When I first heard the word ‘evangelization,’ it actually came with a whole lot of negative connotations. I had images of weird people who knew the Bible backwards and forwards standing on street corners shouting to strangers about Jesus. But the reality of evangelization for most of us is completely different. Today we share some of the most common evangelization myths debunked.
“I don’t know enough about my faith.” If we all waited until we knew ‘enough’ then no one would ever share their faith. We are all learning and growing. Even if you haven’t quite figured out what makes the pope infallible, or how Mary fits into the picture, you can still share the basic Gospel message, the clear and simple truth of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. If you still have doubts about your faith (and let’s face it most of us do), be a witness to others in seeking answers and searching after the Truth. Show the people you meet your desire for God and invite them into that journey with you.
“I’m kind of shy and not really into talking to random strangers.” Our most meaningful opportunities for evangelization happens with our friends, family, and colleagues rather than random strangers. Share your faith with your closest friends and family, rather than random strangers. Often these sorts of encounters are far more meaningful, as the message of Christ comes from someone they know and trust.
“I don’t want to push people into something they don’t want.” I agree! I don’t want to push things on people either. Evangelization is not ‘pushing’ the faith on someone, and besides, that wouldn’t work anyway. Being human means that we are constantly searching for meaning and truth. Evangelization is offering an avenue for that search. Your role is not to convince the people you meet of anything, but to present them with an opportunity to explore basic human questions. By being open to exploring, we allow the Holy Spirit to evangelize us. Also remember that if you truly have their best interests (salvation) at heart, you are proposing something they may not want but that they definitely need.
“I think evangelization is great, but I’m not really called to it” After the call to holiness comes the call to evangelization. Pope John Paul II wrote: “No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples.” (Read the whole encyclical here.) That includes us! We receive this call to evangelize with our baptism. So, evangelization is not a Protestant thing, or a charismatic thing, it’s a Christian thing!
“I don’t know how to start” Here are three super simple tips if you don’t know where to start. First, pray! Grow in your life of faith and pray for opportunities to share your faith. God will provide the opportunities if you ask. Second, often these opportunities to evangelize do not include actually vocally proclaiming the Gospel. There’s a quote attributed to St. Francis: “Preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words.” Your life, your actions, your choices should all point to God. How do you treat other people? Does your life proclaim the joy of Christ? Third (and most practically), be honest and be open about your faith life. Sometimes we feel like we have to hide the fact that we are going to mass, or heard an awesome talk, or did a super fun activity with church friends. Just being honest about the importance of faith in our life can often lead to really good conversations.
Remember that evangelization not up to you! The great evangelizer is the Holy Spirit. Your mission as a baptised Catholic is to be part of that greater mission. Evangelization is a great joy and not nearly as daunting once some of our common misconceptions have been debunked.
If you have any questions along the way, stop by to see your friendly campus minister (Terrel) at the Newman Centre, or shoot him an email (email@example.com). Also consider taking a 6-week faith study, where you can be equipped with more tools for proclaiming the Gospel. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info or to sign up!