How do I Evangelize?

Q: I know we are supposed to evangelize, but I don’t know what to do. I’m rather shy and I don’t feel like I know much about the faith. Besides that, I know I am a bad example at times. What do I do?

A. What a beautiful heart you must have – to be so honest in both your desire to do what’s right and in your recognizing your limitations. I think I can help you here, so let’s get to it.

First of all, you are right, we are supposed to evangelize. One of the first things Jesus says after his resurrection is what’s called a “commissioning statement.” The disciples are commissioned to go and tell people the good news! 

But how do we do it? I’ve got some “rules” to help us with evangelizing. 

Rule 1: Share as you are, not as you aren’t. God created you. Your personality is not simply a result of social conditioning or environment. When you were in your mother’s womb, God created you. So, the personality you have is a direct result of divine intervention in the world – use that personality as your guide to how to evangelize. If you are a quiet, shy sort, then God is probably not calling you to stand on a chair and shout Scriptures at people as they walk by. If you are a person who loves humor and a large social circle, then God wants you to use that humor and those social skills.

Rule 2: Lack of knowledge is one of the most easily cured problems. With all the forms of communication available to us, we can find out almost anything we need in order to be knowledgeable. We can read, we can learn. Beyond that, there also are some amazing podcasts out there that you can listen to and learn much from. There are so many great choices! We can literally inundate ourselves with Catholic information and inspiration.

Rule 3: It’s the little things. For a lot of us, the problem can be that when we think “evangelize,” we think of extensive travel or loud preaching. Some people are called to missionary evangelization, but if you have a job and family, odds are that God is calling you to evangelize in your everyday life. Start at home by treating your spouse with respect and honor. Treat your kids like the treasures they are – show them the importance and value of faith. At work, be on time, work hard, avoid gossip, be kind to the outcasts – all of these things are forms of evangelization.

Rule 4: It’s not for the perfect, it’s for the flawed. Sometimes, I think we worry about the fact that we are sinners, but our evangelization is like sharing with others why we like our doctor. She helped heal us when we were sick. Our faith is the same: We know we are sinners and what we’ve found is that there simply is nothing better than Jesus to heal our wounds. We can evangelize more through our repentance than we can through our perfection. Admit when you are wrong. Ask forgiveness of those you have wounded, intentionally or unintentionally.

Rule 5: It can never be just you. You need accountability and community. God didn’t create us to be lone rangers (unless you are the Lone Ranger, in which case, I loved your show). God created us to work together in and through community. Pope John Paul II wrote about this in his encyclical about the New Evangelization, and Bishop Boyea wrote about it in his pastoral letter – check them out!

Rule 6: If we don’t base our evangelization on a solid prayer life, we will fail. The Holy Spirit can and will speak to us: If we haven’t practiced listening, how will we know? Our day should start with prayer and continue with prayer. We should allow God to move in and through us, guiding our words and actions. Just a few moments in quiet to start our day will make a big difference. 

This list is not meant to be exhaustive, but to serve as a guide. I hope it helps you. I want to offer a couple of points for those moments when our evangelization turns specific. What to do when someone explicitly asks us about our faith?

First, tell your story. Tell them why your Catholic faith is important to you. Don’t try to convert them to your ideology or political leanings – bring them to Jesus. He’ll take care of the rest.

Invite them to Mass with you. Make it a package deal: “Hey, how about you and your family come to the 9 a.m. Mass with me this Sunday? You can come by afterward for a brunch.” 

When you are asked a question and you don’t know the answer, don’t be ashamed or get frustrated. Simply say “Wow, I don’t know that one, either; I’ll be sure and check it out!” The fact that you are honest about what you know or don’t know can be a good message to the person you are evangelizing.

There’s a whole world of people who need Jesus. Get out there and tell them about him! And enjoy another day in God’s presence.