Marino.matt_webWhen I was in Phoenix in Arizona I met Rev. Matthew Marino. Matt is the Episcopal Canon of Arizona for Youth and Adult Ministries. He serves out of the diocesan office in Phoenix, where we met for the first time in November last year. We had a delightful time and connected very easily. 

Matt has 30 years experience leading youth ministry in a variety of contexts (rural, suburban and urban) and across the economic and ethnic continuum. He has developed a variety of training programs including the two-year Youth Ministry Apprenticeship training for full-time youth directors, curriculums for Young Life's multi-ethnic Student-Staff and volunteers, and the Remuda Ranch Center Aftercare Recovery Workbook. He has a Master’s in Educational Leadership from Arizona State University and was a member of Fuller Theological Seminary's first Urban Youth Ministry Cohort. Matt is Canon for Youth and Young Adults, leads the YMA training and a church plant team at St. Jude's, Phoenix. Matt's passion is developing a generation of Christian leaders in the Anglican tradition. Matt and Kari, his bride of 23 years, have two high school aged children. As a family they like to sail, read and eat. Preferably all at the same time . . . and in San Diego.

Matt began reading the ACT 3 Weekly shortly after we met up in November. He wrote this to me just a few days ago:

Dear John,

Thank  you for this ACT 3 Weekly series on "Churchless Christianity." I had a twitter conversation last night with a college kid who left my ordination service (in July of 2011) and got into it with three guys on his college campus who were arguing, "We don't need the church to follow Christ." It seems to me that if church is just a good pot of coffee, a message and a few songs, then those people might be right: they don't need a lot to be that attractive meeting place for a church that is trying so hard to attract them.

If the visible church is what it was originally: A gathering OF the body of Christ FOR the body of Christ, then this wouldn't even be a [serious] conversation. The church created it's own irrelevance when we made church into a meeting for the unchurched. Given the church they know, the "Jesus and me" group are right — a Christian really doesn't much need the church. It is like my freshman son with Young Life: I wish he would go to the meetings in order to use it as a vehicle to reach his friends for Christ- but he feels zero NEED to go himself. 

However, when the faithful gather to participate in both the Word AND the Sacraments as Jesus taught us, drawing strength from His Spirit and from one another to go into the world to actually love the least, last and lost, then there is real spiritual power in the church meeting as the church. Let us follow the model of the earliest Christians and meet to spur one another on to love and good deeds in the sanctifying presence of the Word read, sung, preached and responded to and the mystery of the sanctifying presence of God in the family meal of the body of Christ — the Eucharist. Then we will be propelled into the world as a multi-ethnic, multi-economic picture of the unifying power of God's grace to transform hearts, families and communities. 
You can't get that on TV or You Tube! 

Blessings,

Matt

NOTE: If you are not presently receiving these ACT 3 Weekly articles go to www.act3online.com and begin a free subscription now.