Some of my favorite reads are books on apologetics. Few things get me as excited as learning to defend my Catholic faith. With so many great authors and titles, from the writings of the saints to modern day apologists, there is a never-ending supply of books to read and ideas to learn.
As Catholics, we have become very adept at defending our faith. Before becoming Catholic, I thought that I was well-versed in Christian thought and beliefs. Catholicism changed all that – it opened the door to deeper knowledge than I ever knew existed.
Eventually, we learn so much about our faith that the lines between apologetics and evangelization begin to blur. Before we move on, let’s get a better understanding of the purpose for each of these.
Through apologetics, we defend our faith to those who question our beliefs. We have Biblical references, Catholic Tradition, and the works of the saints to draw on. Generally speaking, it is an intellectual endeavor.
Evangelism is quite different, however. Evangelism is not about stirring the mind – but stirring the heart instead. For that reason, we have to take a much different approach when we are sharing our faith, not defending it.
Often times, apologetics aims at winning an argument; evangelization aims at winning the soul. We cannot win people’s hearts from a defensive standpoint, so we need to stop trying to win people over with our theological, apologetic knowledge and begin showing them love through evangelization.
Recently, a friend who loves to study apologetics has spent a great deal of time with a Protestant friend. They debate back and forth as he tries to teach her more about Catholicism. To this day, after months of trying, he has not had much luck.
One day, he came to me saying, “I just don’t get it. I have told her everything I know about Catholicism, and she still won’t budge.” I asked him what her response was, and he said, “Well, she said that she knows Jesus loves her, and that was enough for her. I just don’t get it.”
I realized, in that moment, what was happening. He was focused on the mind; she was focused on the heart. So, I gave him a bit of advice: to win her over to Catholicism, he would need to show her how Catholicism can bring a deeper relationship with Christ. Help deepen her love for Jesus, and she might change her mind about Catholicism.
Then, I reminded my friend about his own story. He had grown up Catholic, and, as an adult, continued to go to Mass. However, his Catholic life was more about ritual than passion. One day, he went on a spiritual retreat that changed his life. I reminded him that it was not apologetics that won him over – he knew Catholicism – it was the spiritual, emotional experience that he had that changed his life.
People do not often seek out faith looking for theological answers; they come searching for comfort, acceptance, and love. Emotions are the driving force behind evangelization. To be effective evangelists means understanding this fact. Focusing on people’s hearts, rather than their minds, is the key to winning over souls.
Continue reading books on apologetics; they will enrich your life. When a situation comes for you to defend your faith, you will be ready. Yet, when it comes time to evangelize, to share your faith, leave the apologetics books behind, and simply share your story. Show others Christ’s love in your life, and they can begin to see it in theirs. That, my friends, is true evangelization.
Copyright © 2012, Chad R. Torgerson