During my participation at this summer's Convocation of Catholic Leaders, there was a particular phrase that continually captured my imagination throughout the event:
Called to live out the Joy of the Gospel in America, we who were convened were continually reminded that we have been uniquely called by Pope Francis to be "missionary disciples".
“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.’” Pope Francis, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (EG), no. 9
Since July, I've been intrigued by this calling and have been actively seeking resources to learn more about the concept of missionary discipleship. So when I learned of the new Threshold Bible Study on Missionary Discipleship by Stephen Binz, I knew I needed to study it. It's now in my "must read" stack simply waiting until after my son's upcoming wedding when I can give it my full attention.
Stephen is a prolific author and scholar, but he also has an enthusiastic style which impacts his teaching. As you'll discover in his remarks below, he's a great resource to help each of us claim our role as missionary disciples.
Q: Stephen, congratulations on the publication of your new Threshold Bible Study on Missionary Discipleship. Please briefly introduce yourself to my friends here at the blog.
Hi, everyone. I’m honored to be contacted by Lisa to talk about my new work. I’m a Catholic biblical scholar, speaker, and writer. I offer keynotes, workshops, missions, and retreats for dioceses and parishes as well as pilgrimages to sacred places. Threshold Bible Study is my ongoing work, focusing on biblical themes for individual or group study. You can explore my work at www.Bridge-B.com
I believe that missionary discipleship is the great work that beckons us today as followers of Jesus. We live in an age that hungers for a new evangelization, a new infusion of the gospel in a way that will impact lives in our new century. From studying Scripture, I’ve learned that missionary discipleship is at the heart of what Jesus called us to do and I want others to understand that being missionary is central to being a disciple.
Q: We've been hearing a lot about "missionary discipleship". Can you please explain how each of us is called to this way of life? How do we "do" it?
The teachings of our church since Vatican II have reminded us that we have been given two primary challenges: the universal call to holiness and the universal call to mission.
This means that holiness and mission are not to be undertaken only by a select group within the church, but that they are the work of every one of us. Like our call to holiness, our call to mission is unique to each person. Each of us, according to our talents, circumstances, and vocations, express holiness and mission in different ways. But for certain, as we become holy by allowing our lives to be transformed by Christ, we will become missionary. We will attract others with the joy and hope that fills our lives because we are disciples of Jesus.
So, missionary discipleship is not some new program to follow, but it is what happens as we open our lives to God’s transforming word and allow our lives to be filled with the joy of the gospel.
Q: How does a group or individual Bible study enhance our ability to be effective missionary disciples?
Jesus first called his disciples to spend time with him, to learn from him, to take on his mind and heart. Then he called them to go out to others with the message of the gospel. Discipleship works the same way for us. First, we’ve got to reflect on Scripture, allowing God’s transforming word to mold our minds and hearts. This equips us to then embody the gospel so that we will be effective missionaries wherever God has placed us. As in the Mass, the Scriptures lead us to an intimacy with Jesus Christ, then we are sent out into the world. As the concluding words of the Mass beckon: “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord” or “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”
Q: How can someone who is really busy carve out time for scripture study and why does that make it even more important?
Receiving the sacraments and reflective reading of the inspired Scriptures are the two pillars of the Christian life. Word and sacrament are the gifts that God has entrusted to his Church, allowing us to grow in Christ through the Holy Spirit. Studying Scripture always leads us to the Mass, and the Mass always directs us back to Scripture. In the midst of a busy family life, gathering your family for Mass on the Lord’s Day is central. But likewise, taking regular quiet time throughout the week for prayerfully reading the Bible is a powerful sign to your family of where your priorities lie. Showing your children how you take out a few minutes at a regular time each day can be one of your most effective family lessons.
Q: What did you learn personally in working on this project that impacted your relationship with Jesus Christ?
I grew to understand more clearly that my life work—as husband, writer, speaker, pilgrimage leader, friend, etc—can be summarized as “missionary discipleship.” Everything we do as disciples is missionary, when we do them in Christ. I realized more specifically that the joy of the gospel pervades my life as God uses me as one of his many small instruments to share his word with others and to bring them life.
Q: Are there any additional thoughts or comments you'd like to share with our readers?
I loved writing this Bible study on Missionary Discipleship. After I completed it, I knew that it would be added to the many other thematic studies that comprise Threshold Bible Study. But then I was invited as a delegate of my diocese to the Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America. That amazing event in Orlando, sponsored by the United States Catholic Bishops, convinced me that the spark of missionary discipleship is being fanned into flames for the church today. Being immersed in a community of intentional missionary disciples is an experience like none other. I pray that this book can be a tool to help fan the flame in parishes, communities, and families.
Learn more about Stephen Binz at www.Bridge-B.com