Blueprint for Church Growth

Encounter 2012 of the Eastern Catholic Churches
Midwest-Cleveland, OH – September 20 – 23, 2012
East-Hillsborough, NJ – October 11-14, 2012
West-Los Angeles, CA – November 1-4, 2012

This is a real-time transcription of the welcome address at the Eastern Encounter 2012 (November 3rd) by Father Edward Cimbala, the Administrator of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic as well as the pastor of St. Mary Byzantine Catholic Church in Hillsborough, NJ. He is currently the Eparchial Director of Deacon Formation and the Assistant Vocation Director of Vocations, and the Chairperson of the Saints Cyril and Methodius Seminary Advisory Committee. Although it has been reviewed, it may contain errors, for which the webmaster unreservedly apologizes.

Fr. Ed asked for prayers for the parishes and parishioners in their eparchy who are still without power, some of whom have not been in contact with their parishes so they do not know of their safety, following Hurricane Sandy.

Blueprint for Church Growth

Everybody has a different theory on how churches grow. There are piles of books out there!

Example: A great pastor grew a huge church and it was so successful that he wrote books about it. He was asked to become the president of a Christian college. When he left, the church fell apart. The new pastor was blamed, but it is obvious that the original pastor had built a church on personality, not on God, so that without the old pastor’s presence, the church had nothing to sustain it and collapsed.

Acts 17: Paul came to preach in Thessalonica. He invited everyone to come. Paul, being Paul, irritated quite a few in the process. They were so angry, they tried to seize him and take him to the authorities. When they couldn’t find Paul, they took Jason instead because he hosted Paul. In charging Jason, they said, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also…”

  • That’s what we’re called to do. Wouldn’t it be great if people said YOU turn the world upside down?

Creating Leaders and Disciples—People who Turn the World Upside Down

Discipleship is not what you do, but an attitude that asks what you must do.

What is our passion? We Eastern Catholics truly want to have the kind of churches where people are equipped and filled with joy, worshipping God and serving others.

2 Corinthians 9:7: God loves a cheerful giver

  • It’s a mistake to think about this as money alone. We must cheerfully give of our time, talent, effort, and expertise, too.
  • We must do this with joy, laughter, and excitement.
  • God loves a cheerful giver.

How do we become cheerful givers?

  • Finding our passion
  • Finding our gifts
  • Finding our place

When we first recognize our desire to live as Christians, we do it like the 10th leper (cf., Luke 17:15). We run to God and jump in! Then we tire and burn out. Then our service to God and our relationship with him starts feeling like it is going nowhere. We’re spinning in place because in all this we haven’t discerned where God wants us.

When we discern our gifts, we’ll be able to be good leaders.

  • Your own passions, gifts, and style will energize you and allow you to enjoy the work.

Galatians 1: 11For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. 13For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it; 14and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions. 15But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased 16to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles…

  • Paul recognized his passion was to preach to the Gentiles. This step is crucial.
  • Passion is God-given.
  • Paul said God set him apart.
  • Passion compels you to make a difference.

Your passion might be for a group (children, homeless, moms…), or for an issue (abortion…), or with functions (assisting with liturgy, being a prayer warrior…)

  • Everyone can have a passion. A passion isn’t necessarily loud or active.

Don’t think or say you’re too old, too young, of the wrong gender, nash…

  • Let’s not step on passion. Let it happen!

When people come to him and say, “You know what we should be doing?” (which usually means, “Do you know what I think you should be doing, Father?), he listens and says, “That’s a great idea! Have at it!”

Passion helps you know where to serve and direct your gifts.

Galatians 1: 15But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased 16to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. 17I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.
18Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days. 19I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. 20I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.

  • This was a ripening of Paul’s passion to preach to the Gentiles.
  • Paul took the time to think and pray.
  • When we recognize people’s passions and help them to grow in their passion, we see them ripen and mature.
    • Example: A young teen in his parish was guided in her passion to work with her peers when she was in high school, then when she went to college she was guided in her passion to work with her peers there. The books and support she was given through those years allow her now to serve the church teaching ECF.

Galatians 1: 23They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24And they praised God because of me.

  • If you serve God cheerfully with your whole heart, people will want to know God because they know that you know Him.
  • People will praise God for your presence.
  • Don’t do it for you own glory, but for the glory of God.

Be patient as you package your passion when presenting it to your priest.

  • Sometimes priests have hard or bad days, too.
  • Be wise. If you’re turned down, do what his parishioners do: come back in a few weeks and present it again. He joked that then he thinks it was his idea and he supports it.

Once you’ve discovered your passion, how does that have an effect?

  • The Church is like a symphony. God gives each of us the gift to play an instrument perfectly.
  • There are a diversity of instruments and activities, but it is the same God.
  • These gifts, manifested in the Mysteries of Initiation, are given to all by God.
  • Spiritual gifts are often exercised in an area where natural talents already exist.
  • Spiritual gifts are given for the common good, not to glorify oneself.
  • We are each enabled by God to use a supernatural gift to make a difference.
  • While a person doesn’t have all the gifts, all of the spiritual gifts are present within our community.

1 Corinthians 12: 7Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

How to Discover our Spiritual Gifts

  1. Prayer
    • Fr. Ed had difficulty with this one. His confessor told him to set his iPhone timer for 15 minutes, to set it aside, and then to pray. He found this very helpful because he no longer had to think about how long he had prayed and he could focus on his prayers. He now shares this with others in case it helps someone else.
  2. Trial and Error
    • There is nothing wrong with failure.
  3. Ask someone
    • What do you see in me? Watch out! Your friends and family will be honest, but that’s what you need.
  4. Assessment tools online
    • Don’t take it to heart, but see what they recommend and discuss it with your pastor.

God has arranged a place for you in the body of Christ that serves the church in accordance with your personality, gifts and style.

Dizzy Dean was a pitcher who once won 30 games in a season. He and his brother both pitched a game that won the World Series. He was so good that he had gone into the locker room and told each hitter how he would pitch to them and he’d still won. Then he hurt his big toe. He favored the toe, which changed his alignment, and that affected his pitch. By the time he realized the importance of his toe, his pitching career was already over. The pitching arm cannot tell the big toe that it is not needed.

There is a unique and important place for each and every person.

  • When you go home, pray and discover where it is God wants you.
  • Now is a time to reflect on the gifts our Eastern Catholic Churches have brought to our country. And on what we can bring to our Church.
  • The message of Christ needs the seeds to continue to be sown and watered. This is the New Evangelization.

Psalm 145: 4One generation shall praise Your works to another, And shall declare your mighty acts.

  • Our Number One responsibility is to share the Good News.
  • The Christian faith is not a marathon, it is a relay. We need to take it and pass the faith from generation to generation.
  • Our beliefs, our creed, and our relationship with God must be passed on.

What we are to do:

  • Identify your personality
  • Identify your spiritual gifts
  • Identify what God wants you to do
  • Grow in your relationship with Christ
  • Pass it on

Fr. Ed passed out blue papers, rolled up and tied like relay batons. He asked everyone to “pass it on” so the room was full of blue batons moving from one hand to another until everyone had one. Once unrolled, the paper said:

The Blue Print For Church Growth
Pass it On … The Creed

I believe in one God,
the Father Almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible;
and in one Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, the only-begotten,
born of the Father before all ages.
Light from light, true God from true God,
begotten, not made, one in essence with the Father;
through whom all things were made.
For us and for our salvation,
he came down from heaven
and was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate,
and suffered and was buried.
He rose on the third day
according to the scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he is coming again in glory
to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Creator of Life,
who proceeds from the Father.
Together with the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified;
he spoke through the prophets.
In one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.
I profess one baptism for the remission of sins.
I expect the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come. Amen.