I have found that a growing number of Catholics (and other Christians) have realized the urgency and necessity of evangelizing the culture and other people. But due to the lack of good evangelistic experiences, practices, and training there are few who know how to evangelize very effectively.
Some tend to equate evangelization with having all the right answers. I was one of these. My idea of evangelization was winning an argument or proving someone else wrong, through the power of the truth of the Catholic Church. It wasted a lot of time pushing people away, through my pride and lack of charity, to realize my mistake. Apologetics can remove an obstacle toward someone growing closer to Christ, but it rarely moves anyone closer to Him. This is done through an act of the will, in choosing faith and love.
Others believe that our faith is something very private that shouldn't be shared with others, in order not to offend them or seem too pushy. This attitude comes from a culture that believes faith is something we do part-time. Unfortunately, this attitude creates a culture of silence, where we don't talk about our faith at all. As many others have responded to this - our faith is always personal but never private. Imagine if the Apostles had never talked about their faith. We wouldn't have any Christians today, if they had.
What I have found works best when evangelizing others is to really listen to where they are coming from. Not in order to prove them wrong, but rather to truly accept the person who is in front of you as a son or daughter of God, made in His image and likeness, and uniquely made to glorify His name. When we are able to do this, we can marvel in their creation and truly love them where they are at, in order to help them grow closer to God. It isn't my job to convert anyone - I can't! Only God's grace, chosen through a free act of the other person's will, can faith happen. Thus, I am a limited instrument in the hand of God, who is called to love the other person and help them grow closer to God. True love for another person means I will always seek their good. Asking probing questions can help.
So, I submit that when we evangelize, we ought to ask more questions than the other person. Here are some I have found helpful in different situations. Note, not all questions are appropriate for every time in a persons life. I highly recommend you study the different thresholds of conversion, discussed in the amazing book "Forming Intentional Disciples" by Sherry Weddell. These thresholds can help you determine which questions are appropriate for individuals who are in different places and with different needs.
QUESTIONS TO ASK OTHERS WHEN EVANGELIZING
QUESTIONS FOR ALL:
- Tell me about what kind of role faith played in your family growing up, if any?
- How would you describe your idea of Catholicism (or Christianity)?
- Who do you look up to? What personality traits are most attractive?
- How do you handle the rough parts of life?
- What are you passionate about?
- What brings meaning to your life?
- What makes you happy?
- Would you like to continue our conversation?
- Would you be interested in learning more about God, Jesus, The Bible, the Catholic Church, etc?
- Do you pray? If so, would you mind describing it for me? If not, have you ever prayed in the past?
- Do you believe a relationship with God is possible?
- Can you tell me about the god you don't believe in?
- If you have heard of Jesus, what do you know about Him?
- What do you mean by describing yourself as ____?
- What do you think Christianity adds to the lives of others?
- Do you believe in any kind of universal or higher power?
- Have you believed in God in the past? If you did and don't any longer, why did you stop believing?
- If you did believe in a god, what kind of god would you believe in?
- What are the different ways you pray?
- Can you describe what you find most fulfilling about being _____?
- Tell me about God? How do you describe God to others?
- What do you know about Jesus?
- Is there anything about Christianity that you find attractive?
- Could you describe what you believe about Jesus?
- Is your faith something your practice every day?
- How would you describe your relationship with Jesus?
- Is there anything about Catholicism that you find attractive?
- What do you know about the Catholic Church?
- Can you describe what it means to be Catholic, in your experience?
- Do you have a personal prayer life? If so, how do you pray?
- Is God someone you would say you have a personal relationship with?
- Have you had any kind of moment when you felt particularly close to Jesus? If so, can you tell me about it? If not, have you ever wanted to?
- We must pray for others we are evangelizing.
- We must live what we believe. Being a good Christian takes a lifetime of work, but is indispensable.
- We must look for the opportunity to proclaim the Good News. This is essential to being a good evangelist. Without this proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus, our evangelization will remain incomplete.