The Theological Basis

Process of Evangelization

Dave speaking at a Discovering Christ session

Understanding the Catholic Church's teaching on the process of evangelization illuminates the absolute need for the first component of ChristLife evangelization process which is Discovering Christ.

The first step in all evangelization is primary proclamation[1]. The National Directory for Catechesis explains, "This form of the ministry of the word is directed toward non-believers....

In our age it may also be addressed to those who may have been baptized but have little or no awareness of their Baptism and who consequently live on the margins of Christian life."[2] The function of primary proclamation is to proclaim the Gospel and to call to conversion, which Pope John Paul II defines as "accepting by personal decision the saving sovereignty of Jesus Christ and becoming his disciple."[3]

The second step in the evangelization process is initiatory catechesis. "Catechesis, distinct from the primary proclamation of the Gospel, promotes and matures initial conversion."[4]

Proclamation vs. Catechesis

A frequent tension exists between proclamation and catechesis, as "many who present themselves for catechesis truly require genuine conversion." The Directory continues, "because of this the Church usually desires that the first stage in the catechetical process be dedicated to ensuring conversion."

However, all across the United States the reality is that our parishes, while even running the best catechetical programs in the world, may miss the foundational proclamation of the Gospel and the call to conversion. Furthermore, even though many forms of catechesis do assume, at least partially, a missionary objective and call participants to conversion, this "does not dispense a particular Church from promoting an institutionalized program of primary proclamation to execute more directly Jesus"s missionary command."[5]

Pope Benedict XVI touched on this point when he addressed the German Bishops in August 2005:

"We must reflect seriously on how we might carry out a true evangelization today, not just a new evangelization, but often a true first evangelization. People don't know God, they don't know Christ. A new paganism is present, and it is not enough just to maintain the community of believers, although this is very important. I believe that together we must find new ways of bringing the Gospel to today's world by preaching Christ anew and by establishing the faith."

Dinner at Discovering Christ

Dinner at Discovering Christ.

UMBC students listen to a Discovering Christ talk

UMBC students listen to a Discovering Christ talk.

Participants enjoy lunch during a Discovering Christ retreat at Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

What is true first evangelization? In July 2007 Pope Benedict XVI clarified to a group of priests what the central proclamation of the Christian people should be:

"Christianity is not a highly complicated collection of so many dogmas that it is impossible for anyone to know them all; it is not something exclusively for academicians who can study these things, but it is something simple: God exists and God is close in Jesus Christ. Thus, to sum up, Jesus Christ himself said that the Kingdom of God had arrived. Basically, what we preach is one, simple thing. All the dimensions subsequently revealed are dimensions of this one thing and all people do not have to know everything but must certainly enter into the depths and into the essential. In this way, the different dimensions also unfold with ever increasing joy."

The purpose of Discovering Christ is to expose the unchurched, fallen away Christians, and participating Catholics to the "one simple thing," that is Jesus Christ - who he is, what he did, the good news, the kerygma.


A Discovering Christ participant gives a testimony to God's love.

The Kerygma

Discovering Christ seeks to directly serve Jesus's missionary command and the Catholic Church by providing "an institutionalized program of primary proclamation." The primary aim will be "those who may have been baptized but have little or no awareness of their Baptism and who consequently live on the margins of Christian life."[6] The course will appropriately meet the needs of this large demographic of Catholics and serve the cause of the new evangelization through "kerygmatic catechesis."[7] The kerygma is the proclamation of the central and core Gospel message of salvation; namely, the "clear and unequivocal proclamation of the person of Jesus Christ."[8] This saving message is a radical call to conversion and the "acceptance of a personal relationship with Christ."[9]

The objective of Discovering Christ finds its expression in the second goal of the U.S. Bishops evangelization plan, Go and Make Disciples: "To invite every person in the United States to come to know Jesus in the fullness of our Catholic faith."[10] Discovering Christ intends to ambitiously meet this goal by equipping Catholic individuals and parishes with a simple set of tools to explicitly invite others to embrace the Gospel.

ChristLife views Discovering Christ as an essential element and foundation of any faith community. We see this course and the entire Mission of the Redeemer process as providing Catholic parishes and small faith communities with a concrete and foundational response to the Church's call to a new evangelization

Course Dynamics

Set in the context of a meal, Discovering Christ creates an inviting atmosphere where the foundations of the Christian faith can be explored and responded to. The whole evangelizing process - the dinner conversations, prayer and song, the main teaching (live or video-based), and the small groups - have two main aims:

1. To help participants enter or renew a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, to experience the love of the Father, and be empowered by the Holy Spirit to live as his children and serve as His disciples in the Catholic Church

2. To help participants begin to receive the relational support necessary to live for Christ within the parish or community that offers the course

There are seven sessions and a day retreat (with two teachings) that is held after the fifth session. There are a total of nine teachings:

1. What Is the Meaning of Life?
2. Why Does Jesus Matter?
3. What Does Jesus Want Us to Know?
4. Why Do I Need a Savior?
5. Why Is the Resurrection Important for Us?
6. Who Is the Holy Spirit? (Retreat)
7. The Holy Spirit and You! (Retreat)
8. New Life in the Spirit: Being a Catholic Disciple
9. Believing and Belonging: Why We Need the Church

Contact Us

If you are interested in implementing Discovering Christ in your parish or community, please contact us at 888.498.8474 or at


[1] Congregation for the Clergy, General Directory for Catechesis (GDC) (Washington DC: USCCB, 1998), no. 61.

[2] USCCB, National Directory for Catechesis (NDC) (Washington DC: USCCB 2005), no. 17c.

[3] Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Encyclical, Redemptoris Missio (Rome: Vatican 1990), no. 46.>

[4] NDC, no. 17c.

[5] GDC, no. 62

[6] NDC, no. 17c.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation, Ecclesia in America (Rome: Vatican 1999), no. 66.

[9] NDC, no. 17b.

[10] Cf., USCCB, Go and Make Disciples: A National Plan and Strategy for Catholic Evangelization in the United States (Washington DC: USCCB, 2002), no. 53.

Dinner discussion at an event for young adults.

Young adults join in song to worship God.

A small group discusses the night's teaching.