“He spoke to them for a long time using many other arguments, and he urged them, ‘Save yourselves from this perverse generation.’ They accepted what he said and were baptised. That very day about three thousand were added to their number.” (Acts 2:40-41)
Written By: Gregory Watson
Last Sunday, we heard Jesus give us the Great Commission to be His witnesses throughout the world. This coming Sunday is Pentecost, the Church’s birthday, when the Holy Spirit came upon the Virgin Mary and the Apostles, and empowered them to fulfil that Great Commission–and after St. Peter’s first “general audience” as Pope, 3000 people were converted and baptised!
The last few popes have been proclaiming that now is a season of New Evangelization, reminding us that the Great Commission applies to us just as much as it did to the Apostles. But for many of us, the prospect of sharing our faith with our friends or coworkers is a terrifying thought–let alone preaching to crowds of thousands! What part do we play in the New Evangelization, and how can we play that role effectively?
Recently, I was briefly employed at a call centre doing customer service for a major telecommunications company. The job entailed helping callers resolve their particular consumer-related needs, and, having done that, to then try to sell them a new line of business offered by the company. While answering phones and trying to sell internet or television services to angry, frustrated, or confused people wasn’t my cup of tea, and I’ve since moved on to new employment, I did realize during the training I received on how to best handle calls in order to successfully pitch to customers, that the general method of handling calls, from answering the phone to closing the sale, was instinctively the process that I follow when I share my faith with others one on one. The points I’m giving you can help you be an effective New Evangelist, too.
Step 1: Preparation
Obviously, if you’re going to share your faith with friends, family, coworkers, etc., you need to have a decent idea of what it is you’re sharing about. Learning about the Catholic faith, particularly a general overview of why we believe in God, who Jesus is and why He died, the Sacraments, Mary, and maybe a couple pointers about the “hot-button issues” that you know frequently come up in conversations about Catholicism, is very important. Work some spiritual reading into your daily prayer time. And don’t even try to say you don’t know where to get good Catholic books, CDs, and DVDs. We both know where you’re reading this article! On top of that, the fine folks here at Serviam Ministries hold two annual events, in the Spring and Fall, featuring excellent Catholic speakers brought in specifically to help prepare and inspire you to fulfill the Great Commission! So come on out and say hi! I’ll be at the book table to help you find an excellent volume to further your preparation!
Of course, this preparation needs to begin and end with prayer. In particular, pray for God to bring opportunities to share your faith, and pray that He’d also give you wisdom and understanding to know what to say to people that will reach to their hearts.
2. Have your intro ready
When I first got the job at the call centre, my training class had an “introduce yourself” session on the first day, where we went around the room, said our names, and told our colleagues something about ourselves. When it was my turn, I said, “I’m Gregory, and I’m very religious. I’m a convert to the Catholic faith, and I’m very devout. I love to talk about it. But this is a workplace, so I promise this will be the last thing I say about it, unless you bring it up. If you do, though, I’ll probably talk your ear off!” Then it was the next person’s turn.
During my six weeks at that job, though, every one of my fellow trainees, and even my supervisors, approached me at some point to talk about my faith. As I promised, I never brought it up again, but because of my intro, I could go about my day, and let them come to me.
Your intro can be accomplished in various ways in various settings (to greater or lesser effect). Some of my favourites are wearing Christian apparel, praying my Rosary in public places like while riding the bus, and having a “realmenpraytheRosary.org” bumper sticker and a little statue of the Blessed Virgin on my dashboard–which, just by itself prompted a co-worker at a past job to ask if she could come to church with me!
So again, find your not-too-subtle (but still non-confrontational) intro and use it! It’ll do most of the work for you!
3. Clarify, Reassure, Capture Interest (CRC)
When a customer called with some sort of issue or problem, our first response was to repeat their concern in our own words, to make sure we understood it (and to slightly reword it in a way that got to the heart of the issue as opposed to the particulars). We then were to reassure the client that we were the best-qualified person to help, or that we’d do all we could to solve their issue, or some expression to assure them that we could help them out. Then we were supposed to use a “capture” statement to transition their thinking into wanting to hear about the missing line of business that we were going to try to pitch to them. This last part was mainly why I left that job. I loved solving the customers’ problems. I hated trying to sell them something while I was at it.
When it comes to evangelization, though, the “product” that we’re trying to “sell”, is Jesus Christ, and the richness of His grace available through the Catholic Church. We’re not trying to market some useless gadget that only appeals to our material wealth or leisure. Instead, we’re trying to help people to encounter the Risen Lord who wants to give life to the fullest (cf. John 10:10)!
So how do we do that? By following CRC. When someone raises their objections to the Church, and tells you all the reasons they think Catholicism is false or stupid or contradicts the Bible, etc., don’t react defensively and get agitated. Instead, empathise with them, tell them you understand their concerns (and then rephrase them to show them, and yourself, that you grasp the heart of their concerns), and reassure them that they can certainly voice their objections to you without you shutting them down, if their willing to listen to you suggest answers to their questions and concerns. This may mean saying “I don’t know the answer right now, but I can find out and get back to you,”—and then doing your homework (remember step 1?).
Capturing interest flows out of this fairly easily with simple phrases like, “What if I could show you in Scripture [insert Catholic doctrine]?” or “What if I could provide you with details about actual scientifically-studied miracles?” (Obviously these hook questions should be tailored to the specific objections.)
Note that so far, at the CRC phase, you haven’t actually shared any of the content of your faith. So far you’ve just shared your open, friendly, and warm willingness to entertain their objections, no matter how rude or angry they’ve been. And you’ve even included an “escape hatch” should you not immediately have all the answers (because really, who does?).
In the workplace, this meant confirming someone’s identity by asking a few questions pertaining to their account, so as to prevent fraud. In terms of evangelization, it means valuing them as a person, as opposed to just a “project”. Deepen your relationship with them (and maintain it even if they decide not to convert—your friends aren’t your friends only if they are or become Catholic). Plus, showing them that you care about them makes them more likely to listen to you. This is important, though: be authentic, sincere, and genuine. Pretending to be someone’s friend just to tell them about Jesus is precisely the “proselytism” that Pope Francis called “nonsense.” If you’re not actually willing to love someone, do them and the Church a favour, and don’t tell them you’re a Catholic at all!
5. Resolve the issue
Now we get down to “work”. This is where you actually go through the other person’s questions, criticisms, and objections, and patiently give them the Catholic answer. No matter how long it takes. My own investigation of Catholicism took four years before I finally decided to convert! So be patient, don’t get discouraged, and never stop praying!
After answering every objection that your friend presented initially, it’s time to prompt a response. “So you see, Confession really is biblical! Maybe you’d like to come to Church with me and explore more of my faith?” “So no, we don’t worship Mary! But don’t take my word for it. Here’s an excellent book by Scott Hahn about her! He used to be opposed to Catholicism, too, as a Presbyterian minister! Maybe he’ll have some further insights for you.” “If you want to know more about what I believe, there’s a great event coming up in Toronto with some great, entertaining Catholic speakers! Maybe we could go together? Check out ServiamMinistries.com for more details! And while you’re there, check out their informative blog!” See what I did there? Now it’s your turn!
Just like at the call centre, the “pitching” part of evangelization is probably the most daunting. “What if they say no? What if they don’t want to talk to me any more? What if they have more objections?”
To that, I simply ask, “What if they say yes?” We began talking about how St. Peter’s first sermon led to 3000 people getting baptised. But this same Peter also died a martyr for the faith, because in his mind, the question of “What of they say yes?” outweighed “What if they say no?” And back in ancient Rome, “No” was a lot more painful than it is here for us in North America right now. And even if their “no” was fatal, well, then you’d be off the hook for having to evangelize anymore, anyway, so what do you have to lose?
Assuming your pitch doesn’t lead to your glorious martyrdom, just think, there’s always next time! So keep on following these easy steps of customer-service evangelization!
If publishing article online please attribute source Serviam Ministries with link to original article.