For decades the Church has been shrinking throughout the United States despite a time of rapid demographic growth. Simultaneously, we have never had greater catechetical resources and been less equipped to bring the truth of our faith into the public square. To quote Gaudium et Spes, the great constitution on the Church in the modern world:
As a result . . . growing numbers of people are abandoning religion in practice. Unlike former days, the denial of God or of religion, or the abandonment of them, are no longer unusual and individual occurrences. For today it is not rare for such things to be presented as requirements of scientific progress or of a certain new humanism. In numerous places these views are voiced not only in the teachings of philosophers, but on every side they influence literature, the arts, the interpretation of the humanities and of history and civil laws themselves. As a consequence, many people are shaken (Gaudium et Spes, 7).
We know we can do better!
Despite the existence of great catechetical resources, we have yet to set up a pre-evangelization approach that is relevant in the post-modern world. It’s time to explore how to help our faithful engage fallen-away Catholics and the post-Christian public square in a way that is attractive, non-threatening, and thought-provoking.
Our challenge is to engage our parishioners, fallen-away Catholics, and the public square in a new way. We have been asked to create a theme that could be applied to a conference, a pew-facing campaign, various entities, and, eventually, a public-facing campaign to engage our various constituents. It’s time for the Church to once again do what the Church has done throughout history: talk to REAL people in a REAL way.
Why the title “More Than You Realize?”
“More Than You Realize” has been chosen precisely because it respects the process of conversion as described not only in Church documents but also in recent books like Forming Intentional Disciples by Sherry Weddell. Curiosity or interest is always required before an idea can be engaged — for example, just consider any teacher trying to motivate a student in his or her least favorite subject. The title, any logos, and even any public-facing messaging are not designed to give answers to questions people aren’t asking. Rather, they are intended to prompt curiosity and pose additional questions.
Further, when speaking to converts or particularly reverts, it’s inevitable that sentences like “It’s just so much deeper than I thought!” or “Why didn’t they teach me that as a kid?” or, literally, that some aspect of the faith was “more than I realized” comes up. Precisely because the public knows something about Catholicism already, we must cleverly lead them to see they’ve only touched the surface. Then, they will be open to curiosity, allowing them to be more deeply engaged in the process of conversion.
WHAT IS MTYR FOR?
To those of us striving to be missionary disciples: It’s a reminder of our own important role in Christ’s mission.
To those we encounter: It’s meant to spark curiosity. It’s an invitation for you to engage others in the way you’re most comfortable.
What it can become: It will grow into two separate digital platforms that offer both short and long form discussions that will have multiple uses:
- MTYR.Church will focus on disciples of Jesus Christ who will drive our movement.
- MTYR.org will compete on social media for the right to be heard and will iterate as necessary to grow an audience from both Christian and secular audiences.
- Some of our best minds will explore the topics people are really talking about in a way that is interesting or thought-provoking.
- Model for disciples how to enter into or lead discussions related to these topics. You’ll be able to join small groups in your area for training and discussion.
- Provide content capable of competing for attention in the virtual public square currently dominating discourse (social media).
- Free, shareable, no log-ins, and plenty of room for your input.
Why isn’t it more overtly Catholic?
Every campaign must begin with where the audience is currently at and not where one might wish them to be. Therein lies the unique challenge of engaging constituents who lack formation — or “have fallen asleep” — and are immersed in a post-Christian culture. The title must avoid overtly Christian language, which must contend with individual hermeneutics that cripple logic. It cannot presuppose that one knows what the individual feels (e.g. “on fire”) or be overly dated or saccharin (e.g. “Rekindle the flame”).
Catechesis and traditional Catholic imagery were never meant to be the primary bridge from irrelevance to curiosity. In fact, the General Directory of Catechesis describes the dynamic process of evangelization as always operating “by slow stages,” beginning first with “Christian witness, dialogue, and presence in charity” (47). Church documents call this process of creating that bridge to curiosity “pre-evangelization.” It’s why we often hear the phrase, “Meet them where they’re at.” However, we rarely see it done outside of our Catholic echo chamber. So, when you see our logo, or wonder why we’ve taken this approach, realize that we are utilizing curiosity as a bridge to deeper interest. Is it very different? We hope so. Our brand and our message are going where we haven’t gone successfully before — into the public square.
What is the methodology?
Our methodology draws from the rich tradition of those who came before us. We strive to employ the models put forth by the great evangelists and teachers throughout all of Church history. We hope to be bold like Paul, who walked into the Areopagus to encounter the Athenians’ practice of worshipping an “Unknown God” and used it as a bridge to an encounter with Christ (Acts 17:16–34). We want to be agile like Justin Martyr, who employed the existing Greek philosophy of his day to draw his contemporaries into the mystery of the Logos. We will use the logic of Thomas Aquinas, recognizing that we must first understand people’s objections as “difficulties that can be answered,” so as to meet them there and help them ask the greater questions, rather than “proving the articles of faith by reasoning” (Summa Theologiae, I, 1, Q. 8).
We need to begin our conversations with neighbors, friends, or co-workers by appealing to those desires that are woven into our nature — the desire for truth, for eternity, or for happiness. We hope to help people understand the things closest to them in their nature, dissolve post-Christian filters through reason, and leave our audience with a disposition of curiosity, thus allowing them to become more receptive to grace. If we approach our audience by dealing with something we are all wired to long for in our nature, we can then introduce a Gospel that contains the answer.
Why the eye chart?
We hoped to take something we’ve all seen before and use it in a new way. Because “More Than You Realize” is all about seeing something from a new perspective — or seeing a subject more clearly — we began with an eye chart. The stacked letters, with a large “M,” allude to an eye chart that tests your vision as an invitation to leave assumptions behind and look closer. The “R” is displayed backwards intentionally because many have facts about the Church backwards. Though the primary logo is black and white, there is a large selection of approved colors to accent the black logo and bring life to its mysterious appearance. Overall, the logo is intended to be playful and non-threatening, and is designed to be more accessible as a conversation starter. It prompts a question with its mystery. Informal testing has received a great response, particularly with those under 40. To put it simply, the logo is designed to draw you in — to invite you to stop and look more deeply at something that just might be more than you realize.