The Diocese of Portland, Maine, offers twelve practical means to make us fishers of men. These are meant to help Catholics know evangelism can be a natural part of the day rather than some “extra” work that only certain people do.
Here are their twelve helpful tips.
1. Witness of life.
Show signs of a faith that is alive, of a conviction that is real, of a love for God that is attractive.
Ensure that your behavior and choices bespeak a life lived in accord with the Gospel values and the newness of life of the God you profess to believe in.
2. Include God in your vocabulary.
Aware that it is not against the law to speak about God and His marvelous works in our daily lives, bring Him up in a casual way in your everyday conversations, acknowledging Him as the giver of all good gifts, as the One who answers prayers, as the One who directs the course of our lives when we submit to His all-loving plan. Meaning it from the heart and avoiding “fabricated speech”, say things such “Thank God”, “God willing”, “I pray that…”, letting those around you know that you believe in a God of love, mercy and care, a God they too can and should draw near to in times of trouble – indeed, at any time.
3. Become a person of welcome.
Practice becoming increasingly welcoming toward others, making every effort to avoid critical or judgmental thoughts, attitudes and words, a sure deterrent for anyone considering Christ and His Church. Encourage such an attitude of welcome and acceptance in your community.
4. Develop relationships of care and trust.
Ask the Lord to instill within your heart His own sentiments and care for the people in your life with whom He would like you to share about His salvation and plan for their lives. Begin to develop or deepen a relationship of friendship and trust with the person or persons whom God and life’s circumstances place on your heart and in your life, and as the level of trust and care for one another develops be ready to share with them what Christ and His Church have come to mean in your life and to Christians across the globe down through the centuries.
5. Establish a common interest.
As an instrument in God’s hands, work patiently to establish mutual interests with others, beginning first where their interests lie, so as to prepare the ground for profitable discussion together on spiritual matters. Listen long enough to begin to know the individual and where he or she is coming from, in this manner also gaining their trust and their willingness to listen to your interests and thoughts.
6. Arouse their interest.
Praying that the Holy Spirit touch both the heart of your listener as well as your lips to speak His word, be alert for opportunities to share a spiritual experience and arouse some curiosity for the Faith. You may begin by asking a leading question regarding their own journey of faith, or by stimulating discussion on spiritual matters by using news headlines as openers.
7. Share your faith story.
Take some time to prayerfully put into writing what Christ has done for you and what He means to you, and how participation in the life of His Church has changed your life, highlighting significant moments of conversion and/or renewal of your faith and relationship with God. When the time is right, share this testimony or story of faith with the family member, friend, neighbor, co-worker or other person you have befriended – and take every opportunity to practice sharing key moments of this journey of faith with a stranger whom God might place in your path for the sake of a respectful and caring witness.
8. Present the “Christ-event” or kerygma without fear or hesitation, and with great love and humility.
Discern your listener’s openness to hearing the Good News of God’s plan of salvation for us, and respectfully present the core of the Gospel message or “kerygma” in a clear, concise and convincing manner, one that touches the heart and mind of your listener and disposes the person to want to know Jesus Christ personally. (“Kerygma” in Greek refers to the first proclamation of Jesus Christ as only Savior of the world to a people who have never heard, or who have not heard it in a way that has truly convicted them and led them to make a commitment to Christ and to life within His Body, the Church.)
9. Extend an invitation.
Invite your listener to accept God’s salvation and new life offered in Christ, the only Savior of the world, by making an explicit commitment to Him, in a prayer you might lead them in – confessing their sins, and asking Christ to become the Lord of their life. Upon this initial commitment (or if the person or circumstances do not presently allow for this prayer), invite your listener to attend an appropriate Church event or service, such as a daily, Sunday or special Mass, a presentation aimed at adult formation in the faith, an RCIA class, or another suitable means of furthering the work of conversion that has begun.Facilitate incorporation into the Body of Christ.
10. Facilitate incorporation into the Body of Christ.
Inquire as to the person’s readiness to receive the Church’s Sacraments of Initiation and arrange accordingly, whenever appropriate and welcomed by the person being evangelized. Continue to serve as a “spiritual mentor” or “sponsor” to ensure that the initial proclamation of the Gospel and initial commitment take root in this person’s life.
11. Do not condemn.
Except for those whose hearts were hardened and closed to the message of salvation He came to bring all mankind, Jesus did not condemn those who, despite being open to hearing His message, had nonetheless honest and heartfelt objections or simply had questions. Nor did He condemn those who were far from God and His plan of salvation – the “irreligious” or “sinners”; rather He welcomed them with love and mercy, and drew them to His Kingdom by means of a compassionate proclamation of salvation and holiness of life – and prayer! Imitate our Lord’s own compassion and merciful love, and associate with those whose lives may not be all that God desires of them and with those who may have questions and even objections about the faith; and pray that the Holy Spirit continues to work in their hearts as He has done in yours, while you humbly acknowledge that we ourselves have not merited the Faith we profess but have received it purely as a gift from our merciful Lord.
12. Know when to stop.
Oftentimes, as soon as we perceive even the slightest sign of interest from someone who needs further evangelization, many of us want to rush right in and rattle off the whole Gospel message without taking into account the person’s response, objections, questions – or even their readiness. Be careful to give the person only as much of the Message as he or she is ready to hear at this particular time, while you continue to pray for other opportunities to share the Good News with them. Do not be afraid that another opportunity for sharing will not present itself, but rather acknowledge that some sow, some water and God does the reaping in His own time: your poise and patience may very well be the thing God uses to bring this person to want more. Why evangelization should be at the heart of our life and ministry: