Evangelisation – yes, but how?
Different ways to evangelize
To evangelize is to love, to go out and meet another person who does not know God in order to love them. Evangelisation is not a technique – it is an attitude of the heart. It can take many forms and it is impossible to provide an exhaustive list of them.
We can first of all distinguish direct evangelization – an explicit and often rapid proclamation of Jesus to people we do not know Him and whom we will probably never see again.
This evangelism can be done personally by: Street evangelism – it is useful to have a church nearby where missionaries can pray and invite people for a time of prayer.
- Especially by a group gathering around an icon, singing and praying. One of the group may read a passage from the Bible and comment on it. In parallel, in pairs we talk to those who show an interest, whilst avoiding an argument. There is no question of being aggressive, but rather we offer them a testimony.
- Some of the missionaries simply go out in pairs to meet people. To facilitate contact, they may use a leaflet etc. to initiate discussion … people are invited for a time of prayer.
- Welcoming people into churches. Many tourists visit our churches. This may be an opportunity to witness to our faith or propose that they say a prayer. We can go with them to place their prayer before the Blessed Sacrament and then pray with them.
- Neighbourhood meetings – another way to evangelize is to invite neighbours to our homes for a time of friendship and free exchange regarding faith and life issues.
- Parish Missions – these missions aim not only to renew the vitality of parish life, but above all to help all parishioners to be aware of the importance of the new evangelization to which Pope John Paul II invited the Church. We can suggest that we go out to meet the people of the parish over a week by doing door to door visits, evangelisation meetings in homes, Masses, Adoration, evening programmes, presentations in schools, in old peoples’ homes, in cafes, by blessing houses, theme evenings etc.
- Door to door visiting – during a parish mission. Parishioners are warned in advance that they will be visited by a flyer in their letter boxes. Secondly, the missionaries, two by two, visit every house in the parish to inform people, invite them, answer their questions and testify and talk to them about God if they want to.
- Giving our testimony – we have the example of St. Paul (Acts 26: 1-29) – before meeting Jesus, Paul’s life was …, how he met Jesus …, after meeting Jesus…
- Witnessing through our lives and words – people today are in search of what is authentic. Separating the witness of our life from our testimony in words is a mistake. If we only testify by our good deeds, non-believers will be impressed by the quality of our lives, our high values, but will forget the most important thing – salvation.
- There is much more – conversation between friends, the Alpha course, catechesis for children, adults, letters, articles, books, liturgy etc.
As well as all this, there is indirect evangelization where people are led to ask themselves questions, which can then lead to God, to Christ and to His Church.
There is also the testimony of peoples’ lives, where we see people who follow Christ and who radiate the love that the Lord teaches. One of the highlights of implicit evangelization is the life of priests, religious and those committed in celibacy. This is even more true with the ‘heroes of faith’ such as Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II etc. But it is the role of every Christian in their work, family, etc. to witness by their daily lives, their testimony and their words to the love of Christ for themselves and for all mankind.
Getting started is not always obvious
Talking about evangelisation is one thing, doing it is another. All Christians are frightened of doing evangelisation. Why is this?
- We are not sure what to share with others.
- We do not feel comfortable or confident enough regarding our faith to tell others about it.
- We want to do it, but we do not know how to do it.
- We are afraid of the reaction of other people, afraid of upsetting them, afraid of what they would think of me, afraid of rejection, etc.
- All these fears are real and normal. They reflect the difficulty that we have in publicly expressing what we usually keep to ourselves. These fears also reveal the wounds that paralyze us. Going to meet a stranger is to take a risk – that of not being welcomed, not being understood and finally … of not being loved by this stranger.
Now if there is the One who loves me, who impels me to share with the world – it is the Lord. Starting from this love of God and helped by the Holy Spirit in evangelising, fear gives way to joy and excitement. It gives birth to profound joy, the heart opens up and is filled with hope. Evangelisation makes us grow in faith and helps us in our personal conversion. When I evangelize, I am the first to be evangelized.
It remains to be said that the only remedy against fear is the boldness to take the plunge!
Small practical things
Keep in mind that in evangelizing, we are answering Christ’s call contained in the Gospel of St. Mark (16:15) ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.’
We evangelize because we love other people and we have the desire to share with them the extraordinary good fortune of knowing Christ, of experiencing God’s mercy. The world needs to hear that He is present with us in everyday life and that He never ceases to love us.
The important thing is thus to propose this happiness. St Bernadette said: ‘I have not been asked to convince you but to tell you’.
During a discussion with someone, the goal is not to deliver a ready-made speech! On the contrary, if the person is free and open to discussion at that moment, we can engage with them and continue as far as time allows. If instead, the person we have in front of us is not ready to listen to us, there is no point in forcing the discussion – we just pray for them.
We can seize the opportunity when location or circumstance mean that people are just waiting to hear about God or the Church – for example in ‘tourist’ churches.
When I arrive in a place, I ask myself the question, ‘what are the needs of the people here?’ For example, inwinter, on the street, people are dreaming of hot coffee – a fine introduction. It is much easier to start with ‘we are from this the parish and we suggest you stop for a coffee’. Then over coffee, the discussion develops.
We can also use religious holidays like All Saints or Christmas. I can approach people by explaining that it is Christmas, Easter etc. and that is why we go out on to the street.
Do not forget to give the rendezvous for meetings, such as parish activities, prayer groups etc.