What causes someone to convert? Who has the ability to inspire another to leave their old life behind and take up the cross as a disciple of Christ?
Okay, yes, the Holy Spirit is ultimately the only one who can do either of these things. But I mean besides God: who are the most effective evangelists?
At one point in my life, I would have looked to our public figures, people like Bishop Robert Barron, Pope Francis, James Martin, Mike Schmitz, and the #MediaNuns. Being sort of “experts” in their fields, devoting their lives to evangelization, and reaching thousands (or millions) of people, they seemed like the obvious choice.
But I’ve begun to wonder: are they really? Do these, say, 10-20 elite evangelists, the most recognizable public figures, actually account for the thousands of people who enter the Church each year? Is this handful of people the reason that so many begin to question their lives and look for something more?
Honestly, I don’t think so. As good as their work is (and as much as I would like to see more people like them) I don’t think that they have anywhere close to the same impact as the collective work of regular believers. In simply living their Christian lives with hope and love, there are millions upon millions of people giving witness to the faith everyday. In the way they act, what they say, and how they treat others around them, they represent the faith of Christ to far more people than any social media evangelist could.
But this isn’t necessarily always in a positive way. When I say that the regular believer represents the faith of Christ, sometimes it is through a bad example that drive people away from the Church. I hear it all the time: “Christians talk about love but they don’t live it.” More than anything an official teacher of the Church could say, a bad experience at a parish or with an individual Christian can be all that’s needed to imprint a negative view of our religion on someone, keeping them away from faith for their entire lives.
It’s because of this that I offer my reflection this week in the form of an exhortation: please take seriously how you represent Christ and the Church in your life. You, more than anyone else, have the ability to evangelize the people around you. You, more than anyone else, have the ability to alienate the people around you from the faith. The world is watching. What do you want them to see?