Evangelization is to tell the story of Jesus; to proclaim, share and spread the gospel; and to bring others to belief and help them deepen their faith.
There are many different strategies and methods to do so.
Word-of-mouth advertising is the best. Andrew the apostle is a perfect example. After he heard Jesus, he went to his brother Peter and said, “We have found the Messiah” (John 1:41). Personal testimony and faith sharing with another person is a powerful way to evangelize.
The woman at the well also used word-of-mouth advertising when she said, “Come see a man who told me everything I have ever done. Could he possibly be the Messiah?” (John 4:29). Her method was slightly different — instead of speaking to an individual, she addressed a group.
Both Andrew and the woman invited their listeners to go meet Jesus themselves. Faith sharing comes first, a personal invitation follows.
In churches and beyond
Experts in sales and marketing have a saying: “Location! Location! Location!” And this applies to telling the story of Jesus.
Jesus began with religious locations — buildings where faithful Jews gathered, the synagogues in Galilee and the Temple in Jerusalem. The Apostle Paul did likewise. When he arrived at a new place, he usually began at the local synagogue.
Today, one of the primary locations for evangelization is in our own parish churches to those who already believe, not to bring them to faith but to help them intensify their faith and energize them to share the good news about Jesus with others.
Jesus used a wide variety of locations to preach the Gospel, not just sacred buildings. He taught in a neighbor’s home, on a hillside, from a boat near the shore, and along the roadside.
After Pentecost, Peter proclaimed Jesus from a rooftop. Paul went to the banks of a river, and he regularly went to the marketplace.
Evangelization extends beyond church and school buildings to wherever we go — all of the ordinary places where people live and work. The Gospel cannot and must not be confined to religious institutions; it must be carried everywhere and anywhere. This point is made emphatically at the end of Mass with the second dismissal: “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.”
Another key aspect to location is Jesus’ use of Capernaum as the home base for his Galilean ministry. It is providentially located along the Via Maris, the great ancient caravan route between Asia and Africa, a first-century “superhighway” for commerce.
Merchants moved commodities vast distances with camels and donkeys, and they stayed in a different town every night. It was before telegraphs and teletypes, telephones or television. Traders listened to the news in one town one night and shared it in the next town the next night.
In the ancient world, information traveled up and down the highway. Today, evangelizers need to take the message of Jesus up and down the new information superhighways — satellite radio, cable television, the Internet, smartphones, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other emergent technologies.
Effective evangelization is a multilingual process. Jesus most likely spoke at least three languages: Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek. The apostles also spoke in a variety of languages (Acts 2:6-11). The Gospel message should be broadly accessible and offered to people in their own languages.
Jesus did his evangelization ministry with the spoken word, but his followers wrote extensively. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all wrote Gospels. Luke wrote Acts. Paul, James, Peter and John all wrote letters. The written word remains one of the best ways to evangelize: personal letters and emails to friends, parish bulletins and Catholic newspapers, spiritual books and magazines, banners and billboards.
Jesus would like us to join him in proclaiming the Gospel (see Matthew 28:19-20; Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8). It is a supremely important task because “through it [the Gospel] you are also being saved” (1 Corinthians 15:2a).
Father Van Sloun is pastor of St. Stephen in Anoka.