters in Christ are compassionate. They know and love each other to the point that they suffer with each other. They are not jealous but joyous when other Christians are honored.

Day 3 “So well disposed were we to you, in fact, that we wanted to share with you not only God’s tidings but our very lives, so dear had you become to us.” —1 Thes 2:8

Brothers and sisters in Christ share together their very lives.

Day 4 “I have already said that you are in our hearts, even to the sharing of death and life together.” —2 Cor 7:3

God’s word repeatedly calls us to share life and death together.

Day 5 “I do not want what you have, I only want you.” —2 Cor 12:14

Biblical brotherhood and sisterhood focuses on the person, not just on the gifts and abilities of the person.

Day 6 “The community of believers were of one heart and one mind. None of them ever claimed anything as his own; rather, everything was held in common.” —Acts 4:32

Christian community means sharing both spiritually and materially.

Day 7 “I ask you, how can God’s love survive in a man who has enough of this world’s goods yet closes his heart to his brother when he sees him in need?” —1 Jn 3:17

We love our brothers and sisters in Christ by providing for each other’s practical needs.

Study for the week: John 13; 1 John 4

PRAYER TO BE CRUCIFIED TO THE WORLD (Gal 6:14)

At next week’s seminar, you will be prayed over to be crucified to the world and the world to you. By “world,” the Bible usually does not mean creation, but the system which operates irrespective of the lordship of Jesus. Because Jesus’ lordship is denied or ignored in most areas of our society, being crucified to the world is a major event in a Christian’s life. This prayer will result in sweeping life-style changes. Paul described it in this way: “Those things I used to consider gain I have now reappraised as loss in the light of Christ. I have come to rate all as loss in the light of the surpassing knowledge of my Lord Jesus Christ. For His sake I have forfeited everything; I have accounted all else rubbish so that Christ may be my wealth and I may be in Him” (Phil 3:7-9).

The Holy Spirit will take us to the foot of Jesus’ cross. There we will see the connection between our worldly ways and Jesus’ brutal death, and will want nothing more to do with the world. Go to Confession this week in preparation for next week’s prayer.

“Crucified to the World” — Week 3

“May I never boast of anything but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ! Through it, the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.” —Galatians 6:14

Theme: Until we are alienated from the worldly community, we are not free to be committed to Christian community.

Day 1 “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own; the reason it hates you is that you do not belong to the world. But I chose you out of the world.” —Jn 15:19

The Lord has specifically chosen us out of the world.

Day 2 “No man can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other or be attentive to one and despise the other. You cannot give yourself to God and money.” —Mt 6:24 “Save yourselves from this generation which has gone astray.” —Acts 2:40

We cannot serve both God and the world.

Day 3 “What do righteousness and lawlessness have in common, or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What accord is there between Christ and Belial, what common lot between believer and unbeliever?” —2 Cor 6:14-15

True Christianity is incompatible with the world.

Day 4 “Unfortunately, many go about in a way which shows them to be enemies of the cross of Christ. I have often said this to you before; this time I say it with tears. Such as these will end in disaster! Their god is their belly and their glory is in their shame. I am talking about those who are set upon the things of this world. As you well know, we have our citizenship in heaven.” —Phil 3:18-20

Those set upon the things of this world are enemies of the cross.

Day 5 “O you unfaithful ones, are you not aware that love of the world is enmity to God? A man is marked out as God’s enemy if he chooses to be the world’s friend.” —Jas 4:4

We must repent of an adulterous relationship with the world.

Day 6 “Beloved, you are strangers and in exile; hence I urge you not to indulge your carnal desires.” —1 Pt 2:11

Because we are not at home in this world, we refuse to give in to worldly desires.

Day 7 “Have no love for the world, nor the things that the world affords. If anyone loves the world, the Father’s love has no place in him.” —1 Jn 2:15

If we love the world, we refuse to provide a place for the Father’s love in our lives.

Study for the week: John 15; 1 Peter 2

“There’s no Place Like Home” — Week 4

“They went to the temple area together every day, while in their homes they broke bread.” —Acts 2:46

Theme: A home is the primary base for Christian community.

Day 1 “Look for a worthy person in every town or village you come to and stay with him until you leave. As you enter his home bless it.” —Mt 10:11-12

Jesus established the home as the base for evangelization and ministry. All churches for the first 300 years of Christianity were homes.

Day 2 “After she and her household had been baptized, she extended us an invitation: ‘If you are convinced that I believe in the Lord, come and stay at my house.'” —Acts 16:15

Lydia, the first convert of the western world, made her home a church.

Day 3 Prisca and Aquila “even risked their lives for the sake of mine. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. Remember me also to the congregation that meets in their house.” —Rm 16:4-5

Priscilla (Prisca) and Aquila had the most significant home-based community of the New Testament.

Day 4 “When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him home and explained to him God’s new way in greater detail.” —Acts 18:26

In Priscilla and Aquila’s home, Paul was strengthened and Apollos converted.

Day 5 “He went to the house of Mary the mother of John (also known as Mark), where many others were gathered in prayer.” —Acts 12:12

Other notable home-based communities were those of Mary, Nymphas (Col 4:15), Titus Justus (Acts 18:7), Gaius (Rm 16:23), and Philemon (Phlm 2).

Day 6 “If a man does not know how to manage his own house, how can he take care of the church of God?” —1 Tm 3:5

The home based-community was a training ground for leadership in the early church (see also 1 Tm 3:12 and Ti 1:6).

Day 7 “Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own household.” —Jn 19:27, NAS

On Calvary Jesus commanded John (who represents all Jesus’ disciples) to take Mary (who represents the Church) into his home.

Study for the week: Acts 18; Romans 16

Evangelization — Week 5

“They proceeded to announce the word of God to him and to everyone in his house. At that late hour of the night he took them in and bathed their wounds; then he and his household were baptized.” —Acts 16:32-33

Theme: The home-based community is the primary base for evangelization.

Day 1 “Day after day, both in the temple and at home, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news of Jesus the Messiah.” —Acts 5:42

Throughout Acts (2:47, 5:42, 16:15, 18:26), the home is the place of evangelization.

Day 2 “Levi gave a great reception for Jesus in his house, in which he was joined by a large crowd of tax collectors and others at dinner.” —Lk 5:29

Jesus used Levi’s home to reach out to tax collectors and non-observers of the law.

Day 3 Jesus “sent him away with the words, ‘Go back home and recount all that God has done for you.'” —Lk 8:39

Jesus told the demoniac who had been delivered to begin his evangelizing at home.

Day 4 “Jesus said to him: ‘Today salvation has come to this house.'” —Lk 19:9

Jesus will say this of your home if you make it a Christian community and a base for evangelization.

Day 5 “Day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” —Acts 2:47

After Pentecost, the early church met in homes daily for the breaking of the bread (the Eucharist) and shared meals. This resulted in wildfire evangelism.

Day 6 “He led them out and said, ‘Men, what must I do to be saved?’ Their answer was, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, and all your household.’ They proceeded to announce the word of God to him and to everyone in his house.” —Acts 16:30-32

Paul evangelized a jailer and his family in the middle of the night at the jailer’s home.

Day 7 “Look for a worthy person in every town or village you come to and stay with him until you leave. As you enter his home bless it.” —Mt 10:11-12

Although you have prayed about this Scripture last week, pray again and expect a new insight.

Study for the week: Matthew 10; Acts 16

Sanctity and Service — Week 6

“You will lead a life worthy of the Lord and pleasing to Him in every way. You will multiply good works of every sort and grow in the knowledge of God.” —Colossians 1:10

Theme: In the home-based community, we grow in an accelerated way in holiness and ministry.

Day 1 “Jesus, for His part, progressed steadily in wisdom and age and grace before God and men.” —Lk 2:52

Jesus progressed steadily in grace in the context of a community so large He could be “lost” in it for three days.

Day 2 “It was being built up and was making steady progress in the fear of the Lord; at the same time it enjoyed the increased consolation of the Holy Spirit.” —Acts 9:31

In the context of the community formed at Pentecost, Jesus’ disciples made steady progress in holiness.

Day 3 “The trouble was that I could not talk to you as spiritual men but only as men of flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, and did not give you solid food because you were not ready for it. You are not ready for it even now, being still very much in a natural condition. For as long as there are jealousy and quarrels among you, are you not of the flesh?” —1 Cor 3:1-3

Divisions in the community hindered the Corinthians’ spiritual growth.

Day 4 “In those days, as the number of disciples grew, the ones who spoke Greek complained that their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food, as compared with the widows of those who spoke Hebrew.” —Acts 6:1

As the early Church grew in community, it grew into a powerful ministry to the poor.

Day 5 “Above all, let your love for one another be constant, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be mutually hospitable without complaining. As generous distributors of God’s manifold grace, put your gifts at the service of one another, each in the measure he has received.” —1 Pt 4:8-10

What we call “ministry” or “social services” the early Church called “hospitality.” This indicates that ministry was based in the home.

Day 6 “Do not neglect to show hospitality, for by that means some have entertained angels without knowing it.” —Heb 13:2

The ministry of hospitality was greatly appreciated in the early Church.

Day 7 “Has she been hospitable to strangers? Has she washed the feet of Christian visitors? Has she given help to those in distress?” —1 Tm 5:10

The early Christians served the needy by offering them hospitality in their homes.

Study for the week: 1 Corinthians 3; Colossians 1

Spiritual Gifts in the Home Meeting — Week 7

“When you assemble, one has a psalm, another some instruction to give, still another a revelation to share; one speaks in a tongue, another interprets.” —1 Corinthians 14:26

Theme: The home-based community’s meeting can be an ideal context for the use and development of each individual’s spiritual gifts.

Day 1 “Enter His gates with thanksgiving, His courts with praise.” —Ps 100:4

We begin and end our gatherings by praising the Lord.

Day 2 “Christ’s peace must reign in your hearts, since as members of the one body you have been called to that peace. Dedicate yourselves to thankfulness. Let the word of Christ, rich as it is, dwell in you. In wisdom made perfect, instruct and admonish one another. Sing gratefully to God from your hearts in psalms, hymns, and inspired songs.” —Col 3:15-16

As members of Christ’s body, we thank Him, receive His word, express supernatural wisdom, and sing to Him (see also Eph 5:18-21).

Day 3 “The servant of the Lord must not be quarrelsome but must be kindly toward all. He must be an apt teacher, patiently and gently correcting those who contradict him, in the hope always that God will enable them to repent and know the truth.” (2 Tm 2:24-25).

The Lord will give some members of your community the supernatural gift of teaching. They should use this gift at every community meeting.

Day 4 “I should like it if all of you spoke in tongues, but I much prefer that you prophesy.” —1 Cor 14:5

The spiritual gifts of prophecy and tongues should be an important part of our gatherings.

Day 5 “One’s gift may be prophecy; its use should be in proportion to his faith. It may be the gift of ministry; it should be used for service. One who is a teacher should use his gift of teaching; one with the power of exhortation should exhort.” —Rm 12:6-8

All the members of the community should be encouraged to participate in the meeting by using their spiritual gifts for the common good.

Day 6 “This prayer uttered in faith will reclaim the one who is ill, and the Lord will restore him to health. If he has committed any sins, forgiveness will be his. Hence, declare your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may find healing.” —Jas 5:15-16

Healings should be a normal occurrence in the home meeting.

Day 7 “We should not absent ourselves from the assembly, as some do, but encourage one another; and this all the more because you see that the Day draws near.” —Heb 10:25

Although the community’s life is much more than the formal meetings, it is very important for all the members of the community to be at these meetings.

Study for the week: 1 Corinthians 14; Colossians 3

Everyday Life in the Home-based Community — Week 8

“I came that they might have life and have it to the full.” —John 10:10

Theme: Christian community is not just meetings and activities but the daily sharing of life in Christ.

Day 1 “Go out now and take your place in the temple precincts and preach to the people all about this new life.” —Acts 5:20

Christianity is God’s way for us to live our daily lives together.

Day 2 “Remember to keep holy the sabbath day.” —Ex 20:8

The Lord’s Day, the new sabbath, is the most important day of the week for sharing and growing in Christian community.

Day 3 “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ instruction and the communal life, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” —Acts 2:42

The heart of the communal life is sharing God’s word, the Eucharist, and prayer.

Day 4 “Because the loaf of bread is one, we, many though we are, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.” —1 Cor 10:17

“One Bread, One Body.”

Day 5 “They went to the temple area together every day, while in their homes they broke bread. With exultant and sincere hearts they took their meals in common.” —Acts 2:46

Sharing meals is essential to Christian community.

Day 6 “Greetings to Rufus, a chosen servant of the Lord, and to his mother, who has been a mother to me as well.” —Rm 16:13

Every community needs a mother who holds the community together.

Day 7 “So well disposed were we to you, in fact, that we wanted to share with you not only God’s tidings but our very lives, so dear had you become to us.” —1 Thes 2:8

We Christians are to share money, time, activities, and so much more. Through many interactions (see The Lay Members of Christ’s Faithful People, Pope John Paul II, 20), the Lord strengthens our bonds as brothers and sisters in Him.

Study for the week: Acts 2; 1 Thessalonians 2

PRAYER TO PREPARE FOR JOINING A COMMUNITY

Next week you will be prayed over to prepare you to join a community in about a month. In order to have a deep, daily community life, your baptismal covenant should be practically expressed in some basic agreements. After the final seminar, you will decide whether to commit to these agreements. The initial commitment will be for three months. This can be renewed or lengthened. We will use Acts 2:42 as the basis of the prayer to prepare for joining a community. Go to Confession this week in preparation for this special prayer.

Preparing to Join a Community — Week 9

“The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant.” —Jeremiah 31:31

Theme: Deep relationships should be based on the practical, focused living out of our baptismal covenant as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Day 1 “Little children, let us love in deed and in truth and not merely talk about it.” —1 Jn 3:18

In baptism, we covenant to be brothers and sisters in Christ. We must live this out practically and not just talk about it.

Day 2 “I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their word, that all may be one as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You.” —Jn 17:20-21

We are to be one as Jesus and the Father are one. The Trinitarian depth of our brotherhood and sisterhood is based on our baptismal covenant.

Day 3 “Today the Lord is making this agreement with you; you are to be a people peculiarly His own, as He promised.” —Dt 26:18-19

When we covenant with the Lord and one another through Baptism, we become a people distinctively different, in the image and likeness of Christ.

Day 4 “Jonathan entered into a bond with David, because he loved him as himself.” —1 Sm 18:3

David and Jonathan covenanted with each other. This covenant was necessary because of the difficult circumstances surrounding their friendship.

Day 5 “Wherever you go I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge, your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Wherever you die I will die, and there be buried. May the Lord do so and so to me, and more besides, if aught but death separates me from you!” —Ru 1:16-17

Ruth covenanted with Naomi, her mother-in-law. The Lord blessed Ruth by making her the great-grandmother of King David from whose tribe came Jesus the Messiah.

Day 6 “This is My blood, the blood of the covenant, to be poured out in behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.” —Mt 26:28

The Eucharist is the supreme expression of God’s covenant with us and our covenant with Him and one another.

Day 7 “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ instruction and the communal life, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” —Acts 2:42

We believe this is the most important Scripture in forming Christian home-based community. This is the theme-verse of all the seminars. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you new insights into this verse.

Study for the week: Matthew 26; Ruth 1

The Larger Church and the Home-based Community — Week 10

“They went to the temple area together every day, while in their homes they broke bread.” —Acts 2:46

Theme: The home-based community and the larger church need each other.

Day 1 “Day after day, both in the temple and at home, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news of Jesus the Messiah.” —Acts 5:42

The home needs to be related to a larger church so as not to become isolated. The church needs the home so as not to be impersonal and separated from daily life.

Day 2 “Give my greetings to Prisca and Aquila; they were my fellow workers in the service of Christ Jesus and even risked their lives for the sake of mine. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. Remember me also to the congregation that meets in their house.” —Rm 16:3-5

All the churches of the Gentiles were indebted to the home-based community of Prisca and Aquila.

Day 3 “Thus you became a model for all the believers of Macedonia and Achaia. The word of the Lord has echoed forth from you resoundingly. This is true not only in Macedonia and Achaia; throughout every region your faith in God is celebrated.” —1 Thes 1:7-8

The universal Church was blessed by the Thessalonian community.

Day 4 “Finally it was decided that Paul, Barnabas, and some others should go up to see the apostles and presbyters in Jerusalem about this question.” —Acts 15:2

The community of Antioch was under the authority of the leaders of the Jerusalem community.

Day 5 “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit, and ours too, not to lay on you any burden beyond that which is strictly necessary.” —Acts 15:28

The leaders of the Jerusalem community exercised their authority over other churches by the power of the Spirit.

Day 6 “Those who were the acknowledged pillars, James, Cephas, and John, gave Barnabas and me the handclasp of fellowship, signifying that we should go to the Gentiles as they to the Jews.” —Gal 2:9

Paul and Barnabas were in submission to and in fellowship with the Jerusalem leaders.

Day 7 “There is really no need for me to write you about this collection for the members of the church. I already know your willingness, and boast about you to the Macedonians with respect to it, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year. Your zeal has stirred up most of them.” —2 Cor 9:1-2

Several communities helped the Jerusalem community financially during a famine.

Study for the week: Acts 15; Galatians 2

Networking Home-based Communities — Week 11

“At one point during those days, Peter stood up in the center of the brothers; there must have been a hundred and twenty gathered together.” —Acts 1:15

Theme: Most home-based communities must be networked with other home-based communities if they are to grow or even survive. As individuals need community, communities need community.

Day 1 “The Lord appointed a further seventy-two and sent them in pairs before Him to every town and place He intended to visit.” —Lk 10:1

The Lord not only had 12 apostles but also 72 and later 120 disciples. For home-based communities to last, they must be networked with other communities.

Day 2 “The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the assembly that meets in their house, send you cordial greetings in the Lord. All the brothers greet you. Greet one another with a holy kiss.” —1 Cor 16:19-20

The Christian communities of the province of Asia were united with each other.

Day 3 “Where a lone man may be overcome, two together can resist. A three-ply cord is not easily broken.” —Eccl 4:12

Just as individuals need one another for strength and stability, so communities need each other.

Day 4 “As for Titus, he is my companion and fellow worker in your behalf; our brothers too are apostles of the churches, the glory of Christ. Therefore, show these men the proof of your love, and why we boast about you, for all the churches to see.” —2 Cor 8:23-24

Apostles were appointed to be living links between the communities.

Day 5 “My purpose in leaving you in Crete was that you might accomplish what had been left undone, especially the appointment of presbyters in every town.” —Ti 1:5

A network of communities will help raise up and equip leaders for the communities.

Day 6 “For lack of guidance a people falls; security lies in many counselors.” —Prv 11:14

In a network of home-base communities, we have access to many counselors. This provides security.

Day 7 “We have been much consoled by your faith throughout our distress and trial — so much so that we shall continue to flourish only if you stand firm in the Lord!” —1 Thes 3:7-8

Communities need other communities to overcome trials. We rise or fall together.

Study for the week: 1 Corinthians 16; 2 Corinthians 8

PRAYER TO DO GOD’S WILL (Jn 2:5)

Next week is the final seminar. At that time, you will be prayed over to do God’s will. The prayer will be based on John 2:5. The Lord has called you to participate in these seminars. The Lord wants these seminars to be the beginning of a new community-life in the Spirit for you. If you know that God is calling you to covenant for three months with a community, please tell the leader of your small group. If you don’t know about your future commitment to a community or if you don’t believe this is the Lord’s will for you at this time, don’t jump to conclusions. The Lord is still working in you. This week try to celebrate Mass and receive Communion daily or as often as possible. Go to Confession. End the seminars in openness to the Lord.

The Leadership of the Home-based Community — Week 12

“My purpose in leaving you in Crete was that you might accomplish what had been left undone, especially the appointment of presbyters in every town.”—Titus 1:5

Theme: Raising up and equipping leaders is the key to developing home-based communities.

Day 1 “With a leader to break the path they shall burst open the gate and go out through it” —Mi 2:13

We don’t need to form communities but to form leaders who will form communities.

Day 2 “He who rules should exercise Ms authority with care.” —Rm 12:8

Leadership is a special gift of the Spirit.

Day 3 “There were in the church at Antioch certain prophets and teachers.” —Acts 13:1

Those with the gifts of prophecy and/or teaching are often called to leadership.

Day 4 “Presbyters who do well as leaders deserve to be paid double, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.” —1 Tm 5:17

Leaders who do well are “worth their weight in gold.”

Day 5 “But the vine answered them, ‘Must I give up my wine that cheers gods and men, and go to wave over the trees?’ Then all me trees said to the buckthorn, ‘Come; you reign over us!'” —Jgs 9:13-14

When those called to lead refuse the Lord’s calling, the vacuum is filled by someone not called. This has harmful effects.

Day 6 “We beg you, brothers, respect those among you whose task it is to exercise authority in the Lord and admonish you; esteem them with the greatest love because of their work. Remain at peace with one another.” —1 Thes 5:12-13

We must respect and love especially our leaders. This encourages them to accept and/or persevere in leadership.

Day 7 “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over you as men who must render an account. So act that they may fulfill their task with joy, not with sorrow, for that would be harmful to you. Pray for us.” —Heb 13:17-18

We must obey and pray for our leaders.

Study for the week: 1 Timothy 3; 1 Thessalonians 5

Conclusion

“May the Lord increase you and make you overflow with love for one another and for all, even as our love does for you. May He strengthen your hearts, making them blameless and holy before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His holy ones.” —1 Thessalonians 3:12-13

Brothers and sisters,

“I give thanks to my God every time I think of you — which is constantly, in every prayer I utter—rejoicing, as I plead on your behalf (Phil 1:3-4). Pray daily for the Christian communities of the world. Community is a place of suffering and joy, of persecution and power. Community is the school of unconditional love. Despite the difficulties, we can be encouraged, for “He Who calls us is trustworthy, therefore He will do it” (1 Thes 5:24). May your home-based communities bear even greater fruit than those of the early Church, and may your communities be ready to meet Jesus at His final coming.

The cost of this publication is a donation. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit what amount He would have you contribute.

Copyright © 2011 Presentation Ministries
3230 McHenry
Cincinnati, Ohio 45211
Phone: (513) 662-5378
http://www.presentationministries.com

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THE SCRIPTURAL ROSARY

Most of God’s people in America are starving spiritually. Although the spiritual nourishment of God’s word and Holy Communion are more available than ever, we starve ourselves because we have become anorexic. We have indulged our carnal desires and lost our appetite for the things of God (see Prv 13:19; Gal 5:17). The Scriptural rosary will feed us spiritually. Those who have benefited from other Scriptural rosaries and are looking for a new experience of God’s word will especially appreciate the unique approach of this Scriptural rosary.

THE JOYFUL MYSTERIES

1st — The Annunciation

(before the “Our Father”)

“All ages to come shall call me blessed.” —Lk 1:48

(before the “Hail Marys”)

1. “Blessed are you among women.” —Lk 1:28

2. “How blest are the poor in spirit: the reign of God is theirs.” —Mt 5:3

3. “Blest too are the sorrowing; they shall be consoled.” —Mt 5:4

4. “Blest are the lowly; they shall inherit the land.” —Mt 5:5

5. “Blest are they who hunger and thirst for holiness; they shall have their fill.” —Mt 5:6

6. “Blest are they who show mercy; mercy shall be theirs.” —Mt 5:7

7. “Blest are the single-hearted for they shall see God.” —Mt 5:8

8. “Blest too the peacemakers; they shall be called sons of God.” —Mt 5:9

9. “Blest are those persecuted for holiness’ sake; the reign of God is theirs.” —Mt 5:10

10. “Blest is she who trusted that the Lord’s words to her would be fulfilled.” —Lk 1:45

2nd — The Visitation

(before the “Our Father”)

“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leapt in her womb. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.” —Lk 1:41

(before the “Hail Marys”)

1. “My being proclaims the greatness of the Lord.” —Lk 1:46

2. “My spirit finds joy in God my Savior.” —Lk 1:47

3. “For He has looked upon His servant in her lowliness; all ages to come shall call me blessed.” —Lk 1:48

4. “God Who is mighty has done great things for me, holy is His name.” —Lk 1:49

5. “His mercy is from age to age on those who fear Him.” —Lk 1:50

6. “He has shown might with His arm; He has confused the proud in their inmost thoughts.” —Lk 1:51

7. “He has deposed the mighty from their thrones and raised the lowly to high places.” —Lk 1: 52

8. “The hungry He has given every good thing, while the rich He has sent empty away.” —Lk 1:53

9. “He has upheld Israel His servant, ever mindful of His mercy.” —Lk 1:54

10. “Even as He promised our Fathers, promised Abraham and His descendants forever.” —Lk 1:55

3rd — The Birth of Jesus

(before the “Our Father”)

“Let justice descend, O heavens, like dew from above, like gentle rain let the skies drop it down. Let the earth open and salvation bud forth; let justice also spring up!” — Is 45:8

(before the “Hail Marys”)

1. “In the beginning was the Word; the Word was in God’s presence, and the Word was God.” —Jn 1:1

2. “The virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name Him Immanuel.” —Is 7:14

3. “He has pitched a tent there for the sun, which comes forth like the groom from his bridal chamber and, like a giant, joyfully runs its course.” —Ps 19:5-6

4. “Then was I beside Him as His craftsman, and I was His delight day by day, playing before Him all the while, playing on the surface of His earth; and I found delight in the sons of men.” —Prv 8:30-31

5. “For when peaceful stillness compassed everything and the night in its swift course was half spent, Your all-powerful word from heaven’s royal throne bounded, a fierce warrior, into the doomed land.” —Wis 18:14-15

6. “But you, Bethlehem-Ephrathah too small to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for Me One Who is to be Ruler in Israel.” —Mi 5:1

7. “When the designated time had come, God sent forth His Son born of a woman.” —Gal 4:4

8. “He emptied Himself and took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men.” —Phil 2:7

9. “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us; not because of any righteous deeds we had done, but because of His mercy.” —Ti 3:4-5

10. “She gave birth to a Son — a boy destined to shepherd all the nations with an iron rod. Her child was caught up to God and to His throne.” —Rv 12:5

4th — The Presentation of Jesus

(before the “Our Father”)

“I beg you through the mercy of God to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice holy and acceptable to God.” —Rm 12:1

(before the “Hail Marys”)

1. “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life.” —Dt 30:19

2. “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” —Jos 24:15

3. “How long will you straddle the issue? If the Lord is God, follow Him.” —1 Kgs 18:21

4. ” ‘And you,’ He said to them, ‘who do you say that I am?’ ” —Mt 16:15

5. “You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul, and with all your mind.” —Mt 22:37

6. “Someone asked Him, ‘Lord, are they few in number who are to be saved?’ He replied: ‘Try to come in through the narrow door.’ ” —Lk 13:23-24

7. “Yes, God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him may not die but may have eternal life.” —Jn 3:16

8. “For if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” —Rm 10:9

9. “At Jesus’ name every knee must bend in the heavens, on the earth, and under the earth, and every tongue proclaim to the glory of God the Father: JESUS CHRIST IS LORD!” —Phil 2:10-11

10. “Here I stand, knocking at the door.” —Rv 3:20

5th — The Finding of Jesus in the Temple

(before the “Our Father”)

“The Child grew in size and strength, filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon Him.” —Lk 2:40

(before the “Hail Marys”)

The Ten Commandments

1. “I, the Lord, am your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery. You shall not have other gods besides Me.” —Ex 20:2

2. “You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain.” —Ex 20:7

3. “Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day.” —Ex 20:8

4. “Honor your father and your mother.” —Ex 20:12

5. “You shall not kill.” —Ex 20:13

6. “You shall not commit adultery.” —Ex 20:14

7. “You shall not steal.” —Ex 20:15

8. “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” —Ex 20:16

9. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.” —Ex 20:17

10. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.” —Ex 20:17

THE SORROWFUL MYSTERIES

1st — Jesus’ Agony in the Garden

(before the “Our Father”)

“Then the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and He placed there the man whom He had formed.” —Gn 2:8

(before the “Hail Marys”)

1. “When they heard the sound of the Lord God moving about in the garden at the breezy time of the day, the man and his wife hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” —Gn 3:8

2. “When He expelled the man, He settled him east of the garden of Eden; and He stationed the cherubim and the fiery revolving sword, to guard the way to the tree of life.” —Gn 3:24

3. “For He was deeply grieved that they had closed their minds against Him.” —Mk 3:5

4. “Coming within sight of the city, He wept over it.” —Lk 19:41

5. “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had accompanied her also weeping, He was troubled in spirit, moved by the deepest emotions.” —Jn 11:33

6. “Jesus grew deeply troubled. He went on to give this testimony: ‘I tell you solemnly, one of you will betray Me.’ ” —Jn 13:21

7. “My heart is nearly broken with sorrow. Remain here and stay awake with Me.” —Mt 26:38

8. “At that time Jesus cried in a loud voice, … ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’ ” —Mk 15:34

9. “They are crucifying the Son of God for themselves and holding Him up to contempt.” —Heb 6:6

10. ” ‘Woman,’ He asked her, ‘why are you weeping? Who is it you are looking for?’ She supposed He was the gardener.” —Jn 20:15

2nd — Jesus’ Scourging at the Pillar

(before the “Our Father”)

“He was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins, upon Him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by His stripes we were healed.” —Is 53:5

(before the “Hail Marys”)

1. “I will strike the water of the river with the staff I hold, and it shall be changed into blood.” —Ex 7:17

2. “The frogs will swarm all over you and your subjects and your servants.” —Ex 7:29

3. “The dust of the earth was turned into gnats throughout the land of Egypt.” —Ex 8:13

4. “I warn you, I will loose swarms of flies upon you and … your houses.” —Ex 8:17

5. “I warn you, the Lord will afflict all your livestock in the field … with a very severe pestilence.” —Ex 9:3

6. “Take a double handful of soot from a furnace…scatter it toward the sky. It will then turn into fine dust over the whole land of Egypt and cause festering boils.” —Ex 9:8-9

7. “Tomorrow at this hour I will rain down such fierce hail.” —Ex 9:18

8. “I will bring locusts into your country. They shall cover the ground, so that the ground itself will not be visible.” —Ex 10:4-5

9. There was “such intense darkness that one can feel it.” —Ex 10:21

10. “At midnight the Lord slew every first-born in the land.” —Ex 12:29

3rd — Jesus is Crowned with Thorns

(before the “Our Father”)

“They throw down their crowns before the throne and sing.” —Rv 4:10

(before the “Hail Marys”)

1. “My loins are filled with burning pains; there is no health in My flesh.” —Ps 38:8

2. “I am numbed and severely crushed; I roar with anguish of heart.” —Ps 38:9

3. “They who sit at the gate gossip about Me, and drunkards make Me the butt of their songs.” —Ps 69:13

4. “Insult has broken My heart, and I am weak, I looked for sympathy, but there was none.” —Ps 69:21

5. “The Lord is King, in splendor robed; robed is the Lord and girt about with strength.” —Ps 93:1

6. “He shall be raised high and greatly exalted. Even as many were amazed at Him — so marred was His look beyond that of man.” —Is 52:13-14

7. “I saw One like a son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven…He received dominion, glory, and kingship.” —Dn 7:13-14

8. “We do see Jesus crowned with glory and honor because He suffered death.” —Heb 2:9

9. “But Jesus offered one sacrifice for sins and took His seat forever at the right hand of God; now He waits until His enemies are placed beneath His feet. —Heb 10:12-13

10. “A name was written on the part of the cloak that covered His thigh: ‘King of kings and Lord of lords.’ ” —Rv 19:16

4th — Jesus Carries the Cross

(before the “Our Father”)

“The message of the cross is complete absurdity to those who are headed for ruin, but to us who are experiencing salvation, it is the power of God.” —1 Cor 1:18

(before the “Hail Marys”)

1. “We preach Christ crucified — a stumbling block to Jews, and an absurdity to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” —1 Cor 1:23-24

2. “The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it.” —Gn 3:6

3. “They took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb.” —Acts 13:29

4. “Christ has delivered us from the power of the law’s curse by Himself becoming a curse for us, as it is written: ‘Accursed is anyone who is hanged on a tree.’ ” —Gal 3:13

5. “Blest is the wood through which justice comes about.” —Wis 14:7

6. “Abraham took the wood for the holocaust and laid it on his son Isaac’s shoulders.” —Gn 22:6

7. “Though He was harshly treated, He submitted and opened not His mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter.” —Is 53:7

8. “Jesus said to all: ‘Whoever wishes to be My follower must deny his very self, take up his cross each day, and follow in My steps.’ ” —Lk 9:23

9. “It pleased God to make absolute fullness reside in Him and, by means of Him, to reconcile everything in His person, both on earth and in the heavens, making peace through the blood of His cross.” —Col 1:19-20

10. “May I never boast of anything but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ! Through it, the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.” —Gal 6:14

5th — Jesus’ Crucifixion and Death

(before the “Our Father”)

“They shall look on Him Whom they have pierced.” —Jn 19:37

(before the “Hail Marys”)

1. “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” —Mk 15:34

2. “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.” —Lk 23:34

3. “I assure you: this day you will be with Me in paradise.” —Lk 23:43

4. “Father, into Your hands I commend My Spirit.” —Lk 23:46

5. “Jesus said to his mother, ‘Woman, there is your son.’ In turn He said to the disciple, ‘There is your mother.’ ” —Jn 19:26-27

6. “I am thirsty.” —Jn 19:28

7. “Now it is finished.” —Jn 19:30

8. “Suddenly the curtain of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.” —Mt 27:51

9. “The earth quaked, boulders split, tombs opened.” —Mt 27:52

10. “The centurion who stood guard over Him, on seeing the manner of His death, declared, ‘Clearly this Man was the Son of God!’ ” —Mk 15:39

THE GLORIOUS MYSTERIES

1st — The Resurrection of Jesus

(before the “Our Father”)

“He was seen by Cephas, then by the Twelve. After that He was seen by five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still alive, although some have fallen asleep. Next He was seen by James; then by all the apostles. Last of all He was seen by me.” —1 Cor 15: 5-8

(before the “Hail Marys”)

1. “Jesus rose from the dead early on the first day of the week. He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons.” —Mk 16:9

2. “They hurried away from the tomb half-overjoyed, half-fearful, and ran to carry the good news to His disciples. Suddenly, without warning, Jesus stood before them and said: ‘Peace!’ The women came up and embraced His feet and did Him homage.” —Mt 28:8

3. “The Lord has been raised! It is true! He has appeared to Simon.” —Lk 24:34

4. “With that their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; whereupon He vanished from their sight. They said to one another, ‘Were not our hearts burning inside us as He talked to us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?’ ” —Lk 24:31-32

5. “On the evening of that first day of the week, even though the disciples had locked the doors of the place where they were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood before them. ‘Peace be with you,’ He said. When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side.” —Jn 20:19-20

6. “A week later, the disciples were once more in the room, and this time Thomas was with them. Despite the locked doors, Jesus came and stood before them. ‘Peace be with you,’ He said.” —Jn 20:26

7. “The eleven disciples made their way to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had summoned them. At the sight of Him, those who had entertained doubts fell down in homage.” —Mt 28:16-17

8. “Later, at the Sea of Tiberias, Jesus showed Himself to the disciples (once again). This is how the appearance took place.” —Jn 21:1

9. “Finally, as they were at table, Jesus was revealed to the Eleven. He took them to task for their disbelief and their stubbornness, since they had put no faith in those who had seen Him after He had been raised.” —Mk 16:14

10. “Then He led them out near Bethany, and with hands upraised, blessed them. As He blessed, He left them, and was taken up to heaven. They fell down to do Him reverence, then returned to Jerusalem filled with joy. There they were to be found in the temple constantly, speaking the praises of God.” —Lk 24:50-53

2nd — The Ascension of Jesus

(before the “Our Father”)

“Yet I tell you the sober truth: It is much better for you that I go.” —Jn 16:7

(before the “Hail Marys”)

1. “God mounts His throne amid shouts of joy; the Lord, amid trumpet blasts.” —Ps 47:6

2. “You have ascended on high, taken captives, received men as gifts — even rebels; the Lord God enters His dwelling.” —Ps 68:19

3. “What, then, if you were to see the Son of Man ascend to where He was before…?” —Jn 6:62

4. “I solemnly assure you, the man who has faith in Me will do the works I do, and greater far than these. Why? Because I go to the Father.” —Jn 14:12

5. “Go to My brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God!’ ” —Jn 20:17

6. “It is like the strength He showed in raising Christ from the dead and seating Him at His right hand in heaven.” —Eph 1:19-20

7. He “ascended high above the heavens, that He might fill all men with His gifts.” —Eph 4:10

8. “God highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name above every other name.” —Phil 2:9

9. “He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the Spirit; seen by the angels; preached among the Gentiles, believed in throughout the world, taken up into glory.” —1 Tm 3:16

10. “Her child was caught up to God and to His throne.” —Rv 12:5

3rd — The Descent of the Holy Spirit

(before the “Our Father”)

“Together they devoted themselves to constant prayer. There were some women in their company, and Mary the mother of Jesus.” —Acts 1:14

(before the “Hail Marys”)

1. “The angel answered her: ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” —Lk 1:35

2. “If you, with all your sins, know how to give your children good things, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.” —Lk 11:13

3. “Scripture has it: ‘From within Him rivers of living water shall flow.’ (Here He was referring to the Spirit, Whom those that came to believe in Him were to receive.)” —Jn 7:38-39

4. “Then He bowed His head, and delivered over His Spirit.” —Jn 19:30

5. “He breathed on them and said: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’ ” —Jn 20:22

6. “All were filled with the Holy Spirit.” —Acts 2:4

7. “The pair upon arriving imposed hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.” —Acts 8:17

8. “Saul, my brother, I have been sent by the Lord Jesus Who appeared to you on the way here, to help you recover your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” —Acts 9:17

9. “Peter had not finished these words when the Holy Spirit descended upon all who were listening to Peter’s message.” —Acts 10:44

10. “The Holy Spirit came down on them and they began to speak in tongues and to utter prophecies. There were in the company about twelve men in all.” —Acts 19:6-7

4th — The Assumption of Mary into Heaven

(before the “Our Father”)

“Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, but whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” —Mt 23:12

(before the “Hail Marys”)

1. “Then Enoch walked with God, and he was no longer here, for God took him.” —Gn 5:24

2. “A flaming chariot and flaming horses came between them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.” —2 Kgs 2:11

3. “The queen takes her place at your right hand.” —Ps 45:10

4. “He has deposed the mighty from their thrones and raised the lowly to high places.” —Lk 1:52

5. “Jesus replied, ‘I assure you: this day you will be with Me in paradise.’ ” —Lk 23:43

6. “I know that this man — whether in or outside his body I do not know, God knows — was snatched up to Paradise.” —2 Cor 12:3

7. “I am indeed going to prepare a place for you, and then I shall come back to take you with Me, that where I am you also may be.” —Jn 14:3

8. “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love Him.” —1 Cor 2:9

9. “Both with and in Christ Jesus He raised us up and gave us a place in the heavens.” —Eph 2:6

10. “The woman was given the wings of a gigantic eagle so that she could fly off to her place in the desert.” —Rv 12:14

5th — The Queenship of Mary

(before the “Our Father”)

“You who have followed Me shall likewise take your places on twelve thrones.’ ” —Mt 19:28

(before the “Hail Marys”)

1. “How can this be since I do not know man?” —Lk 1:34

2. “I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say.” —Lk 1:38

3. “Near the cross of Jesus there stood His mother.” —Jn 19:25

4. “He has looked upon His servant in her lowliness; all ages to come shall call me blessed.” —Lk 1:48

5. “God Who is mighty has done great things for me, holy is His name.” —Lk 1:49

6. “I will give the victor the right to sit with Me on My throne.” —Rv 3:21

7. “Then I saw some thrones. Those who were sitting on them were empowered to pass judgment.” —Rv 20:4

8. “A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” —Rv 12:1

9. “Do whatever He tells you.” —Jn 2:5

10. “There are still many other things that Jesus did, yet if they were written about in detail, I doubt there would be room enough in the entire world to hold the books to record them.” —Jn 21:25

The cost of this publication is a donation. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit what amount He would have you contribute.

Copyright © 2011 Presentation Ministries
3230 McHenry
Cincinnati, Ohio 45211
Phone: (513) 662-5378
http://www.presentationministries.com

My source: http://www.presentationministries.com/brochures/ScripturalRosary.asp

Back to: The Holy Rosary