REALLY NEW EVANGELISM. THE 3 R’S. The second “R”.
(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.
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.
“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.
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.”
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.
further reading: from Lausanneworldpulse.com which I recommend highly