Evangelization: It’s not just a word, it starts within each of us
In my focus on how to discuss the teachings of the church with others, I have neglected an important first step: Evangelization.
I touched on it when I wrote about my beard evangelizing people. (It’s true, see my column for July: Click here). But, we really ought to take a closer look at the gospel. After all, the church is constantly telling us, “We must make disciples. We must evangelize.” But the question remains: How do we do this? What do we say? What is the message of the Gospel?
There are many different ways to answer this question, but they all contain similar themes. This is a faithful summary: Jesus is the Son of God, and He died on the cross and rose from the dead to save us from sin and death, and to bring us into the kingdom of His Father.
It’s a mouthful, I know, but anyone who proclaims the Gospel is trying to tell the world who Jesus is, what He did for us, and why He did it. This way of saying it addresses all of those concerns.
Who is Jesus? “Jesus is the Son of God.” What did He do for us? “He died on the cross and rose from the dead.” Why did He do it? “To save us from sin and death, and to bring us into the kingdom of His Father.”
Theologians call this “the objective content of the Gospel.” No one can become a disciple of Jesus until he possesses this content. But, this doesn’t exhaust the Gospel message. It also has a subjective element.
The subjective content of the Gospel is our own story of becoming true believers and followers of Jesus. It’s a story of mercy, repentance, and reconciliation – and it can be mightily persuasive in the lives of those who hear it.
For one, everyone loves a good story. Stories capture our attention. They inspire. They change our minds and teach us something. When the story is about God working in our lives, then all this is doubly true.
This kind of story also answers the question, “Why should I care?” in a way that is non-threatening and hard to argue with. After all, who would question our own lived experience? And since it’s our story, it’s easier to proclaim. There’s nothing to memorize. It can come right from the heart and our own history with God.
You may be wondering, “What if I don’t have a dramatic conversion story?”
That’s ok. You don’t have to be Paul, knocked down on the road to Damascus, life radically transformed from wretched sinner to passionate disciple. If you’ve ever put Jesus first in your life, then you have a story to tell.
If you’ve ever felt God’s presence or experienced something work out in a mysterious way, then you have a story to tell. When you look back on your life with the eyes of faith, I think you’ll find that it is filled with moments of God entering in and making things new.
Maybe you can see God working, but you’ve never made an explicit decision for Him. Maybe you’ve never decided, “I want to live differently now.”
Well, today is the day. Seize the moment! What are you waiting for?
Seriously, what in the world are you waiting for?
Nothing in this world can give you what God can give you, which is fulfillment in Him. You’ll taste this fulfillment here and there in this life. You’ll have it finally and forever with God in heaven. All that remains is for you to say yes.
Receive new life in Him, and then share this life with a world that so desperately needs it. That is the calling placed on the life of every Catholic.