The word ‘evangelization’ may conjure up the stereotypical image of a Bible thumper, loudly coercing a person into accepting Jesus into their lives. These proselytizers manipulate in order to boast of a new convert — and their deception is disrespectful to the dignity of the human person, says Michael Dopp, STL, founder of the New Evangelization Summit and Mission of the Redeemer Ministries.
This disservice to the work of evangelization may leave members of the faithful wary of talking about their faith.
But, Dopp says, “we don’t want to go the other way and say, ‘Well, I guess I can never talk to my friends about anything related to God.’”
“I think that’s to betray them in a different way, which is to not reveal the glory of God to them in whatever way the Lord opens the door,” he added.
On April 13, Dopp will be at St. Charles Borromeo in North Hollywood for the start of a three-day workshop titled “LA relit Evangelization Training Live” to address an especially pressing situation: today, 80 percent of Catholics in North America don’t go to Mass on Sundays, while in Europe the number is closer to 90 percent.
The new evangelization is the re-evangelization of the baptized, explains Dopp. The term comes from Pope St. John Paul II, who wrote that while there are those who have never heard of Christ and those who have found Christ, there is an intermediate situation of baptized Catholics who have yet to experience an initial conversion.
“The Church traditionally thinks of mission work as the Church going out to the nations of the peoples, and St. John Paul II is reminding us that while we need to do that, there are always Catholics who have to have a primary and initial conversion — that’s the new evangelization.”
This workshop aims to teach those who are already strong in their faith to share their testimony and faith with others, instead of backing out of the conversation due to fear. Dopp says fear is the number one stumbling block for potential evangelizers, and he proposes confronting that fear in a safe way. “Don’t take a huge risk,” he says. “Take a small risk.”
The best antidote to fear, besides God’s grace, is a concrete act of courage. “That means choosing to do courageous things even when we feel afraid,” he explains, referencing Aristotle, that “the feelings follow the virtue, not vice versa. We have to act courageously and then we begin to feel courageous.”
But this doesn’t demand huge acts of courage, he says; instead he recommends small steps in the beginning, such as being a little more open about your faith with a good friend or inviting a friend to a “non-frightening” talk at your parish. (He gives the example of a talk on parenting.)
“As we begin to do these small courageous things, we become a courageous person and that fear begins to disappear.”
Dopp adds that sharing the faith has to be done “with the Lord’s prompting. When we sense that this is an opportunity to share, say or do something with the other person.”
An international demand for the Relit program has sent Dopp back and forth across North America and the UK on more than 50 occasions.
“The beauty of being able to spend time with them is being able to move them from being intentional disciples to being missionary disciples, so that evangelization becomes part of their Christian life,” says Dopp of the Catholics he’s trained.
For more information about Relit, you can visit www.parishevangelizationleaders.org.
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