Curtis Martin: Evangelize Like Jesus

BOOK PICK:Making Missionary Disciples

(photo: FOCUS)



How to Live the Method

Modeled by the Master

By Curtis Martin 

FOCUS, 2018

60 pages, $14.95 (hardcover)

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Few who attended or watched through livestream the “SEEK 2019” conference organized by Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) couldn’t help but be impressed. While friends and family attended in person, I found myself tied to the social-media feeds and, better yet, the library of speakers’ videos. The energy of the conference was the best kind of tribute to the success the FOCUS ministry has had in 20 years.

Yet not all of us are at a point or place where becoming a campus minister is possible — and, let’s face it, college is not the only place where the missionary field needs to be extended. In the wake of SEEK 2019, many of us might find ourselves asking how we can nurture the same excitement and desire for Christ in our own distinct ministries.

FOCUS’ founder, Curtis Martin, has the answer. In his new book, Making Missionary Disciples, Martin shares the habits cultivated by FOCUS missionaries and their tried-and-true approach that has made this method of campus ministry such a dynamic force in the New Evangelization.

Written in a colloquial tone and with simple but profound wisdom, Martin shares from his experience in a manner that is open and frank — and also unassuming. He does not claim ownership or credit for the work; he creates more of a meditation than a reflection. With ample quotes and references, he demonstrates that, while the “scene” of the 21st-century college campus is a novelty, the factors that impact the success of evangelization haven’t changed from the time of the first evangelizer.

Martin first leads the reader through an identification of the three habits of the “Missionary Disciple.” He acknowledges, along with many leading and successful business tycoons and authors, that “people are everything,” but the people to whom he refers are those who emulate the habits of “Divine Intimacy,” “Authentic Friendship” and “Clarity and Conviction” about “Spiritual Multiplication.” He leads the reader through how these habits build upon each other in sequential order and how they are the necessary foundation for any work of an evangelical nature.

While in some ways the habits described in the first part of his book are almost of a somewhat contemplative (although not overly inward-looking) form, he shifts dramatically in the second part of his work, in which he describes the “method.” Here, perhaps, we also find the most challenging part of his message: Start small. He reinforces the message of the need for authentic friendship and the reminder that the true, life-changing power of this habit is only possible when dedicated to a few. As he points out, Christ himself worked particularly with only 12 friends for the majority of his adult life. Yet he does not shy away from demonstrating the compounding effects this kind of friendship can cause when it is used to “win, build and send” — again, the method Christ used with the Twelve Apostles and the one emulated by FOCUS ministries.

“Much faith formation today focuses just on the first generation — namely, the people showing up in our pews and to our programs,” Martin writes. “If faith formation is going well, we are forming people as disciples. But what are we doing to form them as missionary disciples?”

Example is key, Martin emphasizes. “Paul saw that his mission was not simply to get Timothy to go to Mass on Sunday, live a good moral life, and grow in holiness, as important as those are. Paul was raising up Timothy as a missionary disciple — someone who would go out and form disciples of his own and equip them to do the same for others.”

He also writes, “As pastoral leaders know, the best of catechetical resources can never replace the living witness of a missionary disciple leading others into deeper union with Christ and the Church.”

For those involved in parish and Church ministry who are seeking to create a similar culture of evangelization as that demonstrated by FOCUS teams throughout the world, Martin’s prayerful but pithy work is an excellent resource.

Kathryn Mihaliak Wallice writes from Connecticut.