Winning New Converts
By Ron Pacco, Jr.
Winning converts is your task and there is no more endlessly satisfying and challenging work than that of saving souls. Admit it. Don’t you from time to time think about sharing with your neighbor, your friend, your family member, your colleague the joy that it is in your heart in enjoying the fullness of our Faith?
How do we “make” converts? First of all, we don’t, God does. Having made that abundantly clear, what is our first step in approaching someone? Naturally the desire will flow out of our prayer life. We come into contact with dozens if not hundreds of people in the course of our daily lives each month. They range from dearest family members and intimate friends to the butcher, baker, and candlestick maker.
We look at them and ask ourselves “could this person be open to our Faith?” If the answer is yes, on to the next step. It is said that the most effective way to raise money for a good cause is to simply ask for it. The same may be applied to our situation. If we are not in the process of developing a deep and lasting friendship with the potential new member of the Church, then our question lacks authenticity and will be rightfully judged as impertinent and insincere. The great majority will say that you are the first person who has ever asked them that question, and more than a few will say they have been waiting for someone to ask them that question all their lives! A few will react negatively, but after all, not all “have eyes to see or ears to hear.” We “shake the dust off our feet” and go on. We are not looking for success. It is the “love of Christ that compels us.” We may also be surprised to see after the passage of time, even many years, people coming back to us looking for answers because we had the courage to offer them at an earlier time our Faith.
We are challenging people to consider making the most significant decision they will ever make in their lives, infinitely more important than the choice of school, profession, or spouse; one that will affect every fiber of their being for the rest of their lives, and have serious consequences in the hereafter. It is essential that you get to know them well, particularly their religious background, if any, so, as is said in the vernacular, you “know where they are coming from.”
By engaging in conversation on this point you will be inviting your friend, and committing yourself, to go deep below the surface of everyday trivialities into the heart of the matter. Why are we here? What is truth? Is there a right and wrong? To be an evangelist in today’s world means to be an apologist. This is the work of a lifetime, but that does not excuse us from evangelizing while we learn on the job. Remember, no matter how little we know, our friends know less. And what is more important, we know where to go for the answers. Reviewing our own preparation leads directly to the question of recommending reading for friends who express an interest in our faith. An increasing number of people simply don’t understand the basic vocabulary of what it means to believe. Your friends simply must come to know the life of Jesus Christ if they are going to be able to join His Church.
You should also familiarize your friends with the richness of the history of the Church. They clearly will see the continuity of the Faith through the apostolic succession and read the dramatic story of evangelization through the centuries with its ups and downs. You may have to be much more selective in what you recommend to your friends: pamphlets rather than books, Listen to their needs, their questions and try to satisfy them.
What happens if over a reasonable amount of time your friend doesn’t react, he just doesn’t “get it?” He claims he doesn’t see it. His difficulties with Christ and the teachings of the Church still result in doubt. His family, parents, spouse present what appear to be insuperable obstacles. Do you throw him overboard in order to sail off for other prizes? You wouldn’t think of it! The answer is prayer, persistence, and patience.
Your persistence and constancy in your true friendship will eventually win him over by showing that your love is unconditional. Remember you may be the one person in his life who is interested only in his salvation. No ulterior motives of any sort.
This article Winning New Converts by Ron Pacco, Jr is excerpted from Bring Them In, 1987.