The Baseball Diamond¹
Studies have shown that the one common factor of growing churches is a simple evangelization and discipleship process. Those churches that try to do all things for all people collapse under their own weight. That is why the Baseball Diamond is a great image for Intentional Evangelization Ministry. The purpose of Baseball is simple. Get around all of the bases. Our parishes have a vision for walking with individuals through the entire process of conversion. Our parishes understand that no one gets stranded on base. The entire staff has the end goal in mind: parishioners who have been equipped as Missionary Disciples and who are bringing the Good News to the world.
Definition: Simple Church: a [parish] designed around a straight-forward and strategic process that moves people through the stages of spiritual growth. (Simple Church: Returning to God’s Process for Making Disciples)
The Center: Personal Connection to Christ¹
You cannot give what you do not have. All evangelization is always the overflow of our personal connection to Christ.
“I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5
The primary reason for evangelizing is the love of Jesus which we have received….What kind of love would not feel the need to speak of the beloved, to point him out, to make him known? ― Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 264
Because we have experienced the love of Christ, we want to share it….Faith makes our hearts abound with a love‐filled desire to bring all people to Jesus’ Gospel and to the table of the Eucharist. ― USCCB, Go and Make Disciples, 33
Communion with Jesus, which gives rise to the communion of Christians among themselves, is an indispensable condition for bearing fruit: ‘Apart from me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5). ― St. John Paul II, Christifideles Laici, 32
The Driver: Person to Person¹ Accompaniment
The Church will have to initiate everyone—priests, religious and laity—into this ‘art of accompaniment’ which teaches us to remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other (cf. Ex 3:5). (Evangelii Gaudium, 169)
The Church has many names for what Pope Francis called “accompaniment” – apprenticeship, mentoring, sponsorship. Regardless of the vocabulary that we use, Person to Person accompaniment is at the heart of evangelization.
“The parish must provide formed disciples who can accompany those who are returning to the Church and guide them throughout their journey. Apprenticeship ‘links an experienced Christian believer, or mentor, with one who seeks a deeper relationship with Christ and the Church.” (National Directory of Catechesis)
Person to Person Accompaniment is the most universal way to evangelize. Programs do not evangelize people, people evangelize people. Evangelization is always incarnational in nature.
Home Plate to First Base: from initial trust to belief in Jesus Christ
Before Home Plate is the World. For those in the world the cross is foolishness. When someone begin to trust, even just a little, they are at home plate. The process of evangelization and discipleship has begun. The Church calls this period Pre-evangelization. Sherry Wedell in her book Forming Intentional Disciples describes this journey of preevangelization as Thresholds of Conversion. We define the Thresholds this way
A person is able to trust or has a positive association with Jesus Christ, the Church, a Christian believer, or something identifiably Christian. Trust is not the same as active personal faith. Without some kind of bridge of trust in place, people will not move closer to God. (OSV)
A person finds himself intrigued by or desiring to know more about Jesus, his life, and his teachings or some aspect of the Christian faith. This curiosity can range from mere awareness of a new possibility to something quite intense. Nevertheless, a person at the threshold of curiosity is not yet open to personal change. Curiosity is still essentially passive, but it is more than mere trust. (OSV)
A person acknowledges to himself or herself and to God that he or she is open to the possibility of personal and spiritual change. This is one of the most difficult transitions for a postmodern nonbeliever. Openness is not a commitment to change. People who are open are simply admitting they are open to the possibility of change. (OSV)
There is the form called evangelization, or missionary preaching. This has as its purpose the arousing of the beginning of faith so that men will adhere to the word of God. — General Directory for Catechesis, 17
The link between missionary proclamation which seeks to stir up the faith, and initiatory catechesis, which seeks to deepen its roots, is decisive for evangelization….In situations requiring “new evangelization,” co‐ordination [of missionary proclamation and initiatory catechesis] becomes more complex because ordinary catechesis is, at times, offered to young people and adults who need a period of prior proclamation and awakening in their adherence to Christ. — General Directory for Catechesis, 276
First Base to Second Base: from belief in Jesus Christ to Discipleship
It is a period of formation, and apprenticeship in the whole Christian life, by which Christians are initiated into the mystery of salvation and an evangelical style of life. — General Directory for Catechesis, 63
The person moves from being essentially passive to actively seeking to know the God who is calling him or her. It is, if you will, “dating with a purpose” but not yet marriage. Seekers are asking, “Are you the one to whom I will give myself?” At this stage, the seeker is engaged in an urgent spiritual quest, seeking to know whether he or she can commit to Christ in his Church. (OSV)
Change of attitude towards Jesus Christ and the Church He established (favorable) (Romans 10:8-10)
Change of attitude towards sin (unfavorable) (1 John 1:5-9)
Has made a verbal profession of commitment to Jesus Christ to others (Mark 5:18-20)
Desires to grow spiritually (Philippians 4:8)
Has received the sacraments of initiation or has gone to Confession if already a Catholic (Acts 2:37-38)
Fundamental characteristics of initiatory catechesis
67. Catechesis acquires certain characteristics in virtue of being an “essential moment” in the process of evangelization, in the service of Christian initiation. (202)
It is: – a comprehensive and systematic formation in the faith. The Synod of 1977 underscored the need for a “comprehensive and structured” (203) catechesis, since catechesis is principally distinguished from other forms of presenting the word of God by its comprehensive and vital deepening of the mystery of Christ;
– this comprehensive formation includes more than instruction: it is an apprenticeship of the entire Christian life, it is a “complete Christian initiation”, (204) which promotes an authentic following of Christ, focused on his Person; it implies education in knowledge of the faith and in the life of faith, in such a manner that the entire person, at his deepest levels, feels enriched by the word of God; it helps the disciple of Christ to transform the old man in order to assume his baptismal responsibilities and to profess the faith from the “heart”; (205)
– a basic and essential formation, (206) centred on what constitutes the nucleus of Christian experience, the most fundamental certainties of the faith and the most essential evangelical values; it lays the foundation of the spiritual edifice of the Christian, nurtures the roots of his faith life and enables him to receive more solid nourishment in the ordinary life of the Christian community.
68. In summary, initiatory catechesis, being comprehensive and systematic, cannot be reduced to the circumstantial or the occasional. (207) As it is formation for the Christian life it comprises but surpasses mere instruction. (208) Being essential, it looks to what is “common” for the Christian, without entering into disputed questions nor transforming itself into a form of theological investigation. Finally, being initiatory, it incorporates into the community, which lives, celebrates and bears witness to the faith. It fulfils, at once, initiatory, educational and instructional functions. (209) This inherent richness in the Catechumenate of non-baptized adults should serve to inspire other forms of catechesis.
Perfective Catechesis: Continuous education in the faith
In many regions this is also called “permanent catechesis”. (135)
It is intended for those Christians who have been initiated in the basic elements of the Christian faith, but who need constantly to nourish and deepen their faith throughout their lives. This function is accomplished through a great variety of forms: “systematic and occasional, individual and community, organized and spontaneous”. (136)
Second Base to Third Base: From Discipleship to Missionary Discipleship
“In all its activities the parish encourages and trains its members to be evangelizers. It is a community of communities, a sanctuary where the thirsty come to drink in the midst of their journey, and a centre of constant missionary outreach. – Evangelii Gaudium #28
GROWING DISCIPLE • James 1:19-25; CCC 1694²
Has developed a heart for God that motivates his/her attitudes and actions
Is willing to make any sacrifices to grow, even change his/her schedule
Observable changes in attitudes and actions can be seen
Is committed to chastity, sobriety, and excellence in their state of life.
Consistent in continually growing in the basic habits of the Christian life, including but not limited to:
Seeks interior growth through daily prayer with Scripture and spiritual reading (John 1:1-18; Ephesians 6:18)
Grows in sanctification through the reception of the sacraments (Acts 2:42)
Builds character through the virtues and the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-16)
Accepts suffering and uses it to unite him/her to Christ (Colossians 1:24)
Practices the spiritual and corporal works of mercy (Matthew 25:31-46)
Is open to the Holy Spirit (John 16:7; 12-13)
COMMISSIONED DISCIPLE • Matthew 28:18-20; CCC 905²
Has decided to answer the call to take part in the mission of the Church
Is actively striving to win people over to Jesus and His mission, to build them up in small-group Bible studies and to send them out to spiritually multiply (John 15:8)
Third Base to Home Plate again: Missionary Disciples evangelize the world
In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples (cf. Mt 28:19). All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization, and it would be insufficient to envisage a plan of evangelization to be carried out by professionals while the rest of the faithful would simply be passive recipients. The new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized. Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love. Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are “disciples” and “missionaries”, but rather that we are always “missionary disciples”. – Evangelii Gaudium #120
DISCIPLE MAKER • 1 Thessalonians 2:8; CCC 1816²
Led someone to commit his/her life to Jesus Christ and His mission and is helping them engage in the work of evangelization, disciplemaking and friendships through a mentoring relationship (2 Timothy 2:2)
Has developed a heart for God’s people and is willing to make any sacrifce to help another grow, even change his/her schedule (1 Tessalonians 5:11)
Makes life decisions (vocation, location, relationships, etc.) based upon how he/she can most efectively fulfll the Great Commission
SPIRITUAL MULTIPLIER • 2 Timothy 2:2; CCC 3²
Has been the major infuence in helping others become disciple makers (has produced a strong third generation)
Has been trained and equipped to go to another location and remain active in lifelong Catholic mission in which this process is repeated
Regular participation in personal prayer and sacramental life of the Church; Fulflls Vocational commitments; Leading a life of evangelization and discipleship through small groups; Lives an infuential life of faith, parish, community, and workplace
²Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS): The Discipleship Roadmap with stages of Discipleship growth from Beginning Disciple to Spiritual Multiplier. The Win-Build-Send Discipleship model is reflected on the Baseball Diamond as well.
³Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus, by Sherry Weddell: Spiritual Growth Thresholds from Trust to Discipleship. The descriptions of the Thresholds comes from an article on the Thresholds from Our Sunday Visitor
The General Directory for Catechesis: The stages of conversion from pre-evangelization to Missionary Proclamation to Initiatory Catechesis to Perfective Catechesis (or Pastoral Care).