By Ali Jakos
When I hear the word evangelize, I immediately clam up.
I correlate evangelization with knocking on people’s doors and setting up a table at the fair to ask people if they know Jesus. And I’m probably not alone in those thoughts. We see examples of poor evangelization all around us, and it tends to turn us away and make us say, “I don’t want to be that person.” So we convince ourselves we are not called to evangelize because we don’t know what good evangelization looks like.
Evangelization is less about getting someone to convert to Catholicism than it is helping a person see the Lord’s love for them. We can share the Lord’s love by walking with those around us, by being Christ to them. More tangibly, we evangelize by giving witness to what the Lord is doing in our own lives.
Have you ever seen a young kid on their birthday or Christmas, bursting at the seams with excitement at the gift they received? They are so excited to receive the toy they’ve been asking for; they hold the gift tight and squeal with glee. Throughout the next few days, they no doubt tell anyone who will listen about their gift, and their joy is contagious, especially to the giver.
We are meant to be like the child, and our gifts are the graces God gives us throughout our daily lives. Any aspects of our lives that stir our hearts are gifts from God, be it the first breath we take when we wake, the songs of birds, a delicious meal, or reassuring words. God has carefully woven our lives so those things might happen for us, for me and for you. And like a child, we should hold onto those moments, and we should share those moments with those who are willing to listen. Our joy and our gratitude in those moments can be contagious.
Taking the step
When we start to see how the Lord is working in our lives, and we practice sharing those graces with others, the Lord may call us to do and share more. We may receive promptings from the Lord to say or do something we are not used to, and those promptings are often followed by pressure—pressure to succeed and to perform perfectly. Our pride takes over, and we assume all responsibility for whatever the outcome.
Mike and Tammy Mitzel from Aberdeen have started Restoration Ministries of South Dakota, a ministry dedicated to teaching and equipping all Christians to be missionary disciples. The first time Mike was called by the Lord to take the step from sharing graces to actually praying with someone was six years ago. He didn’t know the woman the Lord pointed out to him. He had never met her, but the Lord wouldn’t stop nudging Mike to pray with her.
She had cancer, and Mike needed to pray with her.
Mike remembered the feeling. “Immediately I’m pressuring myself about the outcome. What if nothing happens? What if she doesn’t get healed of cancer? Like somehow I’m responsible for whatever’s going to happen in that prayer,” he said.
So often, when we are invited by the Lord to participate in something bigger than ourselves, we assume all responsibility. We forget we are only one instrument in the orchestra, only a small piece in the puzzle. But if we allow the Lord to breathe into us, we can make beautiful music.
Mike chose to allow the Lord to use him. He approached the woman and asked if he could pray for her.
“We prayed a few times, and she didn’t feel anything,” Mike said. “She didn’t have warm tingles all over, or some sense that something had changed in her body.”
But as they were finishing the prayer session, Mike felt the Lord’s desire to tell the woman that the Lord was well pleased with her. Mike recalled, “I looked at her and I said, ‘I believe … that the Lord wants you to know that he is well pleased with you.’”
Mike received the message from the Lord, and he responded by sharing that message. When the woman received the message, she was immediately relieved. Mike recalled, “Her eyes welled up, her muscles softened, and she squeezed me. She was crying and said, ‘I needed to hear that.’”
It doesn’t necessarily matter whether or not the person we pray for or share with has a profound experience, but we still expect it. It’s our human nature. If we are going to do something, we desire a response.
Mike assumed that he was going into a situation for the sole purpose of physical healing when really, she needed to know that the Lord was well pleased with her. Nothing else mattered.
Like Mike, we can find ourselves placing expectations on the Lord. We can easily assume that we think we know what he is up to, when in reality, we have no idea what his plan is. And in truth, we don’t have to know what the Lord intends.
The lesson was impactful for Mike. “It gave me some freedom to not worry so much about what’s going to happen or not going to happen, to just say ‘all I have to do, if the Lord is calling me to pray with that person, is to pray with that person.’”
Sometimes we can fall into the temptation that we are not good enough or ready enough for what the Lord calls us to, but Tammy encourages us to let those worries go. “It’s about our loaves and fishes. It’s not about waiting until I’m in a good mood or more holy. Just step out and give the Lord your loaves and fish, and he does the rest,” she said.
We need to remember that the Lord can use us in whatever state we are in, so long as our desires align with his. If we give him what we have available, our loaves and our fish, he will multiply them. The Lord makes us enough.
So how do we start?
Our calls to missionary discipleship may look completely different. Mike and Tammy run into people they are called to pray for almost everywhere they go. I hope that is not my calling quite yet, and maybe you’re like me. The idea of asking to pray with someone often causes me to shut down, turn away and let the moment slip away. How do we defeat that fear?
For starters, most of us are not called to be missionaries in foreign places to complete strangers. We are called to be missionaries right where we are, to serve in the fields the Lord has placed us in, be it our jobs, our parishes or our towns. But how do we do that?
Tammy has a simple beginning for us. “Start with naming people who are in your life and pray for them. Ask God to reveal to you what story or Scripture they need to hear or what gift you can share with them. Then ask them if they’d like to hear a story you feel God wants to bless them with.”
And what if they say no?
We often fear rejection. Our pride gets in the way, and we allow our fear of the person’s response to take over. We need to acknowledge that, if we are shut down when we ask someone if we can pray with them or give them a message, it is not a rejection of us. When we turn down something God wants to give us, it is not a rejection of the messenger. God will continue to pursue the person through other means.
Let’s fight the fear and the lies with truth. God can use me, here and now. He can use you, here and now. Our worth is not defined by what we do. We do not have to perform to be loved. We don’t have to control the outcome. All we have to do is love those we are with and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.
Evangelization can be as simple as sharing a grace the Lord has given you. When we acknowledge the good the Lord is doing in our lives, our faith is increased. And when we share the joy we receive from those graces, our joy is increased.
We step into our roles as missionary disciples and affirm our identity as God’s beloved when we share the good he is doing in our lives. It is through sharing our graces that we start to see just how much the Lord loves us, and we solidify our identity in him, not in the world.
Do not be afraid of what you are called to tomorrow. We are called to live in the present, and you are fully equipped for what the Lord is calling you to do today.