In the Gospels we see many instances in which our Lord commands us to evangelize. On such instance is known as the Great Commission and occurs at the end of Matthew’s Gospel. These verses occur in Matthew 28:19-20 and state, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age (RSV).”
Sometimes we mistakenly mistake the topic of evangelism as something that only the priest does, but the reality is Christ commands all of us to do it. In Matthew chapter 22 our Lord tells us to love God with everything we have and to love our neighbor as ourselves. How can we love our neighbor as ourselves if we don’t even know their name? I understand that the Lord was not talking about our literal next-door neighbor, but about every human being. However, the mission field is all around us especially right next door.
In October 2018, Pew Research released the results of a study that stated that the Catholic Church is losing members at a ration of 6.45:1. What that means is that for every person that comes into the church over six leave. Before I came into the Church, I attended seminary at one of the nations largest Southern Baptist schools, and they were very aware of this. In fact, that was the target demo that we were taught to evangelize. There are so many lapsed Catholics that if they are pooled together would number more than the membership of the Southern Baptist convention. As a result, there is a good chance that the person you live next door to once considered themselves a Catholic.
The following three steps that will be outlined are the beginning of evangelizing your neighbor and is by no means an all-inclusive list, but a starting point. It is a starting point to build relationships to guide people back into the church.
1. Know their name
I know what you’re thinking. This is Relationship Building 101, but the fact Pew Research says that only fifty-seven percent of people know the name of their neighbor. This is a sad statistic, and one that points to the cult of business that is running rampant in our culture. We are too busy to know the name of the person who lives in the house next to us. If you want to evangelize your neighbor, then we must step out of our comfort zone and make the introduction and strike up a conversation if possible.
2. Offer to pray for them
This second step may take a little time and some conversation before you are comfortable. Once you know your neighbor there are few ways to bring up the subject of prayer. For starters simply ask how you can pray for them. Most will willingly accept as very few turn down prayer. Another way to do this is to say that you are going to church and would like to bring their prayers before the Blessed Sacrament. Not only will you enter into fruitful conversations, but you will build a bond of trust that will lay the foundation for even deeper conversations. Slowly but surely deeper questions about the Faith will come up. You will be watched to see if there is proof for the truth you claim so make sure you are relying on God’s grace to live it.
3. Invite them to church
On the surface this third step may seem intimidating but remember at this point you have already built something that is more than superficial. Perhaps they are not ready for Mass, but you can invite them to a Bible study, parish picnic, or any number of functions. This will allow your neighbor to see that there are huge misconceptions in what Catholics teach and do. It will allow them to see real people who are trying to live their faith. Introduce them to the friends that you have at the parish. It is scary to go into a new environment and not know anyone.
As previously stated, this is not an exhaustive list but it lays the foundations for building relationships that lead to evangelization. The fulness of the truth is in the Catholic church and so many walked away. This should upset us and make us spring into action, and that action starts at home.