We lead others to Christ by intentionally accompanying them.

You may have heard the phrase ‘people not programs’. The phrase means that when it comes to evangelization we need to focus on the people in front of us, and not the program that we’re using. It’s something we often struggle to do especially if we do evangelization within the context of a Parish or group setting. Our heart and zeal for evangelization compel us to reach out to as many people as possible. To do this we turn to programs such as Alpha, Saint Andrew’s School of Evangelization and even CCO’s own material to convert the masses. In the process, we can lose sight of the individuals sitting in front of us. Intentional accompaniment is our proposed solution to the ‘people not programs’ dilemma. Interested in learning more? Read this exclusive excerpt of Clear and Simple by Andre Regnier.

Intentional Accompaniment: The Heart and Soul of Evangelization

One of the foundational tenets of CCO is “One person at a time.” This means that our evangelization is focused on personal relationships. As a movement seeking to fulfill the Great Commission, that of making missionary disciples for Christ, we believe it’s necessary that these relationships be about intentionally accompanying a person on their journey towards becoming a missionary disciple and growing in union with God. Because of how fundamental these ideas are to the thesis of this book, throughout this chapter I’ll quote substantial sections of an internal document developed by CCO that deals with this subject.

Before defining intentional accompaniment, let’s clarify what accompaniment means in this context:

freindship at Rise UpAccompaniment is walking alongside another on their pilgrimage to the Father. The pilgrimage is not your own; it is the pilgrimage of the one you accompany. The missionary cannot walk this pilgrimage for anyone. Each person must walk their own pilgrimage. However, the missionary can act as a guide along the way. Like a mountain climbing guide, the missionary has been through this journey before and continues their own personal journey. Through the wisdom gleaned from their own guides and from experience, the missionary can help others navigate their pilgrimage. The missionary knows where to go to reach the goal, and so they can lead the pilgrim to their final destination, which is Christ himself. The missionary has not reached the final destination (i.e., heaven), nor have they achieved perfection in their own pilgrimage. They are, however, further along, the path and that means that they can guide new pilgrims who are just starting their pilgrimage. As the missionary continues further down the pilgrimage route, they can continue to direct pilgrims along the paths they have already traveled. (“Intentional Accompaniment”)

This definition helps clarify a few key points. Each person, we understand, must make their own journey; no one else can make it for them. That being said, the missionary disciple can supply the guidance, knowledge, and encouragement they’ve gained from their own spiritual journey to help another pilgrim on their way to Christ. It is not that the missionary disciple is already a saint or someone in perfect union with God; rather, they’ve simply traveled this part of the journey before and can put their wisdom and experience at the service of another.

As an addendum to this, it’s worth recalling that the missionary disciple is not the one leading the pilgrimage:

The goal is not for the pilgrim to follow the missionary. Christ himself is the leader on the pilgrimage of discipleship and, therefore, the goal of the pilgrim is to follow Christ. They are to become a disciple of Christ, not a disciple of their missionary guide. The missionary must always keep the pilgrim focused on Christ. As Evangelii Gaudium states, “Spiritual accompaniment must lead others ever closer to God, in whom we attain true freedom” (Evangelii Gaudium). (“Intentional Accompaniment”)

What, then, do we mean by “intentional accompaniment”?

In one of his post-Resurrection appearances, Jesus commissioned his Apostles to share in his ministry to the world: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (John 20:21). The Church, therefore, shares in Christ’s ministry to reconcile the world to the Father. It is Christ who has accomplished this reconciliation, but he invites us to be a part of the mission to make disciples of all nations (cf. Matthew 28:19-20), which we accomplish through Accompaniment. However, this accompaniment should not be aimless. When Jesus invites the Apostles into his ministry in the Great Commission, he specifically commands them to make disciples. To make something requires an intention and a plan. This is why we refer to our ministry specifically as Intentional Accompaniment. The role of the missionary is to engage in Prophetic Listening, putting together a strategic plan to incarnate the Lord’s prophetic vision for the individual.

freindship on mission

Of course, one cannot make a disciple on their own; it is a work of the Holy Spirit in both the individual and the missionary. However, the multiplying missionary cannot simply walk alongside someone and hope they become a disciple of Christ. The multiplying missionary must have an intentional plan of how to make a disciple, and ultimately a multiplying missionary. (“Intentional Accompaniment”)

Again, there are several key points to draw from this explanation. We understand that reconciliation with God has been achieved through Christ, and that conversion is ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit. At the same time, we accept the commission that Christ gave us to “make disciples of all nations,” a call to deliberate action and intentionality. Christ desires our “yes” to the call to mission, just as he awaits our “yes” to his saving love.

In light of this, we need to resist, on the one hand, the temptation to imagine the work of salvation depends entirely on our own efforts as missionaries and, on the other, the temptation to take a passive attitude towards evangelization, imagining that God would never ask for deliberate, intentional cooperation from us to fulfill his plans. We need to offer authentic friendship to the people in our lives, but also investigate the lay of the land. We should look for signs of where a person is on their journey to Christ, asking the Holy Spirit to show us how to help them take the next step forward in their spiritual journey, while never losing sight of the ultimate goal of spiritual accompaniment, which is union with Christ. We need to share the Lord’s dream for each person.

As an aside: Certainly people in our lives can and do come to God despite our lack of particular attention to their souls. Still, it would be dangerously presumptuous to “opt out” of the call to mission on these grounds. Indeed, our God is a miracle-worker and a prodigiously loving Father, not limited by the response of his children; however, we should consider that a person’s un-looked-for conversion may be the fruit of a seed sown by someone else, long ago, or of graces won by another missionary’s suffering, prayer, and sacrifice, perhaps in another time or place. God asks for our assent to his plan, and his plan is to spread the Gospel through his disciples.

CCO’s document on intentional accompaniment provides this helpful analogy

Consider a gardening analogy: A seed has all the potential it needs to grow into what is meant to be; it just needs the right environment. A gardener intentionally plants the seed in fertile ground, and in a place where it will get sun; he waters it; he weeds around it. He needs to continually evaluate what can be done to provide an optimal environment for that plant to thrive. However, the gardener does not provide the actual growth. 

intentional accompaniment

In a similar way, our role as Multiplying Missionaries is to provide an environment and intentionally create conditions for people to grow into Multiplying Missionaries. Through the Holy Spirit, each individual already has all the potential to become a Multiplying Missionary, and the Holy Spirit will be the one who gives the needed graces to activate this potential. The missionary’s job is to support the work of the Holy Spirit by trying to provide the best environment for growth. We do this by engaging in Prophetic Listening, being attentive to the Holy Spirit’s plans for the individual and responding to the Spirit’s promptings by creating intentional plans to help foster their spiritual growth. This plan is carried out in the context of a relationship of Intentional Accompaniment. (“Intentional Accompaniment.”)

We also need to emphasize, however, that this model emphatically rejects the idea of turning human relationships into “projects”: At the heart of all Intentional Accompaniment is relationship. As St. Paul wrote, “So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves because you have become very dear to us” (2 Thessalonians 2:8). Without genuine relationships of trust, we risk our Intentional Accompaniment becoming a task to be completed, and people may become goals to be accomplished rather than brothers and sisters with transcendent dignity. It is on the basis of relationships of trust that we may be granted the privilege of having influence in the life of someone else, and through this influence be granted the opportunity to Intentionally Accompany them on their pilgrimage to the Father. (“Intentional Accompaniment”)

In other words, we’re called to cherish the relationships God has entrusted to us, caring for each person the way Christ cares for them. We “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15), experiencing genuine compassion and concern for them, even apart from their current openness or lack of openness to Christ. A more detailed explanation of this attitude is helpful: We should never befriend someone simply with the ulterior motive to evangelize. The missionary should always be seeking to build loving, genuine relationships that are based in the personal care for another.

At the same time, we know that the most loving thing that we can do for another is to introduce them to Christ, who can bring them ultimate fulfillment and happiness in this life and the next. Our love for others should, therefore, compel us to want to share the Gospel with them.

intentional accompanimentOur Witnessing is therefore two-fold. We want to build solid friendships with others first and foremost for the sake of good friendships. As these relationships develop, we should always be mindful to be offering an inviting and contagious witness to the faith that might help our friend begin to develop a curiosity towards the faith. It is important to note that the speed at which these relationships will grow will vary. It may take five minutes or five years to establish a relationship of trust. Prophetic Listening will help us to determine how quickly the relationship is progressing. (“Intentional Accompaniment”)

While patience and faithfulness in developing trust are invaluable, and a fruit of genuine love, I want to re-emphasize part of this message: sometimes trust develops very quickly. Indeed, there are likely many relationships in our lives where that trust already exists. In the Church, we often talk about people today (whether baptized or not) seeming uninterested in or closed to the Gospel, perhaps because they haven’t overtly expressed religious curiosity. I’d argue that many of these people likely are open, and may even be curious about our faith, but are waiting for us to make the “first move” in terms of talking about the Gospel.

Are we sufficiently aware of these opportunities? I suspect we underestimate the frequency with which God invites us to share the reason for our hope. Again, however, we must be sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and gauge the level of trust in any relationship. In extreme cases, it may be years before a person is willing even to listen to an explanation of who Jesus is. Genuine love trusts that those years of friendship are never wasted.

 

You can purchase your copy of the popular Clear and Simple: How to have Conversations that lead to conversion HERE if you are in Canada, and HERE if you live in the US.

Listen to the latest episode of the Missionary Disciple Podcast to listen to an in-depth discussion on intentional accompaniment. You can listen directly off of our website, on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher.

Share this page:

Leave a Reply