Sunday, June 17, 2007

Evangelization 101

The two women were distant acquaintances brought together by the one empty table in the small eatery. Over this chance meeting, they quickly got re-acquainted, and began discussing life. By the end of the ten-minute conversation, one left with the other’s phone number and an agreement to take her to her Evangelical church the following Sunday.

Sitting at the next table, I couldn’t help but be amazed at this interchange. I had just witnessed evangelization in action. One woman was looking for something in her life and the other had the answer. She spoke in glowing terms about her faith community and how welcoming they were. She told of Bible studies and women’s groups and shared breakfasts. I admired her enthusiasm and her commitment to spreading her faith.

Would I have done the same? Sadly, I would have to say “No.” We are called to evangelize. In Matthew, Jesus tells us; “Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you.” Perhaps it is because of a legacy of anti-Catholic sentiment in the United States, but Catholics are much more likely to keep quiet about their faith. I know that I am. I might reach out to a lapsed Catholic and invite them to come back to Church. I am happy to discuss my faith with anyone who asks; but, I would never have the courage to do what that woman did and invite a near stranger to come worship with me. I probably never would have brought my religion up in conversation.

Chris Klicka, Senior Counsel for the Home School Legal Defense Association, recently penned an article on “Homeschooling and Evangelization.” He offered a step-by-step plan for how to bring up religion in casual conversation and why it is so important to do so. “We need to come to the realization that life is too short and hell is too long for us to delay. Every moment we delay, more souls fall. It is an intense spiritual battle, which we cannot physically see, but it is raging all around is. God uses us to bring the message of salvation to lost souls.” Klicka suggests always having printed religious material available to share with anyone you might talk to. He recommends finding common ground and gently steering the conversation toward the faith, including asking people if they are Christian, and then following that up by asking if they are “born-again” Christians.

While I disagree with some of his theology, one cannot deny that he, and Evangelicals like him, take very seriously the mission to make disciples wherever they might be. Perhaps there is something we can learn from our fellow Christians about having enthusiasm for our faith and sharing the good news. We can be the Catholic Church’s best marketing materials by speaking about our faith openly and honestly and by sharing the good things that go on in our parishes instead of grumbling about the bad. St. Francis said that we “should preach always. When necessary, use words.” We can follow his advice and live joyful Christian lives that will attract people to our faith. When they ask, we can use our words to explain the reason for our joy and peace. We can invite someone to come worship with us. We can allow God to use us to help bring people to Him.

1 comment:

Jan said...

I know what you mean about the difficulty in evangelizing--the difficulty even in communicating--especially within the sensitive areas that exist in extended families. It is especially frustrating, because lines of communication have often broken down over barriers based on faulty information and misunderstanding and could be readily explained, and yet, because of these, religion has become a taboo subject... I would share with you my own small step in the
new evangelization': you realize that there is a sharp dichotomy among "religious books" and secular books. I have just published a memoir, Graffiti On My Soul, which attempts to be a bridge between those two worlds, a book that you can give others to read without offence. This is because it reads like a suspense novel--one reviewer said of it "It reads like an Agatha Christie mystery, but the words are so beautiful they sound like music!", and yet, it is most truly a faith witness. Many of the walls between us are emotional; Graffiti On My Soul seeks to destroy false stereotypes and give readers an engaging and positive "feel" for Catholicism in the midst of a rivetting story. Another reader said, "It shows the importance of faith in a person's life", especially when the walls of our world come tumbling down. I offer you my book as a help to reach out to the unreachable. More info at http://www.eloquentbooks.com/GraffitiOnMySoul.html