Evangelists? Aren’t those judgmental people who yell that you’re always sinning? Or that uber-Christian kid from high school that says one thing and does the other? This video clip from the movie The Mission illustrates a different perspective.
Evangelizing doesn’t mean forcing Christ on others? Nope, that’s an unfortunate stereotype. The Jesuit priest in this video is anything but forceful; he is vulnerable, patient, and understanding. He is also an evangelist. Since every single one of us is called to evangelize, what really is an evangelist?
People who evangelize are simply those who spread Christ, and Christ was loving – not hypocritical or judging others. The variety of ways of spreading Christ is as varied as the people called to do so. Father Gabriel was called to be a missionary in South America, a priest, and a musician.
How are you called to evangelize?
The Mission begins with the dangers of the jungle and shows a priest who died in his effort to convert natives. The other priests don’t give up on spreading love, and Father Gabriel climbs the waterfall and captivates the tribe through the beauty of his oboe. He soon teaches them to make violins and play instruments. The mission above the waterfalls becomes a safe haven and a very Christian place for the Jesuits and natives, full of music. They stay dedicated to their mission to spread Christ, even when met with opposition.
Instead of attempting to convince the natives that they needed him or immediately reading the Bible to them in a language they wouldn’t understand, Father Gabriel related to them through the beauty of music. People around the world can relate to each other through beauty, and you having a sharing something beautiful with a peer might be just what the peer needs to take interest in Christ.
Your hometown may not be a South American jungle, but it can be comparable. As a Christian, what you say can be foreign to peers and you might want to immediately begin telling others not to attack you because you’re here to help. Jesus never said it would be easy, and He himself was not universally treated with respect. Still, he loved.
Evangelization comes in many forms, not only mission trips, but the principle of spreading Christ remains the same. Sometimes, the hardest part of spreading Christ is doing so around your friends or even family. You don’t want to offend those you love, but you also don’t want to lose an opportunity to share the Gospel with them. What can you do?
You should be well-informed about your faith, but you don’t need to have the mind of St. Thomas Aquinas to evangelize others. Doctors of the Church are helpful to find the words to explain your faith, but the logic of St. Thomas’s treatises are only part of what a Christian is called to: faith and reason.
When talking to another, being able to share the joy and love you have, even during struggle, for Christ is just as important, if not more important, to opening another’s heart to the same love. To do this, you must stay close to God in prayer. If you’re going to encourage another to pray, you should also be praying, through your thoughts, words and actions. If you’re going to spread Christ, you should make sure you have a relationship with Him yourself.
When the Bible uses the word “courage,” the verb “take” is always in front of it. That’s because one is not simply born with courage; you have to take it. It takes courage to ask to change the movie choice when you know it’s inappropriate, it takes courage to admit you were wrong in a situation, it takes courage to stand up for yourself and others who are bullied, and it takes courage to tell a friend that you will not participate in a destructive conversation.
In every situation where you take courage to do what should be done, you are setting a standard to those who may not have known there was one. You are evangelizing by living the Word of God, instead of quoting the Word of God to others with only your speech.
There’s passive-aggressive, aggressive, and assertive behavior. Passive-aggressive and aggressive are the opposite of evangelical. You, as a Christian, are completely allowed to have righteous anger like Jesus in the temple flipping tables, but understand that just because you are angry doesn’t always mean it’s righteous. You might just be aggressive, and that’s a turn-off, the opposite of loving others. It wouldn’t have allowed Father Gabriel to befriend the natives.
Also, Christ is love, and love is NOT passive whatsoever. Love is an act. To be passive-aggressive is to be the opposite of opening doors to Christ for others.
Therefore, the key is to be assertive, which means knowing your wants and needs and understanding the appropriate time and way to stand up for them. As for evangelizing, you should be assertive in the sense that you don’t bend to peer pressure against you, say, going to mass on Sunday or praying before meals. It would be the opposite of evangelizing to approve and participate in un-Christian acts or words.
St. Francis of Assisi is often quoted when Catholics speak about evangelizing:
The important thing is that you are conscious of yourself: Am I praying daily to God? Am I asking Him what I should do today and as a vocation? Am I taking courage, even if I think I am weak? Am I properly asserting myself?
Think of St. Francis’ wise words and the example of the character Father Gabriel in The Mission: No matter where you are or what you are doing – you can always spread Christ to others. Keep Christ close, take courage, and have an appropriate disposition in situations that come your way.
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