A Center for Adult Mystagogia?

What we need

Walt’s Facebook feed is filled, on an almost daily basis, with screeds proclaiming the end of Christendom, the death of the church, the disolution of organized religion, or the terminal irrelevance of Chritianity.

It comes down to an organization, community, or life form forgetting why it lives, what its founding principles are. As a Baptist preacher’s kid, Walt grew up learning that the founding charter of the visible church was Matthew 28:19:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

One of the problems is that he was never taught to read and understand that scripture verse. There are three verbs in that sentence: go, make disciples, and baptize. His Baptist ancestors got the “go” part right, and even got most of the “baptize” part, and as an Episcopalian, Walt has a much better sense of the why of the “baptize,” but nobody seems to existentially grasp the rhetorical climax: “make disciples.”

Making disciples

Make disciples, matheteuo, doesn’t mean “convert”; it means to assist a student into participation in deep knowledge. Ignatius of Antioch originated an aphorism that traveled around the Early Church: “discipleship is the first step in witness,” but the Episcopal church seems to think it can have mission without knowledge.

Augustine’s program of Christian education had two phases: catechesis and mystagogia, separated by baptism, and the entire Christian community participated in the educational process for new Christians to renew their own commitment. Catechesis was focused on the ethical life and on scripture study. It laid the educational foundation for mystagogia, which centered on the sacramental life, theology proper, and prayer and ascetic discipline. For bishops such as Augustine, there was no real distinction between the people in the monastic life and those in the congregation, and his mystagogia of the people of Hippo went all the way to union with God.

Starving Christians >>