In the early 1940s, the Nazis dominated many countries in central Europe. And they were not neutral toward religion.
They sought to destroy the Catholic Church, sending thousands of priests and religious to concentration camps, silencing any opposition from religious leaders, prohibiting most public expressions of faith and outlawing education in the Christian life. The goal was to prevent the faith from being passed on to the younger generation and to indoctrinate young people in the Nazi ideology at school, in the media and in government-sponsored activities.
In this time of crisis, some laypeople heroically stepped up to lead underground groups and pass on the faith to the youth. One man named Jan Tyranowski led one of the most successful of these clandestine ministries with college-aged men, calling them Living Rosary groups.
Jan was a tailor in Nazi-ruled Poland. He was not a priest and had no formal training in theology. But at the risk of his own life, he opened his apartment to several young men to instruct them in the spiritual life and train them to form Living Rosary groups of their own with their peers. He was intentional in his ministry, reinforcing the basics of the faith and helping the men take the next steps in their relationship with Christ. He taught them how to root out sin, go deeper in prayer and discern God’s will. He opened up for them the beauty of the Rosary and the wisdom of the saints. He also trained them for mission, sending them to reach their peers with the Gospel.
His underground ministry had such a profound effect that 10 of the men involved went on to become priests. One of those priests was someone named Karol Wojtyła, the man who eventually became Pope St. John Paul II — the pope who had such a tremendous influence on the Church and the world.
The world may have never known Pope John Paul II if it wasn’t for the discipleship of Jan Tyranowski.
That’s the impact one ordinary Christian can have when they pour their life into leading others in Christian discipleship and mission. Venerable Jan Tyranowski may be one of the most influential people of the 20th century. It’s not because he rose to wealth, fame or power. It’s not for any great accomplishment that will ever be featured on CNN or secure a Nobel Prize. Rather, Jan simply invested himself personally in a few good men, leading them to encounter Christ at a deeper level and training them to go out and do the same for others. And those men went on to do great things, playing a crucial role in helping to preserve Catholic culture in Poland in a time of crisis. The world may have never known Pope St. John Paul II if it wasn’t for the missionary discipleship of Jan Tyranowski.
Discuss: What inspires you about the example of Venerable Jan Tyranowski? What do you think made him so effective in leading others?
YOUR MISSION, YOUR IMPACT
We might not be living under a totalitarian regime, but we do live in a culture that is increasingly hostile to Christianity. Almost everywhere we turn, we are bombarded with a secular outlook on life: in the shows we watch, in the music we listen to, in our schools, in our workplaces and with our peers. Who am I? Why am I here? What is love? What is marriage? What brings true happiness? Is there moral truth? Is there a God?
Many young people go to college without ever hearing the Gospel message or having the opportunity to be formed as a Christian disciple. Married couples don’t get much support from the culture to live a Christian marriage. Parents struggle to raise kids in today’s world, and parish leaders recognize that traditional methods of passing on the faith aren’t working in the new cultural situation. Like Poland in the 1940s, the Church once again needs missionary disciples like Jan Tyranowski who will work against this cultural opposition, form others to live as disciples of Jesus and train them to reach their peers with the Gospel.
That’s why your mission to lead others in discipleship is so important, and it comes with tremendous responsibility. The way you go about discipleship matters: how much prayer and planning you put into it; how well you form disciples in the faith; how well you train them for mission. If done well, with the right vision and with great care, you, like Jan Tyranowski, can change the world. If that’s going to happen, our discipleship with others must be intentional, like Jan’s.
What made Jan Tyranowski’s work in discipleship so powerful? He didn’t just hang out with his men and get to know them. He certainly lived authentic friendship with them, but he did so with a purpose: to invite them to become missionary disciples themselves. He didn’t just show up for meetings and shoot from the hip. He didn’t just start another program. And he did a lot more than pray with his men, help them with their problems and hold them accountable. He likely did some of that, but he also gave those he was leading an intentional formation in the faith and equipped them to go out to reach others.
These articles will help you accomplish that same formation. The articles collected here are tools to help you lead others to become missionary disciples. They’ll help you maximize your time with others for greater impact. They’ll provide more structure and depth to your investment in others while keeping things authentic and conversational. They’ll give you a map as you bring those you are leading on the journey of “Win, Build, Send” (see Preface). By using these articles effectively, you too can offer dynamic, transformative discipleship just like Venerable Jan Tyranowski.
Finally, we must remember that Jesus is the One who ultimately makes disciples, and he does this through his Church. Anyone we may be leading is technically not our own disciple, but a disciple of Jesus. Whether we are like Jan Tyranoski and find ourselves just a few steps ahead in life or one in a group of people striving to grow as Christian disciples, we are all on the journey of discipleship together and can encourage each other to grow in the imitation of Christ. It is our hope that these articles can equip you to lead others more effectively on this journey.
Discuss: In what ways has your experience in discipleship either resonated with or fallen short of the intentional discipleship of Venerable Jan Tyranowski? How might having discipleship resources like these help you give others more than what you could give them on your own?
DISCIPLESHIP AS CATHOLICS
It’s important to note that these articles are not simply the result of individual creative opinions about discipleship or “the FOCUS way” of doing things. Rather, these articles represent FOCUS’ attempt to live out and explain the Catholic Church’s vision for evangelization and discipleship. FOCUS simply seeks to follow what the Church teaches about proclaiming the Gospel and forming missionary disciples. These articles will equip you to do this well within the heart of Catholic Tradition.
We believe these articles will be a blessing for your discipleship with others in four main ways:
- Your discipleship will be more authentic and conversational, allowing you to have natural conversations with others about important topics in a one-on-one or a group setting.
- Your work in discipleship will be more repeatable, equipping others not only to live as disciples themselves, but also to go out and form others to become effective missionary disciples as well.
- Your discipleship will take the people you lead deeper in their formation.
- You will have great flexibility in your discipleship time.
HOW TO USE THE DISCIPLESHIP ARTICLES: 4 STEPS
These articles are designed to help you effectively lead others. As you plan to use these articles in your mission field, here are a few important steps to follow.
- Preparation: Read and pray through it on your own. Take time to pray through the articles yourself so you can speak to others from your own experience/encounter with Christ. Also pray to better discern where the people with whom you’re working are in their walk with Christ, what they need and what points you might want to emphasize to encourage them, inspire them or help them grow in a certain area.
- Master the stories and main ideas (the “Transferable Concepts”). Each article includes “Transferable Concepts,” key points you will want to reinforce in the conversation to ensure they are understood. These are important points that they need to grasp well, both for themselves and for the sake of others whom they might be called to journey with in discipleship down the road. So long as you communicate these main ideas, feel free to adjust the article to meet your needs.
- Keep it personal: Use the article as a tool to build authentic conversations. As you discuss the article, keep your conversation personal and authentic by sharing your own experiences, stories, examples from saints and examples of how these truths have personally impacted you. Feel free to add other questions or even depart from the article at times to let the conversation flow. Don’t just ask the discussion questions to complete a task in a process. Rather, use those discussion questions or others you come up with to facilitate a conversation.
- Takeaways/Next Steps. After discussing the article, talk together about what points inspired or challenged each of you the most. Share what you took away from the article and how you want to live these truths better. Ask the people you are working with what steps they might want to take to live out these truths in their own lives more intentionally. Remember, you are accompanying them on the journey of missionary discipleship. Use the article to start a process of transformation, but don’t let it end there.
Discuss: How might these articles help you be more effective in your mission? What do you need to do to prepare to use these articles?
Now that you understand what these articles are for and how to use them well, it’s time to use them in your mission. Remember, these articles aren’t primarily for you as the leader. This isn’t simply a book that you read and reflect upon. These articles are meant to be used to lead others in the Christian life and in mission.
For those of you already familiar with the idea of discipleship and leading others to become missionary disciples, it’s time to start using these articles in your mission. Discern the needs of the people you serve and begin forming them in an intentional way using this tool.
For those of you who aren’t as familiar with discipleship and how to lead others in this way, consider taking some time to read a few of the later articles in this book for yourself, particularly the article “A Vision for Missionary Discipleship: ‘Win, Build, Send.’” This article will give you an overview of the process of making missionary disciples.
Finally, the image below shows you which articles are meant to be led at each of the various phases in someone’s journey of discipleship. If you’d like more information on which articles to use with those whom you are serving, read the “For the Leader” section at the beginning of each main section. These will provide additional instructions regarding with whom you should use the articles in that section. That being said, be prudent in the way you use the articles and discern the needs of the people you are serving. Sometimes a later article might need to come earlier in the process, or vice versa, and that’s okay. What’s most important is that you form others well.
Take a few minutes to decide on some steps you can take to begin sharing these articles effectively.