Ahead of the release of The 99, a new system for evangelization, we are interviewing the presenters and asking them all about their call to spread the gospel. With the stories of Mark Hart and Joel Stepanek covered in past weeks, presenter Fr. Mike Schmitz makes his appearance on the blog this week.
Fr. Mike is also a presenter in Chosen, Altaration, Belonging, Power and Grace, Quick Catholic Lessons with Fr. Mike and on Ascension Presents. He serves as director of youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Duluth and as chaplain for the Newman Catholic Campus Ministry at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
He took some time to share his deep conviction to bring Jesus to others.
1. When did you first feel called to evangelize?
When I had my first conversion at around age fifteen or sixteen. I remember being so compelled by Jesus and so moved by his love that I felt a massive desire to do little else with my life than to make him known and loved. I read stories of saints who converted so many people (and the saints who made a deep impact in their little corner of the world), and it just captivated my imagination and my heart.
Just the other day I was reflecting on a conversation I had with my junior year Spanish teacher. I had told her that I wanted to be a missionary and we had a memorable conversation about where I could go and what kinds of mission areas would need someone older, someone with more experience, someone with a degree of some sort. It was a good dose of reality, but it also highlighted the truth that I might need “something more” to go and live in a foreign mission, but I wouldn’t need anything other than Christ and a desire to share him to begin evangelizing wherever I was.
2. Do you remember the first time you stepped forward and shared the gospel with someone?
I was in high school and there was a young man in my grade who was bounced around from home to home. He had a pretty rough family life and I knew that not many people paid attention to him. We just ended up talking more and I invited him to stay (for a brief time) at my family’s house. It was uncomfortable and I didn’t know what to say or how to act, but I did my best to just be there. I shared a bit about my faith in Jesus and it didn’t really go anywhere from there. Years later, at a class reunion, he showed up and told me that he was hoping that I would be there so he could tell me how much it meant to him that I was kind to him and willing to be a friend.
3. How has your life changed since then?
I’ve learned that talking about my relationship with Jesus is both much easier and much more difficult than I imagined it would be. It’s far easier because I know I don’t need to have all of the answers. It is far more difficult because I now know that I can’t share Christ with my words if I am not willing to share Christ with my actions. It’s relatively easy to have a conversation, but to allow someone into your life almost always costs something. It can also give something, but it always comes with a price.
4. Have there been any particularly memorable moments in your life as an evangelist?
I rarely celebrate “wins” in any area of life (it’s one of my many defects). Because of that, I have a tendency to dismiss times when there has been success and remember the times when I’ve crashed and burned. Ha!
5. How has evangelization brought you closer to God?
Being willing to share Jesus with others demands that I am aware of God’s presence and attentive to his guidance. When I forget that I must live in need of his grace on a moment-to-moment basis, there is not only no fuel for evangelization, there is no desire to evangelize. It is only when I’ve surrendered my life (including my preferences and my time) to God that I even want to be his evangelist. Because of this, sharing Jesus keeps bringing me back to the Lord as a beggar who is in profound need of him.
The 99 program is coming soon. Preorder your copy today.
You may also enjoy I will Follow, wherein Fr. Mike shares his call to the priesthood.
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