This book has been making its rounds around our parish, and making waves as well. It is the story of how one dying Catholic parish in North Baltimore decided to study a handful of successful evangelical megachurches and ask questions like: how do you define a healthy church? what contributes to growth? how do you be more welcoming to the de-churched or the un-churched?
They borrowed everything they could from these megachurches and adapted them to the life of a Catholic parish and experienced a huge turnaround. A huge turnaround.
A lot of us might balk at such a thought, I surely did. I hate megachurches with their seeming worship of numbers, money, and "niceness" that trumped the rigors of the Gospel life. I live in Houston with Joel Olsteen's Lakewood Church, where the pastor's name is everywhere, but there are no crosses to be found.
"That's really where their big numbers are coming from!" I'd shout.
Then I listened to some of their sermons. I heard what they said from their pulpits. And I realized how wrong I was. They were not exchanging the gospel truth for niceness and inspiration. They were delivering hard-hitting, culturally challenging truths that I rarely hear from any Catholic priest, deacon or bishop in a homily or otherwise.
Maybe there is something to this approach. Maybe our Protestant brothers and sisters found fertile soil in areas we never thought to reach.
Maybe we need to have the humility and the courage to borrow some of this ourselves. Who knows? In 10 years maybe Saddleback and North Point will start borrowing liturgy, ritual, and the Rosary from us!
ENDNOTE: I think this book will be my next book review, and I want to bring up some real world applications of their book at my parish, and some analysis of it from my perspective, too.