Back in 2012, a friend introduced me to a book by Sherry Weddell titled Forming Intentional Disciples (FID for short). This book has gone on to become one of the most popular Catholic books on ministry and evangelization in recent years and has sparked conversation on many different levels. Beginning with the ugly truth of where the Church stands in regard to participation and engagement and leading the reader through how one becomes an intentional disciple, the book is a must read for any Catholic. My only issue with the book was that I felt it was mis-titled. I have been working in my own ministry to help create an atmosphere where those who were already “intentional disciples” had a place to be fed and formed as a disciple. This book covered only how to get them to the point of becoming an intentional disciple, not how to form them once they are there.
So, since 2012 I have been awaiting the sequel, and it is finally here. Published on January 23, 2015 the follow-up book titled Becoming a Parish of Intentional Disciples is making its way around world to the avid FID fans who have waited anxiously for far too long. I read the book in just a couple of days and am excited because just as Forming Intentional Disciples did, the book is articulated in a way that resonates so well with what I believe to be true and needs to be heard by so many.
To start, the book is a bit different than FID in that Sherry Weddell authored only one of the chapters while also being editor of the book. Each of the seven chapters is written by a different person, each of whom has a great deal of wisdom to share from his or her experiences implementing Intentional Discipleship in the Church.
The first chapter of the book, written by Sherry Weddell, gives an inspiring and brief look into some lives of the saints. Looking at their stories through the lens of discipleship, we find numerous examples of how an encounter with Christ, shared through personal witness and testimony, can create a wave of impact on large communities simply through investing in a few at a time.
Chapter Two, the first chapter that begins to give instruction, focuses on prayer. While it may seem cliche, Keith Strom articulates the need for and the “why” of intercessory prayer in a way that is truly inspiring. It has changed the way I look at prayer in my own ministry in a very powerful way.
My favorite chapter in the book is Chapter Three, which is written by Father Michael Fones, O.P., a former co-director of the Catherine of Siena Institute. This chapter focuses on the “Co-Responsibility for the Church’s Mission.” Father Fones focuses his chapter on the relationship between the laity and the pastor in a parish. If we could give one chapter to our priests, this would be it. A great read on how a pastor should engage with and support the laity in the work of the New Evangelization.
The following chapters are helpful in bringing out an understanding of how to build a culture of discipleship that lasts, how to find the first leaders in a parish to begin building a vision of intentional discipleship, and how to form communities that make the efforts of discipleship extend far beyond what a single priest can do on his own.
The final chapter is written by my good friend Jim Beckman. Much of what I have learned about discipleship has come from him. Jim does what he can in a single chapter of this book to give a good starting manual for bringing about discipleship in a youth ministry setting.
In a nutshell, I loved this book. It is inspiring, it hits the nail on the head as far as what needs to be done to further bring about the New Evangelization in the Church.
The greatest disappointment is one that I find almost everywhere I speak about discipleship. As Father Chas Canoy says in Chapter Six, “There is no one answer because the particular pastoral needs of a given people will inform that pastoral structure.” If you are looking for a step-by-step process, you are out of luck. This book will give you the inspiration and a vision. It will also give you tons of great stories and experiences of people who are moving the needle in the Church. But the plan that God has for your parish is unique. This book is not THE answer, but I will say it is likely one of the best tools you can have in your toolbelt for 2015! For those working to further discipleship on the Diocesan or parish level, I would encourage you to order in bulk today and get it in the hands of your leaders.
Don’t have your copy ordered yet?