Evangelize by Attraction: How to Draw People to Church and Community Life

Is it a struggle to evangelize others in these fast-paced times? Has the advancement of technology and busier lifestyle made it more difficult to attract people to programs and seminars about the Faith?

My family and I went to a Christmas light show sponsored by a mall near our place. As the lights danced to the beat, we were all “wows” and “aahs” as if experiencing something for the first time. We were amazed! Also, uniquely, the lights were framed to the shape of a church, which connected the season of joy, to faith and community.

This experience made me reflect on our faith life, our Church, and the work of evangelization. Three questions came to my mind:

When was the last time that the Gospel made us go “wow” and “aah”? Often, the Good News that the Savior is born or that Christ is risen, appeals very ordinarily to us. While for the first community of believers, they said: “It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). The reason why the disciples kept on preaching about the Gospel, even risking persecution and death, was that it was an overwhelming “wow” for them. It changed their lives forever. It was news too good not to tell! There is a need for a deeper reflection why the Good News sometimes ceases to fascinate us; because if it does, we can’t help but tell it to others.

Are we dancing to the beat of God’s will? The perfect synchronization of lights to the music reminded me how we should sync our will to God’s will. We know when we are out of sync when we are in a state of sinfulness. The Church teaches us to strive to be in a state of grace, which is a “condition of a person who is free from mortal sin and pleasing to God. It is the state of being in God’s friendship . . . “[1]. Evangelization, at the heart of it, is a wonderful friendship. Pope Francis wrote:

“Thanks solely to this encounter – or renewed encounter – with God’s love, which blossoms into an enriching friendship, we are liberated from our narrowness and self-absorption. We become fully human when we become more than human, when we let God bring us beyond ourselves in order to attain the fullest truth of our being. Here we find the source and inspiration of all our efforts at evangelization. For if we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others?

How are we making Church attractive? Perhaps the difference between the “church light show” and the “light of Christ in the Church” is that the former is an attraction to bring in more potential shoppers, while the latter is a vocation, a calling, to bring in more people to obtain the “fullness of means of salvation.”[2] Yet, as instruments to this calling, how can we help make the Church a place where people want to go to and belong?

I can think of three ways to attract people to Church.

1. Strive to be an attractive witness

How we act as Christians will be how others will view the Church.

When I say attractive, I’m not pertaining to physicality — although we are called to be good stewards of our bodies — but more of our attitude. Are we happy in our disposition? Are we grateful? Are we friendly, kind and tender? Are we pursuing righteousness in our business dealings? Do we have a respectful and loving relationship in our families? Perhaps, no matter how we organize activities for evangelization, it all boils down to how we are living our faith. The Church grows by attraction. Jesus does not force people to the faith, but invites them to “come and see” (John 1:39). Benedict XVI said:

Instead, she [the Church] grows by “attraction”: just as Christ “draws all to himself” by the power of his love, culminating in the sacrifice of the Cross, so the Church fulfills her mission to the extent that, in union with Christ, she accomplishes every one of her works in spiritual and practical imitation of the love of her Lord. [3]

2. Be missionary.

Don’t expect them to come. Go to them.

When doing evangelization activities, often we are too busy preparing the venue, program, food, sound system — yet forget the most important: the participants! All forms of services are good, but we forget that Christ sends us for the last, least, and the lost.

Christ is missionary. He became man, so He can be with us, and bring us back to our Heavenly home. Perhaps, we should do the same: become like the ones whom we are sent, relate with their lives and be present, and then invite them back to Church.

3. Be available for service

We choose our “busyness.”

Life can get busy. We almost have no time for the more important things: faith, family, and friends. Yet, the things we pursue and the time we invest are really born out of our decisions. If we decide to serve the Church, whether directly in the parish ministries or through a renewal community, time has to be made. This availability helps retain and grow those who have responded in faith. This affords those who have been evangelized to have a nourishing and edifying experience — of being served. This inspires them, in turn, to do the same. Often, how they are served is how they will serve others. The quality and sincerity of our servanthood has an impact to the growth of our Church. If they feel left out and excluded, they will leave. If they receive love and service, like that of Christ, they will stay, serve, and bring others in.

We often hear: “It’s not like before, it was easier to evangelize. Today, it’s harder because of all the distractions.” Perhaps, we can reflect on what Pope Francis is saying:

“Some people nowadays console themselves by saying that things are not as easy as they used to be, yet we know that the Roman empire was not conducive to the Gospel message . . . Every period of history is marked by the presence of human weakness, self-absorption, complacency and selfishness, to say nothing of the concupiscence which preys upon us all. These things are ever present under one guise or another . . . Let us not say, then, that things are harder today; they are simply different. But let us learn also from the saints who have gone before us, who confronted the difficulties of their own day.” [4]

Considering our weaknesses, we have to rely on God’s grace to sustain and strengthen us. With the great light of Christ reflected in the Church, we receive this light; and like a lit candle, no matter how small the light of faith we have, it can illuminate a darkened room.

_________________________

[1] https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/dictionary/index.cfm?id=36634

[2] Second Vatican Council, Unitatis redentegratio, 5.

[3] Benedict XVI, Homily at Mass for the Opening of the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Bishops (13 May 2007), Aparecida, Brazil: AAS 99 (2007), 437.

[4] Pope Francis, Evangelii gaudium, 263.

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