Evangelising as we go

Evangelising as we go

Often we think that evangelising is something we need to go out especially to do. We may even think we have to go overseas to be an evangeliser or at least go out on a special mission. Some are called to go overseas, and you may also need to organise and participate in missions, but most of our evangelisation should occur naturally as part of our day to day experiences and contacts.

Blessed Pope John Paul II in his encyclical entitled Christifideles laici (on the Vocation and Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and the World) wrote about this:

...the lay faithful "live in the world, that is, in every one of the secular professions and occupations. They live in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life, from which the very fabric of their existence is woven"(34). They are persons who live an ordinary life in the world: they study, they work, they form relationships as friends, professionals, members of society, cultures, etc....The "world" thus becomes the place and the means for the lay faithful to fulfill their Christian vocation, because the world itself is destined to glorify God the Father in Christ....They are not called to abandon the position that they have in the world. Baptism does not take them from the world at all...On the contrary, he entrusts a vocation to them that properly concerns their situation in the world. The lay faithful, in fact, "are called by God so that they, led by the spirit of the Gospel, might contribute to the sanctification of the world, as from within like leaven, by fulfilling their own particular duties. (34)

So our natural mission centre is right where we are and the people we should be evangelising are those we meet with on a regular basis. The concept of oikos may help us to understand what this means. Oikos’ is the biblical Greek word for household or a house of people. The term is employed often in the New Testament. The most pertinent uses are in Acts 10 and 11:

In Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius…He was a devout man who feared God with all his household (oikos)
(Acts 10:1-2)
 
An angel of God told Cornelius to send for Peter and that: he will give you a message by which you and your entire household (oikos) will be saved.
(Acts 11:14)
 
Peter later reports that when he came to Cornelius he had called together his relatives and close friends
(Acts 10:24)

This story from Acts relates how the whole of Cornelius’ household (relatives and close friends) were converted. So the concept of oikos evangelisation goes beyond our understanding of household to include family, friends, neighbours, colleagues, etc. This social sphere is our most natural circle for evangelisation. It is these people that we can pray for, serve, listen to and, when the time is right, share our faith and hope with AND invite them to the same.

Why oikos?

It is natural. We naturally build relationships with these people and it makes our witness to them more of a proposal rather than an imposition from a stranger.

It has greater impact. The closer you are to somebody the greater chance you have of impacting their life. The neighbour who wonders why you care about them, the old mate who notices a change in your life; the family members who see the old sinner become the new saint: these are the people you can most effectively reach.

It enables follow up. We can share in the joy of watching them grow in their relationship with Christ and be available, by unforced association, for follow up.

It is therefore natural that it will be people from our oikos that we would invite, when it is appropriate, to come along to a suitable Church event. But best of all it enables us to evangelise as we go rather than go out to evangelise.