The Church which “goes forth” is a community of missionary disciples who take the first step, who are involved and supportive, who bear fruit and rejoice.
—Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, no. 24
How can we tell if our evangelization efforts are working? We know that many times we are called to scatter the seeds of Good News without ever reaping the harvest. Part of the difficulty in assessing evangelization efforts is due to the highly individualized and relational nature of the ministry. Such work takes great care and patience and can be very difficult, even getting messy at times.
In his encyclical Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), Pope Francis outlines what it means to be a truly missionary community that goes out and serves the people of God, evangelizing through our witness of hope and love that is rooted in Christ. Calling “for a common commitment to a pastoral plan that . . . is well centered on the essential, namely Jesus Christ,” the Pope reminds us that it “is no use to be scattered in so many secondary or superfluous things, but to be concentrated on the fundamental reality, which is the encounter with Christ, with his mercy, with his love, and to love brothers as He loved us.” (Pope Francis, Address to the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, October 14, 2014)
In paragraphs 24‒33 of Evangelii Gaudium (EG), Pope Francis outlines seven principles that serve as a blueprint which we can use to reflect upon our parishes, schools, or apostolates as growing centers of missionary activity.
The seven principles are:
- Evangelizing communities know that the Lord has taken the first step in the evangelization process. (EG #24)
- Evangelizing communities are supportive action-oriented communities that patiently respond to people’s real needs. (EG #24)
- Evangelizing communities bear fruit. (EG #24)
- Evangelizing communities are marked by deep joy and rejoicing. (EG #24)
- Evangelizing communities are characterized by flexibility and frequent contact with its members. (EG #28)
- Evangelizing communities foster a Spirit-filled environment where members are trained to be evangelizers. (EG #28)
- Evangelizing communities are bold and creative in assessing how they operate and conduct themselves. (EG #33)
As your parish plans and engages in evangelization, consider incorporating the above principles into your efforts. Spend some time going through each particular area from Evangelii Gaudium, and pray with the document. Reflect and pray with the needs of your parishioners and consider asking the following questions for each area:
- What do we need to start doing in our ministries to form disciples of Christ?
- What do we need to stop doing in our ministries to form disciples of Christ?
- What do we need to continue doing in our ministries to form disciples of Christ?
As you sift through these ideas and insights, priorities will naturally emerge as the conversation gets going and the power of the Holy Spirit takes over. Lean in to any new insights that are shared as you figure out what is bearing fruit in your parish and what is not. Consider trying new things as you seek to be a missionary community that responds to the needs of your members.
As you reflect upon these seven principles, what ideas immediately jump to mind?