How do we share our faith? Honestly, the answer most Catholics give is, “I don’t know.”
There is a very clear and biblical model that is open for anyone who has friendships. I call it friendship evangelization.
Our three young missionaries from Ohio used this method this summer in Magadan. Christianity is first and foremost based on relationships — relationship with Christ and relationships with his body the church. Therefore friendship is the most natural way we introduce others to our faith.
So how do you practice this form of evangelization?
When you meet someone, be your most authentic self. As a friendship develops do these very simple things. Let people know you are a Catholic Christian (in a natural, unforced way). Ask friends about their faith — and just listen. Listen to your friend’s problems — maybe offer to pray for them. Share your problems with them — testify to how your faith helps you. Give them a book to read on the spiritual life. Share your story of faith in an authentic way. Answer objections to Christianity and questions that might come up.
Be a true apologist. Don’t apologize for Christianity but share your hope and if you don’t have an answer to a question, be honest and say, “I don’t know but I will find out.” Have the answer next time when you meet.
It is very natural to invite someone who is a friend to an enjoyable event, lunch or a movie, so why not invite them to the most amazing event on Sunday morning where they meet Christ and his body. Offer to take them to church and introduce them to others in the parish. What would a parish look like if 20 percent of the people practiced this form of evangelization? It would look alive and friendly.
This is not about manipulating or using your friendships, it is about sharing what is most important to you. How important is your relationship to Christ and his body, the church?
The three young missionaries that came to Magadan witnessed that their relationship with Christ and his church informed all other relationships. Now that they are gone I am meeting with some young people who say something has changed for them. They witness to the fact that although the young women were religious and open about their faith, they were also normal and natural. This is attractive, and as one young man said, “Because of their friendship I have a spiritual hunger now.”
When a new friendship begins, it should begin with the hope that it will someday lead to a friendship with Jesus. Christianity is really about authentic friendships.
The writer is pastor of the Church of the Nativity in Magadan, Russia.