Hip Hop and The New Evangelization: What We Can Learn from Lecrae

I recently wrote a blog post for FOCUS Blog, check it out!

Hip Hop and The New Evangelization: What We Can Learn from Lecrae

It’s fun to see that since I wrote the post, Lecrae’s latest album Anamoly was released to stunning success, topping the Billboard chart and in the process becoming the first Christian Hip Hop artist to do so.

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Discipleship in the 21st Century

When Jesus walked on Earth, He made quite the scene. If you read the Gospels, you see He wasn’t always this “hippie Jesus” that you see in media…

Jesus point

Or even “nice Jesus” that you see in Christian bookstores…

Jesus Sheep

Sometimes He was more like “God Jesus”.

Jesus Lazarus

Seriously, have you ever seen anyone rise from the grave?!?! It’s probably a heck of a lot more freaky than the bible made it out to be, but John only had a few lines to use on it I guess…

Other crazy things that Jesus did? He performed miracles, announced the Kingdom of God, scandalized people by crossing social norms, whipped people who were disrespecting the temple, and large crowds (Tens of thousands!) followed Him to the point where He quite literally had to sneak away so that He could be alone to pray. Jesus didn’t tone down His message when He was in sticky situations either- the healing on the Sabbath right in front of the Pharisees comes to mind. Needless to say, Jesus caused division in the hearts of everyone who encountered Him. It was more than just being #teamJesus or #teamPharisee, though. The stakes were a bit higher.. because He claimed to be God. This was a matter of life and death, as we can see in hindsight. The Jews and Gentiles had a tough decision to make in choosing to believe Jesus or not…

Who were the disciples?

During His years of ministry, Jesus attracted large crowds pretty much wherever He went. I don’t know how they all got the memo of His schedule without newspapers, twitter, and texting, that alone is a miracle! But out of the tens of thousands, Jesus called 12 men to Himself, the Apostles. These men were called Apostles because they were “sent” by Jesus and given His authority after He ascended into Heaven. The 12 Apostles are sometimes called the 12 disciples, but the term disciple is more broad than that. There were disciples of Jesus who weren’t Apostles, and sometimes in the Bible they are called the 70 or 72. These people weren’t specifically called by Jesus, but they still had a very important role to play in His ministry.

Have you ever thought about what differentiated the disciples from the crowds?

Take a moment to think for yourself… what made someone a disciple of Jesus?

There are plenty of great answers, but a few that I can think of are:

  • Belief that Jesus was God, the Messiah
  • Loyalty to follow Him even for days without food
  • Willing to leave home, family, jobs, and so on just to follow Him
  • Doing whatever He asked of you.. even travelling in twos to distant towns
  • Friendship with Jesus, like Mary, Martha, and Lazarus

We can also be disciples!

The funny thing is, all of these things can still be done TODAY. Discipleship isn’t just for the people who were alive when Jesus was, but it is a way of life devoted to Jesus that we can live right now in the 21st century! It takes “discipline”, of course, but ultimately this way of life is sparked by an encounter with Jesus and the friendship with Him that follows.

But… Jesus isn’t here…

So here’s the interesting point. Yes, we can be disciples of Jesus, but no, we can’t do it exactly the same way that they did it in the Holy Land. When Jesus ascended, He didn’t leave us orphans: He gave us the Holy Spirit (God!) to guide us to all truth and the Church (founded on Peter and the Apostles) as our Mother. Through the working of the Holy Spirit and the Church… duh-da-da-dah! comes forth Jesus! Quite literally. We receive Jesus in the Eucharist. We receive Jesus’ mercy in confession. We hear the Word of God in the Bible. We encounter the hands and feet of Jesus when we are around other Christians.

Discipleship in the 21st century, so how do we do it?

  • Believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior
  • Go out of your way to encounter Him, at mass, in prayer, in serving the poor, in reading the scriptures, in confession
  • Live your life to glorify Him first and foremost, and then everything else will fall into place
  • Courageously share the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, both in words and how you live your life
  • Become intimate friends with Jesus, He loves us more purely and completely than anyone in the world. Prayer in adoration is one of the best ways to do this

Isn’t it crazy how for each of the major ways you could be a 1st century disciple, you can become a 21st century disciple?!

Choosing to believe in Jesus isn’t a matter of life and death (on this earth) anymore, but it still is a matter of eternal consequences. We can’t just sit on the sidelines our entire lives without making a choice. Jesus is either a lunatic, or He’s God.

“If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” – Jesus to the Woman at the well, John 4:10

FOCUS Parish Talk/Appeal

This is the text of my parish talk that I’m giving this weekend at my home parish, with a few minor changes:

Remember Deacon Jerry’s homily last week about evangelizing? And the Gospel reading, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers.”

Hi *wave*. My name is Chris Goulet and I am a Catholic missionary.

Now the first thing that people ask when I tell them that is which third world country am I going to? Africa? China? Saudi Arabia? Those are good places to go. But look around in the pews right here.

There is a generation missing here – my generation. They are asking questions:   Does the Church even notice me?  Is Jesus Christ really relevant to my life? Why do I need to go to church on Sundays anyways?

What commonly happens is that kids are raised in Catholic homes and then leave for college.  And it’s there where they walk away from the faith. I bet that every single person here personally knows someone who has fallen away from the faith while in college.

But I have good news for you!

Unlike most of my peers, college is the place where my faith matured. I encountered missionaries and fellow students on fire for Jesus Christ, thanks to FOCUS- the Fellowship of Catholic University Students. When I moved into my dorm at the University of Illinois as a freshman, I had the opportunity to sign up for a Catholic bible study. I jumped at the opportunity, as I’d never experienced a Catholic small group before. It turns out that this was a FOCUS bible study, and these guys, especially the leaders, had a profound impact on me. Faith wasn’t just something that they confined to Sunday mornings, it was a way of life for them. Jesus wasn’t just a historical figure but a savior who they personally knew.

We need to reach out to young adults while they are in college. At the campus that I am going to, only about 3% of Catholics go to Sunday mass. 3%, and that’s just counting the Catholic student body- we need to be reaching out to everyone. That’s how urgent this call is.

There are so many different stories that I could share to demonstrate that FOCUS works, but here are some big picture stats. Despite only being around for 15 years, and we’re already at 83 college campuses across the United States, including local schools like Illinois, Bradley, UIC, Northwestern, Wisconsin-Madison, Wisconsin-La Crosse, and Loras College. We reach over 10,000 students in weekly bible studies. In addition, there have been about 400 religious vocations fostered. Because of these results, our founder and president, Curtis Martin, was one of the 9 lay people appointed by Pope Emeritus Benedict last fall to participate in the Synod on the New Evangelization.

As a full time missionary, I will be presenting and witnessing to our faith on campus in a way that only someone my age can, constantly investing in the students and meeting them where they are at. We are investing on college campuses so that the future leaders of this country will take their faith with them everywhere they go, sharing the Gospel with all, serving the poor, and building up the communities where they live.

But this mission isn’t just about me and my fellow missionaries,

YOU can join me in making a difference in the lives of young people!

As you could imagine, college students don’t pay us to serve them.

As a full-time FOCUS missionary, all of my funding will come from concerned individuals like you.

Specifically, I need to find about 50 partners who are willing to join my monthly support team, so that I can get on campus.

  • I ask you to prayerfully consider partnering with me.  Support, in any amount, is very much appreciated and makes a significant impact.
  • FOCUS is a nonprofit organization, so your gifts are 100% tax deductible, and there are no maximum or minimum gift amounts.

In your brochure, you will find a response card.  By filling out this card, you are not making a financial commitment today.  But please fill out the response card now with your contact information if you are interested in hearing more about FOCUS.  I would love to sit down with you this week, so I will be in the back of the church after Mass to collect them from you.

While you are filling that out, I would like to thank Father and you all for allowing me to share my work with you.  FOCUS gives me so much hope for the future of the Church. I extend a special thank you to those of you who are considering partnering with me to make a difference.

With your help, I can reach out and touch the lives of many young people!

I look forward to meeting you right after Mass.  God bless you all.

*** If you would like to join me as a mission partner, I’d be more than happy to speak with you and share more about what I’ll be doing. You can email me at chris.goulet@focus.org. ***

A Case for Discipleship and Spiritual Multiplication

Jesus before the Ascension

“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” – Matthew 28:18-20

And then He was gone. This is called the Great Commission, Jesus’ final words to His Apostles before ascending into heaven.

So now what? How do we actually share the Gospel with all nations? If you were going to brainstorm ways to do it, what would be some of your suggestions? Use modern technology to share a viral Youtube video or create some sort of website? Go on a worldwide preaching tour everywhere for the rest of your life? Drop bibles from planes? Put up signs and tell people where you’re having your discussion group and then hoping that everyone shows up?

It’s easy to see how ridiculous a challenge Jesus gave us as Christians. If we didn’t know any better, we may have even given up. But thank God that Jesus actually left us with a model for how we are to carry out the task of evangelization!

What did Jesus do? Sure, he preached to thousands and thousands of people all over Israel, but He spent most of His time with His 12 Apostles. Jesus spent 3 years with these men, teaching them not only by His words but by His examples. See, as great as it was that thousands of people heard at least one speech by Jesus, there needed to be people who could do what Jesus was doing when He left, as hearing one speech didn’t make one a disciple capable of leading others to God. There actually was a tradition that the Apostles were familiar with that Jesus was modeling: the apprenticeship of young Jewish men to Rabbis. These young men who dreamed to be Rabbis would do everything that their mentor would do, speaking the same way, studying the same way, eating the same way, etc. These disciples would follow their Rabbis so close that it was said that they were covered in the dust of their Rabbi. With that in mind, it becomes much easier to see why Jesus’ Apostles were so quick to understand what Jesus was doing. One of the most famous parts of the Gospels becomes even more interesting with this in mind: Peter followed Jesus when He was walking on the water, out of faith in Jesus’ ability to allow him to do what Jesus was doing!

Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father, and then the Apostles followed the model that Jesus gave them in their ministry. They still preached, as Jesus did, but they focused on building up disciples who could carry on the work of evangelization when they themselves died (this was a rushed process, as all of the Apostles were martyred sooner or later). St. Paul’s letter to his disciple Timothy gives instruction in this:

“What you heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will have the ability to teach others as well.” – 2 Timothy 2:2

St. Paul’s disciples were Sts. Titus and Timothy as well as Barnabas, St. John the Evangelist’s disciples were Polycarp and St. Ignatius of Antioch, and St. Peter’s disciples were St. Mark and St. Linus, the second pope. These disciples would be bishops and leaders in the Christian communities and help instruct the next generation.

By following this model of investing in a handful of disciples each, the amount of Christian disciples exponentially increases. Instead of one “super-evangelist” travelling everywhere hoping that a one time speech will influence people for the rest of their lives, this model leads to a deeper conversion and a more sustainable method of growth so that the whole world can not only hear the Gospel once, but have a profound personal experience of it through their friends.

Let’s demonstrate the power of spiritual multiplication in an ideal situation where every disciple from the Apostles on has 2 disciples every 10 years and then sends them out to do the same:

1 Jesus to 12 Apostles to 24 Disciples in 10 years.
24 to 192 new disciples in 30 years.
192 to 1536 new disciples in 30 years.
1536 to 12288 new disciples in 30 years.
12288 to 98304 new disciples in 30 years.
98304 to 786432 new disciples in 30 years.
786432 to 6291456 new disciples in 30 years.
6291456 to 50331648 new disciples in 30 years.
50331648 to 402653184 new disciples in 30 years.
402653184 to 3,221,225,472 new disciples in 30 years.

That’s nearly 4 billion disciples alive within just 280 years of Jesus. Think about it.