If you want to be an effective evangelizer, it is helpful to recognize where you, and those you hope to evangelize, are on the journey of faith. The journey to a mature faith may take years and may not follow a straight line. Typically, it is more like a spiral. We usually revisit the same places, but at a deeper level, drawing closer to Christ. It is also possible to get “stuck” and stay in one place for a time, or to wander off on a tangent and then come back. Keep this in mind as you meditate on your own faith journey.Your personal awareness will help you to understand what another may be experiencing. Ponder the questions below, which will guide you whether you are approaching an individual, or planning evangelization outreach in your parish or other ministry.
1. God’s constant presence: God is seeking us, even when we are not seeking God.
Reflect: Can you think of a time when you were not particularly searching for more, and something happened in your life that surprised you, made you question, shocked, you or caused doubt? Can you see, looking back, how God was preparing the way ahead?
Ask: How would you recognize those who are not currently searching? What could you do to encourage them to consider God’s role in their lives? How is praying for these people and trusting in God’s grace important?
2. Deep longing leads to searching: Within the human heart is the desire to be united with God, in whose image we have been created.
Reflect: Think back on your life’s journey with God: When have you, like Nicodemus, sought Jesus out? (See the Gospel of John 3:1-17) Where did you go for your answers? What happened?
Ask: How can you reach out to those searching for more and invite them to take the next step in faith? For those who are awakening to God’s call, might joining a parish small group be appealing? How would you word your invitation?
Read: Six Signs that Someone is Open to Evangelization.
3. Encountering God and others in various ways: Our search urges us to reach out.
Reflect: When have you responded to an inner inspiration to reach out to others? What motivated you? What difficulties did you encounter? What was it about this experience that brought you closer to Christ?
Ask: Who are the seekers and searchers around you? How can you, as a sister or brother in Christ, speak to them about your own faith journey? What opportunities can your parish offer to attract uninvolved people: social events, service projects? What would appeal to them?
Read: Witness Matters: Telling Your Faith Story.
4. Encountering God and others through Christ: He becomes the focal point of our lives.
Reflect: Can you recall the first time you “encountered” Christ—through Scripture, the sacraments, in the personal witness of others’ words and deeds—and you knew you could not go on without him? If so, how did it change you? Or, reflect on how Christ became the center of your life: Did you renew your commitment? Were you excited? Enthusiastic? What kind of invitation would have appealed to you?
Ask: Where are the folks who seem to be at this point on the journey (e.g., people in RCIA, recently received into the Church)? What would be attractive to them right now?
Read: Sharing the Love of Jesus with Others.
5. Encountering God and others through Christ’s community—the Church: Our participation becomes more meaningful and more committed.
Reflect: Think back to the time when you became more involved in your parish community. What event or person led you there? What changed for you—in how you understood yourself, God, and others? What did you do? How was life for you or for others renewed or transformed? Did you begin to feel that you truly belonged?
Ask: What do the newly baptized and those who have made their profession of faith at Easter look for in the parish community? What do you think Catholics are looking for who come back to the Church after an absence? Do you know members of the parish who drifted away from the community? What might re-engage them?
Read: Belonging and Why It Matters.
6. Encountering God and others through the Eucharist. We celebrate the Eucharist and live as Eucharist for others.
Reflect: Consider your experience of celebrating Eucharist with the community on Sunday: What draws you into full participation? How has God’s Word and the Body and Blood of Christ nourished you? How have you responded? How has the celebration of Eucharist strengthened you for the difficult times in your life? Do you place your gifts at the service of your community?
Ask: Who are the parishioners, friends, or family members who participate fully in Sunday Eucharist? Do they have gifts for ministry but are not yet involved? If so, how can you help them recognize their gifts and place them at the service of the community?
Read: A Parish Leader’s Reflections on Gifts.
7. The Reign of God: We experience the gift of life on earth.
Reflect: Jesus announced, “The Reign of God is among you,” and we are called to share this good news day by day in word and deed. Have you experienced moments of the Reign of God breaking through in your life or the lives of others? Recall experiences of reconciliation and healing; charitable responses to those in need; a family or community bound together in love and giving witness to Christ.
Ask: Who else around you has had such experiences? How might you invite them to become more engaged as evangelizers? What opportunities does your parish offer to serve others in charity and justice?
Read: Responding to Jesus’ Call to Discipleship.
Taking a few moments to pray and reflect on this series of questions, either on your own or as part of a group, can reveal new and inspired ways to reach out to others at all stages of the faith journey.