The second model for evangelization I propose is found in John’s Gospel. In Chapter 1:43-51, the scripture proclaims how Jesus called Phillip and Nathaniel. The beginning of the account is rather brief. Jesus calls Philip, and Philip’s response is to seek out Nathaniel to proclaim to him the good news about this person Jesus “of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote” (1:45). The Gospel, in this particular situation, spreads because of friendship.
In the first model, I argued that evangelization is grounded and centered on a deep and intimate relationship with our Lord. In this case, I propose that evangelization is also connected with friendship. We want to bring people to Christ because friendship has connected us to others in ways that demand we seek the best for them. I want my friend to enjoy the good things I have, and so I share with him what I have received.
Friendship also dictates how we communicate this good news. Authentic friendship does not seek to dominate or manipulate the other. We should desire to do more than win arguments or “one up” our friends. Due to the demands of fraternal love, we should want to help build up our brothers and sisters in ways that bring them happiness and peace. Our evangelization should not be so much an effort to develop elaborate arguments, but a person to person exchange.
This exchange involves listening and responding. As important as intellectual formation is, there are no pre-packaged approaches to communicate the truths of the faith. I do not want to minimize reading, studying, and other forms of intellectual enrichment. It is important to nourish our intellects with the wisdom of the Church’s teaching and the treasury of the saints and the Magisterium. However, communicating the person of Jesus Christ to a friend who does not yet know him involves more than repeating information and ideas.
Communicating the person of Jesus Christ involves entering into dialogue with our friends. We must learn to listen and experience our friends because we are motivated by a desire to understand. From this understanding, we can bring Jesus Christ to our friends in ways that addresses their needs and concerns.
To be an authentic missionary, we need to be all things to all people. This does not mean that we become like corrupt politicians who say only what others want to hear. I argue that being all things to all people means that we are able to die to self and to enter into friendships with anyone genuinely seeking truth and goodness. I know that this is a high ideal, and I still need to grow in this regards, but this it is the demand of unconditional love.
In the first model, evangelization is grounded in our vertical relationship with God. In this second model, the love we receive in our communion with God must overflow and connect us in deep friendships with our neighbors. The demand of unconditional love requires that we love God and neighbor with complete abandonment and zeal. Thus love is the motivating factor which gives evangelization its focus and energy.