Called: An Interview with Kevin Cotter on His New Book!
I think that Kevin Cotter, the executive director for content of Amazing Parish (amazingparish.org) is one of the more genuine, prayerful and passionate leaders and missionary disciples in the Church today. I love the concept of his latest book from Ave Maria Press, Called: Becoming an Everyday Disciple in the Post-Christian World. It’s a five-week guide to becoming an everyday disciple. To me, this book fills one of the big missing pieces in the conversation around discipleship in the Church today.
My recommendation is that you buy 10 copies of Called and work through it together with a group of leaders at your parish.
Kevin Cotter is the Executive Director of Programming at Amazing Parish. He previously served with FOCUS for 11 years as a missionary and Sr. Director of Curriculum. He’s the author of numerous FOCUS resources and five books, including Dating Detox with his wife Lisa. Kevin holds a bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Benedictine College and a master’s degree in Sacred Scripture from the Augustine Institute. He lives with his family in Denver, Colorado.
Inspired by Called, and wanting to share about it with friends of L’Alto, I reached out to Kevin and conducted a brief interview to give you all a fuller sense of what inspired this book. Without further ado, enjoy!
L’ALTO: Kevin, you have been involved in the work of evangelization and discipleship for a long-time, professionally through your work at FOCUS and now at Amazing Parish, and in your own life. What do you see as the current strengths of the Church in the U.S. with respect to the New Evangelization and what are our weaknesses?
KEVIN COTTER: I believe the biggest strength is the amount of energy right now aimed at evangelization and missionary discipleship. From the bishops to priests, to the laity, there's an understanding that we can't simply continue to do what we've done in our Church and in our parishes. There's an acceptance that the secular culture has driven many people away from the Fath and that we need to do a better job attracting people to it. We must go on mission and there's still a confidence that something can be done to turn the tide.
In regards to weaknesses, there aren't a lot of people who know how to fix the problem, so to speak. Like many things in our society, we look for quick fixes that can be provided by programs or campaigns. In reality, the problem is much deeper. We are in need of a deeper conversion if we are going to be deeply convicted about evangelization and see a significant shift at the parish level. It will take much more effort and much longer than people realize to have our Church switch to mission mode.
L’ALTO: I think that Called fills a really important gap in the current offerings and resources surrounding discipleship. What were you hoping to accomplish with this book? What was the need that you saw?
COTTER: By our Baptism, every Catholic is called to evangelize. The problem is that so few people know how to do this. We still don't have a very deep culture of the laity spreading the faith. I love the Church's call to evangelize, but it can be frustrating to be asked to do something that you don't know how to do. It's easy to talk about evangelization as a concept or a theory, but I felt like there needed to be more content on how to actually start the process. The goal of this book was to give practical steps on how to begin to evangelize.
L’ALTO: I love how you walk the reader through an intentional process of Win-Build-Send as they journey through the 5 weeks of daily reflections. To me, this was a really unique and effective way for a book to be laid out. Tell me more about the decision to structure Called this way.
COTTER: The goal of 5 weeks of daily reflections is to help the reader create a habit of thinking, praying, and working on how to be an evangelist (many habits take 30 days to begin to form). Each day is short enough to get through in just a few minutes and there are reflections that can lead to a time in prayer. The book is broken up into Win-Build-Send in order to show the progression that many evangelists must go through. While you don't have to uniformly progress from one stage to the next, it is important to see that we must have encounter with Jesus and His Church (Win), that we follow after Jesus and learn to be like Him (Build), and that we go out to share him with others (Send).
L’ALTO: If you could pick one out of the 35 reflections for someone to read, which would it be and why?
COTTER: I would start with the first chapter for a couple of reasons. The first chapter begins the week on encounter. In order to be great evangelists, we must have a deep encounter with him and continually encounter our Lord each day. This chapter uses stories from the lives of the saints and how a deeper encounter can naturally lead to following Jesus more closely and sharing him with others. I think it sums up the goal of the book well. Also, starting on the first chapter helps people begin the journey to learn how to evangelize. Starting can be the hardest part, but it can lead to an amazing journey.
L’ALTO: Is discipleship just a buzzword? Is this a fad?
COTTER: Well, on one hand, discipleship is a buzzword and fad right now, but on the other hand, it's something that's been around for 2,000 years. One hallmark of Vatican II was to go back to the early sources of our Faith, to Scripture and to the Early Church Fathers. I believe that the concentration on discipleship is apart of this. We are remembering the great tradition of what it means to follow Jesus and to invite others to follow Him as well. This is the beginning of our faith, something that will never go away, and it's just as relevant today as it was 2,000 years ago.