Ascension is excited to tell you about The 99, a new system for evangelization, coming summer 2019. Mark Hart is leading the charge as the author and main presenter, and if you read on you’ll see why he’s the right man for the job.
Mark has helped transform Catholic youth and young adult Scripture study in parishes, homes, and classrooms with his wildly popular Bible study programs, T3: The Teen Timeline (for teens) and Encounter (for pre-teens), as well as Altaration (a program about the Mass for teens).
Mark’s humor and his passion for Scripture are helping hundreds of
thousands of Catholics, young and old, begin to read and study the Bible
in engaging, fun, and relevant ways. A devoted husband and father of
four, Mark’s passion for the gospel and for evangelization, in general, are
contagious and inspiring.
In the days leading up to the launch of The 99, Mark answered some big questions about his faith journey.
1. When did you first feel called to evangelize?
I think it was following my initial conversion, the first time I really experienced the presence and love of God—at sixteen years old—and went back to confession. God went from being an “if” to a “whom” and when those words of absolution fell upon me, and I experienced the depth of God’s love and mercy, everyone I knew had to hear about it. People sometimes ask me between videos and speaking and books and radio, “How can you talk so much about God?” And my simple response is “How can I not?!?” Once you come to really trust in God’s presence and begin to understand the depths of his mercy, how can you talk about anything else?
2. Do you remember the first time you stepped forward and shared the gospel with someone?
I do. In fact, I remember the first fifty people I tried to share the gospel with. I was only a teenager and didn’t know how to share Jesus, to be honest. So I was a little over-exuberant, to say the least, and didn’t understand the Parable of the Sower/Seed yet. As a teenager, I didn’t understand the art form of evangelization and how some hearts need(ed) to be “tilled” a little more (or a lot more) before sowing the seed of God’s truth.
As a result, I made a lot of mistakes but I also got a front row seat to some amazing miracles and transformations. I was too zealous to be nervous and too young to second guess myself. That’s one of the reasons God reminds us to be childlike, in my opinion: we are less likely to overthink things and talk ourselves out of conversations that he wants us to have (in his name).
3. How has your life changed since then?
I wake up with an excitement and a sense of mission now that I didn’t have before. Still now—so many years later—I’m excited to see who the Holy Spirit puts in my path each day and if I’m holy or humble enough to do what God is asking me to do. I wouldn’t have the wife or kids or friends I have if it weren’t for God and for his call to share the Faith, and that’s not a cliche. Literally, I would not be married to the woman I am married to if I’d cowered from sharing my faith. I cannot imagine where I’d be without God and, truthfully, I don’t even want to do so.
4. Have there been any particularly memorable moments in your life as an evangelist?
Too many to mention. Watching souls who—as teenagers—told you they didn’t believe in God, falling on their knees and faces before a bishop as they are ordained priests, or watching husbands and wives come back to Church because of the example of their own kids’ desire for holiness never gets old. I can think of impromptu Bible studies with strangers at thirty thousand feet on random flights, spontaneous moments of prayer with waiters/waitresses at our table as our family prayed grace before a meal, spirited conversations with everyone from an agnostic barista to an atheist professor to convicts on death row that all ended in genuine compassion, and often in prayer.
People like to point to the “big events” like giving a talk to twenty-five thousand or more people in a stadium, and those are fun moments and great memories; but it’s the moment God places a stranger next to you in a non-denominational chapel, as their loved one is clinging to life, and you ask if they want to pray, those are the moments you always remember and cherish.
5. How has evangelization brought you closer to God?
A gift isn’t a gift until you share it. God has given us so many gifts but we are often uneasy or unaware or unwilling when it comes to sharing them, I think. We’re all so busy that we become reactive instead of proactive. Evangelization reminds me of the unpredictability of God and the universal appeal of his gospel message. Many of us become comfortable “going through the motions” in our faith, I think. As a result, God becomes sort of a “background figure” who is “there when we need him”.
But the more we share our faith, the more primary he remains and becomes in our day to day life. The more we think about him, the more we think about ways to share his love and Truth. I guess you could say it’s in evangelizing (or trying to) throughout each day that God remains before me and not “behind me”. The more I want others to know about God, and the more I invest myself into the “mess” of their lives, the more I realize my own mess and the deeper I fall in love with the real God, not just others’ interpretation of him.
The 99 program is coming soon. Preorder your copy today.