Two of the Most Basic Elements of Evangelization: The Message and the Plan

Feature-021614One of the great blessings of being a Roman Catholic is to be a member of the church that is over 2000 years old has amassed a vast treasury of holy doctrine, wisdom, knowledge, sacred tradition, an enormous library of the writings and teachings of Saints and Holy Doctors, great movements, spirituals and liturgical traditions. Yes, there are a lot of “moving parts” to our magnificent faith and our Church.

But strengths are often just a few degrees separated from struggles. And thus, with such a rich fair and with many possible facets for discussion (and debate), too often we who are Catholic can get lost in the details and forget the simple basic message that must be effectively proclaimed as a kind of a foundation for the rich things that will follow. If we are not careful those who look to the Catholic Faith can become easily and quickly bewildered as they are drawn into a world where people discuss everything from novenas, to the Stations of the Cross, lives of the Saints, spiritual traditions, contemplative prayer versus meditative prayer, lectio divina, Latin mass versus contemporary mass, debates over authority, who can be ordained, liturgical debates, religious liberty, sacramentals,…

And while all these things are very good, there remains the need for a good solid foundation wherein one meets the Lord, and comes to know his power in their life.

With this foundation, liturgy, scripture and sacraments begin to fall beautifully into place. The joy of knowing Christ and his saving power, and of being deeply grateful for having been saved by him, fuels a zeal to joyfully inquire into the rich tapestry of Church life, both historical and contemporary. The beauty of the Church now reflects the beauty of Christ, and the beauty of faith.

So the foundation, a relationship with Christ rooted in deep gratitude for being saved by him and loved by him must be built. Realizing this, many today have begun to emphasize the need to return to the fundamental root message that is often called the kerygma. It is a Greek word (κήρυγμα) which means “preaching” but refers more technically to the first preaching of the Apostles immediately after Pentecost. Some also translate kerygma as “Message” and thus the word connotes the basic or fundamental message, the foundational proclamation.

I have written more Academically on the subject of the Kerygma here: What do we Mean by the Kerygma and also here: What do the Kerygmatic Sermons Have to Teach us?.

But here I’d like to offer just a quick pastoral description of the foundational message we call the kerygma. There are Seven Elements of the Kerygma. of the fundamental and foundation proclamation of the faith. I draw the wording of these largely from Hector Molina over at Catholic Answers with a brief commentary of my own (in red) on each. And while these seven elements to comport exactly with the ancient kerygma, they are modeled on it and serve our times very well.

Here are the Seven Elements of the Kerygma:

1. God loves you and has plan for your life.Yes, God the Father loves you and seeks you. And that ache in your heart, that longing, that yearning, and that “never satisfied” quality in your desires all point to God and he has written his name in your heart. He wants to turn you away from a passing and unsatisfying world, towards him.  He wants to save you and prepare you to live with him for all eternity. He wants to fill the God sized hole in your heart and its infinite longing with his infinite Love.
2. Sin will destroy you. – Nothing is so destructive in your life and this world as sin. It is desire gone wrong, it is rooted in the lie that the creature rather than the Creator can help and save us. Cultivating sin will put you in bondage to desires gone mad that will not ultimately be satisfied. Satan is lying to you and saying that rebellion form the One who made will bring happiness to you. It will not. And you know this already don’t you? Sin and indulgence does not ultimately satisfy. The world cannot satisfy, for it is finite and your desire is infinite. Sin does not ultimately bring happiness, it brings bondage, addiction, dissatisfaction, and ultimately resentment and spiritual death.
3. Christ Jesus died to save you. – Into this mess of our wayward desires and our foolish grasping at worldly trinkets Jesus came. He met the woman at the well (who is us) and told her that every who drinks form this well (the world) will be thirsty again. In other words, the world cannot ultimately satisfy or save us. We must die to this world and rise to God. But our way to God was cut off by sin. Jesus came and reopened the way to the Father by dying to this world, to its lies and false claims. Rising and Ascending he has re-opened the way to the Father, our hearts true desire. Now we can be saved by being led back to the Father by the saving power of Jesus. And dying to this world, we can one day fully be satisfied by God.
4. Repent and believe the Gospel. – To repent means to come to a new mind, to come to understand and accept all that has been stated: that the Lord loves me, is calling me in my desires, and want to save me from the sinful drives that will destroy me. It is time for me to come to beleive in this Love God has form me and accept the promise and salvation of his love: Jesus Christ and the saving truth he proclaims.
5. Be Baptized and receive the Holy Spirit. – And thus in Baptism our sins are washed away, we are incorporated into Christ, we become a member of his body. And having done so, the Holy Spirit, the life, love, serenity, joy and wisdom of God comes to dwell in me and begins a work of transforming me, that includes the other Sacraments as well.
6. Abide in Christ and his body the Church. – Grow in this relationship with Jesus and His Father in the Holy Spirit by living in the life of the Church, which is Jesus presence and Body in this world. Abide there, that is go on dwelling there.
7. Go make disciples. – And so the cycle repeats with the newly Evangelized and more deeply rooted Christian calling others.

Now of course this is the basic proclamation, not the full truth. The Kerygma establishes the foundation on which can be built the higher matters of Christology, ecclesiology, soteriology, Liturgy, Sacramental theology, moral theology and the like. The insight is both simple and clear, when you meet Jesus and experience his saving power, you love him and want to grow in everything he teaches and offers. The Kerygma is the Alpha, Beta, Gamma, all the way to Omega can follow. But make sure the Alpha of the Kerygma is firmly in place.

Another basic element of Evangelization is a key summary verse of the Christian life. In one compact line is disclosed a perfect summary of the Christian walk.

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers. Acts 2:42

We like to complicate things. But it doesn’t really get more complicated than this. THere are four elements, four pillars of the Christian life:

1. The Apostles’ Teaching – That is the steadfastly went on in the study of Scripture and the sacred teachings of the Faith given them by the apostles
2. FellowshipThey were daily walking with Christ’s Body the Church, frequenting the Liturgy and other communal gatherings.
3. Breaking of the Bread This is another way of saying that they faithfully received the Eucharist and, by extension,  all the Sacraments.
4. Prayers – Both personal and communal prayer.

A simple plan for life for a Christian.

Two basic elements of Evangelization: “The Message” (the kerygma) and the “The Plan” of Acts 2:42. We like to complicate things, but root, we start simply. The foundation is not the building, but it is an essential basis for the building.

This song says:

God is my protection.
God is my all in all.
God is my light in darkness.
God is, He, He is my all in all.

God is my joy in time of sorrow.
God, God is my all in all.
God is my today and tomorrow.
God, My God is, my all in all.

God is the joy and
the strength of my life,
He moves all pain, misery, and strife.

He promised to keep me,
never to leave me.
He’s never ever come short of His word.

I’ve got to fast and pray,
stay in His narrow way,
I’ve got to keep my life clean everyday;
I want to go with Him when He comes back,
I’ve come to far and I’ll never turn back.
God is my all in all.