What does following Jesus mean? Or, more specifically, what does it mean to take up your cross with him?
1. It means to believe in something wonderful, something positive, something beautiful. It means to believe in God as lord of your life and to accept the validation that comes from a God who knows you personally and loves you no matter what.
2. It means to accept that validation no matter what other people think. It is to refuse to let other people drag you down because they don't share that same joy. It means to live your life according to that validation.
3. This means to change your life. Christians describe this as accepting the healing grace of God's forgiveness, even when it feels uncomfortable.
4. It means to be good to others, to make good decisions and sometimes, when called to, to fight for justice and the safety and well-being of others. There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for another.
What I wanted to share today are just some of the ways we are trying to do this here at St. Alexander. We are not trying just to have Mass, we are trying to make disciples, as our mission statement says, to love God, love others and follow Christ. I love the older mission statement that was created as well, and it is worth sharing, especially at this moment, because this statement came out of our history as a parish:
"Behold, I Make All Things New…" We gladly welcome you to our parish, trusting that if you are seeking Christ, you will find Him here; if you are sorrowing, you will receive comfort; if you are troubled in spirit, you will receive the blessing of peace; if you discouraged, you will rejoice in hope; if friendless find companionship and Christian love. That these and other blessings may be your portion is our prayer.
So how are we going to accomplish this here at St. Alexander? We have 5 strategic anchors. After Mass today we'll be giving you a copy of our strategic plan, updated for this year, I'm just going to go over it now.
- Grow wider.
- Create a welcoming strategy for all seasonal liturgies beginning with Advent and Christmas
- Give Rebuilt books for everybody
- Open a new member seminar
- Communicate and advertise outside church
- Increase social media presence
- Increase Flocknote members
- Streamline the registration process
- Create banners and brochures
- Grow deeper
- Increase number of small groups
- Initiate the Bereavement Committee
- Promote our new path to discipleship:
- Weekend experience:
- Develop and enhance our music program
- Create a children/youth choir
- Purchase and install video screens
- Enhance visibility and prominence of our volunteer ministers (lanyards)
- Update facilities
- Layers of leadership:
- Create ministry descriptions based on new organizational chart
- Provide training opportunities for new ministers
- Create ministry activities
- Create a parish pastoral council
- Grow smarter
- Stewardship campaign
- Process documentation
- Communication planning
- Hardware and software tools
I would like to introduce you to a fictional person that I have created, just to give us focus in terms of who we are trying to reach. His name is "Fonthill Frank," not to be confused with anyone else actually named Frank. My intention is that every decision we make here at St. Alexander, including what we preach, is weighed against the impact, positive or negative, it will have on Fonthill Frank. Here he is:
“Fonthill Frank” is a devoted father with 2 school age kids, and one on the way. has a great job, both he and his wife work to make ends meet, weekends are too busy for church but he still believes in God and will come with family on Christmas, Easter, funerals, weddings and baptisms. His son plays hockey, his daughter is in dancing. Both go to St. Alexander’s school, which is the main source of their information about catholicism. His wife takes care of most of the religious side of things. Frank’s parents go to Mass weekly, and his grandmother goes every day, but his grandfather has just passed away. Spiritually, Frank prays, but also scratches his head when he thinks of the scandals of the church. He and his wife are not really pro choice, but they have not given it that much thought, at least they “know better” than to enter into an argument about it with their friends. He and his wife have no issues using birth control. He isn’t sure what all the fuss is about, but they are very cautious about what they refer to as religious nuts in the church. They respect the church but have no issue with joining in conversations about how corrupt it is with their peers. Face to face with clergy he is deeply respectful of them and will help out if asked and if he has time. He likes Pope Francis and considers him to be a breath of fresh air. He’s not really sure what he thinks about Jesus, other than that he is a good example and he agrees with his teachings. But he tends to think all religions have their place and are good. Probably could care less if the local church survives or not, it’s just not that important to him. But deep down, he is searching for something, he is a bit lonely at times and wonders what life is all about. He feels most joy when his is indulging in fun things. But he knows there is a cost, he is faithful to his wife and tries not to screw up becasue he knows how complicated life can get."
Our goal is to move Fonthill Frank from being a member of the community to be a disciple of Jesus. to transform his life into a life of genuine, deep, abiding joy.
I conclude with our call to discipleship at the bottom of our strategic plan:
Come and see, come and learn, come and pray, come and believe, come and serve, go and make disciples … and bring them back home