Declines in Mass attendance. Fewer people affiliated with a church of any sort. An increasingly secular society dismissive of religion and religious values.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about some of the people on the peripheries of our Church and society — the disaffiliated, the unaffiliated, the lost, the broken. How can the Good News of Jesus Christ reach them? How can they experience the same joy and hope that my faith gives to me? How can I share with them the beauty, grace and transformative power of the Eucharist and other sacraments?
To be sure, some people are simply hostile to any mention of religion or faith. But there are many “searchers” out there — some who aren’t even sure what they’re searching for. Others have never been invited to consider a life in Christ.
So the question for each of us is: How can I be an effective evangelizer? Evangelization, after all, is at the core of the Church’s mission.
There are resources that can help. Every month, this magazine features stories about local Catholics who demonstrate the power that faith has to positively change lives — their own lives and those around them. Many parishes and Area Catholic Communities offer opportunities for service and outreach in local communities. These are occasions for evangelization where actions can speak louder than words.
However, there are times when words are necessary, and this is an area where it seems we Catholics often fall short.
I recall a talk I attended nearly a decade ago where the presenter stressed the importance of meeting people where they are and offering a personal witness — verbally — of how my own relationship with Christ has made a difference in my life. The presenter gave us 15 minutes to create a three-minute “testimony” that we then shared with the person sitting next to us.
This was definitely out of my comfort zone, but it made a strong impression on me. One of the best ways to evangelize is through personal relationships — with family, friends and co-workers. If I’m serious about my faith — and, of course, I am — how can I talk about it with others? How can I share it through my words as well as my actions?
The presenter offered the Gospel story of Jesus healing the blind man as a guide to help us craft our testimony:
- First, ask yourself, “What was my life like before my personal relationship with Jesus?” Perhaps focus on an instance or time when you lived your life for something else before you lived it for Jesus. (“I was blind.”)
- Then, focus on the encounter with Jesus — what led you to want Jesus to be a bigger part of your life? (“Jesus healed me.”)
- Finally, focus on how your life changed after this. (“Now I can see.”)
Once you have it written down, practice sharing it with someone else. It’s not something you need to memorize. But regular practice will help you internalize it and make it your own. Then be ready to share your experience with others when the time seems right.
Actions often speak louder than words. But there will be times when words may make all the difference.
Joe Towalski is the editor and the director of communications for the Diocese of St. Cloud.
Top photo: Getty Images/wundervisuals