Is your church profitable or prophetic? At what point does a church go from being a marketable administration to authentic ministry as the Body of Christ?
As the owner of a small Catholic ministry consulting company, and a capable wordsmith, my greatest temptation is insincerity. I am certain that if I played to the tastes of any one particularly well-funded Catholic agenda, I would be able to live comfortably. It would be way more profitable to say what people want to hear and stroke the collective ego of a chaos-averse pseudo-Christian culture.
Both progressive and traditional Christian agendas arouse strong emotions. I earnestly believe that these emotionally apendable ideologies are prioritized by universities, publishers and media outlets, not solely because they are prophetic, but because they are profitable. Is it possible that the messages of Catholic popular culture have a vested interest in maintaining relationships with demographics of philanthropic propensities?
Whenever I have entertained the possibility of putting my thoughts into words, I am drawn back into silence, because naming these capitalist exploitations would be–you guessed it– unprofitable.
Well, now I have nothing to lose.
My days of polite censorship are over. It’s time for real talk. “Dignity” has been hijacked not solely by mainstream media, but by conservative and progressive religious media as well. The seamless garment has been ripped apart. Migrants are used as pawns, cheap labor and scapegoats because it’s more convenient to enable a dysfunctional immigration system than it is to help people get legal, or lobby for the abolition of immigration law altogether. There are plenty of free resources for pregnant women in crisis, but what about single women-and men- who cannot afford health insurance and forgo annual exams so they can put gas in their car, go to work and pay their bills? What about families of children with special needs, ADHD, autism and sensory issues? How are we helping parents feel less stressed and more blessed? As of 2018, a million children are in the care of grand families & kinship families, as a result of the opioid abuse epidemic in the United States.
Many dioceses have an annual Blue Mass for law enforcement, but what about an Orange Mass- as in the color of a prison jumpsuit-where families can come together to pray for incarcerated loved ones? There are 2.3 million people in American in a disturbingly corrupt correctional system. Last I checked, visiting the imprisoned is a work of mercy, and yet, there is no LifeSiteNews equivalent that advocates for just, humane treatment of people who are daily victimized by guards who believe they are above the law. To my knowledge there is no official national collection for prison ministry, nor is there any national collection for families affected by additiction. These kinds of unprecedented initiatives which are dismissed as unpopular and unprofitable are indeed the kinds of prophetic visions our world needs!
These issues don’t pay as well as dominative, divisive propaganda. It is easier, safer and more lucrative to talk about polarizing issues than to say something that might offset the safe trajectory of the Catholic thought pendulum. Otherism is protects the status quo. Otherism is comfortable. Otherism is clean, safe and easy.
We pose little risk when we poke ourselves in a closed eye and complain about the pain. Draining a festering stye is a painful, messy process of hot compresses applied consistently over the course of several days. It’s safer to blame a blinding periorbital sore on the virtuous vice of too much reading, dirty contact lenses, people who don’t have clean water to wash their hands.
From not-for-prophet churches to non-profit churches…
The family is the domestic church. It is the smallest unit of unity, and the place where believers first come to know God’s love. For some, this is the family inherited by blood. For others this family is one created in love. For many, this is a family of interpersonal relationships that have been built in the course of daily interaction. At any given moment, circumstance may summon us to live an aspect of our baptismal call, as sacrificial mediator, as visionary, or as a gentle, loving servant-leader.
The liturgy of the domestic church is the ritual of living in selfless love. We are the bread- whether light and fluffy or flat crisp and stale. We are the wine that builds flavor over time, and of which not all can, by a quirk of human nature, safely consume in large quantities. The Spirit makes these things holy when we are humble enough to name God’s glory in these simple, ordinary provisions. Just as no festive meal would be complete without a toast, even the earliest Christian rituals considered a lively exhortation on scripture as an essential part of the sacrificial banquet.
In the domestic churches of our families, friends and neighbors, each one of us is called preach this compulsory homily through truthful words and acts of love. How it is preached is often as important as where it is preached and the permeability of the hearts of those who are present to listen.
Whenever I write, speak or make a decision to act, I am challenged to ask myself if I am going in the right direction. When God calls me to preach through my daily existence, have I been living in a way that my life speaks for itself, or do I need flowery language and dramatic inflections? Do I need to establish my primacy by standing at an ornate, elevated marble pulpit? Do I make a bee-line to the back of the church, scale steps of stacked soapboxes, and speak of good music in a loft of trained opera singers? Is this about satisfying my own desire for attention or affirmation? Is this about advancement, political maneuvering or financial benefit? Am I preaching a profitable message that only the choir can appreciate, or am I earnestly living a universally prophetic message of faith, hope and unconditional love?