The Means of Evangelization and of the Formation of Evangelizers –
A Youth Response
Puthiyidathu Mathew MCBS
The influence of different Christian movements and organizations has made several youngsters come forward with great enthusiasm and commitment to the Church and her mission in the modern world. The increasing number of youngsters gathered at the World Youth Day affirms this fact. Each WYD produces new enthusiasm in the hearts of millions of youth, the present and the future of the Church. After the WYD 2005 of Cologne Pope Benedict XVI spoke to the German Bishops on behalf of the youth, “Yes we came to worship him, we met him. Now help us to become his disciples and witnesses”.
The challenge is to help the young to live their ‘present’ here and now in the Church. Youngsters are always searching for challenges; they like to move differently. The great Pope, the admirer of youth, John Paul II asked them to become a joyful contradiction in the modern world.
At the same time there is a large mass of people who are still far away from the Church, especially in the Asian continent. The Universal Church is well aware of this situation and says, “It is indeed a mystery why the Saviour of the world, born in Asia, has until now remained largely unknown to the people of the continent”. It must be remembered that “Evangelization and church – planting are a slow and painstaking work. To reach the desired goal the evangelizer needs to use effective methods. Thus not paying attention to effectiveness simply means that we are in fact using wrong methods.”
The Importance of New Ways and Means
Change is fundamental to the human person and to society. As a social being man tries to adapt himself to his changing circumstances. The Church also is travelling the same way. She searches and finds new possibilities to continue her mission in the modern world. There is a wide horizon of possibilities open to us. “Missionary methods reflect the social relationships in the society where the church lives; new situations spawn new methods. The church acquires a new self awareness, both cause and effect of a new way of existence, new ideas, new ministries, new apostolic movements etc”.
Our duty is to benefit from it according to the needs of the time. The Magisterium of the Church is very much open to new means in evangelization. “How do we bring the message of Christ to non-Christian young people who represent the future of entire continents? Clearly, the ordinary means of pastoral work are not sufficient: what are needed are associations, institutions, special centers and groups, and cultural and social initiatives for young people.”
The traditional means of evangelization are not enough to cope with the modern technological world. “Missionary activity, which is carried out in a wide variety of ways, is the task of all the Christian faithful,” The complex life situations invite us to find out more effective and attractive methods which give an impetus to the zeal of youngsters. Church also acknowledges it through her teachings, “This question of ‘how to evangelize’ is permanently relevant, because the methods of evangelizing vary according to the different circumstances of time, place and culture, and because they thereby present a certain challenge to our capacity for discovery and adaptation.”
One of the positive aspects of the missionary enthusiasm of the new generation is their sharing mentality. They are ready to share their time, energy, talents, resources, prayer, etc, for the Kingdom of God. At the same time they are very strict about the concrete results of their sharing.
It is the duty and privilege of each and every one to find and open new vistas of attractive and effective means of evangelization. It doesn’t mean that traditional ways are totally outdated. Perhaps they are the foundation of our new endeavors and we are modifying them according to the needs of the time. Each and every Christian has the obligation to proclaim the Good News. But each one is different and unique and so the ways and means of participation is also different. One cannot be higher than the other, but only in the level of commitment of the individual. At the same time we have to fan the flame in the hearts of many so that they may be more and more committed to their missionary vocation.
In this paper I intend to present some possible ways and means which would enable us to bring the Good News to the hearts of many. This can help us to bring the mission nearer to the people, especially the youth, who are searching for their role in the Church’s missionary mandate. The formation of Laity is a special concern of the Church too. “The shortage of priests makes it imperative for us to givegreater attention to the formation of the laity and their effective participation in the apostolate.” To achieve this goal, suitable ways and means must be evolved by answering to the needs of the situation.
- 1. School of Evangelization
“And how can they believe in him if they have never heard of him? And how will they hear of him unless there is a preacher for them? And how will there be preachers if they are not sent?” (Rom 10:14-15)
The proclamation of the Good news is the duty of each and every Christian. It cannot be completed by a few priests and religious alone. So the active participation of the lay people is very important. There are many churches which have been planted and nourished by lay missionaries. The Church in Antioch in the first century is a decisive example for this. “It is the task of the Pastors to ensure that the laity are formed as evangelizers to be able to face the challenges of the contemporary world, not just with worldly wisdom and efficiency, but with hearts renewed and strengthened by the truth of Christ.”
It is a matter of great encouragement and hope that “in many Asian countries, lay people are already serving as true missionaries, reaching out to fellow Asians who might never have contact with clergy and religious.”
Meanwhile ignorance of the Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church creates serious problems among lay missionaries. Although well-motivated, their ignorance of essentials often causes more confusion in the mission field. Systematic and continuous training is necessary for these missionaries.
A serious preparation is needed for all workers for evangelization. Such preparation is all the more necessary for those who devote themselves to the ministry of the Word. Being animated by the conviction, ceaselessly deepened, of the greatness and riches of the Word of God, those who have the mission of transmitting it must give the maximum attention to the dignity, precision and adaptation of their language. Everyone knows that the art of speaking takes on today a very great importance. How would preachers and catechists be able to neglect this?
This training should help to build up a group of good missionaries. A missionary must be a leader and he/she should train others as leaders.
An effective evangelizer needs prayer, leadership qualities and openness to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. One of the effective methods of evangelization is the formation good leaders. An effective evangelizer must win over a good number of followers. Jesus spent more time with his disciples than with the crowd. He conquered the world through his disciples. We know that St. Paul also did the same. St. Paul instructs Timothy, “Pass on to reliable people what you have heard from me through many witnesses so that they in turn will be able to teach others.” (2Tim 2:2)
We have to find leaders from the community itself in order to preach the Gospel. Yahweh said to Moses, “Collects me seventy of the elders of Israel, men you know to be the people’s elders and scribes.” (Num 11:16)
Proper training is an important aspect of the formation of the laity.
While we are spending great sums of money to educate and form our clergy in large houses of formation and with well-organized programs, we cannot allow the formation of laity, as particular groups or as lay ministries, to be neglected. ….. the local churches must be encouraged to appreciate and support lay formation programs. Remuneration of lay persons for their stable services must respect the demands of justice and charity. Much could be improved in their programs of formation by an exchange of personnel and resources.
Sometimes the prolonged intellectual formation and training reduces the commitment and effectiveness of the mission. Scriptural studies and teachings of the Church are the most important things to be learned by an evangelizer. Long term training with all kinds of intellectual development may not be an effective way of training lay missionaries. For instance, in a battle each person has his own position and weapon in which he has been trained well. When somebody tries to master in all kinds of weapons simultaneously he/she becomes the master of none. So also for an evangelizer the Word of God is the weapon given to him/her and he/she should have been trained well to use that weapon.
Two kinds of training can be arranged: Formal and Informal.
a) Formal training: This training is focused on the individuals who are ready to spend their life in mission areas as full time missionaries or at least for three years in a particular area.
- The training period can last up to three years.
- The first session is for 6 months and after that they will be sent to the fields for six months.
- The second session will last for 3/6 months and going back to the fields for 12/15 months.
- The third session lasts 3/6 months and final commitment.
Main Thrusts in the course:
v The Word of God
v Openness to The Holy Spirit
v The providence of God
v Special training for the ‘Kerygma’ (the explicit proclamation of the saving act of Christ).
b) Informal Training: Informal training is meant for young students as the future leaders and also for the women in the family who are able to become a leaven in the neighborhood.
The Women flockare powerful evangelizers. It is evident especially in the North Eastern region of India. Their tender love and care for the neighborhood and society bring many conversions in the villages. But I think we do not have an organized programme to tap this powerful resource. With a little training we can make big differences. In his General audience on 13th July 1994, Pope John Paul II appreciated the efficacy of women in spreading the Good news. “Woman has a quite special aptitude in passing on the faith, so much so that Jesus himself appealed to it in the work of evangelization. That is what happened to the Samaritan woman whom Jesus met at Jacob’s well: he chose her for the first expansion of the new faith in non-Jewish territory”. Their role in evangelization particularly in person-to person cannot be ignored. Church has given special attention to this mode of Gospel sharing.
For this reason, side by side with the collective proclamation of the Gospel, the other form of transmission, the person-to-person one, remains valid and important……. It must not happen that the pressing need to proclaim the Good News to the multitudes should cause us to forget this form of proclamation whereby an individual’s personal conscience is reached and touched by an entirely unique world that he receives from someone else.
The involvement of women in evangelization activities is to be specially nourished through informal trainings like seminar on evangelization, prayer groups, bible study groups, etc.
- 2. Mission Volunteers
In this programme youngsters are encouraged to stay with missionaries for at least six months after their graduation. They will be trained as missionaries of Christ in different ways. They should have ample opportunities to explore their talents in mission and ministry according to their aptitude and creativity. This programme helps the youngsters to discover their aptitude in mission. It will be a period of experience that enables the youth to commit their whole life for the Kingdom of God where ever they may be. We can also hope for their support to the missions in different ways.
The enthusiasm of youth to accept challenges is an important factor in this regard. Our duty is to tap it properly and direct it positively. We can see a renewed vigor in the hearts of youth all over the world. The number of youth who are willing to live and share the gospel is increasing steadily.
The Church asserts her hope about the youth whose participation in evangelization brings new enthusiasm in mission fields. “Circumstances invite us to make special mention of the young…….. young people who are well trained in faith and prayer must become more and more the apostles of youth. The Church counts greatly on their contribution, and we ourselves have often manifested our full confidence in them.” The Church has great hope in their conviction, “To them the Church offers the truth of the Gospel as a joyful and liberating mystery to be known, lived and shared, with conviction and courage.”
- Inviting the youngsters through dioceses, retreat centres, youth movements and other religious organizations
- Training for 10 to 40 days
- Priority for village ministry
- Food and accommodation provided / contribution is highly recommended
- Preference for smaller groups
- 3. Mission Hostels and Teachers
The Catholic Church is considered as one of the largest ‘NGOs’ in the country having a wide range of network and numerous institutions. The government and politicians have accepted this fact openly or secretly. Nobody will ever question the excellence of our social undertakings. But unfortunately, if we look at all of our activities from a Christian perspective, we cannot but admit that we are very poor in carrying out the Church’s missionary mandate, which is the core of all our activities. When we realize that only a handful of institutions and activities are earnestly proclaiming the kerigma through their services, we ought to admit that a large chunk is running out of track.
The Goal of the Programme
The important goal of this programme is to train a group of youngsters who, enlightened by Christian values, become responsible for their life and community. They should become the light and salt of the community, especially in their schools and colleges. It is our duty help them in this regard.
The system of Catholic education must become still more clearly directed towards human promotion, providing an environment where students receive not only the formal elements of schooling but, more broadly, an integral human formation based upon the teachings of Christ.Catholic schools should continue to be places where the faith can be freely proposed and received (EA-37). 
We achieve our goal in and through Jesus. Students should have the opportunity to hear and experience the love of God. In short our ultimate aim is to give Jesus to the young hearts so that they may become blessings for the community. Jesus will colour their lives. This is the hope and vision.
Adolescence is an important and crucial period of time where the young search for identity. If we are able to inculcate Christian values in them and directing them to find their identity in Jesus, it will bear much fruits.
Since school is a large arena, giving personal care is very difficult. So we think of hostels. A hostel with 40 to 100 catholic students both boys and girls where each one will be cared for and nourished properly, is our vision.
Apostolic schools run by different dioceses are a possibility in this regard.
- Identify a group of 40 to 100 catholic students of class 7 and above
- They will be selected according to different criterion
- Different types of training programmes for their spiritual, intellectual and social developments
- Full scholarship is given, though contribution from them is appreciated
Genuinelymotivated and committed teachers can do wonders through their students. Proper training will help them to live their life more profoundly.
For education in schools to become more effective as a vehicle of transformation in society, a true and proper vision and spirituality among teachers are needed. This vision requires that the task of teaching be viewed as a call from God to share in the teaching ministry of Jesus who announced and taught about the Kingdom and that teaching is not simply the communication of knowledge but even more importantly the formation in values. From such a vision flows a spirituality involving sacrifice, other-directedness, concern, love, justice and other Gospel values. As in catechesis, the more effective is not the one who simply teaches but the one who also witnesses.
ü Committed mission teachers will take care of the children
ü Only devout Catholics having mission motivation will be selected as teachers
ü Teachers will have Good salary package
ü They should undergo a mission training programme for at least 30 days.
ü Day time teachers will be entrusted with prayer and village ministry which includes informal schooling and women empowerment programmes
ü They would assist the children in the evening
ü A teacher has the responsibility of 15 to 20 students
ü Life of the teacher should be a witness for the children
Mission teachers working in some of our catholic schools are doing great services to the Church.
- 4. Mission Clinics
A mission clinic enables aspiring nurses and doctors to serve God’s kingdom by liberating the sick and the needy from their bondage. This experience of mission will produce much fruit in the long run.
Motivated by divine love, youngsters voluntarily spend certain months of their important span of life to share this love. It may be a few months or one to two years. It may help them to be more generous to the poor in their future life. Their support even after their period of commitment is expected. The village youth can possibly be motivated by the service of these volunteers.
Mode of Action
- Arranging village clinics according to the availability of the doctors and nurses
- Possibility of getting medicine free of cost
- Finding the aspiring nurses and doctors is done through retreat centres and other youth movements
- Assistance of religious sisters are also recommended
- Medical camps can be conducted in the villages where the sick and needy receive the message about the divine healer
- Explicit proclamation also is possible through this group
- 5. Tourism for mission
We are familiar with terms like eco-tourism, health tourism, etc. Mission Tourism aims at giving some idea about mission fields to the people who are really interested in mission but have not been able to be directly engaged in the process of evangelization. We help them to have a foretaste of the mission. The possibility of using tourism as an activity of mission is a concern of The Church too.
International tourism has now become a mass phenomenon. This is a positive development if tourists maintain an attitude of respect and a desire for mutual cultural enrichment, avoiding ostentation and waste, and seeking contact with other people. But Christians are expected above all to be aware of their obligation to bear witness always to their faith and love of Christ. Firsthand knowledge of the missionary life and of new Christian communities also can be an enriching experience and can strengthen one’s faith. Visiting the missions is commendable, especially on the part of young people who go there to serve and to gain an intense experience of the Christian life.
Our target groups are the professionals and employees working in and outside the country.
Mode of Action
Interested people are invited to visit some of the mission centres. They will get opportunities to understand the village life and people. Those interested can stay in the village for two or three days. If they wish we will direct them to other tourist places in the region. All expenses must be met by them.
v Heard knowledge turns to touch knowledge.
v They can find out their own possible way to support the community with their professional experiences in different walks of life. For eg: an engineer sees the things and recognizes the possibilities from his perspective. So as in the case of doctors, business men, educators, social workers etc
v Can be motivated by the selfless work of the missionaries
v Can be motivated by the role of the church
v May help us through their prayer and resources
v May encourage others
v Possibility of vocation from the group or from their offspring
v Moreover, it may help to increase the esteem of missionaries in the hearts of ordinary people
It is true that everything needs a large amount of home work and preparations.
- 6. Business as Mission
Through this programme we try to lead business people to an encounter with Jesus and there by a personal God experience. There are good number of positive business people also. We motivate them to start some enterprises attune to the specialty of particular area and culture. The conversion of such people, when it is supported with their time and resources will make great difference in the mission fields.
In this context the laity belonging to the world of business hear the call of God to live out their faith according to Gospel values and the needs of the others. This involves a number of options in their business- from the simple exercise of the values of truth, justice and love to their active participation in transforming the social structure of the whole process towards greater worker participation, more discerning consumer guidance, more responsible interventions by Governments and a more equitable society.
Highly populated modern cities are formed due to the establishment of big industries and multinational companies. They have created a culture which mostly degrades and diminishes the human values and leads to greed, self centeredness and all kinds of luxuries etc.
Business as mission calls the catholic business people who are ready to do something for the poor. When we support them for such endeavors they are expected to do something for the people according to their growth in the business. They can support missionary activities in different ways, such as primary school, clinics, training centers, student scholarships etc. In order to support the entrepreneurs practicing and enthusiastic catholic persons should be employed.
- 7. Church in Asia Forum
“The heart of the Church in Asia will be restless until the whole of Asia finds its rest in the peace of Christ, the Risen Lord.” (EA-10)
The goal of this forum is to enrich and keep up the missionary zeal in the hearts of seminarians/religious/lay people in order to make them equipped for the Evangelization, with an emphasis on Asia, tuned with the call of the Church especially through the Vatican II, encyclicals and other documents of the Magisterium on mission. Universal Church hopes a real spring time in Asia.”Just as in the first millennium the Cross was planted on the soil of Europe, and in the second on that of the Americas and Africa, we can pray that in the Third Christian Millennium a great harvest of faith will be reaped in this vast and vital continent.” (EA-1)
Since our main focus is seminarians, we are not planning to do some mission works during this formation period but we are trying to be equipped for our future mission through different means.
Some of the aims
- To make the seminarians say ‘yes’ to mission.
- A common plat form for deepening the mission interest
- To help the brothers know more about mission activities.
- A forum that thinks dreams and prays for mission.
- Helps to prepare for future mission.
Some of the Means
- Adoption and Intercession for different countries and Indian states.
- Short term training programmes.
- Sharing sessions of active missionaries from different parts of the country.
- Reading of magazines, leaflets and palm lets which give motivation.
- Watching of some encouraging movies and documentaries about mission.
- Study of the official teachings of the Church which speak about mission mandate (Apostolic letters, encyclicals etc..).
- Modern medias and communication technologies especially Internet.
- 8. Cultural Exchange Programme
The youth from younger Christian communities are motivated to visit the places where they can be enriched through the faith life of the people. In order to experience the life of the people they can be put up in different houses. A better understanding the country and cultures would broaden the mind as well as the spiritual encounter through different programmes would strengthen the faith of the youth.
- 9. Specific Ministries
There are different organizations and Associations where likeminded people from different profession and carrier coming together for their common cause. Trade unions, Employment organizations, etc are familiar to us. In such institutions people come together and think together and move together.
Evangelization also can be done in such a way that one student invites another students, one teacher preaches to another, one doctor motivates to another..etc. When a person really motivated by the love of God he/she spontaneously shares and invites others to experience that joy. It is easy for him/her to share it with whom he/she meets every day life. As a result of such individual initiatives there can be different ministries like campus, teachers, doctors, engineers, nurses, policemen etc. Conducting retreats, arranging prayer groups…etc are some of the means to achieve this goal.
- 10. Village Outreach
In this programme a group of youngsters after having a short orientation programme reach out to villages where they spent few days according to the need of the village. They stay in different houses according to the number of the team and involve in different activities. They visit houses as a group of 3 to 5 members.
Usually in the remote villages people go for their work during the day. So they spend time in prayer and gather the children who are out of the school. Visiting and praying over the sick and elderly people is another activity during the day. Children may be animated through stories, catechism, songs etc. In the evening they meet the family members, conduct prayer groups, share the gospel and if possible they show some devotional movies also. Through such direct interventions they are able to touch the hearts personally.
Visiting Houses: during the visitation one of them hears the parent/family member and shares gospel through his/her personal experiences. Mean while others pray in heart unceasingly. If necessary they also interact with children in order to avoid distractions in the conversation. Inviting the family members for the evening prayer meeting also should be done.
Results: personal interaction will help convincing the people easily. Hearing the worries and grievances of the people will be a great comfort for them. In many instances people have come back to the church and the sacraments. Since the fruit of the programme is very evident for the participants deepens their faith.
- 11. Special Thrust on Activities Among Politicians and Celebrities
“Missionary cooperation can also involve leaders in politics, economics, culture and journalism, as well as experts of the various international bodies” (RM-82).
Gospel should be proclaimed in every walk of life. Christian missionaries having the idea of option for the poor, have moved towards rural villages. But at the same time we fail to evangelize the elite and rich people whose conversion could have resulted a dramatic change in the missionary activities. The rapid growth of the protestant churches are in a way indebted to such conversions.
Influence of politicians and other people like film actors, sports persons, musicians etc, in the hearts of hundreds of thousands of people cannot be ignored. A single sentence of such persons influence the people like a 10 second advertisement in the Television. Thousand preachers’ influence can be achieved with a split of second. We witnessed such an incident when the Brazilian player showed the words on his dress which proclaimed ‘we belong to Jesus’ after their victory in the 2002 World Cup foot ball. It was seen by more than one billion people!
In the same way the involvement of laity in the politics is very important. It will help us to influence the policies of the government.
The need of the hour in Asia is for competent and principled lay persons to enter into the realm of party politics and from within, influence the philosophies, programs and activities of political parties and personalities for the common good in the light of the gospel. We commend the lay persons who already have contributed much to this area of public life.
The assassination of Shabhaz Bhatti, Pakistani minister for Minorities who spoke against blasphemy law made a great impact in the life of the faithful in Pakistan. His words are really strengthening the persecuted Christians in Pakistan.
We are taken you through these methods which are of course not exhaustive. Looking into what we have presented, we are aware of their incompleteness and limits. Each of these methods though effective in their own way besides their limits, has the power to change the lives of people. We need to place these methods in their cultural contexts to reap maximum fruits. Or we need to adapt these methods into the culture where it will be planted this could only muster the result we expect. At this point let me also remind that the church has never been stagnant. Church will encounter new ways in the future. There is no method that is called the best. Suitable methods evolve from answering to the needs of the situation. Still we should not forget that no method is effective unless we follow the biblical method which is seen in Acts 2:43-47. Believers came together for prayer, breaking of the bread, sharing, etc. The life based on Christian charity and communion attracted many. There by the number of believers were also increased steadily. Sharing the Good News is not a propaganda it should be a life witness motivated by one’s own personal God experience. This is the challenge which is responded by an evangelizer throughout the life.
 John Paul II, Ecclesia In Asia, Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, no. 2.
 Paul Vadadkkumpadan, Mission in North East India, Shillong: Vendrame Institute Publications, 2007, p 141.
Felipe Gomes S.J, “Method in Mission: Lessons from the History of the Church,” in Indian Missiological Review, January-1989, Vol.11, No.1, pp 15-53
 John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, Encyclical, no. 37.
 John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, no. 71.
 Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, Apostolic Exhortation, no. 40.
 Indian Missiological Review, January-1989, Vol.11, No.1, pp 54-60, Emerging Priorities and New Perspectives of Evangelization in Asia, ( A summary of the discussions: All Asian Conference on Evangelization, Suwon, South Korea- 24-31 August 1988)
 Propostio no. 29, as sited in John Paul II, Ecclesia In Asia, no. 45.
 Propostio no. 29, as sited in John Paul II, Ecclesia In Asia, no. 45.
 Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi,no. 73.
 FABC, Final Statement of Fourth Plenary Assembly, September 16-25, 1986, Tokyo, Japan, in FABC Papers No.47, p 43.
 L’Osarvatore Romano, No.29, July- 20, 1994, p 7.
 Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi,no.46.
 John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, no. 72.
 John Paul II, Ecclesia In Asia, no. 47.
 John Paul II, Ecclesia In Asia, no. 37.
 FABC, Final Statement of Fourth Plenary Assembly, September 16-25, 1986, Tokyo, Japan, in FABC Papers No.47, p 33
 John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, no. 82.
 FABC, Final Statement of Fourth Plenary Assembly, September 16-25, 1986, Tokyo, Japan, in FABC Papers No.47, p 36
 FABC, Final Statement of Fourth Plenary Assembly, September 16-25, 1986, Tokyo, Japan, in FABC Papers No.47, p 26.