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Posted February 25, 2013

Book: Rebuild: The Story of a Catholic Parish
Authors: Michael White and Tom Corcoran
Ave Maria Press. Notre Dame, IN. 2013. Pp. 292

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

The leaders of Church of the Nativity in Timonium, Maryland, came to three realizations. In their words:

1. "Our parish wasn't working."

2. "We didn't know how to fix it."

3. "We can learn from churches that are getting it right."

Drawing on the wisdom gleaned from thriving megachurches and innovative business leaders while anchoring their vision in the Eucharistic heart of the Catholic faith, Fr. Michael White and lay associate Tom Corcoran present the compelling and inspiring story of how they brought their parish back to life.

An Excerpt from the Book:

Pretty Churches and Other Lies

Christianity without disciples is always Christianity without Christ, Dietrich Bonhoeffer

When we came to Nativity it was clear the purpose of the place had become maintenance of the status quod: meeting members wherever they were to help them comfortable stay there. Nativity enabled and even encouraged members to remain demanding consumers, and we ignored everybody else.

Nativity was sinking into irrelevance because we had no vision for reaching the lost and no plan for the spiritual growth and maturity of our members. There was no understanding of even the need for life-change, much less how to effect it.

Avery Dulles proposed that the most fitting description of the Church is the "community of disciples." Respectfully, we would add that implicit in Cardinal Dulles's use of the word "disciple" is the word "growing." The purpose of Nativity is to challenge church people and seek lost people in order to help all of them become a community of growing disciples. Disciples are students who are growing to love God and love others as Jesus taught us.

It's not about a place; it's about a person.

It's not about fulfilling obligations or simply supplying the sacraments; it's about following a person on a path.

It's not about programs or services, or even service; it's about steps along that path of growth.

In other words, it's about conversion and the ongoing conversion. A disciple is growing beyond the sin and the self-defeating behaviors that go with being lost and then beyond the selfishness of consumer religion. A disciple willingly sets out on a path of more and more dying to sin and selfishness so that Christ may live in him or her. That is going to involve action.

Pastor Erwin McManus make a good point about the fifth book of the New Testament where the Church is its first, purest, and most heroic expression is described. It's called ACTS. They acted; they did things. Specifically, they did what the Lord told them to do.

Table of Contents:

Part 1: Naming the problem
1. Church is not easy
2. Pharisees at heart

Part II: Finding a way forward
3. Lost people in Churchworld
4. War in heaven
5. Pretty churches and other lies

Part III: Developing the strategy
6. "It's the weekend stupid!"
7. Mobilize the next generation
8. Make the message matter
9. Build from below
10. Don't rob God
11. Get the parish out of the pews
12. Be restorers
13. Fall in love
14. Lead where you serve
15. You can do this!

Appendix A. A detailed example of changing our culture

Appendix B. A few of (many) things we still don't know