Saint Peter has one of the best lines in all of Scripture: “These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning!” (Acts 2:15). This is, of course, Peter’s explanation to the people of Jerusalem about why the disciples seemed totally inebriated on Pentecost day.
You remember the story, right? All the disciples were in the upper room, cowering in fear. Suddenly, there was a rushing wind and tongues of fire filled up the room. And each of them were filled with the Holy Spirit. They rushed out into the streets and began proclaiming how great and powerful Jesus is.
And they are doing it in more than a dozen languages—languages none of them had ever spoken before.
Jesus? Great and powerful? Are these guys nuts? Wasn’t he the dude the Romans just crucified? They’ve got to be drunk.
Luke’s lesson for RCIA teams
Here is what is important about this story. Luke wasn’t wasting valuable papyrus just to describe a wacky day in the life of the disciples. He wanted his community to learn a lesson from the disciples’ example. And, by extension, the Church wants us to learn the same lesson. And that is, be so excited about Jesus that it causes people to notice. And once you have their attention, explain why you are so excited.
Luke’s rendition of what Peter said that day is actually a homily. Luke probably heard it many times during his own conversion and may have preached it himself when he presided over the breaking of the bread. He wrote it down because it is a template for future disciples—you and me—to use when proclaiming the good news. The template has three parts. We can use those three parts as a model for evangelization.
God is always doing something. What has God done in your life that you are really excited about? What is the essence of what God did? What can you say about that divine action (miracle?) in a sentence or two that captures describes the power of God?
God did this powerful thing through Jesus. Once people notice our excitement, they will wonder why we are so happy. (Maybe they’ll think we’re drunk!) Our explanation has to include the story of Jesus. But when we are evangelizing, we don’t want to diverge into a full doctrinal explanation of Christology. We want to tell the story of how Jesus changed our lives. It is because Jesus saved me that I can now see these powerful things God is doing.
Once we have the listeners’ attention, and once we have told how it is Jesus changed our lives, we want to invite them into that same experience. We want to offer them all the promises of hope, peace, and joy that we have been given.
One important thing to keep in mind is that this kind of “proclamation” is not based in logic. It is not meant to be a rational argument. Think of it as when you first fell in love and you couldn’t wait to tell everyone around you. Nobody expected you to have cold, logical reasons for being ecstatic about your beloved. They were thrilled for you because you were thrilled. When we talk about our love for Jesus like that, we are proclaiming the good news that people of every language can understand.
Try it yourself
Why not give this a try right now? Share a story that uses the template Luke gave us. What has God done in your life lately? How is that a part of the story of how Jesus saved you? What would you invite your listener to do next?
4 thoughts on “Is your RCIA process a little drunk?”
That’s interesting. I learned a similar process from FOCUS missionaries to develop your testimony (the story of how you found or re-found Jesus) based on Paul’s story in Acts 26. It seems appropriate that his story is toward the end of Acts whereas Peter’s declaration is toward the beginning.
Hi Lindsay. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. Peter and Paul make a good team!
This post is a bit like your postings on creating a mystagogical experience through the dismissal discussion ( (1) What did you see, (2) what did you hear and (3) the so what? How does this apply today to me?).
In this case we could make it a mystagogical experience for the listener by
(1) opening with the brief happy/peaceful/life-changing/hopeful story of God acting in our life,
(2) linking my story experience to a story or action of Jesus in the Gospels,
(3) asking the listener if they have had an experience when they felt God (or Jesus) was doing something in their life, and
(4) the “so what” part – by listening to their response to hear clues/comments/descriptions that will enable the conversation to keep going. “How did you feel when . . . happened?” “What change did . . . . bring about for you?” “How does that experience affect you today?”
Even if the “God” experience was a negative for them, such as blaming God for something that happened, it gives the opportunity of extending the conversation further/deeper. Perhaps our role in this type of experience is to let the disappointment/hurt come to the surface and the start of a healing process.
This conversation extender opens the door for continued dialog, either right now or the opportunity to meet again and keep the conversation going.
So (5) becomes: “when can we meet again and spend some more time sharing about Jesus in our lives”?
In an earlier work-like I was involved in sales. We were taught some key points that are relevant here.
(1) always book a meeting from a meeting to keep the dialog going until the desired outcome (point 5 above), and,
(2) when a bad or negative experience was presented, always acknowledge it and never dismiss it as unimportant – “I can appreciate that you feel that way” asking why they feel that way about the experience (listen with both ears, this will be the clues to keep the conversation going) and then link that experience to a positive or desired outcome.
In our case it could be to give an example of someone in the Gospels having a bad experience and the consequences of letting Jesus get involved – e.g. Martha and Mary and their disappointment on the death of Lazarus, the disciples on the road to Emmaus, etc.
By the way, my experience in sales was not one that I liked and I was glad when I moved onto something more stimulating, however a lot of what I learned in my earlier work career(s) is now coming back to help me in RCIA.
Hi Max. Thanks for your as-usual great insights. I don’t have any formal background in sales, but I had to learn some things in order to get TeamRCIA up and running. Like you, I find a lot of business and sales ideas apply very effectively to initiation ministry. We are, after all, trying to convince people about the value of the good news. I’m happy to sell that.