Mention the words “Evangelist” or “Evangelism” to some folks and fear or better yet nausea begins to surface, because “Evangelism” for Americans has taken on such a negative connotation. The mere mention of the word evangelist conjures up images of TV preachers or street preachers. For some folks, “Evangelism” implies that if you are going to do it right, you must become a sales representative for God, and if you use the right pitch such as, “I’d like to tell you about Jesus,” you too can be an evangelist. Evangelism is not selling the Christian life, it is not selling your parish, it not selling at all. Evangelism is merely sharing the Good News of God in Christ in whatever forms that might take. The word “Evangelism” itself comes from the Greek word euaggelous with means mean, “Messenger,” “envoy,” or “one who is sent.”
There are many examples in scripture of people whom God chose to evangelize. The Apostles were certainly messengers, envoys, ones sent to spread the Good News. Early church narratives of evangelists include examples like Peter who after Our Lord’s Resurrection and the Day of Pentecost, he preached to a crowd and 3,000 came to conversion. This is an incredible feat of evangelism, but there are other forms of evangelism, and most are not as extreme as Peter’s. In fact, some common forms of evangelism exist even today.
Evangelism in the 21st century is not going to be very effective if we think we must grab a bullhorn and gospel tracks and preach at the local street corner. That form of evangelism may not work today. Our faith is a very intimate, deeply held, precious part of our lives and that is something that may not be easy to shout from the rooftops. Evangelism today, can easily happen by being conveyed through trusting, loving relationships. How many of us sit down with complete strangers and share our deepest desires? Only when we have developed trusting, long-term relationships with others do we feel we can share what means the most to us. It is through friendships that trust develops and it is through trust, that we can open up and share our inner life with others. Evangelism’s place is not on the street corner, it is properly placed in those intimate relationships with friends and loved ones.
By merely following Jesus every day, our friends will notice the Spirit’s presence in our lives. Their draw to your life filled with grace, mercy, forgiveness, and joy will naturally become a magnet to curiosity. From your closest friend, you may find yourself one day being asked, “Why are you so filled with joy?” If you are open to it, this simple question is the perfect opportunity to evangelize. Will you be ready? Evangelism is not when you say the right things so that you can win someone over to the Lord, evangelism is the simple response, “My faith is my strength.” That answer alone may be all that you are called to do to be a messenger, an envoy, and one who is sent, to share the Good News of God in Christ. Evangelism is not a dirty word. It is our vocation as disciples, because we are called to share how God works in and through our lives. You do not need a bullhorn and gospel tracks, a TV show, or even the most elegant, appropriate words to do that. Let your joy, peace, and the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ fill you, overflow through you, so that others may come to know the peace and joy you have found in Christ.
Peace, Fr. Eric+