Evangelization Is Every Christian’s Vocation

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July 8, 2022

Deacon Bill Stimpson


Evangelization Is Every Christian’s Vocation

As a young man growing up in a Protestant tradition, evangelization meant spending Saturday mornings at shopping centers (malls did not exist in the 50’s and 60’s) handing out tracts asking if the person had accepted Christ as their Lord and personal Savior. If per chance the person would actually stop and engage, we would invite them to Sunday services. Most often we would spend an hour or so picking up the tracts that people had just thrown on the ground. I have no memory of how many people we saved on our weekends, but we were trying. Foe some people, their experience with evangelization is a group of Jehovah Witnesses on their porch. For others it might be a tele-evangelist. Whether it be some person handing out tracts, some people at your door, or some evangelical personality on radio or the TV, their message is pretty much the same – accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and you are saved. When you are saved, all your sins are forgiven. Should you sin in the future, just tell Jesus you are sorry, and those sins are forgiven also.

Even as a youth, I had had this undefined urge to evangelize. I am, by my very nature a teacher. (We probably know the old saying – Those who can, do. Those who cannot teach. I can help you with your golf swing, but mine is unsalvageable.) This adage worked fine when I was developing too many physical impediments to actively function productively as a construction electrician. With my wide and varied experiences. I was invited to teach the fifth year of the electrical apprenticeship program, for Local 58, in Detroit. But the old adage does not work in evangelization. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you;…” Matthew 28:19-20a. Evangelization is not just a call to a new way of thinking or believing. Evangelization is a call to a new way of being. We can never effectively evangelize if we don’t recognize in ourselves the moment to moment call to conversion. One good thing about getting “old”, is that you collect a large body of “old sayings” so that, one can pick out a saying that may add clarity or confusion to an idea.

Let us begin to look a bit deeper into this last instruction gave to his disciples before he ascended to the right hand of his Father. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations. It is important to understand just what it meant in the time of Jesus to be a disciple. Authors Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg explain in their book – Sitting At The Feet Of Rabbi Jesus[1], how the idea of discipleship worked in the time of Jesus. A disciple was more than a student, listening to lectures and taking notes, preparing for tests. Rabbis had disciples, they had schools where young men learned to follow their master so closely as to perfectly mimic the rabbi in thought, word, and action. To be a disciple of Jesus, a rabbi, one needed to mimic the thoughts, words and actions of Christ. The question – What would Jesus do? Was not just a slogan, it was a dramatic integration of reality and response. We cannot effectively evangelize if we do not seriously ask ourselves that very same question – What would Jesus do?

“…baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” Baptism is at the core of the Christian life. It is through baptism that we become members of His body, the church. There are in this world, throughout the ages, men and women who profoundly imitate the thoughts, words and actions of Jesus but are not baptized, who are not Christians at all. Mahatma Gandini, a Hindu and martyr, was a living example of Christ’s attitude of non-violence. In many ways, he showed himself a disciple of Jesus, though not a believer. In the Baptismal Rite, we are reminded that we are baptized into the three natures of Christ – Priest; Prophet; and King. The essence of evangelization is in living out these three natures of Christ in our own lives.

  1. Priest – In a technical sense, in the Catholic Church, ordained priesthood is for men who are not married. Prior to ordination, first as a deacon, and then priesthood, these men are formed academically and spiritually to function sacramentally as Persona Christus – Christ in person. To understand how we share in the priesthood of Christ when we are not ordained, we need to understand the primary function of priesthood.
    • Sacramental Minister – The priest is the primary minister of the Sacraments of the Holy Catholic Church. It is through the priesthood that absolution from the effects of sin is received (Reconciliation); the sick are anointed; the Eucharist is made present. (Note: deacons can baptize, witness marriages – with delegation; bishops are the ministers of Holy Orders and Confirmations – under special circumstances priests are delegated to Confirm sacramentally.)
      • We as ministers of sacraments
        • Confession or Reconciliation – All of us, in our daily lives hear confessions. All of us have the power to forgive, and all of us have the need to forgive. (Note: Priests are not to judge sin, but to recognize contrition. Absolution is given and received through contrition, and an honest desire to repentance – turning away from sin.) We have a limited power to absolve the temporal punishments of sin.
        • Anointing the Sick – The sacrament of anointing is a means of bringing comfort to the sick, encouragement in times of danger. A parent who has comforted an injured child, has anointed that child with the oil of their love and concern. When we visit the sick, we remember Christ in everyone (Mtt. 25: 31-40) we anoint them in love.
        • Eucharist – The primary function of priesthood is to preside over the Eucharist. It is only through the Sacramental Ordination of the Priest, that the common bread and wine become the real Body and Blood of Christ. However, in an ordinary way, when we share a meal with family or friends, we imitate what we experience in the Eucharist of the Mass. We give of ourselves, our time, our labors, our lives, to feed others. This is my body, given up for you.
  1. Prophet – A prophet is a man or woman called by God to speak the divine message. We do not need to leave our homes, travel to far off places and preach gloom and doom to sinners. We share in the prophetic nature of Christ when we speak the truth in love and fidelity to the ways of God.
  1. King – The kingship we share with Christ is not ruling over people, but over the sin in our own lives. We are no longer slaves.

“Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…” What did Jesus command us to do? To love God with all our heart, with all our mind, and with all our strength, and to love each outer as ourselves (Mtt 22:34-40; Mk 12:28-34; Lk 10:25-28). When we are born, we have no language besides the cry. As we grow into our early toddler stage, we develop our language skills to master the word NO! Eventually we expand our skills at verbal communication. We learn languages by hearing them long before we can read them. We learn to behave more by what we see than by what we hear. We cannot logically expect our children to grow up in an English-speaking environment and expect them to speak Chinese (unless of course, they study Chinese). Conversely, we cannot expect our society to reflect a Christian morality is we do not imitate Christ in society.

There is a great deal of truth to the old saying, “You can’t give what you don’t have!” If we don’t have the Good News of Christ in our own hearts; if we aren’t motivated to living a life in accordance with Christ’s commands; how can we reasonably expect to influence anybody to accept a discipleship that we, by way of example, reject ourselves? Every Christian, by their baptism, is called to the vocation of true discipleship; to constantly striving to love God with the whole of our hearts, minds, and strengths. Evangelization is letting people see us in our broken natures, struggling by the grace of faith, to become true disciples; perfect imitators, of Christ.                  

[1] Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg

  Harper Collins Christian Publications, 2009   chapter four