Faith Convo 101
Evangelization is … a lot. On one hand, it’s the task set before us by our Baptism. Yet, at the same time, we often don’t know how. We might have little or no experience evangelizing others and have never seen it done, so we can’t even imagine what it looks like. Thankfully, Catholic apostolates like St. Paul Street Evangelization teach people how to evangelize. They recommend a five-step method: Ask, Listen, Befriend, Proclaim and Invite. Let’s take a brief look at each one.
Faith conversations start like any other conversation—with a question: “How ya doin?” “What’s your name?” “Where ya from?” “What do you do for a living?”
When you’re doing street ministry, carry a pocketful of rosaries or Miraculous Medals and simply ask people if they’d like one. It’s a great way to start the conversation. Once a conversation is started, keep it going by asking more questions. When it feels right, ask faith questions: “Were you very religious growing up?” “How did that affect your relationship with God?” “Do you believe in God?” Pretty soon, you’re having a faith conversation.
It’s a privilege to be genuinely heard. We dignify others when we really listen to them. There are many ways to do this, for example: look at the person who is talking, nod your head, give verbal feedback, like “Oh,” and “I see.” Repeat back what was said to confirm your understanding and try not to formulate your response while someone is talking. This “active listening” shows that you genuinely care, and also reveals opportunities to proclaim the Gospel. Eventually, people will share their feelings, hurts, aspirations, lies they’ve been told, etc.; then you can speak the Gospel right into them.
The next step is to be a friend. This means finding common ground; empathizing when hurts are revealed; being quick to say, “I’m sorry”; giving the benefit of the doubt; and caring for the other’s physical and spiritual needs. No one cares what you know until they know that you care. You’re not doing all of this to score points, you’re doing it because you love your neighbor.
It can be difficult to find the right time to proclaim the Gospel, but remember, the Gospel has both objective and subjective content. It’s who Jesus is and what He’s done for mankind. It’s also who Jesus is and what He’s done for you.
At this point you’ve uncovered many possible openings. Choose one and speak the truth into it: “Jesus loves you.” “He would never forsake you.” Talk about why you love Jesus and how He helped you through hard times. Your faith story is easy to tell, and it’s one of the most effective ways to proclaim the Gospel.
The final task is to invite the person to “something more.” For example, if they’re an atheist, invite them to ask God to reveal Himself. If they’re a Protestant, invite them to consider Catholicism. If they’re a lukewarm Catholic, invite them to the sacraments. Also, offer to do these things with them! Offer to continue the conversation over coffee or via email.
The most crucial invitation is the invitation to prayer—this is how we facilitate an encounter with God. Ask if you can pray for the person right then and there. Invite them to pray to God, too, right alongside you. When the time is right, invite them to make a statement of faith in Jesus and to commit themselves to Him! Then invite them to your parish.
Everyone is on a journey, and every faith conversation is an opportunity to join someone along the way. With these steps, you can be a sort of viaticum, the “provision for the journey” that eases the path to Jesus.
Nicholas Hardesty is the associate director of Adult Evangelization and RCIA for the Center for the New Evangelization. [email protected].
This article appeared in the September 2022 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.