The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. (Matthew 9:37).
It will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of the Father speaking through you. (Mt 10:20)
I am not ashamed of the gospel, it is the power of God for all who believe. (Rom 1:16)
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Rom 10:14,15)
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (1 Peter 3:15-16)
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)
My previous article, “The Power of Our Testimony in Evangelization,” quoted these words of Pope John Paul II, from The Mission of Christ the Redeemer: “No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples.” If we as Catholic men are to take up this call to evangelization, we first need to consider two important questions: 1) Who do we evangelize? and 2) How do we do it? So let’s look at the first question. In an address to American bishops, John Paul II made this startling observation: “Sometimes even Catholics have lost or never had the chance to experience Christ personally; not Christ as a mere ‘paradigm’, but the Living Lord: ‘the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).”
Many of the men we know are at various levels of spiritual growth. Some may be unbelievers. Some may be nominal, unchurched, or cultural Catholics (e.g., Christmas/Easter Catholics). Some may be fallen away Catholics. Some may be Catholics who believe going to Mass once a week is all it means to be Catholic. Men in these categories all need to be evangelized, although not in the same way. All of these men need to hear the Good News and “to experience Christ personally.”
It is important to remember, as we reach out to Catholic men, that looking inside a person’s soul, no matter where they are spiritually, is not our job. How many men who had been away from God for years, or who had never known him, were converted because someone risked stepping outside his comfortable circle of acquaintances to talk to him! Both the impressive and the wounded are longing for Christ, and Jesus longs for them even more.
What about the second question we are addressing: How do we evangelize? The truth is, as we get past the hurdle of judging people, evangelization becomes a lot less scary—and can even be fun! Just think of the wide variety of men in the world, each one of them a mystery to us, but each made in the image of God. We have no way of knowing which one of them will respond to our reaching out to them as a friend, neighbor, or colleague. We have no way of knowing which one of them will respond to our witness of how Jesus has impacted our life, or to our inviting them to a spiritual event at our church. But we do know that only a few kind words, or a simple prayer, could introduce them to the astonishing love of Christ.
Jesus tells us that “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:37). Unfortunately, most of us as Catholic men have little or no experience in trying to reach out to other men for Jesus Christ. So let me present a simple approach to evangelization that I believe all Catholic men could implement in one way or another.
An Approach to Reaching Out to Men for Christ
- Prayerfully identify three men from your family, friends, work colleagues, neighbors, and/or recreation buddies. If possible, try to characterize each man as either a non-Christian, unchurched Christian, cultural/nominal Christians (Catholic or non-Catholic), or a seeker. Your prayers and your approach may be different for each of these categories.
- Begin praying for each man on a daily basis. Ask the Lord to open their hearts to recognize their need to know Jesus Christ and the salvation he has won for them through his cross and resurrection. Also, begin praying that the Lord would give you the grace and courage (and the opportunity) to speak the right words about your own relationship with Christ, and the difference it has made in your life.
- Take some small steps to strengthen your relationship with each man, e.g., go out to lunch or for a cup of coffee, go to a sporting event together, etc. You could also invite him to a one-on-one “non-agenda” meal (or with his spouse). The purpose of all these steps (and subsequent ones) is to get to know him better and build a deeper relationship with him.
- When appropriate, consider asking each man for any prayer requests. Also, be open to opportunities to help him in some way. As appropriate, share about your faith in Christ and the difference it has made in your life.
- At a later time, consider inviting each of the men to some outside event, such as a Catholic men’s conference or an outreach event at the church, such as a Bible study or a men’s group. Also, if he is open, invite him to attend Mass with you. (Note: the National Fellowship of Catholic Men sponsors over 50 conferences all across the U.S. and supports thousands of parish-based men’s groups. For more information on these events, or how to start a parish-based men’s group, go to the NFCM website at www.nfcmusa.org.)
- Continue praying and seeking to expose the men to other evangelistic opportunities, especially encouraging them to become a regular member of a men’s group. If a group does not exist in your parish, consider forming one.
- Continue to pray and share your faith with them.
Perhaps these steps seem daunting, but the key thing to remember is that the Lord loves these men more than you, and he desires to reveal that love to each of them. Also, remember that it’s not your efforts that will save a man, but it is through the gift of faith, by the power of Gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit (Mt 10:20, Rom 1:16), that a man will turn his heart towards Christ. Nevertheless, God is asking each of us to play our part in this marvelous work through prayer and a willing heart (Rom 10:14-15, 1 Peter 3:15-16).
Let’s once again remember the words of Pope Paul VI in his letter, Evangelization in the Modern World: “We wish to confirm once more that the task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the Church. It is a task and mission which the vast and profound changes of present day society make all the more urgent. Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize.”
May Christ’s love “compel” us as Catholic men to respond to this call to evangelization (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)!
“Heavenly Father, I ask you to place in my heart a zeal for reaching men for Jesus Christ. I ask you to bless in a special way the men I will be praying for, that you would place an openness and hunger in their hearts for you. Lead me to men who are seeking and searching for the life that only you can give. May the words I speak to these men be pleasing to you and be in accordance with your will for them. Lord Jesus, may they come to know the divine love, mercy, peace, and joy that can only come from receiving you as Lord and Savior.”
Maurice Blumberg was the founding Executive Director of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men (http://www.nfcmusa.org/), and is currently a Trustee. He is also the Director of Partner Relations for Partners in Evangelism, (http://www2.wau.org/partners/), a Ministry to the Military and Prisoners for The Word Among Us.
[Many thanks to The Word Among Us (http://www.wau.org/) for allowing us to adapt material from daily meditations in their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission.]
Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men
1. Prayerfully reflect on the Scripture passages at the beginning of this article. How have they helped you to recognize that it is not by your power that a man comes to know Christ?
2. Do you agree with these words of Pope John Paul II: “Sometimes even Catholics have lost or never had the chance to experience Christ personally; not Christ as a mere ‘paradigm’, but the Living Lord: ‘the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).” Why or why not?
3. How would you characterize your own relationship with Jesus Christ? Have you ever made a personal commitment of your life to Jesus Christ and asked him to be your Lord and Savior? How important is making such a commitment to you as a Catholic Christian?
4. Why is it important, in our evangelization efforts, to keep in mine where a man may be spiritually?
5. The article lays out a seven-step approach to evangelizing men. Which of the steps are you willing to try to implement at this time? Why do you think that reaching out to someone as a friend is often an important first step in evangelization?
6. If you are in a men’s group, end your meeting (and future meetings) by praying to the Lord for those men on your list to evangelize (and other men as well). Use the prayer at the end of the article as the starting point.
7. In the upcoming weeks, be alert to any opportunities the Lord may open for you to talk to other men about the gift of salvation you have received in Jesus Christ. Share the fruits of these at your men’s meeting.