August 21, 2015

Evangelization Supplement

FOCUS founder defines evangelization, catechesis, encountering Christ and building disciples

Brad Macke, left, religion teacher and campus minister at Oldenburg Academy in Oldenburg, asks a question of Curtis Martin, founder and chief executive officer of Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), after a session at the St. John Bosco conference in Steubenville, Ohio. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Brad Macke, left, religion teacher and campus minister at Oldenburg Academy in Oldenburg, asks a question of Curtis Martin, founder and chief executive officer of Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), after a session at the St. John Bosco conference in Steubenville, Ohio. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

STEUBENVILLE, OHIO—Encountering Christ. Building disciples.

These are key terms discussed at parish staff meetings and heard from the pulpit.

How are they accomplished? Through two other often-heard words: evangelization and catechesis.

What do these terms and words really mean, and how do they play out in the lives of everyday Catholics, as well as those who teach the faith?

Curtis Martin, founder and chief executive officer of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), addressed these questions during his keynote speech on July 16 at the St. John Bosco Conference for Catechists and Religious Educators in July at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio.

Here are excerpts from his talk on defining evangelization and catechesis, addressing how to help people encounter Christ, and how to build up disciples.

‘I don’t know’ and ‘I don’t care’

“A teacher posed a question to his students one day: ‘How do you define ignorance and apathy?’

“One girl rolled her eyes and said, ‘I don’t know, and I don’t care.’ And the teacher said, ‘Exactly!’

“So how does this play into evangelization and catechesis?

“Evangelization addresses the apathy, the ‘I don’t care.’ Evangelization is sharing the Gospel message.

“Once they know about it and care about it, then there’s no longer apathy. They thirst for more, and then you can teach all there is forever about the Catholic faith.

“But evangelization has to come first. If you try to teach the faith without them caring about it, you’ll lose them.

“Likewise, if you try to evangelize but then don’t catechize, they won’t know what they really believe.”

Wrestling with Scripture, encountering Christ

“Pope Benedict said, ‘I am convinced that if Catholics would begin to pray through the Scriptures daily’—what the Church calls lectio divina—‘it would bring about the new springtime.’

“Daily. Prayerful. Reading of the Scriptures.

“Don’t read [Scripture] piously—wrestle with it. Wrestle with the things you don’t understand. If you read something you don’t understand, stop. Pray about it. ‘Lord, what do you mean?’

“And wrestle with the things you do understand: ‘Lord, you want me to forgive how many times? I understand what you’re saying, but boy, that’s a lot! I can’t do that!’

“Read slowly. Don’t just read to check it off your daily list. Read to engage your mind and your imagination. Picture what’s going on. Place yourself there.

“Here’s what that looks like for me. Take Luke 24:27, where Christ is on the road to Emmaus after his resurrection and joins up with some travelers: ‘And beginning with Moses and all of the prophets, he interpreted for them all the Scriptures that concerned himself’ (Lk 24:27).

“This is the greatest Bible study in the history of the world—and there’s not a single sentence about what he said!

“But turn [forward] a page, and the beginning of [the Gospel of] John gives a detail about him following Jesus, and it’s four o’clock in the afternoon. Why that little detail, but nothing about what Christ said when he interpreted the Old Testament for the travelers to Emmaus? I wrestled with that.

“But after praying about it, it hit me after a time. John was an old guy when he wrote the Gospel. He maybe thought, ‘Where do I begin?’

“Then he goes back to the beginning, the day he met Jesus Christ. ‘I remember it like yesterday! It was four o’clock in the afternoon. Everything in my life changed forever from that hour.’

“So ask yourself, what is your watershed hour? Peter was mending nets. Saul was on the road to Damascus. For me, I was in college.

“When you read the Scripture, sometime—maybe today, maybe next week, maybe in a year—you’ll encounter Christ. Encounter leads to conversion.”

Three versus one million

“Once someone has had an encounter with Christ, the way to lead them to the Church or back into the Church is through accompaniment.

“You see, programs don’t lead people to Christ—people lead people to Christ. The program is just the skeleton.

“At the great commissioning [Mt 28:16-20], Jesus didn’t say, ‘I’m giving you two choices: programs or discipleship.’

“Programs are fine—as long as they’re raising up disciples. If you build programs instead of disciples, you’ll never get where you need to go.

“The model of discipleship we use in FOCUS is the model that Jesus not only commanded, it’s the one he modeled.

“Say you have somebody with the gift of evangelization, and they can reach a million people a year, and they do that their whole life.

“A million people a year—while awesome—won’t get the job done. Ten million people a year won’t get the job done. One hundred million people are born every year—reaching 10 million people a year, you’re down 90 million each year.

“Here’s what Jesus did. He started with Peter, James and John.

“Jesus spent most of his time with those three. What if you touched just three people?”

[At this point, Martin had three people in the audience of more than 400 stand, then asked each of them to touch three people and have them stand. He then asked those 12 people to touch three people and have them stand, etc. Within two minutes, all present were standing.]

“So after a year of investing time in three people—you spend hours with them, developing a deep friendship, sharing faith, praying, loving and caring for them—maybe each of them is ready to touch three people and invest time in them.

“This demonstration shows the power of discipleship. Three doesn’t look like very many—especially versus a million. But you set up a tidal wave of energy.

“The model Jesus used didn’t set up a billion followers. He raised up a dozen and said, ‘Go make more, and teach them to do the same’ [Mark 3: 13-15].

“Imagine if one person reached just two people, not three. Then those two reached just two people. In 25 years, you would reach 33 million people. And in the 33rd year—the amount of Christ’s time on Earth—you’d reach 8 billion people. That’s more than the number of people on the planet.

“A webpage may get a million hits, or a Facebook page get a million likes, but who is going to love those people? In this model, every single person on Earth would be known, loved and cared for. And every person would be knowing, loving and caring. Maybe it’s a little awkward getting that first conversation started—but heaven is worth the awkwardness.

“If we follow what Jesus said, to go forth and make believers—wait, no, that’s not what he said. Make students—no, that’s not what he said. Make Catholics—no, that’s not it either. He said to make disciples.

“To live discipleship is to call people first to the encounter, and then the accompaniment, then we can fulfill the new evangelization.” †

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