By Erich Wallace
Hello, all you wonderful people!
I sincerely hope that your summer is going so stellar! Though mine has had its struggles, it has been filled with moments of beauty, like: playing on a soccer team with my younger brother; seeing the best fireworks show that nobody knows about (maybe I was the only one); building a house with my pops, brother, and best friend; staying up way too late; reading about a young girl who went to Africa and adopted 14 orphan girls; and preparing to go on a trip to Alaska with my brother. In the midst of all that, though, I have been learning about something really beautiful and how to go about it: our call to evangelization. I’ve had my ideas of what it should look like shattered a little bit, but they are starting to be rebuilt in the best way. The three pro-tips I have been learning and want to talk about today to better evangelize are: to love the individual; to be intentional and relatable; and to read, read, read! ¡Empezemos! (That’s Spanish for Let’s Start!).
The first and most important point I want to get across (loving the individual) is summed up in this quote from Beth Clark’s Foreword to Katie Davis Majors’s book, Kisses From Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption. It goes like this:
“People who really want to make a difference in the world usually do it, in one way or another. And I’ve noticed something about people who make a difference in the world: They hold the unshakable conviction that individuals are extremely important, that every life matters. They get excited over one smile. They are willing to feed one stomach, educate one mind, and treat one wound. They aren’t determined to revolutionize the world all at once; they’re satisfied with small changes. Over time, though, the small changes add up. Sometimes they even transform cities and nations, and yes, the world.“
For many, many years, I have been convinced that I/we need to change this whole world at once. We need these grand gestures that will put everything back the way it should be, and then there will be no more tears and no more pain. And honestly, some grand gesture to change the world can seem less daunting to me than loving one individual at a time, who is right in front of me. It can seem less daunting than loving someone through tough times, than staying up late with a friend who is suffering, than going and visiting a neighbor when I’d rather do my own thing, than having that conversation with a family member or roommate after a long day, or than being consistent in a relationship. I often wish there could just be one great speech, one great sermon or podcast that everyone would hear, and all the world would be converted to faith in Christ and His Church. But, my friends, that isn’t how it’s going to be, and that’s not how it’s meant to be.
We are meant to love in the mundane and the ordinary. We are meant to take on the daily suffering of getting out of bed and showing up to work, of listening to a suffering friend, of showing up at someone’s special event, of doing a good job on that assignment, of giving out that smile, and of sitting down next to someone who can’t stand up so you can be on their level. Beth Clark’s message in her foreword to Kisses From Katie is much the same of Mother Teresa’s: seeing Christ in each person you meet. If we do that, there’s a heck of a lot better chance someone will desire to give their life to Christ than if we rely solely on grand gestures that happen once in a great while. Saying that though, our desire to get someone to give their life to Christ shouldn’t be for our own personal sense of accomplishment, either. It should be because we will their good, and we know that them having Jesus in their life is the best thing for them.
The next point I’d like to make is that we have to be intentional and consistent in our efforts to evangelize. I heard recently in a podcast that the least likely way someone will open their ears or heart to hearing about God is through a lecture style format, and the second least likely is through pamphlets being handed to them. The most likely way one would be willing to open up to religious teaching, according to the survey, was through personal relationships with others. The days of rhetoric and pamphlets on the street being an effective way of evangelization look like they’re over. The people aren’t just coming to the Church on their own anymore. According to Sherry Weddell, author of Forming Intentional Disciples, cultural Catholicism is no longer an effective method of evangelization. In other words, just “Catholics” having babies isn’t an effective way to keep the Church going anymore. People are having less kids; and for every one person joining the Church, six are leaving. We have to start being intentional in our relationships. It means going out to the coffee shop and meeting up with people or inviting non-Catholic friends to do real things together like going for a walk, grabbing a beer (or Italian soda, for those of you under 21), playing golf, working out, playing Pokemon Go, whatever! If the Church is going to grow, we have to start reaching out and intentionally discipling others, pursuing relationships that involve real-life activities that in turn naturally flow into conversations about the deeper questions of life and faith. The last pro-tip I want to give comes from Bishop Robert Barron and it is to read, read, and then go and read some more.
In recent surveys done, it has become obvious that one of the top reasons that people are leaving the Faith is because they don’t think it’s reasonable to believe in it. They think with the advances in the sciences over the years, that faith in a religion is simply outdated. This just isn’t true. If you’ve got questions, our Faith has answers. Faith can transcend reason, but will never be below it. The friends that you’re loving and intentionally pursuing will have questions, and you and I need to be ready and informed with answers. 1 Peter 3:15 says to always be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in you, and to get those answers we gotta spend time reading and learning about the Faith. There are resources galore out there that will help you to answer your own questions and that can give you the ability to answer those of your friends. I highly recommend the Word on Fire Show (a podcast by Bishop Barron) or the Ascension Presents YouTube channel. The latter features Fr. Mike Schmitz, and he discusses all of the relevant topics through engaging and not overly long videos.
To conclude: love the individual, and never think it a waste of time or too small a task; be intentional in pursuing relationships with those that need to meet the Lord; and get informed about your Faith. If you integrate all of this in a regular prayer life, you will be making disciples for the Kingdom before you know it and will be changing the world, one small act of love at a time.
Christ’s peace be with you! See ya soon,