Q - My Protestant friends never ask me about my Catholic faith, but talk about their churches and how great they are (trying to evangelize me, I suppose). Monday night we all attended a Campus Crusade for Christ kick-off party. Good times, games and free food. However, as a Catholic, I not only read the bible, and try to live it out but I get to partake in Christ's life through the sacraments and I get the fullness of truth in the Church.
Question: My parents have taught me humility and not to boast about what I have, especially if other's are not as fortunate. Whenever I get brave enough to explain why I love the Catholic Church, I'm worried I come off sounding boastful and snotty. Sort of an, "I have this and you don't" attitude.
Can you give me a few good lines to say that show how blessed Catholics are, but don't sound so "holier than thou". I would also like to reach-out to other Catholics in the group and remind them about how wonderful their faith is, and not to abondon it for a nondenom. church recommended by CC for Christ.
A - Thanks for the question. It is good to see that you have a passion to evangelize, but don't want to be triumphant about the blessings and truth we have in our Catholic faith. Good for you! Too often young evangelists have the passion and get too pushy. The work of evangelization is God's and we are merely His instrument. If we are pushy about our faith, then the work becomes of us, not God.
So, what can you do?
1 - Evangelize by example. This is the most important. You have to live your Catholic faith. While you are blessed to be a strong Catholic now, you have to be on your guard if you decide to stay active in Campus Crusade for Christ. Many in Cru will aggressively try to get you out of the Catholic Church. You must protect your faith. So, living it out will be paramount.
Any kind of evangelization must be a genuine gift of our faith to another and a simple testament to what we believe, not a BELIEVE IT OR ELSE mentality.
You can do things such as:
- invite people to a Catholic social activity, Bible study, class, prayer groups, Mass, etc.
- give your testimony about how your Catholic faith has brought you closer to Christ.
- ask them if they have any questions about the Catholic faith, then do your best to answer their questions. Be ok with them saying they don't have any, they might later. Also, remember to say "I don't know" if you don't. But, then look up an answer and follow up with them.
- make the sign of the cross every time you pray with your Protestant friends and see if they are curious.
- use signs of Catholicsm - e.g. statues, paintings, Catholic shirts, crucifixes, etc. to spur conversations
- give them brochures or CDs that explain Catholic teachings
Because you already have friends who are open to talking about faith issues, then there is one other thing I would do. Look for the open door. Whenever you are given an opportunity to talk about your faith, take it. Don't force these kinds of situations, but be on the lookout for them. Once you do start to talk, make sure you give them an opportunity to share as well, and really listen to them. You can also create open doors by strategically inserting Catholic words into conversations.
We cannot use stiff formulas or practiced presentations in order to build a relationship with another person. Relationships can be through a one-time encounter or a life-long friendship. The more I am aware of the possibility of forming relationships with others, the more I find the Lord presents me with these opportunities.
Ask simple open-ended questions about faith. I find the question, “what kind of faith tradition do you come from?” or "what do you believe about _____" opens the door quickly to a discussion on religion, spirituality and other topics. But, you don’t just want to talk about any topic at all, but more specifically you want to lead the person where you want them to go. Ask them why they believe what they do and take a sincere interest in their answer. We shouldn’t be out to prove them wrong but rather steer them closer to Christ and His truth.
While discussing, we should be actively listening and responding. Use their name, acknowledge their sincerity (even if their beliefs are strange to you), don’t cut them off, be careful of your body language and facial expressions (especially if they say something offensive), and try to show a genuine interest in the person’s well-being. You should not be in the conversation for your own benefit, but rather for their benefit.
Try to make connections with the other person. Common interests can help both of you feel more comfortable. But, be careful of one-upping them. I am a competitive person by nature and seem to one-up other people all the time. If they have a story, I have a better one. This turns people off.
You should also share why you believe what you believe. We do this because no one can say your experience of faith is not valid, even if they don’t share your belief in Christ. When you are talking be sure to take mental notes of how they react. Also, note the important parts of their story as well. Where do they need Christ most in their life – relationships, addictions, etc.?
Just a side-note. Don't assume you know what your friends believe because they are Protestant. Many Protestants, like many Catholics, approach their faith cafeteria-style. That is, they pick and choose some of the doctrines and not others. So, you need to dialogue about what they believe, not what you think they believe.
Prepare yourself to be a good evangelist with:
- practicing evangelization by doing it
I am sure you have heard the phrase, “love them where they are”. This is an important principle. We should love them, because our Lord loves them. God wants them to go to heaven, and draw close to Him even more than we do. But, this doesn’t mean we leave them where they are - in their sin or position in life if they are far from Christ. We should love them enough to want them to experience the redemption of Christ.
I hope this helps.
"living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ" - Eph 4:15FURTHER READING:
**Intro to Evangelization
**Evangelization is Hard and Scary
**Ask A Catholic A Question: evangelization program
**The Do's and Don'ts of Evangelization and Apologetics
**How Not to Evangelize
**Evangelization of Tenderness
**Fr. Barron on Evangelizing the Culture