The Anatomy of Discipleship
In this post, Ann Yeong who blogs at animann.com sets out to analyse how we become an effective Evangelist. I think she succeeds in describing the anatomy of discipleship. It is not through our efforts, but by the power of the Holy Spirit, that anyone finds God. But we should be aware that everyone is seeking God, whether they are aware of it or not, and the conduit for their discovery is the way they see Christ reflected in us and our lives.
For this reason we need to be aware at all times how we live out our faith aware that Christianity is not austere and burdensome, but life giving and fulfilling!
Ann's post provide a valuable route map that provides useful reminders of our focus on the interior life; that is, the call to personal holiness. We have to be working on changing ourselves as I have posted before. We need a sense of progress and development in our lives. We need joy and peace to flow into our society. I'm not talking about material things, but rather spiritual progress, which fosters a sense of wellbeing. The Greeks call this theosis or "goddening". If you are progressing, you feel like you're winning!
Ann puts it like this:
How do we become such a person? How can we learn to evangelise effectively? Here are five traits of highly effective evangelisers.
1. You are a mature disciple
To be on the interior journey is to be on a path of divine transformation. The further along we are on this path, the more conformed we are to Christ, and the more differently we see and interact with the world and all the people in it. Mature disciples live in the same external realities as we do, but how they see, hear and understand these realities is different from those of us who are less far along in the journey. The purgation that they have willingly undergone has made them much more receptive to the infused virtues and supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. Their words and actions are regularly inspired by the Holy Spirit, and because of this, they are highly effective channels for God’s love. In these mature disciples, St Paul’s statement is true – “I am alive; yet it is no longer I, but Christ living in me” (Gal 2:20).
2. You have a deep interior life
All mature disciples become mature disciples because of deep interior lives. The interior life simply refers to the life of the soul. A person with a deep interior life is one who is keenly attuned to God’s presence and action in their own life and who has made the life of the soul (both their own and others) their ultimate priority. The interior life is nurtured by solitude, silence and prayer. Thus, those with deep interior lives are people of great inner solitude, silence and prayer. They are people who never neglect the “one thing necessary” (Luke 10:42) even when they are in the busiest apostolates. They live and breathe a total dependence on God and the inner peace and joy that they radiate in spite of their constant struggles in life is the fruit and the proof of it.
3. You are a compelling witness of freedom and love
Highly effective evangelisers attract others to Christ through the way they are. When people look at them, they are struck by these disciples’ inner freedom, joy, peace, and love for others. What is compelling about their witness is that they are imperfect and sinful as the rest of us are, yet they live lives of extraordinary grace and courage that go against the wisdom of the world. When people come into contact with these mature disciples, they catch a glimpse of the kind of life they begin to realise they long to have – a life fuelled with hope and over-flowing with a joy that transcends suffering, pain, and death.
4. You forget yourself
One trademark of highly effective evangelisers is that they are so caught up in God’s glory that they no longer seek their own. They are wonderfully humble people because they have a deep self-knowledge and they realise they know nothing except that which God reveals to them. They do not put any faith in their own abilities yet they are brimming with undeniable God-centred conviction and confidence because like Christ, they know that they come “not to do my own will, but to do the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38). These people do not worry about how their actions will reflect on themselves; rather, they are concerned that their lives will point others effectively to Christ. They are not anxious about success because they are confident that their faithfulness will yield great fruitfulness. They are happy to even be counted as fools and failures as long as they know they are faithful to God.
5. You are soaked in God’s mercy, compassion, and love
Highly effective evangelisers are people who have first-hand experience of God’s mercy and compassion and they are constantly aware of their own sinfulness and powerlessness to come to God without grace. They are aware of their own sinfulness and their personal experience of the richness of God’s mercy make them compassionate to the sufferings of others. They are less prone to judge others because they have judged themselves in the past and have been set free by God’s mercy. And now, their greatest desire is to let other struggling sinners experience the same liberation they encounter daily. With and through Jesus Christ, their lives proclaim the words of Isaiah: “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring the good news to the afflicted. He has set me to proclaim liberty to captives, sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord” (Is 61:1-2; Lk 4:17-19). They live lives that set other people free!
If we are serious about evangelisation, we will go to the Source of evangelisation and start wherever we are to make progress on our Interior Journey. The plain fact is that the power to evangelise is God’s – we just need to do the hard work of getting out of His way. We must let ourselves be transformed by Christ into the person He created us to be and so set the world on fire (St Catherine of Siena).