"Why don’t you evangelize?"
“I don’t know how.”
I have good news for you. Pope Francis offers a simple way for us to evangelize in the Joy of the Gospel. He tells us we have a “daily responsibility” to bring the Gospel to the people we meet, whether they be neighbors or complete strangers." Being a disciple means being constantly ready to bring the love of Jesus to others, and this can happen unexpectedly and in any place: on the street, in a city square, during work, on a journey” (EN 127).
Let's break it down into a three-step process...
“The first step is personal dialogue, when the other person speaks and shares his or her joys, hopes and concerns for loved ones, or so many other heartfelt needs” (EN 128).
First, it’s personal – a one to one, other-oriented interaction. The focus is not on information but on the person. Second, it’s dialogue where both parties are willing to learn. Effective evangelization is not a debate, not about who is right and wrong, and not simply telling others what we thing they “need to know”. Rather, it is about an encounter with a person where we do more listening than talking, where we are asking more questions than giving answers.
Debates have winners and losers; dialogues bring two parties together to seek truth. When evangelization is done in this spirit, everyone wins. In this step of evangelization, we care for the other by asking questions and listening to their joys, hopes, concerns and needs. Authentic concern and genuine listening opens people up to hearing the Word of God.
“Based on what the other person shared, only afterward is it possible to bring up God’s word, perhaps by reading a Bible verse or relating a story, but always keeping in mind the fundamental message: the personal love of God who became man, who gave himself up for us, who is living and who offers us his salvation and his friendship” (EN 128).
How do we decide what to say? Pope Francis tells us that what we say is based on what we hear, on what the other person shared. So there is no set formula. The message of God’s personal and saving love is the same for every created person. Yet, how we convey that message is as unique as each person and each situation.
Our role as evangelizers is to bring this one message to the unique needs, concerns, joys and hopes of the people around us. God’s saving grace is present in every joy and every concern. Our sharing of the “Word of God” makes God’s presence known to each and every situation in our lives.
Pope Francis encourages us that this “fraternal and missionary encounter could end with a brief prayer related to the concerns which the person may have expressed” (EN 128).
When we engage in personal dialogue, share God’s word and pray, then our evangelization is about an encounter with a person and not just a passing on of information.
“In this way they will have an experience of being listened to and understood; they will know that their particular situation has be placed before God, and that God’s work really speaks to their lives” (EN 128).
Be the evangelizer you were created to be. You know how. Engage in personal dialogue, share God’s word and pray.