5 Obstacles to Evangelization We Can Overcome

We have “a daily responsibility” for “bringing the Gospel to the people we meet, whether they be our neighbors or complete strangers,” Pope Francis said in the Joy of the Gospel.

“Being a disciple means being constantly ready to bring the love of Jesus to others, and this can happen unexpectedly and in any place: on the street, in a city square, during work, on a journey,” he said (No. 127).

He even explained exactly how to do it. Yet we still hesitate. Why? Here are some guesses.

1: We don’t focus on Jesus Christ.

Too often, we spend all of our “religion talk” on the Church, not Jesus. We feel more comfortable talking about the Church — it’s like talking about a corporation, team, or political party, which we are used to.

But, as Pope Benedict XVI put it, “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”

The only reason the Catholic Church is important is because of its origin, which is Christ on earth, its means, which is Christ in the sacraments, and its end, which is Christ in eternity.

And that, by the way, is the Gospel: God came to us, stays with us, and waits for us up ahead.

2: We know what the Church is against, but not what it’s for.

Would you join an organization because it provided a great critique of everyone else, but didn’t do anything itself? I wouldn’t. In fact, I have left groups of friends and publications behind because I didn’t need that.

The Church does so much for the world that we, its practitioners, never mention. Watch the Catholics Come Home TV ad to remember them: We serve, heal and teach people of every race, religion and class. We developed the scientific method, the college system, and the Bible.

We bring Jesus Christ to countless people, filling them with peace beyond all understanding.

3: Our doubts are bigger than our beliefs.

One major reason we don’t evangelize is that we kind of doubt all of that though. Is Jesus real? Will he really improve people’s lives?

This is a failing of faith, and there are three ways to overcome problems of faith.

The first is to pray. Very honestly say, “Lord, I want to believe. I just don’t. Help my unbelief!”

Sister Miriam James Heidland taught Benedictine College students a great way to pray through doubts when she visited Kansas recently.

She said to imagine yourself enjoying a walk through your favorite countryside — or beach. You hear someone behind you and glance back. It’s Jesus. He walks up alongside you and asks about your life. Tell him everything as you walk along. After a while, you come to benches where you can sit across from each other. You sit, look him in the face and he asks, “Now, tell me what you have been avoiding saying as we walked along.”

Ouch. Whenever I go through this, I end up telling him where my real doubt is. Then I go do the next two steps: I talk to someone I trust about my doubts and I search for answers at Aleteia and elsewhere.

4: We are too shy to talk about God.

There are two reasons, usually, that we are too shy to talk about something: Our self-esteem is either too low or too high.

If it’s too low, we think people couldn’t possibly want to hear what we have to say, and that’s just wrong. Practice in small ways, and work toward harder things. Start by describing a wedding you went to, or another sacrament. Drop a detail in about the homily. You’d be surprised to find that people are receptive to that kind of talk.

If our self-esteem is too high, we don’t want “religion talk” to interfere with the style we have made for ourselves. Well, that won’t work. First of all, people probably know we are religious and will assume we’re just ashamed of it. Secondly, lots of people are both likeable and share their faith.

What we need in both cases is the virtue of hope: trust that God will take care of us if we do what he says. Try it. He will.

5: We prefer bubbles and bunkers to sinners and service.

Sometimes we don’t evangelize because, to be frank, we’re fine with the status quo. We like the people in our comfortable circles. We don’t particularly like the people outside them.

In fact, we might think of those other people as opponents to be defeated not souls to be reached.

Well, we’re working with the wrong metaphor. As Pope Francis put it in his interview with America magazine, “I see the Church as a field hospital after battle.”

Yes, there are truths that need defending and untruths that need to be dethroned. But the people we know have been hurt by the lies of secularism and will only be healed by Christ’s love, not by our disgust.

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Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes, author of The Rosary of Saint John Paul II, The Fatima Family Handbook and What Pope Francis Really Said, is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Kansas. A former reporter in the Washington, D.C., area, he served as press secretary of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee Chairman and spent 10 years as executive editor of the National Catholic Register newspaper and Faith & Family magazine. His work frequently appears in Catholic publications such as Aleteia.org and the Register. He lives in Atchison, Kansas, with his wife, April, and has nine children.