Welcome to Part 2 of our series: The Dos and Don’t s of evangelization. In part 1, we discussed 5 main Dos when evangelizing. There are a lot more Dos in my book, Why Do You Believe in God? but let’s get into some of the Don’ts because these are equally important and they’re so necessary. They will keep you from effectively evangelizing and spreading the faith. They will keep you from bringing people home to the Church.
So many people get frustrated and beat their head up against walls saying, “Why are these people so stubborn? Why won’t they come into the Church?” Or, “I’ve been evangelizing for years, and I have not made much progress with anyone.”
That’s probably because you’re doing it wrong! It’s not just about the right arguments, it’s about how you say it, the way you go about it, the way you present yourself, the humility and the charity you employ, etc. So, what follows are the things you need to avoid during apologetics and evangelization.
Tip #1: So, the first Don’t then, of course, is don’t be prideful. Do not look down on others as being less than you, as being wrong, or as being silly heretics. Maybe the person you are speaking to is wrong. Maybe their argumentation is not good. However, if you have an air of pride, or are sassy, and are condescending, people will feel that and it will push them away. They will not trust you. You want them to listen and learn, but the way you are approaching it will have the opposite effect.
So, remove the obstacles that people have and all possible impediments that will prevent them from coming closer to God and the Church. That comes through not being prideful, angry, sassy, judgmental, condemnatory, and so on. This is what many fundamentalists and atheists do to us Catholics. We need to raise the caliber of our apologetics.
Tip #2: Don’t get angry. Don’t get heated. Don’t get frustrated. Don’t fume when people don’t listen.
The anger reveals that we think evangelization depends on us, not God. It’s vain and prideful. Evangelization is about planting seeds and praying for those seeds to be watered.
Did Jesus curse the people who cursed him? Did he laugh at the people who laughed at him? Even if people hate the Catholic faith, there is a reason for that and we must have Christ-like patience, kindness, and love.
Here at Catholic Truth, we have had several people tell us: “I used to be one of those Catholic haters. I was the one yelling and screaming at you, but you were always really kind to me.” Or, ” I was one of those anti-Catholics who fought you at every turn. But you gave me good convincing arguments and you were always polite. So, I’ve been thinking about it for a while. Now, I am coming into the Catholic Church.” Some of the most hardened cases are coming home to the Catholic Church because we took time to deal with their doubts, questions, and animosity with patience and love.
Getting angry is never a replacement for love and sound argumentation. The more we get angry, the less it’s going to help the situation. The more we stay calm and joyful, the more we will reflect Christ.
Tip# 3: The next Don’t is to remember that your actions speak louder than words. Therefore, don’t do anything that Christ wouldn’t do Himself or want you to do. St. Francis de Sales, Patron Saint of Apologetics, won 60,000 Protestants back to the Catholic faith!! He exhorts us to speak lovingly and patiently just like Christ did. Feel free to listen to his story by clicking here.
Even in the face of evil and adversity, the Saints were incredibly humble, kind, and loving. So many discussions and evangelization opportunities just end up fight with family, or friends, or coworkers, spouses, etc.
We have to realize that evangelization and conversion is a very slow process. It takes time. It takes patience. We can speak from extensive experience that our example speaks much louder than our words. Your words are so quiet compared to your actions. It doesn’t matter if you have all the right arguments or can quote Scripture like a boss, if your actions push people away.
I have been blessed to bring so many people into the Church, and most times, it was primarily by my good example, not my arguments. I was joyful and kind, even when they were yelling and screaming at me. It happens more than you think when you employ the right motives, arguments, and attitude.
Tip # 4: Stop trying to convert people who are impossible to convert. Some people yell and scream at you and argue that the Catholic Church is wrong, but they are unstable. They’re not mentally well. They don’t think or act in a rational way. Know when people can be reasoned with and when they cannot be. We are not called to reach any and all people in our path. God may put other people in their lives who can get through to them.
Just because we can evangelize someone, does not mean that we should. We must pray and use discernment and listen to the Holy Spirit: Should we speak? And if so, how, when, and how much? So important! Crucial. The more we are open to the Holy Spirit, the more he can work in our efforts and guide them.
For many years, I prayed: “Holy Spirit, if there is someone you need me to talk to today, please lead me to that person.” Or, “If there is someone today who needs to know your truth (love, healing, etc.), please put them in my path.” Almost every day, I would be having conversations with someone about the faith, and it was wonderful.
But at other times, I’ve spoken to people who are nonsensical. For instance, there could be a statement: “You only can go by the King James version of the Bible.” And I would ask: “Really?!” Their answer would be: “Yes. If it’s not in the King James version, then it’s not true.” I would reply: “Well, can you show me where in the King James version it says that? If it has to be in the Bible, where does it say that we should only go by the Bible and where does it say we should only go by the King James version of the Bible?” And we went around and around, and they literally just kept saying: “You only can go by the King James Bible.” Again, I would argue: “Where does it say that in the Bible?” And they would repeat the same statement. This person is not capable of having a real intellectual discussion, which is why they just repeat things.
I got into conversations with Orthodox. In fact, I’ve hardly ever encountered an Orthodox Church goer online, who’s actually nice. Maybe one, or two. They yell, they scream, they condemn Catholics being heretics, people of evil, freaks who are going to Hell and you can’t have a conversation with them.
Why beat your head against walls with people who don’t want to listen in the first place, who aren’t open to listening, who just hate. Yes, you can try a little bit, but if you keep beating your head against a wall and they’re just arguing in circles, it is time to let it go.
Some lady was saying that the Pope is a heretic and evil and the Catholic Church is evil. I said: “Jesus started the Catholic Church” and she replied: “No, the Catholic Church started in like 500s.” I answered: “There were like 50 popes before the 500s. How could that be?” She replied that I don’t know History and that was just papal history. The real history is that the Popes didn’t start until the 500s and the Catholic Church started in the 500s. I said: “But you can look in an encyclopedia, that’s not Catholic history”. She answered: “But the Catholic Church gave them the history they wanted to be put in there, so they could deceive people!”
This is not even intellectual or rational. This lady probably has some other issues going on in her life, but we went around for 20 minutes, and I didn’t get any further than I was with this lady when I first started talking to her because she wasn’t open to Truth.
So, you can leave the heavy lifting to God and ask him to put someone else in their life, who can get through to them.
In another way, sometimes people treat us like a doormat, and we don’t need to be treated like a doormat. Sometimes, even people in our family make fun of us constantly or degrade us for our faith and it is not our job to convert evil people. It is our job to pray for them, and if God calls us, to deal with them. But we do not have to always be putting ourselves in these situations where we are going to be hurt or wounded or where people are going to abuse us in some way. We can pray for them, or we can fast for them. That’s what the saints did for many people that would not listen to them or who attacked them in some way.
These are only some tips on how to evangelize that we wanted to share. Our book: Why Do You Believe in God? is not only designed, to teach what to say and the arguments to state, but how to say it. In fact, in the book you can also find many interjectory notes to teach you how to evangelize.
There are so many people doing it the wrong way. I know I have failed so many times during my evangelization path, trying to make it about me and not about Christ. So, please share this article with anyone who might need to read it.