Thursday, February 25, 2010

Mistakes(?) in Building Communities

Up until a few years ago riding on the subway, it was not infrequent to have someone enter the car, give the passengers a leaflet with the address of the church he represented, and before he left for the next car present us with some passionate words of what Jesus can do in our lives. This was not the Catholic way, but one could admire the person's zeal in trying to make Jesus known to a car full of people who were not interested. This type of evangelizing, at least in the subway cars, has disappeared. A sign that something has changed in the society at large.

Evangelizing that was 'in your face', confrontational does not have the popularity it did a few years ago. Catholic leaders did prepare congregations for street preaching and visiting houses to distribute leaflets, but the response was such that the evangelizers did not desire to continue. It did more to alienate the religious and the non-religious than to attract.

An important value for a missioner is to introduce Jesus to others, however, we also see the results of evangelizing that does not see a change in the life of those who are baptized. Without changes in life that should come with repentance, little happens in the life of the newly baptized. People are baptized but not converted.

In the early years of work in Korea the diocesan priests did not show as much interest in evangelizing as the missioners. They seemed to spend more time working building community; foreign missioners would be very active in trying to attract people to the church.

There are various schools of thinking on the matter. One school believes that more effort should be made in forming community before we attempt to evangelize others; the other school believes new members renew the community and bring gifts that will strengthen the community. Both of these positions working together would seem the ideal. Probably we have been more interested in getting individuals --numbers-- than making disciples, and forget that one is evangelized to become a member of a community-- the mystical body of Christ. The community should be the leaven , the salt, the light of society and if this does not happen then something is wrong with our evangelizing.

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