A Theology of Evangelization

When I tell people that my job title is Evangelization Coordinator at my parish, I can imagine what mental images come to their minds. No, I do not spend my day passing out bibles, nor do I preach on street corners, worthy as that is. Yes, I am to bring the Gospel to people, but I do that more with actions than with words. Does that mean I am a social services worker? Evangelization, I have found, has less to do with doing than it has to do with being. Much of what I do is to create opportunities for our parishioners to be the presence of Christ to and with one another. What does that mean?

Christ came into the world to dispel the world of darkness and sin. One of the things we see Jesus doing in the Gospels is causing demons to flee; other miracles occur, especially healings, but casting out demons is treated as commonplace (Mark 1:39). When he commissions the twelve and the seventy-two, he enjoins them to cast out demons. 

You and I likely do not have this ability, but we are called to do something similar. The world we inhabit is predicated on falsehood and is full of divisiveness and loathing. Or have you not watched the news cycle? In a world where people find new and more cruel ways to inflict pain upon each other while spewing vitriol, being rational and kind and calm can seem radical. When corrupt systems reward corrupt people for promoting perversion and egomania, focusing on the needs of others and being genuinely attuned to the common good can be downright counter-cultural. The world around us has surrendered to nihilistic materialism, moral vacuity, depravity, and idolatry of self-affirmation.  

When we bring Christ into our conversations, when we attribute the good in our day to the Lord, or when we stop everything and offer to pray with someone who just mentioned a need, we are carving out a little niche of Reality in their day. We are reclaiming a little postage stamp of space where the Devil does not run rampant. We are attesting to the fact that goodness prevails and will win in the end. In essence, what we are doing is christening the present moment, in anticipation of the coming Kingdom of God. The work of Evangelization is not about “changing the world” or “making it a better place”; we  cannot cause entire nations to capitulate to the magisterium of the Church. 

Rather, the work of Evangelization presumes a devoted interior life, immersed in sacramental graces and fully docile to the brocade of insights the Lord is weaving. In other words, the pruning starts within. That is why we must be present to the moment; each person the Lord brings into my presence is there to instruct me as much as I am there to bring the Gospel to them. Evangelization is as much about receiving as it is about going forth. It is therefore no accident that my full title at the parish is Coordinator of Evangelization, Discipleship, and Hospitality. I want to reach people wherever they are at in the journey, help them grow deeper in relationship with Christ while becoming more involved in parish life, and make every effort to receive them graciously, even if just in passing. I want to make every moment count, because that might be the moment that lasts forever, the moment when Reality manifests, demons flee, or goodness prevails in the life of the next person I meet — the person in whom I encounter Christ and whom Christ encounters through me. Evangelization means being ready for that moment. 

Author: Seth Wm. Peters

Seth Peters is the Coordinator of Evangelization, Discipleship, and Hospitality at All Saints Catholic Parish in Alpena, MI. He and his wife Amy have four children. When Seth is not busy studying for the permanent diaconate, he does laundry.

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