Ministry Tip of the Week
Evangelization, then, is also a process. As we seek to help others to encounter Christ (a.k.a. grow in the gift of faith), we do well to remember the nature of a living relationship, and to be patient with where people are in their walk with the Lord.
When it comes to the process of evangelization, I find this visual diagram a helpful tool:
In my own experience of conversion, it wasn't until I was in genuine friendships with Christians and felt accepted for who I was that my heart was opened to hearing the message of the Gospel. When I was finally ready, I realized Jesus was real, that he was truly risen, and that he loved me, personally, in spite of all I had done to hurt him. This was stage two of the process: "Evangelization proper." For the first time in my life, I really listened to the proclamation of the Gospel.
Grace flooded my heart and I was utterly converted. I found myself uncovering a new identity; I was a child of God, for real. My initial conversion to Christ had taken place. I had encountered him personally, and I believed the Gospel.
I was ready for stage three: "catechesis." Aware of his love, I had a growing hunger to know that I couldn't contain. The ins and outs of the faith became like manna from heaven, nourishing and sustaining me as my precious faith began to blossom in exciting ways. I was compelled to learn more about the One whose love I was so desperate to hold onto.
As my knowledge grew, so too did my identity, and with it my "mission" (stage four). Eventually, I realized the mission of Christ was being extended to me. I had been given a part in the plan. For God so loved the world... that he sent all his (adopted) sons and daughters. I began to look for opportunities to serve; and it was there, in loving my neighbor, that I started to see Christ even more fully, encountering him not just in the poor I was serving but alive in me. His love was so real in my heart, I found myself doing things and thinking things I never would have before. I found myself loving like I had never loved before. I was being sent. I was becoming a disciple.
Where are you in the process of evangelization? In ever-deepening ways, we're always experiencing every stage. Jesus is present everywhere and at no point could we ever exhaust his love in any of these areas. As the living relationship of faith matures, we come to see his face more brightly in the faces of those we love (pre-evangelization), in the rich simplicity of the Gospel message (evangelization proper), in the depths of doctrine and theology (catechesis), and in the urgent grace of discipleship as we bring our communion with Christ into the world (mission).
How do we know where others are in the conversion process? It's always different. Everyone's relationship with Christ is unique. We begin with friendship and we're ready to provide the individual needs as they arise. But whether we're serving, helping to bring deeper understanding, proclaiming the basics of God's love, or simply nourishing friendship, we're learning to recognize Jesus, truly present in it all. Evangelization is an ever-deepening encounter with the risen Lord. We meet Jesus first in the love of others and, as the process unfolds, we find ourselves swept up and living in his mission of love.