What is evangelisation?

Our understanding of evangelisation can suffer from bad experiences or a limited definition. It is all too often seen as something that involves being pushy, intrusive, a numbers game or simply getting people “done” (i.e. baptised). These misconceptions do not match the beautiful Catholic vision of evangelisation.

The strength of the Catholic vision of evangelisation is that it takes a big picture approach. In Pope Paul VI’s seminal document on evangelisation, Evangelii Nuntiandi (1975), he explains:

For the Church, evangelising means bringing the Good News into all the strata of humanity, and through its influence transforming humanity from within and making it new.

The word strata means layers. So our understanding of evangelisation means the transformation of all layers of human society. Pope Paul VI continues:

But there is no new humanity if there are not first of all new persons renewed by Baptism and by lives lived according to the Gospel.

So a transformation of all the layers of society will only come about if people are renewed by lives lived according to the Gospel. This is so crucial that Pope Paul VI describes this as the purpose of evangelisation:

The purpose of evangelization is therefore precisely this interior change,

So an interior change is crucial! But change is hard – let alone an interior change. What is this change and how does it come about? Pope Benedict XVI explains that this kind of interior change occurs because we encounter more than a philosophy or a set of beliefs: we encounter a person.

Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction…Since God has first loved us, love is now no longer a mere ‘command’: it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us. (Deus Caritas Est, 1)

So the purpose of evangelisation is an interior change that occurs when people encounter the love of God in Christ. These people have a changed perspective and direction. They naturally live their lives according to the Gospel because they are responding to the love and beauty offered to them in Christ and his Church. Sounds so simple! But how do these ‘new persons’ bring this Good News into ‘all levels of humanity’ and how do we get people to encounter Christ?

In other words, how do we evangelise? To learn more, click here.