Is there someone in your life who doesn’t know God? What’s the best way to evangelize that friend, acquaintance, or spouse? We’re called to share the Good News, but it’s hard to know where to start. If finding God is a process (and it often is), how can we be there for those who are working their way through a process that sometimes feels like a minefield?
As a former atheist who was blessed with loving Christian friends who never gave up on me (even when I seemed to be a lost cause), I know there’s no simple answer to that question, and one size certainly does not fit all. But we don’t have to overcomplicate the answer either.
First, it’s not only a help but a huge relief to remember we’re not evangelizing alone. Call on the Holy Spirit. A prayer as simple as, “Come, Holy Spirit,” reminds us that conversion is really God’s work, not ours.
Then, just remember a few simple starting points:
• Remember You’re Being Watched Not in a creepy, stalker-ish way, but in an “I’m a follower of Jesus, am I acting like one?” way. We Catholics will be observed by those around us. Am I a good advertisement, or proof that the “product” isn’t really working?
• Fall in Love With Jesus Love is infectious. When we cultivate our own relationship with God, the results can’t help but flow forth. Everyone loves a love story, so work on nurturing your own.
• Be Friends with All Kinds of People How can we spread the Gospel if the only people we hang out with are already in the fold? I’m not saying we shouldn’t have close Catholic friends; it’s a given that such support is vital. But don’t shut off other possibilities. If my Catholic (and other Christian) friends had shunned me when I was an atheist, I wouldn’t be the Catholic I am today.
• Engage the Culture We’re in the world, even if we are not meant to be of it. Cultural touchstones—artistic, popular, musical—bring us together. “Every genuine art form,” said St. John Paul II in his Letter to Artists, “in its own way is a path to the inmost reality of man and of the world.”
• Be Patient and Remember Conversion Comes in Stages Not everyone will have a Damascus road experience. Some people take a lifetime to accept Jesus Christ. Genuine deathbed conversions (and remember, it’s not up to us to judge whether or not a particular one is genuine) are just as real as other conversions. Don’t ever give up on anyone. Let God do His work.
• Don’t Forget How Hard It Is Imagine discovering that everything you’ve ever assumed, grew up with, thought you knew and believed was wrong. How would that feel? Imagine having the revelation that you must adopt an entirely new way of thinking, living, and being. Sounds hard, doesn’t it? It is hard. Cut the non-believer some slack.
Then ask yourself what you can do to make someone else’s rocky road a little smoother.
As Pope Francis said, “The Lord’s relationship with his people is a personal relationship, always from person to person. It is not a dialogue between the powerful and the masses.”
God works up close and personal, one soul, one friendship at a time.
Come, Holy Spirit!
Karen Edmisten, a former atheist, is a convert to Catholicism and the author of several books, including You Can Share the Faith: Reaching Out One Person at a Time, Deathbed Conversions: Finding Faith at the Finish Line and After Miscarriage. She has written for numerous publications and is a regular guest on Catholic radio. Find her online at karenedmisten.com where she blogs about faith, conversion, family, and life.