The church exists to evangelize, and we, our generation of Catholics, are responsible for evangelizing this generation. Why should we concern ourselves with evangelizing the people we know and care about? Because everyone who has ever lived still lives somewhere, and we want those we care about to live forever in heaven, in the city of God, in union with God.
Many of us see the need to evangelize but do not know where to start. Marcel LeJeune's book The Contagious Catholic: The Art of Practical Evangelization gives us a starting point. It is a practical guide, a how-to book, to the art of evangelization.
I started reading this book when we were still in lockdown and dealing with the coronavirus. For that reason, one line in the introduction struck home in a particular way:
"We treat our faith like a virus and quarantine ourselves from others. Yet this one we want to spread. Spread the love of Jesus. Evangelize.”
Three things that are required for evangelization: That we listen, that we practice and that we pray.
God created us out of love and wants us to return to him. We are to live out of His love, give it to others and offer it and those we evangelize back to God. He gives us grace to do all this. He gives us the Holy Spirit to be channels of Grace for others and to go and make disciples. This is what we are commanded to do and the reason the church exists. We are made to to love God and love people like He does. We need to bring others to heaven along with us. God's desire for salvation of souls needs to become our desire.
Only disciples can make disciples, but only if we use the strategy that Jesus gave us, and if we love. So what is that strategy? We know the mission: go make disciples. We know why: because we want to be faithful and because it is what everyone needs. The HOW is the question. What is the strategy Jesus gave? Cooperate with the Holy Spirit (it is not our work). Know Jesus ourselves (it is all about relationship). Be not afraid (with God we can do all things). Be ourselves (we are sons and daughters of God and loved by Him). Be interested (people are not projects; listen to them, listen to their questions and needs). Everyone is loved by God and has an innate dignity (God loves them more than we ever could.)
We need to encounter people so that they can encounter Christ in us (and we in them)! Be a friend and bring that friend to Christ, and believe that the Holy Spirit will work though us.
Evangelization is not a formula. Doctrine is not about having all the right answers. It is relationships that transform lives. We need to form relationships with those outside the Church. Most Catholics have only friends who are Catholic or Christian. We remain comfortably in our common surroundings and customs, but to evangelize, we need to get out of our comfort zones.
The disciples did not stay in the upper room. They were scattered throughout the world. We need to do the same. We need to get outside of our parishes and go into the world and live our faith out loud. We need to stop hiding in our pews and do things that are a bit uncomfortable. There is no growth, and we produce no fruit unless we get out of our comfort zones.
The mission is to go and make disciples. The vision is to establish the kingdom. The strategy is to invest deeply in a handful of disciples and form them to do the same, thus multiplying the Church exponentially.
To see how that can work, read the book! It is a wonderful read, full of practical insights. It includes amazing stories as examples of what to do and what not to do. Each chapter comes with questions that are great for personal reflection or, better yet, as prompts to share your stories with a small group. After all, we need to practice talking about Jesus, about our relationship with Him and how He has transformed our hearts so that we can go out and do the same with those who have not yet encountered His love.