Let’s face it, 2020 has been a year like no other. If you’re anything like me, sometimes you wake up in the morning with a real “what the heck is going on” attitude. But, if you’re anything like me, you might also wake up in the morning knowing there is a great need for evangelization, perhaps now more than ever! However, maybe you’re facing a few roadblocks: Churches are closed, you can’t gather for group discussions or speaker nights, and honestly some people are just downright scared of you!
Here’s the good news: as a full-time missionary on a college campus, I’m here to tell you that there is a need to evangelize, and it is possible to do – especially if you’re not working full-time for the Church! In fact, there are actually a lot of ways we have seen even more fruit in the midst of COVID.
A quick success story:
By the grace of God, I was able to see this firsthand with two of my students when COVID shut down our campus completely after spring break. I could see that both of these men had a desire to authentically love The Lord and also had enormous potential to be evangelical machines on campus, but previous to COVID, they struggled to find the time to commit themselves more to their faith. When COVID took away some of the distractions and other commitments they prioritized over their faith, we suddenly had time to dive deeper in conversation and prayer. Now 6 months later, both men have committed to regular prayer and are starting new bible studies even as school is kicking back into gear. So don’t let Satan fool you into thinking God can’t use every scenario to save souls!
That being said, here are 2 Tips for evangelizing during COVID, that we, as FOCUS missionaries, are following on 171 campuses this fall. Even during the Spring, despite the shutdown, the Holy Spirit continued to open the hearts of students. We are following these tips now as we work closely with the campus ministry to ensure our outreach plans follow state and local laws and the regulations of the local dioceses.
2 Tips For Evangelizing During COVID
1. Pray, Pray, Pray, Pray, & Pray.
If you want to take more time to evangelize during COVID, that’s great! This is a beautiful desire The Lord has placed on your heart. But, if you haven’t also made more time to pray, you need to do that ASAP. We don’t convert hearts – Jesus does. When we pray, we give ourselves a greater capacity to receive The Lord’s grace, so if we’re not praying more, then we’re not allowing Jesus to do more through us either. After all, there’s a reason St. Therese of Lisieux is the Patroness of Missions even though she never went on one. It was her unceasing prayer and fasting that produced a lot of the fruit from the Church’s missions.
2. Literally, just be friends with people.
This is the best advice I’ve ever received as a missionary, and if you’re reading this, this is the most important thing for you to remember about evangelizing during COVID: Literally, just be friends with people. That’s it. That’s how we evangelize. Why? Because that’s how Jesus evangelized.
How is it that Christians make up the greatest percentage of the world’s religious population today? Was it Christ’s sermon on the mount? Was it one of the numerous miracles Christ performed? Well, based on the minuscule number of disciples present at Calvary, that’s probably not it. Put simply, it was Christ’s friendship with His disciples that really took root in their hearts. And when you combine that with Jesus’s gift of salvation and the gift of The Holy Spirit at Pentecost, this became the context of how the faith was passed down through generations of Christians. When Jesus says “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,” He means disciple the way that He discipled, and evangelize the way that He evangelized. Keep in mind the people He is speaking to just spent 3 years camping with Him in the desert. If that ain’t true friendship, then I don’t know what is!
So, you don’t need a rabid, 500-word Facebook Post, or a YouTube channel with millions of followers, or a Doctorate in Theology to share the Gospel. Heck you don’t even have to be in a huge evangelical ministry! You just need to be a friend like Andrew was to Simon Peter when “He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (John 1:41) and then brought him to Jesus.
This is how we are called to evangelize.
So, how do I “Just be friends with people” in the context of evangelization?
- Pray – Ask The Holy Spirit to reveal who God wants you to minister to through authentic friendship.
- Brainstorm names – It’s usually best to start with the people that you’re the closest to. After all, why start building from the bottom when you already have 6 floors built? Do you have a family member who no longer practices their faith? Do you have a close friend from High School or College who may identify as a Catholic, but may have never been presented with the actual Good News of Christ? I’m sure most of us know someone already who falls into one of these categories, but when that fails you can always start going through your texts or your contact list.
- Start with a simple call or text – A real friend doesn’t mind stopping in to say “Hi” with no motive other than just to hear about your life. Christians with a desire to evangelize should be no different. The difference is that this is just the starting-point, not the peak of our friendships.
- Continue regular conversation – Follow-up! Just don’t be weird, don’t be forceful, and pay attention to basic social cues if you’re getting a little over-zealous. But don’t allow yourself to get complacent either. Be vulnerable with what’s going on in your life and invite your friend into it, and give them opportunities to share their life with you too! This is the beginning of a real friendship.
- Pray. Again! – Pray by name for the friends you are talking to. Bear their burdens in your prayer, like Jesus did on The Cross, and pray for Jesus to bring about a conversion in their heart. And don’t forget to pray for yourself! Ask for the gifts of the Holy Spirit so that you know how and when to share the gospel with your friends.
- Share the gospel! – When the time comes, take the chance to share how a relationship with Jesus has changed your life for the better. Jesus tells us that “The truth will set you free”, and everyone has a desire for freedom in their heart. Watch and pray, and savor the moment when you may finally be like John The Baptist and point out “The Christ” and watch him set your best friend free.
Don’t let the news keep you down. There are souls thirsting for Christ, waiting for the Gospel to be proclaimed to them and it could be someone right in your backyard! The challenges from COVID might seem daunting at first, but like all things, it could really be an opportunity for God to bestow more graces upon us.
Don’t just take my word for it, get out and try evangelizing the way that Christ did! And if you have questions or want examples for a good digital model of this, feel free to check out FOCUS Digital Campus and contact our team for more information.