The ‘Activated Disciple’ Jeff Cavins Comes To Town

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“Are you a fan or a follower of Jesus, activated in the faith?” asked Catholic speaker and author Jeff Cavins Feb. 11 of attendees at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Metairie.

Cavins, who is spending a month in Louisiana and Mississippi, had the audience – which he called “Uber” Catholics – contemplating their sincerity about being fervent in their faith. Were they spending time with Jesus in the morning? Was his presence and his voice with them as they interacted with others during the day?

It’s more than reading the Bible, watching Catholic TV or listening to Catholic radio, he said. “Being Catholic means more than learning about the faith. It means doing the faith.”

“How many of you want to take the next step? How many of you want to grow in the Lord (and practice discipleship in life)?” he asked.

Cavins said to be what he calls an “Activated Disciple” who is Christ to others today, people need to get out of their rut and comfort zone of just learning about the faith and, instead, use that faith to become “a disciple of Jesus.”

“You’ve been chosen by Jesus to become like Jesus, to think like him, to teach like him, pass the faith on to other people, so the shape of your day has to change between being a fan of Jesus and a follower of Jesus,” he said.

Everything pointed back to Catholicism

Cavins talked about coming full circle in his own faith – being born Catholic, leaving the faith in 1981 after the zeal of non-denominational followers filled a void of what he thought was lacking in his own faith. He became a Protestant minister for 12 years and earned a master’s degree in theology. The more he studied Scripture, he said, the more Catholicism called him back.

“I came back after studying the early church Fathers and started to realize that …  my (Protestant) church didn’t have anything like that,” he said. “I wanted to be connected to the Jewish roots of the early church, and everything pointed me to being Catholic.”

He resigned his pastorate in 1995 and eventually became a Scripture teacher at Franciscan University of Steubenville for two years and was a founder and host of EWTN’s “Life on the Rock,” a similar name to his autobiography, “My Life on the Rock,” about his return to Catholicism.

Since returning to the faith, Cavins became alarmed at how Catholics don’t openly share their faith with others as Protestants do, and how Catholics treat each other outside of Mass.

Rabbi-disciple relationship

The “activated disciple” concept takes its cue from the original rabbi-disciple relationship established more than 2,000 years ago, where a disciple emulated the rabbi’s teachings. 

People have lost sight of how our current “Jesus and me” relationship should be the same, he said. Faith is relegated to dogma and doctrine and things believed.

“We show up for Mass and go to the Stations of the Cross, but when we are not here (at church), we are not ‘activated disciples,’” Cavins said. “The most important thing in my life is to know the voice of Jesus. So, that no matter where I am … I can act as Christ in the world.”

He said “imitation is the foundation of discipleship,” and rabbis like Jesus – the most important rabbi – chose their disciples by saying, “Come, follow me.”

Just as the rabbis said, “Come, follow me,” to their disciples,  so did Jesus, Cavins said, and he’s still saying it today. The one requirement of all disciples was and is: “Do you have what it takes to become like me? Will you learn, will you put it into practice, will you go out and teach people like I am teaching you?”

“This is the essence of discipleship,” Cavins said. “I believe, as Jesus Christ, that you can become like me. … So, when Jesus offers this invitation, this is a game changer.”

Are we walking faithfully as a disciple today? 

Jesus knows everyone’s fears, strengths, gifts and mistakes, Cavins said, and yet he still says, “Come, follow me.”

“He believes you can become like him, but you cannot become like him without him,” he said.

Cavins imparted seven steps for Catholics to put their faith into practice as activated disciples:

→ 1. Proclaim the Gospel (the kerygma), as told in the Acts of the Apostles. Christ’s message is entrusted to us to share with the world. This is non-negotiable, yet we’re not sharing Christ’s message that he loves us and has a plan for everyone’s life.

→ 2. Recognize that sin has interrupted this plan and that we are broken because of sin.

→ 3. Accept the Good News – that Jesus died for our sins and made a way for us to have that relationship.

→ 4. Respond to that message in repentance. “We have to have a radical reorientation with God,” Cavins said.

→ 5. Utilize the power of the Holy Spirit in baptism.

→ 6. Trust the church as the source of Jesus’ sacraments and grace.

→  7. Become disciples and go out and make new disciples.

“This is our responsibility as Catholics – to share the Good News with people,” Cavins said. “We don’t have another message, and you have to make a way to make this a part of your conversation with people who are broken and disenfranchised. Why would you not tell them about the answer to their problems?”

Cavins encouraged his listeners not to be afraid, to share the Gospel and allow the Holy Spirit to take care of the rest.

Cavins and his wife Emily live in Minneapolis, Minnesota. For more, visit http://www.jeff cavins.com.

Christine Bordelon can be reached at cbordelon@clarionherald.org.