The Kerygma: An Old Word and a New Evangelization

Scott Elmer

Since Pentecost (Around 33 A.D.), the Church has been preaching a message of salvation which we call the Kerygma. Simply, the Kerygma is the announcement about Jesus Christ, his life, mission, and saving actions. It is related to the “Gospel” which, before it was associated with Jesus, was associated with new emperors and kings to announce a new kingdom. That is precisely the way in which we, 2,000 years later, are still called to preach the Kerygma, to announce the Kingdom of Jesus Christ and invite all men and women into it.

Every single person is called to make a personal response to the saving message of Jesus Christ. This is constitutive of being a Christian. While it is true that the Gospel transcends time and culture, we can see historically that the way in which the Gospel is preached should be adapted to the culture it is seeking to enrich and transform. In light of this, I wish to offer some tips on preaching the Gospel to our current culture in this New Evangelization. I’m focusing on general themes/overtones and it should be assumed that when preaching the Kerygma, we are always proclaiming the salvific events of the Paschal Mystery.

1. God is good.

One of the best intros to a sermon I’ve ever heard was, “God’s in a good mood today.” Within the Church, we tend to have a distorted image of God’s goodness and believe he is punishing us or withholding blessings for past sins, or doesn’t want to help us because “it’s not his will.” In truth, God’s response to our sins was sending Jesus to die on a cross while forgiving the ones who made it happen. At Cana, Mary wasn’t concerned about it being God’s will to change water into wine, she just asked boldly in faith because she knows God is good. We can’t underestimate his goodness.

2. Jesus is the answer to every desire you have.

This proclamation combats the common belief that Church is always telling everyone how to live their lives and should mind its own business. There is not one desire in the human heart which is not meant to be fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Even sinful desires are expressions of your longing for what only God can give. Lust is generally a desire for intimacy, companionship, or power. Greed is a desire to be fulfilled completely. Wrath is almost always a desire for justice. Everything you desire can be found in the Kingdom of Heaven. People need to hear what God wants to do for them, not what they need to do to please God.

3. Call for a Response.

Many times, the message just isn’t enough. No one gets engaged by merely telling their girlfriend how much they love them, they ask them to marry them. We recently hosted an Unbound conference in Denver and after each talk the speaker gave, we had 20-25 minutes of “wall prayer” where people could just walk up to any of the prayer teams (Who were lined up along the wall) and pray with real people in response to what the Lord was moving in their hearts during the talk. So many times, we hear great talks or even give great presentations of the Gospel and then walk away from them without making an act of the will for Christ. When you tell someone how good God is, ask them if they want to receive more of his love and presence in their lives. Then pray with them right there. Simple prayers are just as effective as elegant ones and they take less time. I love “repeat after me prayers” because then the person chooses to pray with their own voice.

If you have heard the Kerygma and responded with your words and actions, the Kingdom of God is inside you. If you don’t know if the Spirit of God is living and active inside you, ask God for more. Ask God boldly for a greater outpouring of his Holy Spirit because he never tires of giving good gifts to his children. In this Easter season, let us stir into flame the gifts of the Holy Spirit, vow to take advantage of the next opportunity we have to tell someone what God has done for them., and continually pray, “More Lord.” Leif Hetland said it best: “You teach what you know, but you reproduce what you are.” Let your Kingdom come, Lord.

COMING UP: Who is Jesus Christ?

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Who is Jesus Christ?

Alpha takes Christianity back to the basics

Aaron Lambert

As Catholics, it’s so easy to get caught up in the doctrine and dogma and theology of the Church that we often forget the fundamental question of Christianity: Who is Jesus Christ?

Alpha seeks to remedy this. The easiest way to describe Alpha would be to call it an evangelization tool, but as its proponents will say, it’s much more than that. Aimed primarily at people who have no experience with Christianity or the Church, Alpha is an introduction to the Kerygma, a Greek word meaning “teaching” and used to describe the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ, upon which the Christian faith and all of its tenets are founded.denv

Originally started in the Anglican church, Alpha is designed to be used across all Christian denominations. The program is currently used in several parishes in the Archdiocese of Denver, including St. Joseph’s Parish in Golden, Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Northglenn, St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Denver and Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Denver. The program is endorsed by the Office of Evangelization and Family Life Ministries as one of three programs for parishes to utilize for evangelization efforts.

Alpha serves as a great starting point for those exploring the Church and many parishes have opted to use it as a supplement to RCIA, which assumes that a person has already taken the first step toward being a Christian—namely, entering and actively pursuing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. While RCIA is intended more as a means of catechesis, Alpha is a simple introduction to the Christian faith that can spark deeper conversion, said Scott Elmer, director of evangelization and family life ministries. However, he noted that the two should not be dependent on one another.

“[Alpha] could help people to make a decision to give themselves to Christ and enter into RCIA, but it shouldn’t be bound by that,” he said.

St. Joseph’s Parish in Golden is currently conducting its second session of Alpha. Andrew McGown, director of faith formation for the parish, implemented the program last year, and some people enjoyed it so much the first time that they’re going through it again. 

“It’s a safe place to come and really informally get a taste of Christianity and build relationships, which are really at the heart of Alpha,” McGown told Denver Catholic.

A typical Alpha night starts off with a free meal, followed by a talk, done either live or in the form of a video, and is capped off with a small group discussion. The casual nature of the program is a big part of its allure, McGown said, and makes it easy to invite people to.

“It’s a totally different atmosphere than any other church program. The three proposition statements of Alpha are: no cost, no pressure and no follow-up,” McGown said. “It’s always free, we’re not going to pressure you into doing anything you don’t want to do, and we’re not going to track you down and guilt you into coming back. It’s safe to try.”

While the program is designed with non-Christians in mind, McGown stressed that practicing Christians should not write the program off as being too basic or below them.

“The great things about Alpha is it’s not so focused on non-Christians that that someone who is coming to Mass couldn’t benefit from it,” he said. “It’s a revisiting of the Kerygma, the most basic proclamation of the Gospel, and we all need that.”

Mid-way through the program, Alpha participants go on a day-long retreat that’s meant to be an introduction to the Holy Spirit. This experience is often very powerful for those in Alpha, and is the “crux of the whole Alpha model,” McGown said. “It’s a chance to pray and be prayed over … and really experience God in a profound and personal way.”

Brandon Young, director of communications for Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish and a Catholic convert of two years, had such an experience on this retreat when he was in Alpha. Young had always had a relationship with God throughout his life, but he had never stepped foot inside a church before entering Alpha. At the time, the program was used as Immaculate Heart of Mary’s RCIA program, and Young entered because he felt like God was calling him to “step it up.”

He couldn’t have predicted the impact Alpha would have on him.

“Still, to this day, the most intense, personal encounter [with Christ] I’ve ever had in my entire life was part of Alpha,” Young said. “When we did the retreat, I felt the Holy Spirit enter me and Jesus talk to me so clearly that I couldn’t keep it together. It was overwhelming.

“After they were done praying over me, I left and went to the sanctuary and just wept. My heart had felt something it had never felt before.”

As a convert, Young said he can be critical of some cradle Catholics who are catechized really well, “but don’t know how to have a one-on-one relationship with Christ.”

[Alpha], for the first time, just let me focus on that, without any external influences,” he said. “It’s not Christianity 101, but it’s, ‘Who is Jesus, and how can I have a loving relationship with him?’ If we’re all called to be disciples, we need to understand Jesus.”

To learn more about Alpha, visit alpha.org. A new Alpha program starts at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish May 1.