The Contagious Catholic: The Art of Practical Evangelization. 5 Ways To Be A Better Catholic Evangelist by Marcel LeJeune
If it were up to me to save the world, I probably wouldn’t do it the way Jesus did. I would come in an age like our own, where I could get my message out using the internet, phones, apps, TV, etc. I would broadcast my teachings around the globe and have an international organization trumpeting my message by the end of my life. I would establish large structures, plans, and implement a strategy that went as wide as possible. I would allow as many people as possible to see my miracles and experience my holiness.
But Jesus didn’t do those things. Rather, he spent most of his time with 12 men, who had no extraordinary talent. He had a lot of conversations with people who were poor and powerless. He rebuked the hypocrites and ended up being hunted by the leaders of his religion. He did this for three years, got killed for these things, rose again, left for heaven,sent the Holy Spirit to empower his followers, and then empowered them to take on his mission.
Fast forward to today’s parishes and our own lives. In many ways, we operate as if Jesus was wrong in his strategy. We focus our money and time on programs and events that achieve a shallow and wide return. These programs are good, but they are not how Jesus operated. Jesus modeled a way which was deep and narrow. He was inefficient in howhe went about saving the world, at least in how we see things today. We need a return to deep and narrow evangelization in the Catholic Church. This is what Jesus revealed to be his strategy. He then told his followers to do the same. They did what he told them to do and because of it, they changed the world in a few generations. Jesus had to save the world, we just need to follow his strategy. Do you believe he made a mistake? If so, then there is no point in further reading. If not, then I hope you find this guide helpful.
Door To Door? Not So Much
Have you ever had a Mormon or a Jehovah’s Witness come to your door? Did you feel like they were there to truly love you? Probably not. Most of us feel like we are being used and that they are selling something more than wanting to help us. This is because they don’t know us, aren’t really looking to enter into our lives and befriend us; rather, they are looking for a project they can complete. We are really just part of a checklist. They do their door-to-door evangelism and boom…they are done with evangelizing others for the day, even if they make no converts.
Now this certainly isn’t always the case. I know many Catholics who do door-to-door evangelization and do so very effectively. But, their attitude is much different. Still, I think there are some Catholics who approach evangelization the same way the Mormons do—as something to check off the list, in order to “be a good Catholic”. It isn’t something they really intentionally try to grow into, get better at, or eventually get skillful at doing. This is a shame. We are made to evangelize, in fact, this is the core mission of all Christians! So, we ought to be aiming at getting better at it! But, the first step is to jettison some false images of what it means to be an evangelist. Day-to-day evangelization doesn’t mean you stand on a street corner (though some are called to do so).
Nor does it mean you have to go door-to-door (some do). Ordinary evangelization is with those who are part of your life on a daily basis. It is your family, neighbors, coworkers, parents at your kid’s school, etc. To be a better evangelist doesn’t mean you have to radically change your life. Rather, you have to change how you look at life. It starts withseeing opportunities to share your faith that are already around you
So, if you want to be a better evangelist, I hope the followingsuggestions are helpful to you. I have learned, through years of trial (and lots of error) what not to do and a few things we ought to do.
1. Invite non-Catholics (or fallen-away Catholics) to coffeenot Mass. At first glance, this might sound counterintuitive, but let me explain. The Mass is not primarily intended to be a tool for evangelization. It is meant for the Church to worship God and be strengthened to go back into the world, where we evangelize others. So, it isn’t meant to evangelize others for us. In fact, it is meant for those who are already evangelized and thus believe in what the Church teaches. Furthermore, many people will feel out of place in Mass (and some may even be offended) because we do not invite everyone to
Communion. Finally, we can’t have good conversations in Mass and trying to explain what is happening (and talking throughout Mass), isn’t appropriate. Therefore, instead of inviting someone to Mass, invite them to coffee orlunch. Invite them to join other friends at a dinner party. Invite them to go fishing. Whatever the event, find a time and place where you can talk to each other, in an informal setting, as a friend or someone interested in getting to know them. Which leads to the next point.
2. Stop treating others as evangelization projects and moreas people you love. Remember that feeling we talked about at the beginning, of being treated like a project? Well, don’t do it to others either. Your job isn’t to fix others or to get them to convert to your way of thinking. Your job is to love other people. When you enter into a relationship with anotherperson, that should be your ultimate goal. While you want what is best for them, you shouldn’t be pushy, argumentative, aggressive, or annoying. Rather, be personable, affable, interested in them, and genuine. Your evangelization should always flow out of a real relationship. Real relationship means we have the other person’s best interest at heart. This means being merciful and accepting folks (loving them) right where they are. If they choose to allow you to help them get someone better, it will be due to trusting you, not because you treated them as a project. St. Paul says it best in 1 Thessalonians 2:8 when he says he is sharing his life, not just Jesus’ teachings with others
3. Know the proper time and place for using apologetics.Apologetics, the reasonable defense of your faith, is a good tool to have at your disposal. That doesn’t mean it is appropriate for every situation. In fact, it can be detrimental at certain times. How many times have you been annoyed or defensive with someone because they dumped a big argument on your lap about something you disagreed with? When it comes to faith issues, that merely adds fuel to the fire.
So, we have to know when to offer a good argument for why we believe something, not just what that argument is. In fact, it is best used when someone has a sincere question and they come to you, because they trust that you won’t judge them for asking it, try to convince them you are correct, or be argumentative about it. I have gotten to the point where I merely answer the question, to the best of my ability, and thenlet God do the big job, that is, moving their heart (if he chooses to do so and they say “yes”). I can’t convince anyone by merely dropping knowledge on them, but I can pray for them, do my best, follow-up with them, and be ok with their free will to choose.
4. Ask more questions of others than they do of you.If you know the content of your faith well, then you might just gain a reputation, which means folks seek you out to ask you questions. Whenever this happens of me, I try to make sure to ask the other person more questions than they ask of me, so they can think through issues themselves. When someone comes to a conclusion, based on thinking through an issue, they are more likely to truly believe it to be true. Rather than just receiving information, they have discovered a truth and that means much more. If you are familiar with the stories ofJesus in the Bible, you will notice that what many thought would be a Q&A of Jesus turned into a Q&Q. Jesus frequently asked a lot of questions of others. Furthermore, everyone likes a good listener and someone who is genuinely interested in hearing what they have to say. So, be that person. Finally, if someone then asks for your opinion, they are more open to receiving what you have to say because they know you havebeen open and sincere with them.
5. Try to understand someone else’s viewpoint notnecessarily agree with it. This is a tough one for many people. I realized I struggled with it when I was dating a young woman who was pro-choice. We had gotten pretty serious and had started to talk about some tough issues. She was a Christian, and I assumed she was pro-life. When I found out she wasn’t, I got upset and flew off the handle. After I calmed down a fewdays later, we had a good discussion about the issue. I realized that I didn’t know her as well as I thought. I also realized she hadn’t really thought through being pro-choice or pro-life but had fallen into the “default” position of our culture.
Once I understood where she was coming from, I asked her many questions. These questions got her thinking. She had a conversion, and she is now very pro-life…and also my wife. To understand why she believed what she did wasn’t a compromise to my own beliefs, but instead it allowed me to enter into her experience and walk with her. I didn’t agree with her but loved her. This allowed me to be a channel of God’s grace, which ultimately changed her heart. None of us will ever be a perfect evangelist, but all of us can get better.Evangelization doesn’t have to be awkward or scary. It can mean being a better friend and Christian. This is how Jesus did it. Why not us too?
This free guide is brought to you by Marcel LeJeune, author of Ascension’s new book “The Contagious Catholic: The Art of Practical Evangelization.” To learn more about TheContagious Catholic, visit ascensionpress.com.