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By Jonah McKeown, Catholic News Agency, Sept. 27. 2018
– In a new book, evangelist Curtis Martin offers a plan to help equip the next “generation” of Christian disciples for evangelization.
Curtis Martin, co-founder of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, has spent 21 years working to build an organization that brings the message of the Gospel to students on college campuses.
“Making Missionary Disciples: How to Live the Method Modeled by the Master,” offers the lessons Martin says he’s learned from Jesus Christ over those years.
“Really what we’re trying to do is to invite people to learn the art of spiritual conversations,” Martin told CNA. “We hear homilies, but we seldom, as Catholics, discuss our faith over lunch. And I don’t mean discuss scandals…I mean [discuss] the great life of Jesus Christ, the great life of the saints, the great life of the heroes of the Old Testament.”
“If we learn the art of that conversation, we will become infectious, radiant Catholics who will radiate love and joy and mercy into the culture.”
This model presented in the book, he said, is not “novel” in the Church, but rather has been duplicated over and over again throughout the years, and is especially present in religious communities. St. Paul teaches in Corinthians that people were meant to learn by imitation, Martin said, and people need a human person in front of them setting an example.
“The purpose in creating missionary disciples is the very thing we’ve been doing in FOCUS for the last 21 years; that we could share that with people in other organizations, in families, in businesses, in parishes, in diocese, et cetera, because we think it’s going to bear great fruit there, and that’s what we’re seeing already.”
“We really believe that this book, and what we’re talking about, actually applies to [parents and professionals in diocese] maybe even more than it does the college campus,” Martin said. “The alumni are actually bearing more fruit than our full-time missionaries…We’re doing a second round of research to validate that.”
Martin highlights three main habits in the book that are “simple, but hard,” because they involve changing behavior to make evangelization possible. These three habits are Divine Intimacy, Authentic Friendship, and Clarity and Conviction about Spiritual Multiplication, which Martin calls “The Method Modeled by the Master.”
The first habit, Divine Intimacy, boils down to the fact that anyone who wants to teach others about the Catholic faith should, Martin said, have experienced the love of God in a personal way. Love of others, Martin said, should stem from a total love for God, as well as a foundation of the teachings of the Church, the Sacraments, fellowship with other believers, and of course, prayer.
“If I’m cold, or just lukewarm, I’m not going to able to communicate fire, the only way I can do that is to be on fire,” he said. “So Divine Intimacy is the foundation stone for everything else.”
The second habit, Authentic Friendship, comes when we cooperate with the grace God gives us for evangelization, Martin wrote in the book.
“I am willing to love you because I’ve already been love infinitely by God,” he said. “I don’t need you to fill me up; God is already doing that.”
The third habit is Clarity and Conviction about Spiritual Multiplication.
“I’m going to work with a few people, get very intentional about knowing about Christ, following Christ, living for Christ, and then inviting them to go out and invite others to do the same,” Martin explained. “You impart not only faithfulness, as essential as faithfulness is, you impart fruitfulness, which is exactly what Jesus did.”
On the theme of investing deeply in a few close friends, Martin again drew the conversation back to the methods Jesus used to proclaim God’s Kingdom. Martin said Jesus taught his apostles, first and foremost, to love by investing deeply in them and sometimes only them.
“The Savior of the entire world…His methodology was to find twelve guys and go camping for three years,” Martin reflected. “He invested profoundly, deeply, in twelve guys in order to reach the whole world, but he imparted not just faithfulness, He imparted fruitfulness. And those twelve men, by the power of Christ, changed the world. And we can do the same by returning to the Method Modeled by the Master.”
Jesus, Martin said, regularly rendered the extraordinary as ordinary, by performing miracles on a daily basis. However, Jesus also rendered the ordinary extraordinary by “loving beautifully” in the Holy Family, with Mary and Joseph, for the first 30 years of His life. Martin said no one since Adam and Eve have been able to love each other as much as Jesus, Mary, and Joseph did.
The Church has that capacity for love, Martin said, and saints “come in groups.”
“It’s really hard to become a saint by yourself,” he said. “To be able to walk toward Christ with others allows us to fulfill that great command to love God and love neighbor.”
Martin said his organization conducted research on FOCUS alumni, who are now no longer college students or full-time missionaries, but rather full-time parents or full-time professionals. Martin said they’re now living the “normal life,” but they’re “living the normal life extraordinarily well.”
In a certain sense, Martin said, this makes sense: college students are at the height of frivolity in their lives, distracted by such things as video games, alcohol, and even recreational drugs. As a result, as a group, college campuses are often not receptive to the Gospel.
“[College students] also happen to be at one of the most pivotal times in their lives,” Martin said. “Whereas when you move a few years down your life, and all of a sudden you’re a married [person], maybe you’ve got a few kids, and you meet someone who’s living for Christ.”
Martin argued that a father or mother, or a husband and wife, who are struggling with communication, balancing their budget, raising their children, or praying, will be more likely to seek the advice and companionship of a radiant Christian person.
For this reason, the “ground is much more fertile,” Martin said, in a parish than it is at a university.
The book, “Making Missionary Disciples: How to Live the Method Modeled by the Master” is available this week from FOCUS.org and from Amazon.