Why evangelize?

What does the Catholic faith have that others do not? I want honest answers from honest Catholics.

Protestants evangelize to save souls that would otherwise be lost. Buddhists evangelize to save the unenlightened from perpetuating the cycle of suffering. Militant atheists evangelize because they think a religious person is a bad person.

But why Catholics? I’m just curious. To me it seems most Catholics don’t feel the need. I come from a very Roman Catholic city, and they have churches and schools everywhere, and it’s not rare to still see nuns and monks here. But none of them ever talks to anyone about faith with an eye towards turning to Christ. To most of them, to be Catholic is just one option among many.

It could be said that evangelization on Catholics’ part is to offer people the richness of the Catholic experience. But what if the people are happy just the way they are? What if they think they don’t need a faith, any faith? Does the Church turn away, give up, or keep trying, one way or another? Why should it keep going?

I’m just curious. I’ve been brought up Protestant, and was a Hindu-Buddhist for a long time. I know why they seek out new converts. But for all the religiosity of Catholics, they’re just not as interested in claiming souls for God.

It is not true that Catholics don’t wish for others to come to the Catholic Church, and for nuns and for Catholics, it is not true that Catholics consider that “to be Catholic is just one option among many”. Catholics believe that the Catholic Church has the fullness of truth.
No we don’t try to force religion upon others. God’s truth is a gift. Faith is a gift from God. A person can argue religion all they wish, but it is God who converts souls. Every year many people become Catholics. If your life has been amongst Protestants and Hindu-Buddhists, you may not be expert about Catholics. :slight_smile:
And even in Catholic Answers Forums, many members on this site answer questions of searchers for truth, and try to correct errors in others’ minds about our faith, many members who come to this site to help those who may need guidance and support.

Honestly, this post convicts me, and hopefully it will convict every Catholic reading it on this Evangelization sub-forum.

To answer your question bluntly, Catholics should care about Evangelism just as much as Protestants do. And the fact that an unbiased, third party like yourself have observed enough for you to believe that Catholics “are just not as interested in claiming souls for God” is troubling to me.

The Catholic Church has many saints who stood on street corners and preached the most fiery, zeal-filled sermons you can imagine. Sts. Francis, Patrick, Dominic, Benedict, Ignatius, Aquinas, to name a few.

Our purpose on Earth is to serve God and to give him Glory. And God gets a whole lot of glory when someone is converted. The Heavens rejoice ten fold over 1 lost sheep returned, than they do for 99 sheep who stayed in the flock.

In Mother Teresa’s words: “Jesus has a thirst for souls”. And he appointed the apostles and us to slake that thirst.

Yes, the Holy Spirit is the one who waters the seeds and causes them to grow. But, we need to be trying to plant seeds. And clearly we aren’t doing a good job of that.

One thing you can’t do in Heaven is save souls!!! C’mon people! Let’s get zealous about the New Evangelization!!!

Disciples: Called to Witness, a 2012 document by the USCCB

The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith

These documents are about the New Evangelization. Everyone knows the Biblical and Patristic basis for evangelization. What we should be doing is continuing the transmission of the faith in new media. The Internet, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, wherever there are people, there should also be the Gospel message with faithful stewards to save souls.

Catholics are called to be on the cutting edge of communications technologies and use these to our advantage, just as atheists and pagans and secularists are using them, except better, and for the Truth.

My approach to evangelization is to subtly reveal that I’m Catholic and then preach by example. I won’t engage people in theological conversation unless they ask. My hope is that through my prayers and example they will seek God. I leave the more proactive style of evangelization to the professionals - those missionaries mandated by the Church.

And to answer the question in your topic line: the Church evangelized because the Catholic faith is necessary for salvation, both by necessity of means and necessity of precept.

I’ve wondered why the Catholic Church isn’t leading the way in evangelism and outreach to those who need to hear the gospel. For a church that claims to have kept the deposit of the faith accurately down through the centuries, you’d think there’d be a powerful, pervasive culture of evangelism in Catholic Churches worldwide.

One parish in my area is doing door-to-door outreach, perhaps just once or ongoing (not sure), so that’s a good sign. Then again, I don’t know if they’re just reaching out to lapsed Catholics in their parish or the neighborhood in general.

To be fair, too, evangelism has lapsed among many evangelicals, too. Taking the gospel proactively to strangers is almost unheard of in evangelicalism, and I know from personal experience that finding people who do that is like trying to find hen’s teeth. So I wonder if it’s not just a Catholic problem but rather something in our culture.

What are you defining as evangelism? I’ve seen many protestants that thing that those who aren’t out passing out tracts and knocking on doors aren’t serious about evangelization. I don’t think most Catholics I’ve met believe in these methods as particularly useful.

For example - many people nowadays resent door-to-door evangelism. Not because they have some particular dislike of christianity or catholicism, but because they view it as little better than a salesman knocking at your door and interrupting dinner. Our modern culture doesn’t typically encourage that sort of interaction with a stranger. Personally, if I’m by myself I often won’t even open the door for people I don’t know.

Living out your life as a Catholic and helping others is evangelism, even if you don’t go out of your way to “tell people about Jesus.”

If you are replying to me: I define evangelism as bringing the gospel proactively to those who need to hear it, to people who will likely not hear it unless someone in the church goes out of his way to bring it to them.

For example - many people nowadays resent door-to-door evangelism. Not because they have some particular dislike of christianity or catholicism, but because they view it as little better than a salesman knocking at your door and interrupting dinner. Our modern culture doesn’t typically encourage that sort of interaction with a stranger. Personally, if I’m by myself I often won’t even open the door for people I don’t know.

Yes, door to door is tricky because you’re getting close to their private space and private time, but there are ways to bring the gospel proactively into the public without being offensive.

Living out your life as a Catholic and helping others is evangelism, even if you don’t go out of your way to “tell people about Jesus.”

I disagree. Profoundly. See the quote in my signature. :slight_smile:

One idea I’ve had to bring the good news to people in public without being obnoxious basically involves offering to pray for people along with giving them Bible verses pertaining to salvation. It involves a small leaflet that presents the following:

  1. Introduction, saying I am out giving a valuable message and offering to pray for people
  2. Blank lines to write down prayer requests
  3. Instructions to bring it back to me or email me if comfortable doing so
  4. Four or so Bible verses pertaining to salvation

shrug I can tell you what worked with me, as a former atheist. The people that went out of their way to “tell me about God” didn’t. They universally came across as self-righteous irritations. Especially in a country like this where almost everyone has had experience with Christians - many, like I was, are already disgusted with the amount of hypocrisy and judgementalism* that we found in religious people. That sort of evangelism only increased my view that religious people cared more about saying the right things than actually helping people - after all, I didn’t see them actually doing anything useful, just being out bothering me when I wanted to go about my day.

The kind of people that helped weren’t going out of their way to talk about it, but neither were they hiding it. Christian beliefs came up when relevant to the conversation; church activities were mentioned when they conflicted with other things. But it was clear that they genuinely cared about other people, and saw caring about them as a part of their faith.

*Note: Before the argument gets started, I’m not saying that we should go relativistic “anything goes” or not say what we thinks is a sin. I am talking about people who need to let everyone know, loudly, when they think someone else is doing something wrong, and act like their holiness is too good to be contaminated by prolonged contact with someone who doesn’t live up to all their standards. That kind of Christian has forgotten that they too are saved by Christ’s blood and not their own works.

Everyone’s conversion story will be different, so telling me what “worked” for you makes little difference. I could also tell you that what “worked” for me was to come into contact with straight gospel preaching.

What matters is what God has revealed as the way that people get converted, and that is through hearing the word by faith.

There are countless evangelicals who take the same approach you do: Well, this was what worked for me, so that’s how it should be done, instead of consulting what God has revealed. Personal experience should never be the criterion we use to figure out how to do outreach.

But thanks for discussing this.

The fact of the matter is that not everyone out there has Christian friends, family or coworkers who will share the gospel with them, so it is imperative for Christians to take that message to them. Christians who never do so and excuse it by saying things like, I’ll just wait for people to observe my life, or, I don’t want to go out of my way to talk with them because it’s too confrontational, are just making excuses and don’t really care about all those people who are perishing.

You are adept at bringing up only those negative examples that make public evangelism look bad, without considering that it’s possible to reach out in public proactively without being hypocritical and offensive–even after I gave you an example of one. That tells me that you are biased against public evangelism of any kind, even if it is done respectfully and lovingly.

The gospel message is not optional. Even the Catholic Church says that. Sadly, there are countless Christians–both Catholic and Protestant–who believe that it is optional.

My point wasn’t just what did work for me, but that I wasn’t even interested in the gospel until I was away from people that took the direct approach. The direct preaching was a significant hindrance that actually made it more likely for me to avoid church. I’ve heard many people say similar things - direct evangelism is a major reason why they would never consider Christianity.

And I question what you think of as “revealed.” From the study I’ve done, God caused people to be converted through the methods of the day. I don’t take that to be a revelation that we should use the exact same methods through all times and places, any more than I take Jesus’s instructions to his disciples to take a cloak and a sword to mean we should carry those things.

Edit: What exactly do you mean by “public evangelism”? I’ve only mentioned direct stuff like passing out tracts, going door-to-door, and so on. That’s all I’ve been talking about right now. My original point was that we can’t say whether Catholics do or don’t care about evangelism unless we have a working definition of what evangelism is. Although personally, if you approached me on the street with that kind of thing, I would be offended - I generally consider approaching strangers who are going about their business, with no indication that they want to talk to you, to be rude behavior, no matter what the purpose.

But don’t you see that your (and others’) personal experiences can’t be the criterion for determining how to do outreach because personal experiences all differ? We need something more stable to base such a determination on, and that stable thing is divine revelation.

And I question what you think of as “revealed.”

Scripture. Divine revelation.

From the study I’ve done, God caused people to be converted through the methods of the day.

What have you studied on this? The personal experiences of other people? or something that God has revealed?

I don’t take that to be a revelation that we should use the exact same methods through all times and places, any more than I take Jesus’s instructions to his disciples to take a cloak and a sword to mean we should carry those things.

Would you agree that it is necessary for someone to hear the gospel–or read it, as the case may be–and understand it in order to be saved?

Like I said, I don’t believe what you’re talking about is genuine divine revelation; I think it’s an opinion about divine revelation.

What have you studied on this? The personal experiences of other people? or something that God has revealed?

Study of history and theology, actually. Theology tells me that we must consider the context of the writing (hence the sword example - clearly it would be ridiculous for us to go around carrying swords!). History tells me that what I see in the NT are standard ways for the time of reaching people with a new philosophy or religion. A study of the history of the saints tells me that they adapted to what was best for people, insofar as it did not contradict moral law.

Would you agree that it is necessary for someone to hear the gospel and understand it in order to be saved?

Yes, but I know that is not sufficient, and I doubt that the methods you mentioned will lead to the sort of hearing and understanding that brings about faith.

Since you think it’s just my opinion, let’s look at it:

"How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? 15 How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!”

16 However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ." (Rom. 10)

Note the first sentence: You can’t call on someone in whom you haven’t believed, and you can’t believe unless you have first heard. In other words, a person cannot believe in something they haven’t first learned. Faith is always a response to something that God has revealed. It’s no surprise that the last sentence says that faith comes through hearing and hearing by the word of Christ. And Paul was talking in this passage about people going out and preaching–the very thing you think is insufficient. There is no indication in Scripture that this method works only in certain cultures and time periods.

So do you think my interpretation is wrong? If so, why?

Study of history and theology, actually. Theology tells me that we must consider the context of the writing (hence the sword example - clearly it would be ridiculous for us to go around carrying swords!).

Yes, that’s true, context is always key. How would you interpret the above passage from Romans using the context?

History tells me that what I see in the NT are standard ways for the time of reaching people with a new philosophy or religion.

This is what many Protestants say, too, but it’s not enough to prove your point. It wasn’t just done at that time. It had been done for thousands of years before that, too. Jonah preached in public, as did the prophets in Israel. And Jesus, in the Great Commission, told his disciples to go into all the world and preach and teach. If He wanted that method to be open to change, He didn’t say so.

A study of the history of the saints tells me that they adapted to what was best for people, insofar as it did not contradict moral law.

And are the saints’ writings considered to be inspired, and divine revelation?

[quote]Would you agree that it is necessary for someone to hear the gospel and understand it in order to be saved?

Yes, but I know that is not sufficient, and I doubt that the methods you mentioned will lead to the sort of hearing and understanding that brings about faith.
[/quote]

Why do you doubt that? What must be added to the communication of the gospel, in your view, to make it work? And did you derive that understanding from anything that God has revealed?

I agree, and well said. There is a inexcusable dearth of desire to do evangelism among most Christians, whether Protestants or Catholics, and many are just making excuses for why they don’t go out and bring the gospel to the lost.

Countless people need–it’s not optional–to have the revelation of the gospel passed on to them, but we keep it to ourselves. To withhold from someone what they desperately need is the exact reverse of charity. The widespread disregard of the spiritual need of people around us is as selfish as it is alarming.

I don’t have the time to muster all my sources right now - it would take quite some time to find all my books from a couple years of study. My point in the previous part was that simply hearing the word is insufficient. One who hears and is discouraged from faith by the hearing is not benefited. I’m not advocating hiding our faith, merely that we not go about sharing it in ways that others will find obnoxious. If someone hears the gospel and finds its message obnoxious, that is their loss. But what of those who find it obnoxious because of the behavior of the messenger? Have we not then caused them to stumble, and do we not bear the guilt for it?

I didn’t really follow your argument with Dark Light. I assume you were advocating a more direct method of evangelism… as in preaching, etc. And he was advocating more of the mis-attributed St. Francis quote “preach the gospel always and when necessary use words”.

Personally, when we look at so many of the saints who were martyred throughout history. A lot of them were martyred for preaching. They weren’t quietly, subtley living their faith. They were living their faith so intensely, and in such a public way, that the secular authorities basically had to do something bc they were sweeping a town by force. So many people were listening to them that the local authorities were worried there would be a riot or something.

You can’t find examples of that happening today too often. I can think of people like Billy Graham doing it though.

But you’re 100% right, there are a lot of people making excuses right now. And that’s why I said what I said. When we’re in Heaven we don’t want to regret things we didn’t do. Frankly, every one of us is going want to have done more on Earth when we’re in Heaven… but it will be too late.

The Lord is my light and my salvation, of whom shall I be afraid?

Who cares if you “make Christianity look bad”. It doesn’t matter what those people think, all that matters is what Christ thinks. If you preach the Gospel and everyone hates you for it, God will still be very pleased you did so.

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