Book review: “One Disciple at a Time: How to Lead Others to Dynamic, Engaged, Life-changing Faith”
“One Disciple at a Time: How to Lead Others to Dynamic, Engaged, Life-changing Faith.” By Everett Fritz. Indiana: Ave Maria Press, 2022. 128 pages. Paperback: $14.95; Kindle: $11.49; Nook: $11.49.
In his new book, “One Disciple at a Time: How to Lead Others to Dynamic, Engaged, Life-changing Faith,” Everett Fritz continues the theme he developed in his earlier book, “The Art of Forming Young Disciples: Why Youth Ministries Aren’t Working and What to Do about It.” For those interested in or already involved in evangelization at any level, you’ll be relieved to discover that neither book contains yet another pre-packaged program for you to try. If anything, Fritz presents to the reader what could accurately be called the ultimate “non-program” program.
The explanation for that is simple. Rather than focus on large groups and ready-made materials, Fritz invites us down the more thought-provoking, life changing – and perhaps unsettling — path of deep commitment to just one person, one small group at a time. This is where true discipleship is fostered, he maintains, but it involves a tremendous commitment on the part of those who would do the reaching out. “A program doesn’t often require us to invest in the lives of other people, and we never have to trouble ourselves with discovering another person’s wounds, pain, crosses, and sin,” he says. “If we want to produce the greatest fruit and have the highest impact in the world, we need to first focus on the work that it takes to develop holiness within one individual instead of working on trying to minister to all the needs of the masses.”
This, of course, begs the question “So how do I do that?” While not offering a scripted response, Fritz does talk about certain steps that one can take to use such an approach. And though each chapter concludes with reflection questions for individuals and small groups, it is the questionnaire in chapter one which is most interesting. “Before we can even consider all the different steps that it takes to form a lifelong follower of Jesus Christ and his Church,” he says, “we must first evaluate ourselves and our temperaments.” The questions he then poses for consideration can, if answered honestly, indicate whether or not we have the temperament of, as he puts it, a “Pharisee or a Messiah.” Needless to say, the more we become like the Messiah the better we will also be at this type of ministry.
There are a few basic principles that he emphasizes. The first, and arguably the most important, is that a personal, one-to-one invitation to the faith has to be made. Most parishes, he argues, communicate with people through the bulletin or the church’s Facebook page, but this is the least effective way of reaching the ones who need to be reached. “For the most part, no one is going to feel invited,” he says. “But inviting someone out for coffee, for instance, gets much better results.”
Once that invitation has been made, there are a few things the person who has issued the invitation must pay attention to. First, he or she must be willing and able to witness to the faith, not just talk about it. The very way one lives needs to be a compelling reason to explore these ideas further. Be sure to listen deeply and without judgment to the person you have invited, their concerns, wounds, and heartaches. Go with them to a conference, a parish mission, or just a good speaker, and then share what the experience meant. Become a person of deeper prayer and be willing to help the other embrace and carry whatever cross they are struggling with.
Finally, make the commitment to be there through the long haul. And finally, as Fritz says at the end of the book, “We need laborers in the vineyard who will answer the call to go and make disciples of all nations. That process can start with the simple act of inviting your neighbor out to lunch.”
Everett Fritz is founder and executive director of Andrew Ministries, a nonprofit devoted to training parishes in discipleship and family-based youth ministry and is the author of “The Art of Forming Young Disciples.” Fritz earned an associate’s degree from Holy Cross College, a bachelor’s degree in theology from Franciscan University of Steubenvill, and a master’s degree in theology from the Augustine Institute. He and his wife, Katrina, live with their three children in Colorado.