Evangelization, then, is also a process. As we seek to help others to encounter Christ, 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, 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. So 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.
1 - Share Yourself 2 - Know the Kerygma 3 - Pray. Especially When You Don't Have Time.
4 - Collaborate 5 - Invite. Invite. Invite. 6 - Be Cheerful 7 - Do the Task at Hand
8 - Don't Forget Recess 9 - It Begins with a Smile 10 - The Topic is Always Jesus
11 - The WIIFM Principle 12 - Recapture the Enchantment 13 - Learn to Use Youtube
14 - The Art of Accompaniment 15 - The Art of Listening
16 - Eat Food. It's Part of Evangelization 17 - Everything Leads to Liturgy
18 - Self-love Can Still Be Other-centered 19 - It Will Never Be Perfect, Don't Stress
20 - The "Student" is the Whole Family 21 - Catechesis is a MEANS of Evangelization 22 - The 5 Means of Evangelization 23 - The Christian Life is Service 24 - Doctrine is for Prayer. 25 - From Evangelization to Immanuelization 26 - Humility, Love, and 'Eucharistic' Anticipation 27 - People Change People 28 - Salvation History is Our Story 29 - Mutual Forgiveness 30 - Fraternal Correction 31 - Build-Up Families 32 - Affirmative Orthodoxy 33 - Emphasize the Mission 34 - Talk about Tithing 35 - Recognize Bondage 36 - Encourage Ignatian Discernment