A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of traveling to Orlando, Florida for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Convocation of Catholic Leaders. Bishop Boyea from the Diocese of Lansing invited me to join his delegation so I went representing Renewal Ministries, i.d.9:16, and Lansing diocese. The theme of the conference was ‘Missionary Discipleship’ and all of the sessions focused on aspects of evangelization, service, areas of need, and discipleship. While many themes, inspirations, and insights were gleaned from the four highly air-conditioned days, here are my three major takeaways pertaining specifically to our work in i.d.9:16.
- “…in what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2) In this passage, Paul instructs his disciple Timothy to repeat Paul’s process of discipleship with other men and women. This is not an earth shattering revelation, but I’m struck by Paul’s desire for Timothy’s disciples to be equipped to disciple others as well. The Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) calls this ‘spiritual multiplication.’ I’m convinced the solution to the ‘crisis of discipleship’ we face in the Church is not simply to make more disciples but to form disciples who can also form disciples. Instead of transferring the faith to one generation in your discipleship family tree, we equip our initial disciples to produce new members of the family. While the question of how to do this remains largely unanswered (though I do think we are on the right path), I left Orlando utterly convicted that intentional discipleship must remain our focus as we move forward.
- During the orientation session, I was looking through the schedule wondering when the participants would have an opportunity to fervently call out for more of the Holy Spirit to empower our missionary efforts. An idea to organize a time of prayer and praise flitted through my mind, but I ‘prudently’ decided to relax and not worry about it. I had the great joy of rooming with Fr. Mathias Thelen, which led to some incredible conversations and a few laughs. At one point, I casually mentioned the idea of praying with people at the convocation and he responded with great enthusiasm. Fast forward a few days and I found myself on the 4th floor rooftop, next to one of the hotel pools, with over 100 of my new friends, crying out together to the Spirit for more and praying for the bishops, the participants, and all the areas we represented. A Franciscan Friar of the Renewal (CFR) brother led us in worship and the Holy Spirit truly lit hearts on fire. We ended up praying with many of the leaders and I walked away more convinced than ever that a new evangelization must be accompanied by a new Pentecost. There is a deep hunger for the power, freedom, and anointing necessary to make disciples and the Holy Spirit is eagerly responding to anyone who asks and is open.
- The final session of the convocation included an excellent presentation by Patrick Lencioni, a very successful and faithful businessman who has helped create the Amazing Parish Conference. He focused on 5 keys to building a great team but the nugget that struck me the most was his articulation of the difference between our circle of concern and our circle of influence. Simply put, our circle of concern includes things that we are rightfully worried about (world hunger, our government, the Catholic Church, the Millennial Generation) but are hard to do anything about. It’s important to talk and think and pray about these things, but at the end of the day, we have very few tangible actions steps to bring about real change. However, our circle of influence includes those things that are directly impacted by our actions. This could include our families, our parishes, and most concretely our own holiness. Ironically, the more we focus on our circle of concern, the smaller our circle of influence becomes, but conversely, the more we dive into our circle of influence, the larger this circle will grow and we’ll have a greater impact on the circle of concern. In other words, if we focus on the people, institutions, problems, and opportunities the Lord has put right before us, we’ll end up having a more significant reach. This was an awesome reminder for us at i.d.9:16. We are intensely focused on the future of our generation and Church and yet we need to dive deeper and deeper into the chapters, parishes, and most importantly the people the Lord has brought into our circle of influence.
Overall the Convocation marked a significant step forward in the vision, mission, and language of the American Catholic Church. I thoroughly enjoyed the networking and time spent with other ‘beggars who have discovered the feast.’ Let’s pray that the work begun in Orlando would continue and we would be bold in our pursuit of Jesus and the people He loves.