Evangelize – or Proselytize?
It also takes a long time. How many people do you know who have just woken up one day and decided to change their religion, political affiliation, or even favorite football team? I can’t think of anyone. These changes do happen sometimes, but they usually result from a long process. Heck, my conversion to Catholicism took the better part of ten years, and that was relatively quick – my parents took around thirty.
If you think about it, conversion involves dealing with some of the most important questions of life – and involves examining our very identities, who we are and how we fit into this world of ours. It’s a fascinating topic, so much that it will be the focus of my second book that I’m working on right now. How we answer these questions, and how in particular we respond to the gospel – that calls us to conversion – changes everything. About ourselves.
And that’s hard.
So if conversion is so hard, and rarely takes place instantaneously, doesn’t that have a tangible impact on how we conduct ourselves relative to others in our lives? Here’s one question we might struggle with in our daily lives: if we’re called to evangelize, and share the gospel with others, just how do we do that? What if we spend most of our days working?
Should we Evangelize at Work?
There are many people who feel that work and religion don’t mix. In fact, they might feel uncomfortable or threatened if the subject of religion comes up in the workplace. However, religion itself is not the problem – it’s people pushing religion on others, taking large swaths of work time to proselytize, or getting into arguments and disrespecting coworkers.
When we go to work, we should be intent on doing the best job possible – since we work for our employers, our clients, etc. but even more importantly, for God Himself. The relationship between faith and work should be mutually complementary.
Rather than attempting to divorce faith and work, our goal should be effective integration, in a manner that helps us be effective workers, and faithful Catholics. Isn’t this a better means to evangelization, and more effective than a confrontational approach that seeks an unrealistic, immediate response? Wouldn’t such an approach tend to alienate rather than attract anyway? Recall the demeanor of Christ, whose love for people was absolute – yet he pulled rather than pushed.
What About When Others Evangelize Us?
When others in our workplace attempt to evangelize us, they might push – but there’s no need to feel threatened. Rather, we should feel honored that they are attempting to share the one thing that is most important in their lives. That doesn’t mean we have to agree, of course, but if we are respectful and listen to them, the time may come when they reciprocate.
Often, Catholics are subject to evangelization in the workplace because there are so many popular misunderstandings about the Church. If a coworker has particular problems with the Church, we can always offer to help provide a Catholic viewpoint, but shouldn’t argue or feel that it’s our responsibility to change their mind, especially right then and there.
More beneficial is an approach where we are respectful and listen. Perhaps we offer to have lunch with them and have a discussion (or do so off work hours). This is often when resources explaining certain distinctive aspects of the faith (like those available through Catholic Answers or other faithful apostolates) can be very helpful. Remember, be a friend – and embrace the upside of others evangelizing us. It’s often an impetus for us to learn more about our own faith, and engage in a meaningful dialogue with others whose need for Christ is as profound as our own.