The months leading up to any presidential election frequently include references to “evangelicals.” Politically, the term means little more than a block of socially and fiscally conservative voters, whose political platform is imagined to stem from their Christian convictions.
However, the term evangelical is based on a Greek root-word meaning “good news,” and has come to mean the good news or gospel of Jesus Christ—which is decidedly more than a political platform. So, although the term evangelical is typically associated with protestantism, one can be an Evangelical Catholic. Indeed, the Church’s last three decades strongly suggest that one should be.¹
What Evangelicals Do
If we are evangelicals of any kind, this begs for some attention to the practical consequences of being evangelicals. Evangelization has acquired negative connotations in some modern circles, yet that need not be so. Evangelization comes down to good news, telling a story—a good story! During the first dot-com boom, it was not unusual to be handed a business card with the title “Evangelist” or “Product Evangelist.” But effective evangelism requires the story to be so compelling you cannot not tell it.
Any narrative that compelling is easy to remember and to talk about with others. So what is Christianity’s compelling story? What is our good news?
What Our Story is About
At its heart, the story is about the Cross of Christ. French poet Paul Claudel expresses it this way: “Who knows, definitively, whether [the effect of Christ’s death on the Cross, applied to us] is not a bridge cut in advance to the exact measurement of that fissure we shall have to cross, just broad enough to pass from one bank to another,” from death to life; from time into eternity?²
Hasn’t each of us, at some point during our life, thought about our own death? About what comes after death? About whether there might be an antidote to death—a bridge to ongoing life?
Who Needs to Hear That Story?
If Christianity’s compelling story provides an answer to those questions, who needs to hear that story? Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical, Redemptoris Missio, identifies three groups:
- Those who don’t know Who Christ was or how he relates to us
- Those who are already part of Christian communities, whose faith will be increased by hearing our story
- Those who have been baptized and call themselves Christian, but have lost a living sense of the faith, “or even no longer consider themselves members of the Church, or live a life far removed from Christ and His Gospel”³
Each of these three groups needs to hear the story. God’s grace must first open our ears and prepare our hearts: for by grace are we saved (convinced of the truth of the good news, converted, born again) through faith—Ephesians 2:8. But faith requires content. We believe in something or someone.
How we tell the story of what or in Whom we believe in depends, first, on our own personal encounter with Christ by God’s grace. Then, as evangelical Catholics, we take time to reflect on our personal story, so we can share the good news with others.
How I Tell My Story
My story? I increasingly believe that, if we grasp the significance of three things, then we come face-to-face with a story so compelling, we will be eager to tell it. These three things are not to the exclusion of the rest of the gospel story. They are doors into that story:
The next several posts tell this story. It is a story you can re-tell, first to yourself and then to others, if the content of the story grasps you as powerfully as it does me. And this story’s power, its truth, and its implications for us, are most assuredly Christianity Richly.
¹ See Fr. Jay Scott Newman (St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Greenville, SC) on Evangelical Catholicism, here. Fr. Newman also refers to George Weigel’s very helpful and timely book, Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st Century Church, here.
² Paul Claudel, A Poet Before the Cross (Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1958), p. 50. Although copies are becoming hard to find, they occasionally become available by searching AbeBooks.com.