America’s Entrepreneurial Spirit — at Church
After living in England for 25 years, I’ve been given the opportunity to return to my native United States.
BY DWIGHT LONGENECKER
July 16-22, 2006 Issue | Posted 7/17/06 at 9:00 AM
After living in
My experience of the Catholic
a retired director of the Agency for International Development, decided he
didn’t want to spend every day all day at the golf course. A convert of 40
At St Mary’s, the downtown parish
Carl and Jessie Eisenmann commented, “We wanted to run a group that was as efficient and upbeat as a successful business, but with the heart and soul of a strong Christian fellowship. We’ve created a model that can be replicated. We have 200 people on our mailing list, and members across the upstate.”
I could multiply the examples for pages, telling of the individuals I’ve met who have written books, started colleges, universities, publishing houses and websites; I could mention the guys who have started their own apologetics apostolates, the sixth grade girl who has raised thousands of dollars for pro-life work, the couple who started a Catholic bookstore, the freelancer who sells second-hand Catholic books online or the teenagers who work with the homeless.
All this freewheeling energy and enthusiasm is completed by existing parish and diocesan ministries with energy, enthusiasm and creativity.
The entrepreneurial spirit of the
Ordinary church members are getting up and getting on with the job. They are living out their baptismal calling to be full-fledged soldiers of Christ.
Like every good thing, however, it has its downside.
One of the problems with the entrepreneurial spirit is that it can be, well, a little bit Protestant. The typical Protestant knows what is best for him spiritually. He sets off on a quest for the perfect church, and if he doesn’t find one he starts one himself. Sometimes this same “I-know-best” attitude can be the shadow side of the enthusiastic new movements. Some who have more zeal than knowledge and more passion than wisdom can end up creating a group that becomes exclusive. Individuals who feel strongly about their particular brand of Catholicism can become divisive, sectarian or even cult-like.
Happily, Catholics have an authority structure that should save us from drifting into the bickering and divisive sectarian mentality.
All of our enterprises are meant to be built on the solid rock of Christ’s authority expressed through the ministry of Peter. Whatever our enthusiasms and projects, they must be subject to the mind of the Church. This is rarely easy. Church authorities often seem unimaginative, overly cautious and uninspired. They ignore, marginalize or block our pet projects. Sometimes they seem to be working for the other side. Nevertheless, we do not go and “do our own thing.”
The real obedience to the Church I have discovered in Catholicism has been amazing. I realize there are many disobedient Catholics, but coming from a free-for-all evangelical background, I cannot express how impressed I am by the spirit of obedience I have discovered among ordinary Catholics.
The beautiful truth is that when their own enthusiasms and projects are tried and tested through obedience to the Church, their efforts are deeper and stronger than they ever would have been without such a trial.
Our example in all of this is St
Dwight Longenecker’s latest book,
Christianity Pure & Simple,
is a basic introduction to
the Catholic faith.
It is available from http://www.dwightlongenecker.com
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