Evangelization. What's That?
"I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings." -1 Cor 9:22b-23There is much talk about evangelization in Christian circles today. So what is evangelization in a nutshell? Evangelization is the act of sharing the good news Christ to others. Sadly as Catholics I believe that we have fallen behind our Evangelical brethren when it comes to evangelizing. St. John Paul II wrote in his encyclical, Redemptoris Mission about the need for a "new evangelization".
St. Paul says that we "must become all things to all men" So how do we accomplish this realistically without travelling thousands of miles? To meet each person where they are. Unfortunately, some well intentioned Catholics think the way to share God is through quoting complex teachings, and doctrine. But this is usually ineffective. The most effective way to evangelize is to develop a relationship, a real interactive empathetic relationship.The most successful missionaries have adopted the norms and customs of the people who they sought to evangelize. Think of St. Patrick using a 3 leaf clover to explain the trinity to pagans in Ireland.
When missionaries throughout the ages including today go to poor nations replete with disease, poverty and blatant starvation, they don't get off the plane with a bible and say "Hey let me tell you about this great God." They know the people need to be fed, not with holy words yet, but with edible, real food first. Then they can be open to hearing about the "Bread of Life." Yes. They're hungry for food and for God, but the needs of the body must be addressed first.
Any successful business person will tell you that the secret to success is to place the needs of the customer first. The business person who is best able to understand the needs of the customer will succeed. The same is true for effective evangelization.
I believe that as our society becomes more secular, all Christians will need to heed the clarion call to bring the news of Christ to a world starving for true spiritual nourishment. The time for passivity and inactivity are over. Evangelization doesn't have to be something reserved for a few spartan souls. True evangelization begins right where we are, in the midst of our daily lives. Leading in love and by the example of our own orderly lives speaks volumes to those we seek to evangelize.
A few cool quotes:
"The moment has come to commit the church's energies to a new evangelization. No believer in Christ, No institution of the church can avoid this supreme duty. to proclaim Christ to all peoples"
-St Pope John Paul II
"My job is to inform, not to convince"
-St Bernadette of Lourdes
"Good people know about good and evil. Bad people do not know about either."
"Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary...use words"
-St. Francis of Assisi