How to Evangelize when you are not "Happy-clappy"?

Hello. Earlier today I was having a meeting with partners of a Lay Movement, among which is our Parish’s seminarian (this seminarian is the “guide” of these meetings, so to speak, he is the one who broughts topics to reflect).

Anyway, today the topic of evangelization came with the Gospel (Lk 11: 37-41) and how would Jesus evangelize. We found that there are like two “methods” to evangelize:

  1. Telling brute Truth, like some medieval Catholics did for example (or some traditionalists do today), as in, evangelize in an apologetic way, arguing for the Truth.

  2. Being as empathetic as possible and patient, to “inculture” Catholicism in a person until she finds Truth (this is what the seminarian adscribes as “evangelizing by attraction”).

The problem is, Jesus used both ways with different people, so it’s difficult to determine where one is wrong and the other right.

And here comes the root of my problem: by my personality, I am more inclined to evangelize by method #1, while the seminarian says that only serves for people already inside the Church, that we instead should follow method #2 with
What should I do? I understand that we should be charitable to others, but, if I am naturally cold and not “conforting” and people say my natural form of evangelizing is wrong, is evangelizing not for me? I am doing something wrong by using apologetics?

Also, to connect more with the title, it annoys me a bit that many Catholics say that you must “show your joy” to evangelize correctly, while at the same time holding that, as Catholics (and humans) we will suffer and must desire suffer for Christ.

I used to think that one could be exteriorly joyful and siffering at the same time (like the Saints), but now I think that, while one can be in peace/interiorly joyful, suffering, even redemptive suffering, will show no matter what.

How am I supposed to evangelize with joy while also suffering whatever Cross God decides to bring me for my spiritual life?!

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I don’t think one way is inherently better than the other, but rather that they’re suited to different people.

Method #1 might be used for more cold and logical people, while Method #2 might be better suited for more romantic/idealistic people. Maybe find out what kind of person you’re talking to, and if it’s a romantic type then perhaps you can recommend they talk to someone more inclined to use method #2.

I’m not a missionary though, so my words should be taken with grains of salt.

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Both ways are effective in different venues and with different audiences.

However, evangelizing often presupposes people have little or no real faith, or at the best, shallow roots.

As Pope Francis says, meet them way they are, and move them to Christ. Slow and steady wins the race.

You catch more flies with honey than vinegar,
Deacon Christopher


Thank you both, that’s kind of my approach, when I talk in general, I don’t restrain myself from being critical, but when I talk person to person, I like to be less “intellectual” and more personal.

I brought this topic mainly because when I mention the first approach, this friend-seminarian of mine always questions if it is right. He is a bit like me, so I sometimes think he projects his self-criticism on evangelizing over me.

Happy-Clappy is overrated, and joy is perhaps best understated. Think of a person who is at peace even when the world seems to be falling apart. That is made possible by faith, hope, and charity.

Now the question is how we can show that to others and thereby attract them to the Christian faith.


Why would it be either/or?

We’re called to speak the truth in gentleness.

Gentle isn’t a synonym for extroverted or happy-clappy.

And none of us are excused by temperament from the duty to be patient, kind, etc.

With respect, sounds to me like an accidentally false dilemma.

This isn’t an either/or question but a both/and. For all of us. It’s just that our personal expressions of it may look different according to our different personalities. But I don’t see why any of us should differ in terms of lacking either truth or gentleness. We should all strive to maintain both simultaneously.

Edit: I will say, in case this is what you’re referring to, I’ve known otherwise sincere and holy-seeming people who happen to be natural extroverts, and seem for some reason incapable of understanding that holiness and love doesn’t require everyone else to become extroverted too. I know one who seemed straight up sceptical and suspicious that I could really feel the deep joy I reported, when I didn’t express it the same way he did. Like, I remember he once sent me a weird online Christian test-your-internal-peace quiz thing and acted baffled when my score turned out the same (actually, higher, if I recall) than his.

So if that’s what you mean, sorry you’re dealing with it. Don’t know the answer. Haha. It’s certainly not all extroverts (my sibling is an extrovert respectful of my quieter way and the different people it reaches), but for some reason some extroverts seem resistant to believing that introverts are truly happy or loving, unless we express it at the same energy level they do.


I think the best way of evangelizing is just to set a good example and answer questions as they are put to you. You can easily tell by the tone of the person asking how you should respond to them.

I hate happy-clappy. And I know I’m not the only one.


Let your light shine before people that they see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Jesus gave us this advice :slight_smile:

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Agreed. There are many ways to evangelize. I’m certainly not happy-clappy. I’m the antithesis. I’m High Church, smells & bells, scholarship and science, and all that. In other words: stuffy. When I was on the other end and an evangelical Protestant trying to evangelizing me, I’m “that” guy that wants to know your sources when making a claim. I get along in koine Greek…so, yeah. Shuts them down pretty quick.

We evangelize by demonstrating our Faith in our daily lives and interactions with others. God utilizes YOU (with your personality, strengths & weaknesses) to be an instrument. Sharing your Faith with someone receptive to you is what’s important. Pretending to be something you’re not is not only ineffective, but insincere.

I’ve been on the receiving end of insincere Protestant evangelists over the years. You can just tell they couldn’t care less about you…they just want to “win.” Very off-putting.


Evangelization is really about having a heart burning with a love for God that motivates us to share it. The more we know about our faith, and why we, ourselves, have come to believe, the better. But it starts with that zeal, driven by the treasure we’ve found. And we can face a moving target; we modify our witnessing and presentation of the gospel according to the particular person we’re dealing with, without compromising truth. St Paul speaks of something like this in 1 Cor 9.

Either way people need knowledge, that applies to their lives.


I would suggest one way is to try to hear what your saying from the other person’s perspective. For example trying to evangelize a naturally outgoing person by using an insulting term like “happy-clappy” is unlikely to be effective.

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I was thinking about this and there are a lot of saints who understood the importance of suffering, but were also joyful.

St. Seraphim of Sarov was very cheerful and would greet everyone with “My Joy!”

Padre Pio was reported to be gruff in the confessional, but around his fellow monks he was upbeat and had a sense of humor and would tell jokes.

St. Teresa of Avila was another who had a sense of humor and said deliver us from sour-faced saints.

There’s really enough suffering in the world that comes to people naturally without it needing to be emphasized during evangelization. Honestly I think we’re all having crosses to bear and sadness about something, whether it’s physical pain, anxiety, stress, loss, struggles with sin or doubt, you name it.

Now, if you’re just not naturally a humorous cheerful person, that’s okay, some people aren’t, don’t force it. But people like to see someone whose religion is working for them and who is leading a normal-looking and happy life. The culture likes to push the image of Christianity making people angry and miserable. You show your joy by being overall positive and generally happy and calm rather than angry and miserable.

A genuine joy will show. I was taught by some sisters who were joyful, who just radiated peace and calm without being happy clappy. But some other sisters seemed to be struggling or just not happy, no matter how much they might try to hide it.

Thanks, I didn’t think about that…

It’s also interesting what you said about the sisters who tried to seem happy, but were not, why do you think that was the case? They seem to have followed the same “you must be happy” advise.

Could have been any number of things. I suspect some of them may have been physically unwell, and others maybe weren’t all that happy with teaching, or with other stuff going on in their orders or in the country, but they were required to keep teaching and for whatever reason didn’t want to leave, or didn’t feel they could.

One that stands out in my mind was an activist and probably would have been happier as one of the Nuns on the Bus than teaching religion to high school freshmen.

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Holy depression and suffering… Death!!! Death!!! Gloom and Sorrow… Tis the season…


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Thanks, but I don’t underatand too well this. This question came when I was talking to a Seminarian who is like me; but, every time I mention that sometimes I critic secular things (in social media) he questions if it’s the right way to evangelize.

Of course I wouldn’t use the term “happy-clappy” directly to a person (I actually like people who are naturally outgoing because they complement me well); but I am getting tired of this Seminarian always trying to undermine my “style” of evangelization when he is partly like me many times.

Some years ago I had a crisis because I was pretending to be more social or outgoing than I really was, and some false friends I had began to abuse it. To me, pretending to be always joyful just to make Catholicism more attractive, when the Lord doesn’t gave me that Grace (at least yet), seems like returning to that fake phase.

The other thing that I was thinking is that my mood with others just reflects this year overall. Maybe the next year I won’t seem so “critic”, if I am overall at a better mood.

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I’m with ya on this.
Just force a smile. Just do it. Smile and say thank you to people, ask them how they are doing, and the disposition will tend to follow.

If I wait til I feel warm and fuzzy inside to be nice to people, the nice part won’t happen. Many times when someone interrupts my lunch at my business I look up with my mouth full thinking “why didn’t the traffic run you over before you could come in here and bother me”. But saying “hi how are you” will turn the tide.

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(Wiktionary) Happy-Clappy (noun)
(slang, derogatory) A member of a Christian church whose worship is characterized by enthusiasm and spontaneity.

Being my normally standoffish self…one day a young man came into my shop. He stood there looking at some stuff for a while as I gladly went about my business that was more important. After a while he asked a mundane question to which I responded with minimal enthusiasm and attention. He said an odd thing then: " you don’t know who I am, do you". Turns out he was a classmate of our daughter’s and I did remember him.
About a year later he committed suicide. Needless to say, this sticks with me to this day. I don’t have the disposition to be naturally effusive with people. At the same time, it’s our Christian evangelical obligation, non-negotiable, to engage people as the child of God they are.

For some people it’s very easy, for others it’s hard. Just smile and make eye contact and let the rest happen by God’s grace.

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