Monday, July 23, 2007

No Evangelization Silver Bullet

I had the opportunity this last weekend to talk with a few interesting guys about a few interesting things. One of the topics we discussed was what the best way of drawing people not in the Church, into the Church.

Now before I get into it – yes, I know that we don’t convert people, God does. And that conversion is itself given as a grace from God. So if conversion is a grace given by God, what good are our efforts in evangelizing others? I would say that our efforts are a part of that grace given by God. Why has God has chosen to work with us in this area? Your guess is as good as mine, it’s truly a mystery. But He does, and he demands that we keep up our end and evangelize the world.

OK, so we know that God converts people and that he calls us to help, but how exactly do we do that?

Few people have the ability to touch a large number of people in a short amount of time in a profound way. Fr. Corapi, Pope John Paul II, and St. Anthony of Padua are a few names that come to mind – you can think of others I’m sure. But us normal people, who aren’t all that smart, can’t talk all that smoothly, and don’t have all that charisma, know that evangelism just isn’t that easy for us.

But I have good news, God doesn’t call us to this type of evangelization. God calls us to a different type of evangelization that matches up more naturally with our gifts. I honestly believe that the best way of evangelizing people is through relationships. We have relationships all around us, Children, parents, co-workers, neighbors, spouses, siblings, friends, … and this is where we are called to do most of our evangelizing. One warning, the results are rarely as dramatic as we would like, but we’re also not looking for a head-count.

When people get to know us through a relationship, they see us as a real person. A person with problems, struggles, happy moments, etc. And if we really “live” our faith in our lives as we should, they will also see that. When a friend knows that your faith is important to you, it carries a lot more weight than say a nutty televangelist who shouts at them how important his faith is to him each Sunday morning.

And when I say, “… really ‘live’ our faith in our lives as we should”, don’t get nervous. I’m not talking about beating your co-worker over the head with the Bible or Catechism, or asking them if you’d like to meet you best friend Jesus Christ, I’m talking about living a life of integrity and not being ashamed of your faith. We should be doing our best at living a life of virtue, in all areas. Picking ourselves up when we stumble, giving apologies instead of excuses. A consistent, not necessarily rigorous (though it would be nice ;-) prayer-life is a must – no exceptions. We make an effort to talk regularly to those we love, and if we don’t talk to God regularly ... well … you figure it out.

We should also be constantly increasing our knowledge about the faith as time and mental capacity allows so that we can offer somewhat intelligent answers to the more common questions. And by offering advice and guidance at times when appropriate and not awkward, increasing the frequency this happens by increasing the depth of our friendship.

Like I said, this type of evangelization may not bring the converts flowing in, but it is what most of us are called to. It’s a method whose results must be measured not on a monthly or yearly but on a generational scale. The people we know may never convert to the Catholic faith, but then again they might. Either way, we won’t really know what effect our lives had on others until the end of time. We may never see the seeds we plant bloom, but planting is what we are called to do. Our evangelism should be carried out in the day-to-day, a multitude of small acts done with faith, as Mother Teresa said, “In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.”


Laura The Crazy Mama said...

I have always lived by this philosophy. I sometimes get a little irritated when people come out and say something like, "Catholics don't evangelize enough, we should be out in the streets, knocking on doors!" and then tell stories about how they did just that. Well, if you've ever been approached by someone using this method, you can see how Ka-Ray-Zee people look that are spouting the word of God on the streets. I would run to get away from someone shouting in my face, or coming to my door. I always use the "I make no excuses, this is what I believe, you may not believe this, but maybe someday you will...truth is truth" attitude and because I am so happy in my faith, I've "converted" at least a few people (that I know of) just little by little, with lots of prayer, and all glory to God! Now, if I could only get through to my brother. I think I might need some kind of spiritual two-by-four for that kid!

fertlmertl said...

Very nicely said. And timely. I was just talking to Laur about this this morning regarding a friend of mine, I think I said something like, "I don't even know where to begin..." in reference to evangelization and sharing more about Catholocism with her. I think my message for today is that I need to at least stand up and stand proud when my friend and I are discussing matters relevant to faith. Oh, and I'll stop telling her she's never going to get to Heaven unless she becomes Catholic.
hee hee.

PS You should add Laura to the Fr. Corapi, the Pope...list...she's a coversion machine that girl.