When I was an Evangelical, I was for a short while a member of Campus Crusade for Christ. CCC is very evangelization-focused and it encourages its members to go out and evangelize as much as possible. To make this task easier, the founder of CCC, Bill Bright, came up with the “Four Spiritual Laws“, which are intended to lead someone to make a “decision for Christ”. Basically, this involves saying a prayer in which you ask Christ to be your Lord and enter into a personal relationship with him. Once someone does that, the work of the evangelist is over, at least in the eyes of CCC.
The ease of this evangelization method is attractive: all you need to do is get someone to say one specific prayer, and you can consider him a convert you have brought to the Lord. You don’t have to worry whether the person grows in holiness, if he embraces heretical doctrines or if he continues in sinful lifestyles – all you need to get is the prayer and you have a convert under your belt. It really is compelling to many college students as they are given a simple goal and a directed means to accomplish it.
Of course, it is not evangelization; it is simply sales. True evangelization has as its goal to bring people into a lifetime relationship with Christ which leads to their eternal salvation. As Catholics, we know that the best way for someone to achieve this goal is to live a sacramental, holy life, so this is what we want to encourage in others. Simply saying one prayer won’t cut it, no matter how sincere you may be when you say it. What matters is that you give your whole life to Christ and that you do this every day.
But how do you get people to do this? When evangelizing (and the Church has made clear that we are all called to evangelize), what does the Catholic want to direct the person towards? It is oxymoronic to think you can get someone to make a lifetime commitment in a single prayer. So what do we want them to do? As the true end goal is their salvation, which comes from a sacramental, holy life, here are three suggestions of what to direct people towards:
1) Regular Prayer. It might sound like I just dismissed the whole idea of leading someone to say a prayer, but as Catholic evangelists we need to encourage people to deeper prayer. We don’t want them to say a single prayer, but instead become people of prayer. Encouraging people to pray every day for a set amount of time (even five minutes) can be eternally beneficial.
2) Confession. If someone is already Catholic, I can’t think of a better thing to encourage than for them to go to Confession, especially if they haven’t gone in a while. Often this sacrament is the turning point which leads to a lifetime of serving Christ.
3) Adoration. Evangelization is bringing someone to Jesus, much like Andrew brought Peter and Philip brought Nathaniel. Well, what better way to bring someone to Jesus than to actually bring him to Jesus, sacramentally present in the Eucharistic host? Encouraging adoration is a great method of evangelization. Find out where it is offered in your area and then tell anyone you know about it – they don’t even have to be Catholic!
Note the simplicity of these suggestions: you don’t have to know reams of dogma or be a Scripture scholar. You are just pointing people to make small steps towards Christ – He will do the rest.
For example, let’s say you went to adoration during your lunch hour. If your co-worker asked where you were, don’t just say, “Oh, I was at church” or even worse, “I was at an appointment”. Tell him you were at adoration and explain it to him briefly. Yes, some people will think you are weird, but you will be surprised by how many will be interested. Little moments like these are placed before us all the time – we need to take advantage of them!
So, don’t be intimidated by evangelization – if you are a practicing Catholic, you can do it; all you are is a guide leading them to Christ.
St. Paul, pray for us!