The Advancing Kingdom & Tres Dias
By Rev. Christopher Leighton
I believe that the Kingdom of heaven is advancing and that God expands his Kingdom at the edges. Like a rising tide, God’s work goes forward, affecting those in the Kingdom and those entering it.
I experienced my first weekend in Pittsburgh, PA, in 1980. It was the youth version of Cursillo, called “Happening.” Since then I have been on dozens of weekends as staff on Cursillo, Happening, Tres Dias, Emmaus, and Kairos (prison). I have come to believe that there are few experiences equal to these weekends as a force for creating that rising tide-a renewal of faith for those already in the church, and expansion of the kingdom to those who have never had an authentic encounter with Christianity.
For instance, I was priest-in-charge of a small family-sized church where people had relationship to one another in a church context without really understanding faith in the Lord. They held on, trying to keep the little church open for social and familial reasons. The entire congregation went on Tres Dias weekends, and in a year’s time, every member had a personal encounter with Christ. It was an experience akin to what John Wesley described when he said that, as a child of the church before his heart was “strangely warmed,” he had related to God as a servant, but now he knew he was a son. Once they came to know the Lord in a personal way, they realized that the church belonged to Him. And it began to grow as they reached out beyond themselves to the local community.
I have seen many individuals outside the church transformed by the Tres Dias weekend as they encounter authentic Christianity for the first time. Through the friendships begun on the weekend, and through the worship and prayer and the teaching of the rollos, non-churched people meet the Master and join His followers. They are then nurtured with their new friends in sequelas, reunion groups, and ministry in the local church.
Perhaps the greatest impact I have seen by the Tres Dias movement is as a training program for the ministry of the baptized. I’ve served in churches where the leaders have been spiritually formed by their involvement on Tres Dias teams. They learned how to serve Christ on Tres Dias. They gained confidence in their witness by the support of the community. Terry Fullam, my predecessor at St. Paul’s Church, Darien, CT, likened the need to activate those baptized to the situation at a football game. On the field there are 22 people in desperate need of a rest, while in the stands there are 60,000 people in desperate need of exercise. Tres Dias helps activate the latent faith of those “attending church.”
In my life as a father, I have seen the experience of “the weekend” produce lasting fruit in the lives of my four children. All four are walking with God as leaders. Two of them are clergy. Years ago on a Sunday evening following a weekend, our leadership team went to dinner at a local restaurant. The tables and booths could not contain the teenagers, who started moving about the restaurant, talking to the diners, even praying for them. Two servers came up to me and asked, “What happened to these kids?” I responded, “They have come to know and love Jesus Christ, and they want to share their faith with others.”
The Kingdom of heaven is advancing, and people who participate in Tres Dias experience the movement of the Kingdom at the edges.