Evangelization is the essential mission of the Church. Christ calls us to follow him yet there is no discipleship without evangelization, and there is no evangelization without disciples. Ministry through the Lens of Evangelization celebrates the link between ministry and discipleship.
The word evangelization may be a difficult one for us to understand. It may not seem to mean anything in our everyday life. In fact, it may even bring negative images to mind. But let’s look at the word more closely. "Evangel" means "good news" or "gospel." To evangelize means to share, or proclaim the good news of the gospel. This good news is contained in the core message of Jesus, "I have come that you may have life, and have it more abundantly." His mission was salvation for all through his life, death and resurrection. The good news is proclaimed at every liturgy, "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again." For us, this translates into the message of hope that in our daily "dying" with Christ, we too will rise again. Evangelization is a process of opening our hearts to God’s word, putting that message into practice in our daily lives, sharing the story of how God has touched us, and welcoming others to experience the good news. Our baptismal responsibility is to do all of these things as individuals and as a community of believers.
Why are we concerned about evangelization in the Catholic Church today? Forty percent, over 80 million people, in the United States have no church affiliation. Included in this number are 17 million inactive or alienated Catholics. In fact, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops survey found that one third to one half of registered parishioners are inactive, that is, persons who were baptized Catholic but are not presently active participants in the Catholic Church. In a national survey, fifty-two percent of the inactive Catholics, when questioned, said they would welcome an invitation to join the church. Thus, Christ’s command, "go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to all creation," is more important today than ever.
Each of us is called to share our faith. We can no longer stand back and leave this work to the ordained, vowed, religious, and church professionals. The mission of the laity in the workplace, the home, in social settings, and in the political arena is to proclaim and share the Good News. Take some time to reflect on the four elements of the evangelization cycle by looking at your own life experience in relation to the scriptures. Discover your own response to the call to evangelize. Study and learn your faith, pray for God’s guidance, reach out to those around you who hunger silently and feed them as Christ called all of us to do.