Really New Evangelism. The 3 R’s

Really New Evangelism. The 3 R’s.  The First “R”.

We are all inside of our skin.

We are all inside of our skin.

Receive.

When we come across good news we long to tell it and to share it. The more it excites us the more urgent is our desire for others to listen, to hear our news. We want to impart, to give.

The reality is that we each live within our own skins.  People think I am always on the move, changing places.  Not at all: I’ve been inside my skin all the time, that’s where the real changes take place for me and for all of us – in our hearts, in our minds and also in this skin which contains each of us.  None of us want this place to be invaded: access should only be by invitation.

The men, after the Mass during the January fiestas in Acehuche, Caceres.
The men, after the Mass during the January fiestas in Acehuche, Caceres.  A cunning evangelical strategy.

Receiving the Word of others.

I have wondered and prayed for many years about how to talk, to know what to say, about God, the Gospel, Jesus, and everything which might make up an “Evangelical package”. I still know my Catechism answers and also accept that how I am in myself, expressed in what I do and say every day, is testimony or witness to God’s love, or so I would like it to be.  Yet words about God, Jesus and the whole bundle of Christian teaching do not flow easily from me.

Quiet places and silent prayer.
Quiet places and silent prayer.

I do tell people that I pray; that I give time to prayer.  Most people I meet on my travels take this as an opening to explain to me that they, too, pray but don’t like the churches or religions or priests. They add their horror stories of insensitive clergymen, sadistic nuns and judgemental neighbours.  Often they put in a good word for Buddhism and re-incarnation while various forms of paganism are held in high esteem for their embracing of Nature.

And who would not want to embrace Nature?
An equinoxal sunrise.                                                                                                                                                    And who would not want to embrace Nature?

Receiving, Receiving, Receiving.

I often wonder why atheists should bother about being Confirmed but I meet quite a few.  Every now and then my logical part is right with them.  Many atheists also pray and, strange as it may seem, are often outwardly loving, generous and Christian folk.  I receive what they say to me about their beliefs as a gift.

My vocation, I now feel, is neither to teach nor to preach.  I practise as best as I can  passive evangelism – a form of contemplation in inaction. I receive and welcome, without either moral or intellectual judgement, the musings, the stories, the beliefs, the angers and fears and joys of those I meet.  It is an easy yoke after all. I am enriched by so many and would be quite struck dumb if I didn’t frequently encounter a strong affinity with others in my deepest core, in the place where  Love has begged to be invited in and has always been hiding.  It’s then that conversation begins and I am  converted: over and over again.  It all happens inside my skin.

Affinity in a chord.
Affinity in a chord.

Receive.

To be touched, to be moved,  to be silent, to be present, to let be and to love: to be hungry for all of these is to tell the Good News.  Of course there are a fair number of really boring people – that’s the bad news. Some of them even preach in our churches.   That ministry, I think,  is a very special calling.   However, the really Good News for evangelists is that there is no need to preach or teach or mention God, as the second “R” will confirm.

The second “R”  click here

REALLY NEW EVANGELISM. THE 3 R’S (2)

REALLY NEW EVANGELISM. THE 3 R’S. The second “R”.

W see, through a glass, darkly. (1 Corinthians 13: 12-13)
We see, through a glass, darkly. (1 Corinthians 13: 12-13)

Recognise.

(the first post in this series is here)

In the context of New Evangelisation I often hear the phrase..”In this de-Christianised world of ours…”  or something similar.  When people say this what are they seeing?  How do they see the world?  Very darkly indeed, I presume.

Maybe they are seeing the sharp decline in church attendance, the changing patterns of lifestyle and relationships and the global rise in consumerism.  Perhaps such things obscure their vision.  The first premise, surely, of all Evangelisation is that God is present here among us now. We are all his children: already.

When I was in teaching I used to say to my teachers, “Your job is not  to teach so much as to recognise and celebrate the learning that you discover in your pupils.”  The challenge to the staff was to offer experiences in which the learning of pupils could be recognised by them and celebrated by all.  To evangelise is to recognise Christ in all people, in each person we meet.

memories for the 79 people who died on the rails below this bridge in Santiago de Compostella, July 24th 2013.
Little recognitions for the 79 people who died on the rails below this bridge in Santiago de Compostella, July 24th 2013.

Recognise God in all things and all of his children.

I struggle with my prejudices.  My skin, like all human skin is transparent and more or less soft but I inhabit another shell which is thick and solid and opaque: it protects me and imprisons me.  It excludes those I distrust because they seem to be different from me and might damage me.  It prevents me from recognising others as my bothers and sisters.

I struggle with my selective intellect.  My world is defined by what I already know and understand.  My preferred authors are those in whose books I can read what I already think.  I want others to obey the rules of the logic my Scottish, Catholic culture wrote into my cells from their inception.

Seeing the whole picture is not easy.
Seeing the whole picture is not easy.

Though you have eyes, don’t you see: though you have ears don’t you hear?”

I have found the advice of Ignatius Loyola very effective when it comes to dealing with my solid outer crust and love of familiarity and comfort which dulls my vision.  It is simple: to correct an imbalance lean in the other direction. So at table I avoid those I would prefer to sit beside and talk with people to whom I am not attracted or even find distasteful.  Nearly always I see much which I hadn´t seen and hear things I would not normally hear. I begin to recognise Christ’s presence where I would not have chosen to look.

At first sight we do not see the treasures in the other.
At first sight we do not always see the treasures in the other.

Recognise God in all people.

The task is not as much to preach as to recognise and celebrate God’s presence in every person.  If we start with the premise that some people don’t know God and that we do, we are blind.  The challenge to the evangelist is to offer a shared space of communion in which he or she can recognise and celebrate God’s loving presence in the other and in all people.  This happens especially by Receiving the other into our open hearts and open minds.

As noted in The first ¨R¨¨,  ” the really Good News for evangelists is that there is no need to preach or teach or mention God,”  We might even see that  there is a strong correlation between the decline in church attendence and the unprecedented growth in christian values and practice in the past 100 years by people of all faiths and none.   We all accept the decline of church attendence in the USA and Europe – and just Google “Is the world getting better or worse?” to see masses of evidence that as the prayer of the Iona Community affirms, “God’s goodness is planted more deeply than all that is wrong.”

Crude perhaps, but gives thumbs up to goodness.
Crude perhaps, but gives thumbs up to goodness.

Recognising and celebrating such growth is the work of evangelisation.  It is nothing more than “seeing” God’s Love present with us now, as it always has been and will be. This, after all, is the Good News.  Let us shake off the need to have others think like us and believe what we believe.  That, for me, is not evangelisation.  Instead let us recognise and celebrate, without pause, God’s loving presence in every aspect of our lives and in the lives of others.  The third “R” shows how effortless this task is.

Evangelising on the beach.
Evangelising on the beach.

further reading: from Lausanneworldpulse.com  which I recommend highly

 

The third “R” – click here

The first “R” – clicl here