The word “evangelical” is familiar to most Protestants, but it is an idea that more Catholics ought to be acquainted with as well. The title of George Weigel’s book Evangelical Catholicism communicates the intersection of these two seemingly disparate concepts immediately. The reality with too many with Catholics is a more privatized faith – Catholics, even if they attend regular Mass, leave their faith at the door. What we need is a missionary faith – exactly what the New Evangelization is calling for among Catholics.
The fact is, Catholics would be wise to accept and put to use some of the evangelical tactics of the Protestants. Although Protestants lack the fullness of the faith we have as Catholics, they are miles ahead of us in the evangelical zeal with which they share their Christian faith. To this tune, I offer two ways Catholics can become more missionary oriented and evangelical both with their faith and their lives.
Reading the Bible Regularly
We should not look at the Bible only through the lens that is offered at Mass as dissected parts in the Missal. We have a real need to take the entirely of scripture from the Missal into our households. One only needs to read Psalm 119 once to figure out that our lives are dark and empty without the light of scripture. Do I need to make a case for the usefulness of scripture? I don’t think so. But here are three ideas to put into practice right away:
1. Read just one chapter a day from your Bible. Do not start with Genesis as that could be a recipe for disaster or disinterest. Along with this, follow your Catechism by chapter and verse. You will then be immersing yourself in Holy Writ as well as the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. That ought to deflect the tendency to come to personal interpretations which our first Pope speaks about at 2 Peter 1:20, “Know this first of all, that there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation.”
NOTE: This is not the solution for everyone. Like I mentioned up front, “just reading” any part of the Bible has a frequent effect of making people confused, leading to disinterest. I suggest the The Great Adventure Bible Timeline series by Jeff Cavins. Many people have come to love and understand the storyline of scripture through the great work of this Catholic revert.
2. Begin memorizing special verses or even whole passages. Nothing will prepare you to fight against darkness like memorizing Ephesians 6 and meditating on spiritual armor, or coping with temptation like 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.” When you memorize a verse, which is God’s Word, your embed God in your heart and in your mind .
3. Discuss scripture regularly with your friends. So long as you are on your guard with #1, you will not be in danger of personal interpretation, but it is useful to apply and discover scripture in a meaningful way in your life. You will pray better, you will live better, and your faith will be increased the more familiar you become with scripture.
I was slammed hard for this in online forums, but I will hold firm: Catholics need to become more accustomed to reading scripture in private. No, I do not mean to say that Catholics should generate private interpretations. One can read the Bible and gain spiritual nourishment without discerning a heretical interpretation.
Develop Your Testimony
The most important part of being an evangelical Catholic is being able to tell others what God has done in your life. More important than apologetics, more important than memorizing the entire Catechism, is your ability to impart personal testimony on another person. Why? Nobody cares what you know until they know that you care.
Being able to talk to others about Christ is vital because it utilizes the factor that exists inside all of us: empathy. Inside all of us is the power to learn from others who have similar struggles, victories, and pain. When you share your story about your miscarriage or your addiction to pornography, you connect with others in a way that nothing else on earth can. Your testimony helps others to identify with you and in turn causes them to listen to what you have to say. It’s no form of trickery nor clever whim; rather it is a universal means of capturing another’s interest and attention. The goal is for you to then tell them how God intervened in your life, whatever that might be.
This is a quick look at a book I am in the process of writing. Would you like to read and learn more?