In the Gospels we see many instances in which our Lord commands His disciples to evangelize. One such instance is known as the Great Commission. It occurs at the end of Matthew’s Gospel and states, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Sometimes we presume that evangelization is something only the priest does, but the reality is that Christ commands all of us to do it. In Matthew 22 our Lord tells us to love God with everything we have and to love our neighbor as ourselves. How can we love our neighbor as ourselves if we don’t even know his name? I understand that the Lord was not talking about our literal next-door neighbor, but about every human being. However, the mission field is all around us, especially right next door.
The Bleeding Church-Other Groups Are Engaged in Evangelism
In October 2018, Pew Research released the results of a study that indicated the Catholic Church was losing members at a ratio of 6.45:1. So, for every person that comes into the Church, more than six leave.
Before I became Catholic, I attended seminary at one of the nation’s largest Southern Baptist schools, and they were very aware of this. In fact, that was the target demographic we were taught to evangelize. There are so many lapsed Catholics that if they were all pooled together, they would number more than the membership of the entire Southern Baptist convention. As a result, there is a good chance that the person who lives next door once considered himself or herself a Catholic.
The following three steps are an entryway into the work of evangelizing your neighbor. These three points are just a starting point and by no means an exhaustive list. Building relationships is always the starting point to guiding people back into the Church.
Learning your Neighbor’s Name
I know what you’re thinking: this is Relationship Building 101. However, Pew Research says that only fifty-seven percent of people know the name of their neighbor. This is a sad statistic and one that points to the cult of business that is running rampant in our culture. We are all so busy that we fail to stop and get to know the name of the person who lives in the house next to us. If we want to evangelize a neighbor, we must step out of our comfort zone, make the introduction, and strike up a conversation if possible.
Offer to Pray for Them-A Great Way To Evangelize
This second step may take a little time and some conversation before you are comfortable. Once you know your neighbor, there are few ways to bring up the subject of prayer. For starters, simply ask how you can pray for them. Most people willingly accept the offer of prayer. Very few turn it down.
Another way to do this is to tell them that you are going to church and would like to bring their prayers before the Blessed Sacrament. Not only will you often enter into fruitful conversations with them, but you will build a bond of trust that will lay the foundation for even deeper conversations. Slowly but surely deeper questions about the Catholic faith will come up. They will watch you to see if there is proof for the truth you claim, so make sure you are relying on God’s grace to live it.
Invite Them to Church
On the surface this third step may seem intimidating, but remember, at this point you have already built something that is more than superficial. Perhaps they are not ready to come to Mass with you, but you can invite them to a Bible study, the parish picnic, or any number of church functions. This will allow your neighbor to see that there are often huge misconceptions about what Catholics teach and do. It will allow them to see real people who are trying to live their faith.
Introduce them to the friends you have at the parish. It is scary to go into a new environment and not know anyone. This step will also need to wait until public Masses resume, but at that point, people may be much more willing to go since they have been cooped up in the house so long
As noted, this is not an exhaustive list, but it lays the foundation for building relationships that lead to true evangelization. The fullness of the truth is found in the Catholic Church alone, and it is sad that so many have walked away. This should upset us and make us spring into action – and that action starts at home.
The Need For Evangelism
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