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3 Reasons Catholics Aren't Evangelizing

Updated: Sep 23, 2021


“The Church exists to evangelize,” said Pope Paul VI in his landmark document, Evangelii Nutiandi back in 1975. But despite the emphasis on evangelization given by every pope since, most Catholics still don’t.


Am I stating the obvious? I don’t think that I am.


This is because I’m not talking about fallen away Catholics who no longer practice their faith. I’m also not talking about cradle Catholics who frequent the sacraments but have no real living relationship with Jesus. And I’m definitely not talking about the millions upon millions of Catholics who are baptized but receive next to no formation. Bringing attention to the fact that this group doesn’t evangelize would be obvious, and to be quite honest, a bore to write and to read about.


No, who I’m talking about is the much smaller but much more highly engaged group of Catholics that we would expect to be fully committed to the task of evangelization.

When a group with these markings still struggles to do the very thing that the Church exists to do, in fact, the very thing that they have been commissioned by the Lord to do, we should be both fascinated and terrified.

The group that I’m talking about frequents the sacraments, has been formed by great teachers, parents, and pastors. They love the Lord and His Church, and they know Jesus personally.


NOW THIS IS NOT BORING


When a group with these markings still struggles to do the very thing that the Church exists to do, in fact, the very thing that they have been commissioned by the Lord to do, we should be both fascinated and terrified.


We should be fascinated because we are witnessing something that should never be, like salt that no longer gives flavour or has lost its potency to preserve.


But we should also be terrified because a world where the Gospel is no longer proclaimed is a scary world indeed. After all, the atrocities of the last century were by and large a by-product of Christendom in decline. We have not seen, nor should we ever hope to see, such a technologically powerful civilization like the current one without the Good News of Jesus Christ to temper it.


That should scare us, and the more realistic we are, the more horrified we should become at the prospect.


EVANGELIZATION IS THE REMEDY


There is no doubt in my mind, and history bears this out, that the solution to every social ill and personal struggle is Jesus Christ. This doesn’t mean that we can live a utopian life—heck no. What I’m saying is that, though we cannot become perfect—with Jesus as the centre of our lives—we can become different. And sometimes even a small change, one small imperceptible step in the direction of God, is all we need to begin thriving.


So the question then becomes, why?


Why do we not see this group of Catholics doing much more evangelizing than we currently see?


After many years of full time evangelization, I believe I know the answer, and really it comes down to three points.


Here's why.


1. There is a confusion about what evangelization actually is.


I don’t know if you have noticed, but over the years since the Second Vatican Council, as the terms evangelization then new evangelization became better and better known, their meaning seemed to lose much of its clarity.


Part of the problem of course was the slow realization that many Catholics had actually forgotten what it was in the first place. Did it mean missionary work in other countries? Did it mean forcing others to become Catholic? Did it mean some version of televangelism? Questions like these and the confusion they expressed made it far too easy, and expected really, that numerous people would come forward to explain what they thought it meant.


To this day the problem persists.


Take a look online even now and you will find that evangelization is equated with a wide range of activities. Everything from apologetics to wearing t-shirts with Jesus’ name on them is proudly and energetically promoted as being evangelization. But that is only partly true.


These and many other activities, ministries, and apostolates can be a part of our evangelizing strategy but they are certainly not the whole of it.


But when we believe that evangelizing is simply gaining knowledge or simply saying or doing this one thing then we get frustrated. After all, we thought we were evangelizing, but the results are far from what we would hope for.


2. There is a lack of confidence.


It’s no surprise then that Catholics who have let these poor definitions frame their efforts very quickly lose confidence.


Who wouldn’t?


If I had learned tons about the Faith and yet the answers don’t seem to satisfy people in life, I am going to conclude sooner or later that I am just not that good at expressing them.


If I had been talking to my kids about the Faith as I raise them, only to see them slowly but surely walk away from that same life of faith, sooner or later I am going to conclude that I must be part of the problem.


But the truth is, you are not the problem, your framework is.


3. There is a lack of strategy.


Somewhere along the way, Catholics have come to believe that the missionaries of old (and the full-time missionaries of today) simply had to do one thing and all would wonderfully and gracefully fall into place.


Some just had to preach.

Some just had to pray.

Some just had to meet needs that were not being met.


But that is not how it works; I should know as I am one of those full time missionaries.


No, the missionaries of the past and of today have to employ a strategy, that is, an intentional and thought out plan to reach specific people with the Gospel.


It doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, I have seen and helped missionaries to develop plans for their unique situations numerous times, and often the simpler the better. But even a simple evangelizing plan needs to be thought and prayed through.


If you’re stuck, you can use the plan I put together in Dare To Be An Evangelist. It is a plan that you can put into action today, regardless of your circumstances.


However you go about constructing your strategy, the point is still the same. Make one. That’s what missionaries do.


It’s all coming together.


If we can get clear about what evangelizing is (and there are many articles on this very blog that address the topic), then we can put our efforts to good use. We can make a strategy, make real gains, and of course, grow in confidence.


Evangelization should be happening everywhere that Catholics go. The world needs it. And so do we.



in Christ,


patrick

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