That’s kerygma, not charisma.
Yes, a personality with a lot of charisma is a great gift when it comes to evangelization. But what we’re talking about here is even more powerful and essential to evangelization.
Kerygma: what’s an ancient Greek word got to do with the new evangelization? Three weeks ago Julie St. Croix wrote in her blog about what this word means and what its role should be in our evangelization efforts. (Spoiler alert if you haven’t read her blog: it’s the core of evangelization.) Today, we’ll look back to some expert evangelizers to see how they shared the kerygma.
Looking back to the firsts: how to be missionary disciples
“How do you know?!?”
I can vividly hear the voice of a friend on a phone call, a student in the classroom, a sibling in a car ride, and a teen on a weekend retreat all asking this same question. And sometimes I hear this question in my own my head, in moments of doubt or wavering.
In an Equip for Ministry course for parish catechists, we do the exercise of reading the preaching of the apostles in the book of Acts and discovering the key components of how they deliver the message of the Gospel. In all their sermons, we see them talking about the effect of Faith, and then they give an explanation and exhortation. For this blog, the focus is the first component, effect.
The “how do you know” question is asking us to give a demonstration for why we believe. More than a rational explanation, I find that people are asking me why I believe. They are asking for the effect of Faith. Notice this is precisely what the apostles led with in their preaching.
It’s okay to talk about you
For the apostles, often the effect of Faith that they would speak of would be a physical miracle that was just witnessed. We probably don’t have scientifically provable miracles happening at our fingertips, but we most definitely have a plethora of examples of the effect of our faith in our own lives.
I hate talking about myself. In my first year teaching, my department chair pointed that out to me as a major flaw in how I taught religion. “Share more about your personal Faith life.” No, I would object internally, I don’t want them to focus on me. I want to talk to them about Jesus and His truths and attract them directly to Jesus Christ. That was my false humility talking. True humility would offer no objections, because when we talk about the effect of Faith in our lives we are not talking about ourselves, but rather about the work that God is doing in us.
In short, our very lives are the effect. We must be willing to share our personal faith, not only teach doctrine or execute programs, but share the Faith… our Faith.
“Always be prepared to give an explanation” (I Peter 3:15)
Yes, get your elevator speech ready. But also be ready to share why you have chosen to be a disciple. How do we prepare to share that?
- Reflect on why you became a follower of Jesus Christ. Retrace the path of your own conversion into a missionary disciple. Bonus: This is also a goldmine for prayer time – it launches us into profound thanksgiving and praise of God for what He has done for us.
- Recall moments in your life when God has intervened for you in a noticeable way. A prayer answered; an unexpected and providential turn of events; a vivid and perhaps perceptible personal encounter with God. These are all effects of Faith.
- Have continual contact with Him whom we preach. I had some pivotal and mountain-top Faith experiences in high school and young adulthood. In so many ways these experiences defined the course of my life. If a person asked about my personal faith, I could refer back to those key moments. But if my faith was only made up of those moments, then my faith is a thing of the past. The “nones” and the “seekers” are looking for an authentic, lived Faith, not a history book. We can’t program that, make a committee about that, or call a meeting about that. We must have that type of faith alive as our own. It must be a daily encounter with a Person. It must be an ongoing conversion. Keep the effects of our faith fresh and ever-new.
- Just do it. If talking about your personal faith life doesn’t come easy to you, putting it off won’t make it any easier. Ask the Holy Spirit to tap you on the shoulder when there are moments where you could share a story of one of your experiences of Jesus. Start with a few short anecdotes. Maybe even practice telling the story about them. I imagine that a few of the apostles would go back to the upper room and practice their homilies, and ask for feedback from some of the other apostles… they were human too.
- Want more on how to share your faith story? Go to the Mid Atlantic Congress on February 16th and catch the mega-workshop “Be My Witness” which will help participants develop and share their faith story, and will give tips for parishes to create a culture of witness.
Got kerygma? Of course you do, because you are a sinner who has been redeemed by the God of universe and you have encountered this God in the person of Jesus Christ reaching out to meet you.
What experiences, positive or negative, have you had in sharing with others the effect of Jesus in your life? Share in the comments section below.
Thanks, Abby, this was helpful. Like you, I sometimes find it hard to talk about me. Some years ago my husband was seriously ill, in an induced coma. I spent most days at the hospital talking with him and waiting to see a response. But I had 2 young kids to take care of too, so one day as I was leaving the hospital, I ran into a dear friend in the parking lot. We talked about how exhausting it was, that I could no longer pray about it. She told me her story and that she understood that exhaustion and that she had others who would pray for her intention for her. It was such a relief. I remember saying it was such a coincidence that I’d run into her and she corrected me. “It is a God-incident”, she said. I think that’s what you’re talking about. Ordinary things that happen just when they are needed – not miraculous perhaps, but maybe… Thanks, Abby.
Thanks for sharing, Kathy. A beautiful example of the body of Christ lifting each other up. “Christ has no hands but yours…” So many of our God-incidents, as you call them, are mediated by our brothers and sisters — most definitely these are examples of experiencing an effect of Faith too.