Often when we think about mission, our eyes lift and we scan the horizon imagining the hypothetical person, out there, who desperately needs to meet Jesus. We understand someday, somewhere, we might need to share our faith with a total stranger and we console ourselves that when the moment comes, we’ll be ready. As disciples, we know we are sent, commissioned and invited to participate in Christ’s saving work, and we know our lives must model and reflect the truth of what we believe. However, we often detach these heavenly demands from the people whom God has placed directly under our noses. It’s easy to dream of sharing the Gospel with the faceless, nameless, imaginary person; it’s way harder when the person is your brother, sister, cousin or close friend.
Given recent statistical studies demonstrating a precipitous decline in Mass attendance and belief in key elements of the faith, it’s reasonable to assume everyone reading this article has at least one close relationship with someone who has left the Church. As our hearts ache to see them return, here are four “P” words to inspire and equip you to do something about it!
Prayer – All evangelization and mission starts with crying out to God on behalf of those we’re trying to reach. Be brutally honest with Jesus as to what you want to see happen and how you feel about it. Spend as much time with him as possible, because the more he transforms your heart, the more your loved ones will see the difference he makes.
Personal – When on mission to your loved ones, keep it simple and focus on what God has done for you. Don’t worry about having all the answers. Simply share, when the time is right, how you’ve come to belief and why it matters to you. The one thing they can’t argue with is your story.
Patience – Sharing the Gospel with your family is a marathon, not a sprint. The consistent, long-term and authentic witness of your life will do more than most of the words you’ll say. They know your history, so be patient with theirs, and let the Lord work in his timing, not yours.
Painful – Prepare yourself for it to hurt. They may say and do things that deeply wound you. They may revile, mock or reject you. Remember, Jesus said this would happen, so offer the pain to him and press deeper into his wounded heart. He died for them, so we need to pick up our crosses as well.
Start today by asking the Holy Spirit to put on your heart one person whom he is preparing to receive your invitation. Our job is to demonstrate our faith through love, holiness, witness and boldness – let the Holy Spirit do the rest.
Pete Burak is the director of i.d.9:16, the young adult outreach of Renewal Ministries. He has a master’s degree in theology and is a frequent speaker on evangelization and discipleship.