The truth is that not all evangelising efforts are effective, and not everyone who sets out to evangelise is spiritually fruitful. Frequently, we attempt to look for external reasons for why our efforts do not give us the results we seek. It is all too easy to forget that when it comes to evangelisation, it is always the internal factors that matter. We need only look at the lives of the saints to see very clearly that the difference they made in the world stemmed not from what they did per se but how powerfully they loved.
All the talent in the world cannot bring a soul to Christ unless there is divine love. An effective evangeliser is someone who is a faithful conduit of God’s Truth, Goodness and Beauty, and a clear channel of His love to the world. How do we become such a person? Perhaps we can start by looking at some of the traits of highly effective evangelisers.
- They are mature disciples
To be on the interior journey is to be on a path of divine transformation. The further along we are on this path, the more conformed we are to Christ, and the more differently we see and interact with the world and all the people in it. Mature disciples live in the same external realities as we do, but how they see, hear and understand these realities is different from those of us who are less far along in the journey. The reason for this is because the purgation that they have willingly undergone has made them much more receptive to the infused virtues and supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. Thus, they possess supernatural insight and wisdom that guide them in God’s will, and they effectively receive supernatural graces that enable them to live Christ’s life in their own realities. Their words and actions are regularly inspired by the Holy Spirit, and because of this, they are highly effective channels for God’s love. In these mature disciples, St Paul’s statement is true – “I am alive; yet it is no longer I, but Christ living in me” (Gal 2:20).
- They have deep interior lives
All mature disciples managed to become mature disciples because of deep interior lives. The interior life refers simply to the life of the soul. A person with a deep interior life is one who is keenly attuned to God’s presence and action in their own life and who has made the life of the soul (both their own and others) their ultimate priority. The interior life is nurtured by solitude, silence, and prayer. Thus, those with deep interior lives are people of great inner solitude, silence, and prayer. They are people who never neglect the “one thing necessary” (Lk 10:42) even when they are in the busiest apostolates. They live and breathe a total dependence on God and the inner peace and joy that they radiate in spite of their constant struggles in life is the fruit and the proof of it.
- They are compelling witnesses of freedom and love
Highly effective evangelisers attract others to Christ through the way they are. When people look at them, they are struck by these disciples’ inner freedom, joy, peace, and love for others. What is compelling about their witness is that they are imperfect and sinful as the rest of us are, yet they live lives of extraordinary grace and courage that go against the wisdom of the world. When people come into contact with these mature disciples, they catch a glimpse of the kind of life they begin to realise they long to have – a life fuelled with hope and over-flowing with a joy that transcends suffering, pain, and death.
- They forget themselves
One trademark of highly effective evangelisers is that they are so caught up in God’s glory that they no longer seek their own. They are wonderfully humble people because they have a deep self-knowledge and they realise they know nothing except that which God reveals to them. They do not put any faith in their own abilities yet they are brimming with undeniable God-centred conviction and confidence because like Christ, they know that they come “not to do my own will, but to do the will of him who sent me” (Jn 6:38). These people do not worry about how their actions will reflect on themselves; rather, they are concerned that their lives will point others effectively to Christ. They are not anxious about success because they are confident that their faithfulness will yield great fruitfulness. They are happy to even be counted as fools and failures as long as they know they are faithful to God.
- They are soaked in God’s mercy, compassion, and love
Highly effective evangelisers are people who have first-hand experience of God’s mercy and compassion and they are constantly aware of their own sinfulness and powerlessness to come to God without grace. Their keen cognisance of their own sinfulness and their personal experience of the richness of God’s mercy make them compassionate to the sufferings of others. They are less prone to judge others because they have judged themselves in the past and have been set free by God’s mercy. And now, their greatest desire is to let other struggling sinners experience the same liberation they encounter daily. With and through Jesus Christ, their lives proclaim the words of Isaiah – “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring the good news to the afflicted. He has set me to proclaim liberty to captives, sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord” (Is 61:1-2; Lk 4:17-19). They live lives that set other people free!
If we are serious about evangelisation, we will go to the Source of evangelisation and start wherever we are to make progress on our Interior Journey. The plain fact is that the power to evangelise is God’s – we just need to do the hard work of getting out of His way. We must let ourselves be transformed by Christ into the person He created us to be and so set the world on fire (St. Catherine of Siena).