Thursday, 17 November 2016

Evangelisation: a lifestyle

By Kirsten Brown

Most of us have heard this: Evangelisation is ‘proclaiming the joy of the Gospel’, but what does this really mean? Well, I looked up the definition of the word ‘proclaim’ and two entries came up. The first, I think, is what we usually associate evangelisation with:

“to announce officially, to declare, to say.”

This, I think, the idea of being preachers, is sometimes what we associate with evangelising. The second entry (for proclaim) was:

“to indicate clearly, to demonstrate, to reveal.”

This I found interesting because you can see that it’s about action, teaching through action, it’s showing an intention. But even before we can do that, in order to demonstrate — if you are to demonstrate correctly — you have to ‘know’ what it is you’re demonstrating, you have to know your intentions. So if ‘proclaim the joy of the Gospel’ is action through demonstration, then we have to ask ourselves what the intentions of our actions are...

I was coming out of the chapel the other day and saw these lovely little postcards that read: ‘proclaim the joy of LOVE’ — which I think captures the excitement and the spirit of this. When we feel the love of God in our lives, this is one way we ‘know him’. St John tells us ‘whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.’ (1 John 4:8). So to know Joy is to know God and to know God is to know Love — this is our faith.

When the gift of Joy invades our lives we start to respond with our words and our actions. You could go on retreats, programmes, or find yourself standing outside in neon yellow Newman house T-shirts... it can also be talking to a stranger about your faith, talking to groups of Catholics like you, really listening to the homily at Mass and chatting over cake, afterwards. The way we speak and see the world in our everyday lives changes completely because we start — consciously or unconsciously — to share what has been shown to us. We start to ‘proclaim joy’ in small ways, at first. Then it can become so much more, if we really open ourselves to this joy. When we choose to live it, evangelisation becomes a lifestyle, a way of living the joy of God’s love.

But at the foundation of all these actions, when we go right back to basics, when we strip everything down, is our relationship with God and our relationships with others - essentially: friendship.

Friendship is what changes hearts.


Your offer of genuine friendship, born out of an authentic love for the other person is absolutely what this is about — that is how we spread joy. If you imagine you’re holding a ball of fire in your hands, that is the ‘fire of your faith’. Our job is not so much to give someone faith, only the Holy Spirit can do that. Our job is to share the light that our fire casts with others and to lead them to understand/search for their own light, in the hope that they would come to know the joy of Jesus’s love through witnessing our relationship with him.

Okay, so this can seem a bit abstract. Sure it’s nice to think of being authentic, and loving in friendship, but how do we put this into practise? I want to introduce you to the idea of the three main ‘Agendas of Love’, which I think are just important generally, because they are all elements of a healthy friendship. These are:

1. The Compassion of the Father. ‘When He saw the crowds, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.’ (Matthew 9:36). When we meet people who don’t know Jesus, or are suffering, our hearts should be moved with compassion. Because we want to help show them God’s love in any way we can. They are our brothers and sisters and they are infinitely loved by God. It is more than kindness — it is willingly turning towards the other and trying to help.

2. The vulnerability of the Son. There’s this amazing talk by a psychologist called Brene Brown on the power of vulnerability (go watch it). She says that: “We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known”. Can you imagine any friendship in which we didn’t open up? Vulnerability is not telling someone your whole life story or your biggest secrets, but it is humbly and honestly speaking about how Christ has touched your life, your joys, and your difficulties. Faith is not easy, it is not always clear, we are imperfect yet God manages to work through this – and others need to know that. That they are enough, that they can come to God as they are.

3. Finally, the Wisdom of the Spirit. In all things, we absolutely must be praying for wisdom. There will be moments when you’re asked something you can’t answer or that is sensitive, and we should be a bit discerning with how we respond, so that we are seeking what is true and good.

So, when people see you serving food, taking time to lead groups, speaking with non-Catholic friends or strangers about faith, approaching people with understanding, then they’ll start to ask ‘why?’ And then when you answer, they’ll listen because you have treated them as friends. Not with judgment or forcing, and not with pride or offence, but taking the time to really listen to them, to know them first. If we come in with only our message, not caring who the person is, as St. Paul says, we are like a ‘clanging cymbal’ (1 Corinthians 13:1).

‘No longer do I call you servants, 
for the servant does not know what his master is doing; 
but I have called you friends, 
for all that I have heard from my Father 
I have made known to you.’

John 15:15

P.S. this was really inspired by Sycamore, a great evangelisation resource! Check them out at


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