There are many ways to aid evangelisation and to evangelise. Some people are called to evangelise according to their ability but I don’t wont to go into that now. What I want to focus on is how we shouldn’t go about evangelising.
I was in a rough pub one time in my local town. Everybody there were very much of the real bikers mans quality. The barman himself came from a rough area of town ( I grew up in a rough area too ). I was invited for a drink by a friend I hadn’t seen in quite some time. For some reason the barman moved conversation to how he felt about Christianity. He wasn’t impressed by any means of Christianity but he did tell a story of how he felt most Christians just don’t seem to ” get the poor” and that they tend to be of middle class stature who look down on the poor. He used one elderly lady as an example of this. I think he said she came into the estate and she was out to evangelise and was talking to the children. She had a posh accent, very well dressed and just wasn’t equipped for the wit and the nasty language of the boys so she rebuked them for the behaviour and as you can imagine it didnt go very well and soon found herself just pushed out of the place and given the cold shoulder.
I was delighted he told me this as it teaches us a lesson in evangelisation. If you are a very well dressed person, going into an estate with very pleasant or snobby tone about you and think you are going to get a couple of hardies praying the rosary or thinking about Jesus you better get ready for a car crash or get chased out of the place because its just not going to happen.
I am no fine man for evangelising the youth or anybody of any age and class but there are a couple of rules I use adopted by two great saints in the church. The first Saint is the Founder of the Society of Jesus ( Jesuits ) and the other is St.Paul ( apostle ).
St.ignatius advises us when evangelising to behave with the other persons temperament, that is, their behaviour, humour and character, to basically copy their style of behaving. This can be done without having to adopt bad words they use and mannerisms. But it must be done very well because this kind of way of evangelising has no time for bad actors. You need to know your character well enough that they cannot detect your trying too hard. The minute you let your guard down your finished and you’ve lost a soul. It takes patience. If your too impatient and shoving your rosary and bible in their face too soon you’ve again made a huge mistake. Working on one soul or community can take anything from months to years before even the slightest bit of breakthrough is made. It all depends on prayer, the Grace of God and the free will of the soul being evangelised. We must remember that we are just planting seeds and that it is truly God and only him who can melt hearts.
The second rule I make also for myself is to dress up for the occasion. Don’t go to a middle class dinner party wearing gangster type clothes or Harley Davidson leather jackets and boots expecting to make progress in the area of evangelisation because you won’t get anywhere. No! First figure out the cultural dress code of that particular class of people as well as their behaviour and mannerisms and BLEND IN. What are the do’s and don’ts? Likewise, you should apply the same when entering any class of people. before you go, do your homework on their temperaments first, dress-code, be prepared and you will do well.
If you are part of an evangelical team where people just can’t do this and don’t have a versatility about them such as elderly people and young people, then assign them to a particular class of people they would do well in and make progress. What I mean is that if you have an elderly woman that wouldn’t look good in a tracksuit with a baseball cap and a hip way of talking then obviously she should be assigned somewhere else or another part of town. Because the story the barman told me of the rejection of the old woman by the rough youths makes a lot of sense. She walked into an area totally unprepared and the youngsters just couldn’t warm to her or identify with her so they spat her out and gave her the cold shoulder. I grew up in a rough area meself and I can tell you that if a woman dressed really well and yuppy looking approached us with the Gospel of Jesus when I was a kid, she just wouldn’t be taken seriously. It would almost be an embarrassment for us to be seen with her and we’d run for our lives.
St.Paul tells us in scripture that he became a Jew to a Jew in order to save the Jew. And in today’s society we need to sometimes become a yuppy to the yuppy in order to save a yuppy. We need to become working class to the working class in order to save the working class. And we can do all this minus the bad language and bad talk and with Christian love. We need to be clever like the serpent but harmless as the dove. However, we must agree that wondering into a pack of wolves with no camoflauge is not very clever. It is better to blend in with the wolves and without notice reveal the sheep from within and take them by surprise.
So in a way both St.Ignatuis rule and St.Pauls rule are kind of the one rule but they are the two sayings I think of when evangelisation comes to mind. Do you think my way of evangelising is somehow flawed? Have I picked up Ignatius and Paul wrong? What techniques of evangelisation do you find works? Please share them and any other concerns you have in the comments below.