Question: How can I spread the gospel without getting people upset? It is sad to realize how people take care not to offend other people but make it a point to offend God. How can I tried getting the word out about Christ without causing people to become angry at me? Not that I really care that they get angry but at the end I would not have accomplished what I have set out to do. Thanks for your answer in advance! Jacques-Richard
My first comment would be to emphasize the importance of evangelizing to others! Because of our baptism, one of our missions in this world is to share Christ with others. It is our duty to share the Gospel and help others to come to know Christ. And it is important to realize that evangelizing is not only for the religious and clergy. It is not for only those with a degree in theology. It is a duty for everyone! So I am glad to hear you want to evangelize!
Now, HOW do we evangelize?
- Our own personal spiritual life is essential. If we do not know Christ ourselves, how can we share Him with others? In order to be effective evangelizers, we must also know that the witness of our life matters. If we are sharing the faith with others yet living contrary to Christian holiness, we are being hypocrites and our message loses its power.
It is important to have a strong prayer life, to frequent the Sacraments, go to adoration, meditate on Scripture, read and learn more and more about the faith, etc.
- It is important that we never forget that it is the Holy Spirit who is the primary evangelizer! Our job is not to convert other people because it is NOT us who does the work of conversion. This is the work of the Holy Spirit alone. We should pray that the Holy Spirit moves their heart while we are speaking with them and we should pray that the person be receptive to the Holy Spirit. We should pray that the Holy Spirit guide us to say the right words – the words that that particular person needs to hear at that moment or that the person will be the most receptive to hearing.
When we evangelize, we are planting seeds. We take the seeds of truth – the message of Christ and the gospel – and we sow the seeds in the world. We cannot make the seed become fruitful in that person’s heart but we must not hesitate to sow the seeds of truth when the opportunities arise.
- When we evangelize we are not there to win an argument! If this is our goal, we will fail every time. We also have to realize that it is very likely that we will share the gospel with someone and never see any fruit. Most of the time we will have a conversation (or multiple conversations) and discuss Christ and the gospel but we rarely get to walk beside the person the entire conversion process. We are only one part of God’s plan for this person’s life.
I imagine this like an acorn. An acorn is dropped on the soil. Nothing happens initially. Overtime with wind and rain and even animals moving the dirt around, eventually the soil covers the acorn. Then with additional rain and other factors, eventually the acorn blooms and growth is seen coming up out of the ground. With more time and nourishment a tree will grow. The person who dropped the acorn may never see the tree but they were an important part of this process!
- We must be joyful! When we talk about Christ and the faith with others, we should be joyful. There should be excitement and eagerness to share this great news with them. An analogy Pope Frances used was that we cannot look like we have just left a funeral when we are sharing the faith with others! If we are joyful this can be contagious. Others will want to know what it is that makes us happy and gives us hope. Pope Frances also said, “A person who is not convinced, enthusiastic, certain and in love, will convince nobody.”
- When we discuss our faith with others we cannot criticize or condemn. We must take care in how we talk to others and prudently choose what topics we discuss. We want to avoid arguments and angry responses. We cannot raise our voice in frustration. It is likely that our passion for Christ and the faith will be evident in our voice but we must control our emotions.
An important step is to try to first find common ground. What things do we hold in common? As an example, if we talk with another Christian who loves Jesus Christ, we can express that we are thankful that they know and love Christ as we do and praise them for reading the Bible if this is a part of their daily life.
- Having said that, when we evangelize we are to speak the truth without compromise! However, we are to ALWAYS speak the truth in love.
In speaking the truth we are not being arrogant at all, but we must be aware of our tone and how it is we are expressing these truths to not be perceived as being disrespectful. We must always realize that with the vast majority of people, they believe what they do because they think it is true! Most people do not question our beliefs out of spite or hate. Almost every non-Catholic Christian that I have met sincerely hopes people will be in heaven, and, as a result, they are eager to talk about Christ hoping to help Christ ‘save souls’. And this is a good thing! We should all be so concerned about souls such that we evangelize often. The other aspect is that most non-Catholic Christians I have met have been taught many things that are completely untrue about the Catholic faith so they hold many misconceptions. This is because they believe what they have been taught and most of them have never met a Catholic who can adequately address their misunderstandings. These things are important to consider as we talk with other people so we can put ourselves in their shoes, understand their perspective and not allow this to become a confrontation but rather allow this to be truly a conversation.
- When possible form a relationship with the person you are evangelizing. This cannot be done in every case as sometimes the meeting with the person is brief and you never see them again. However, if it is possible to get to know the person, meet for coffee, talk on the phone, have regular email communication, etc, this is ideal. As we build a relationship with another person, our evangelization efforts can become much more effective. This is because we build trust. They can better see the witness of our lives. We can have more than one discussion to clarify misunderstandings/disagreements. And most importantly this gives us a chance to sincerely express our love and concern for them and in doing so we become a better reflection of Christ Himself.
- The final points to make are these:
- It is likely that at some point in our lives we will be disliked or even persecuted for believing and evangelizing about Christ. As Jesus told us, ‘If they persecute me they will persecute you.’ This cannot cause us to be hesitant or fearful or anxious to spread the Gospel. We must put all of our faith and trust in God and know that He has called us all to evangelize. If we are doing this work for God He will be with us.
- It is important that we recognize that we will NOT always have the answers for questions people have about our faith. We can NEVER lie or guess or make something up simply to answer their question. If we do not know the answer, humbly admit that they have brought up a really good question and then either give them a resource that has the answers (pamphlet or website or book) OR tell them that you will find the answer and get back to them (and be SURE to get back to them)!
- We must acknowledge that we can never know everything there is to know about Christ and the faith. We must continue to study and learn and grow in our own faith as well. We can never let our relationship with Christ become stagnant or lukewarm. Always study to grow in your faith, work to improve your spiritual life, pray often and frequent the Sacraments. And then ultimately, put all of your faith and trust in the Holy Spirit as you evangelize and allow Him to work through you as you share the love of Christ with others!
Here are some good resources that may help you when you are asked questions about the faith:
Catechism of the Catholic Church (Essential Resource!): http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/ccc_toc2.htm
Catholic Answers: http://www.catholic.com/
Catholic/Atheist Dialogue: http://www.strangenotions.com/
Scriptures and Church Fathers: http://www.johnsalza.com/p/scripturefathers.html
Two Minute Apologetics: https://www.biblechristiansociety.com/apologetics/two_minute
Answers to Common Questions: http://www.pillarandfoundation.com/apologetics-resources/
Quick Cheat Sheet (though more thorough ones can be purchased): http://juneaulifeteen.dioceseofjuneau.org/biblical_evidence_for_catholics_guide.pdf