When I was twenty-years old, I was deeply involved in the hippy scene. A close friend, also involved in the scene, experienced a radical change in his life. The change was profound and obvious. He exhibited a peace and a joy I had never seen in him previously.
When I asked him what caused the change, he said, “Jesus changed my life, and He can change yours.” As a very nominal Catholic, I had no idea what that meant. I went to visit my friend months later. I told him I wanted what he had, but I didn’t know how to get it. He said, “Just get down on your knees, Dave, and pray out loud to Jesus and tell Him what you need.” I simply prayed, “Jesus help me!”
As a result of that prayer from my guts, I was flooded with God’s personal love for me, a certainty that my sins were forgiven, and a conviction that God was giving me the power to change the way I had been living!
My desire to “get what he had” was wonderfully answered by simply turning to Jesus and away from the way I had been going. The Holy Spirit, given to me at baptism, was released in power as I chose to turn to Jesus as my Savior and the center of my life.
I experienced a complete and ongoing transformation. I experienced a hunger for prayer, Scripture, and the sacraments. I wanted to be around others who were living their lives for the Lord Jesus. I grew in my desire to share Jesus with anyone who would listen and to develop ways to gather others to hear this incredible news! I couldn’t contain the good news of what God had done for me! “For we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).
When we began our apostolate in 1995, we prayed for a name for the ministry. One of our founding members, Jim McFadden, got the name “ChristLife.” He felt like the Lord wanted it to be clear that our mission was about helping others to know Jesus and to live their lives in and for Him. Basically, we were to equip Catholics to be disciples and to make disciples of the Lord.
The passage in Scripture we sensed was foundational is Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loves me and gave himself for me.”
Presently, in the increasingly hostile secular culture in which we live and in many parts of the Church, there is a lack of clarity and action regarding the primary mission of evangelization. Brothers and sisters, many people that you and I know are perishing apart from the saving grace of God! This is a time in which you and I are called to draw close to the Lord personally, and to “preach the word, be urgent, in season and out of season” (2 Tm 4:2). This can be a graced time of mission within and outside the Church for people we know if we surrender to his call to enter the mission.
Our churches, small groups, and ministries need relational contexts into which we can invite others to hear the proclamation of Christ and his Gospel. Mass was never intended to be the front door into the Church. This is true for the unbaptized as well as unevangelized Catholics.
The Church teaches that evangelization and conversion should precede people’s attending Mass (CCC 1072). And yet, so many of our pews are filled with the unevangelized! Experience tells us that once people are evangelized and experience conversion, then the Mass comes alive. Before my conversion, I had no idea what Communion really was. I just went up with everyone in line and took it. When the Lord laid hold of my life, I came to know that the Eucharist is truly the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus present to us!
ChristLife is a three-part relational process to help anyone encounter the Lord (Discovering Christ), begin to grow as a disciple (Following Christ), and learn to share Christ with others (Sharing Christ). Over a quarter million people have had the opportunity to hear and embrace the Gospel and become Jesus’ disciple through ChristLife.
Our goal is to bring people into a lifestyle of following Jesus as Lord and making Him known to others. This is the fundamental calling of the Church.
ChristLife is Christ-centered. Each session points people toward a relationship with the Lord Jesus. A young woman from Baltimore, Maryland, named Vivian shared at the end of Discovering Christ, “Through Discovering Christ, I have come to make my relationship with Christ the most important relationship in my life.” That’s what we want for everyone!
ChristLife is a new way that the baptism in the Spirit is spreading throughout the Church. On Pentecost Sunday 2008, Pope Benedict XVI spoke about the importance of being filled with the Spirit: “Let us rediscover, dear brothers and sisters, the beauty of being baptized in the Holy Spirit; let us recover awareness of our Baptism and our Confirmation, ever timely sources of grace.”
Central to Discovering Christ is the Holy Spirit retreat where people are invited to surrender to the lordship of Jesus and be baptized in the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the life changer, and we witness so many incredible transformations throughout the ChristLife Process!
An example of this is a woman from Kansas named LaDonna, a self-described lukewarm, cafeteria Catholic prior to a profound spiritual awakening. She likened her conversion to a special type of glasses that help colorblind people see the way everyone else sees color. She shared, “For me, the ChristLife process was like getting a pair of those glasses. It was as though I’d been colorblind my whole life and had no idea. Then I entered a beautiful period of consolation. For the first time, I feel like I am seeing everything in full color—the way it is meant to be seen.”
ChristLife is relational. People connect with one another in small groups in meaningful ways. They form real communities of brothers and sisters who are free to share their walk with the Lord. A married couple from New York participated in ChristLife and shared about their experience, “We found Discovering Christ to be unique, as it was the only public forum we had experienced where discussing our beliefs, faith, and ideas with other people was both safe and enjoyable.”
ChristLife is bringing transformation to many parishes. As more and more pastors and individuals experience the life-changing Good News and empowering presence of the Holy Spirit, the parish culture begins to change. Fr. James from Wheaton, Illinois, shares about the impact of ChristLife at his parish, “The ongoing offering of ChristLife is transforming our core parishioners. They know, love, and live their faith in ways that attract others. ChristLife also appeals to prospective parishioners who sense we have something they long for, a life filled with meaning, purpose, and love.”
Throughout history, Jesus’ plan for his Church has been to be a revolutionary movement of disciples who have come to know the Father’s love revealed through Christ crucified for our sins. He was raised from the dead so that we, too, would be raised up into new life in the Holy Spirit and join in his mission.
The Lord has called each of us to be witnesses of his Good News, and He gives us the power of his Spirit to do it! Today, I invite you to renew your commitment to the Lord or to surrender your life to Jesus as Lord by praying:
Lord God, please forgive me for all the things I have done wrong.
I turn to you and turn away from sin.
(Silently ask forgiveness for anything you know is keeping you from God.)
Jesus, please be the center of my life. I welcome you personally as Lord and Savior of my life.
I ask you, Holy Spirit, to fill me and empower me to live as a child of God. I want to have your grace to truly live a new life.
Thank you for hearing my prayer through Christ our Lord.
The Lord is doing new things! His light shines in the darkness and cannot be overcome. Let us join the Lord in the new things He is doing now.
Together, dear brothers and sisters, in the Holy Spirit, let us be witnesses of the truth that “Jesus changed my life and he can change yours.”
Visit ChristLife.org to learn more.
This article originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ October 2023 newsletter. The photo is used with permission from ChristLife.