I am a former college athlete. Through my many years of playing sports I had quite a number of different coaches. Some were extremely good at teaching fundamentals but lacked charisma. I had other coaches that were less sound in teaching the fundamentals but were very inspirational. Rare is the coach who possesses both of these attributes in abundance. If you find one, cling tightly to him or her. You are in for a winning experience.
In my adult life I have spent years studying leadership, motivation, salesmanship, communication techniques, public speaking methodologies, marketing, and general business etiquette. Dr. Denis Waitley inspired me to study the "Psychology of Winning." Norman Vincent Peale convinced me of "The Power of Positive Thinking." Napoleon Hill taught me about the "Law of Success." In the last seventeen years I have been striving to apply what I have learned from these authors in a very tangible way to build up the Body of Christ. I yearn to know the most effective ways to take what I have learned from the Sacred Scriptures, Church Teaching, and the writings of the saints and apply it in a practical way in my day-to-day life. I then want to be able to teach and preach effectively for the good of others.
Ben and Kelly Decker of Decker Communications make it clear that people in modern times are craving inspiration more than information. I firmly believe that this is especially pertinent to the Church. We can teach doctrines and dogma all year long, but if it fails to inspire what has been achieved? In particular, the clergy have a responsibility to inspire the flock. This is done through a variety of avenues. First and foremost, we want our spiritual leaders to be models of holiness. Secondly, we want them to be effective communicators of the Good News of salvation. We desire preaching that is substantive and delivered with charisma. We want inspiration.
Statistics continue to show sharp declines in church attendance. In many areas of the country only 25% of registered parishioners are in church on any given Sunday. A lack of proper catechesis is obviously part of the problem. If people understood the Eucharist they would make it a point to be there to participate and encounter the living God. However, it is not just a matter of passing on more catechetical information. There must be inspiration.
A crisis in faith can be sparked from a variety of sources. Unfortunately, the main cause seems to be an onset of complacency and apathy. Do you know of a particular parish that is brimming with life? If not, I am sorry for your loss. If you do know of such a parish are you able to articulate what sets it apart from others? What gives life to a parish?
I have been responsible for religious education in one capacity or another for the last sixteen years. I serve as a resource person to parishes striving to enhance their religious education programs. Through the years I have come to realize one very important factor in this equation. If a religious education program is going to be successful there must be inspiration.
Parish programming of any kind will rise and fall with the level of leadership. If a parish has a vibrant liturgy there is an enhanced hope for a more far-reaching outreach with other endeavors. The parish that prays and worships well together will do other things with zeal and fervor too. A burden of responsibility rests on the shoulders of the pastor to be sure that the Eucharistic Liturgy is celebrated well. The preaching MUST inspire. That is a vital component of developing an amazing parish.
Other components are necessary to nurture a congregation into health and holiness, but if the preacher fails to inspire, good luck with trying to accomplish anything else. If we make Jesus boring by the way we utter the Good News, we have done a disservice to God's people. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords is not boring. The first question that must be asked of the one preaching--whether it be a bishop, priest, or deacon--is quite simple. Do you really believe the Good News yourself? If we who are preaching are not filled with the power of the Holy Spirit our words will be dull and lifeless because they stem from our own making. In 1 Peter 4:11 the message is clear. "Whoever preaches, let it be with the words of God." If we follow that admonition we will be delivering inspiration.
The Church exists to evangelize. Each and every baptized individual is called to proclaim the Good News, but this admonition to go out to all the world is especially pertinent to the ordained. I am not talking about developing a slick marketing program. I am asking for genuine preaching and teaching that is faithful to the Gospel and delivered with love, compassion, energy, and enthusiasm. I want inspiration in addition to information. Vibrant worship is a beautiful starting point to enrich and empower all of the other ministries in the parish including catechesis.
Please pray for all of us who have the responsibility of teaching and preaching. Composing an inspirational message that is constructed in a methodical and coherent manner while keeping it short enough to be charismatically delivered in eight to twelve minutes is no easy task. With God's grace all things are possible.
May each of us take our share of the responsibility of building up the Body of Christ. It is long past time for us to truly be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. My question for you today is simple. How will you let the light of your faith shine today?