Evangelization Must Begin With the Heart

evangelii gaudium

One of the [many] cool things about being Catholic is that we belong to the Church that Jesus Himself established and guaranteed the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Because of this, we can trust that when it comes to debates about dogma, the truth is on our side—not because of anything we’ve done, but because God Himself has ordained it so.

I was about ten years old when I first started getting into apologetics.  I loved learning about the faith.  I loved finding the answers to the hard question.  Most of all, I loved getting the opportunity to defend the faith against those all-too-common objections people often bring against Catholics.

But here’s the problem:

As Christians we are called to evangelize.  This call isn’t like some homework assignment we are each given to convert X amount of people just “because Jesus said so.”  This call was written onto our hearts at our baptism.  We are given the Holy Spirit; and it is that same Spirit who moves within us in order that we would go out.  We’re literally compelled by our baptism to share the Gospel with others.

Go out to all the world proclaiming the Good News.  Go out to all the world and share with them Jesus Christ. Bring Jesus to the streets.

I have a hard time believing that we are living up to this calling when our evangelization efforts are limited merely to intellectual debates aimed at correcting theological errors in our brothers and sisters-in-Christ.  Not that it’s unimportant to correct error when we encounter it, but this kind of practice can easily become a cop-out.  As we read in evangelii gaudium:

A supposed soundness of doctrine or discipline leads instead to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism, whereby instead of evangelizing, one analyzes and classifies others, and instead of opening the door to grace, one exhausts his or her energies in inspecting and verifying. In neither case is one really concerned about Jesus Christ or others. These are manifestations of an anthropocentric immanentism. It is impossible to think that a genuine evangelizing thrust could emerge from these adulterated forms of Christianity.

Sure, theological debates may require knowledge.  They may even require intense research (and good!  We should be constantly deepening our knowledge of the faith).  But having a theological debate—at its core—is easy.  Talking about the Person of Jesus Christ?  Sharing who He is to you, personally?  Introducing Him to someone who does not know Him?  That’s another story.

But that’s evangelization.

Are our efforts in evangelization centered on introducing Jesus to those that do not know Him?  Or are we simply copping out by limiting our discussions to the head when we should really be focusing on the heart?

Bring Jesus to the streets.  Bring Him to those that do not yet know Him.  He wants to win hearts—not debates.