Are They Your Followers Or Christ’s? Three Keys to Healthy Evangelization
We are blessed to have Tim Lucchesi of Chaste Love joining us as a guest blogger today. We met Tim through Catholics Online and encourage you to check out his awesome ministry by going to chastelove.org. Thank you, Tim, for this inspiring message!
1. God’s Definition of Success is different than your Definition of Success
Recently, a stranger tried to add me as a Facebook friend, while simultaneously trying to add me to a Facebook group honoring our Blessed mother. I love Mama Mary, so I joined the group. But within minutes of joining the group, I received a private message practically demanding that I invite all my friends. The content of the group was low quality and the posts were few and far between. Clearly the central priority of the group leader is to increase the numbers. I messaged the leader of the group with my concerns, and he seemed surprised that the primary mission should not be about increasing numbers.
Far too often the message we hear from a ministry is one of unintentional desperation. This desperate message can come through social media posts, through the bulletin, or through begging during the announcements at the end of Mass.
No consumer wants to be on the receiving end of a barrage of desperate statements. And even if we aren’t trying to make money, we are still “selling” something: a product, an opportunity, an idea, etc. We need to remember that people are still consuming our content, thus making them consumers. As Christians, it’s vital that we focus on the dignity of the person. If we see people first as clients, customers, followers, or filling a role that we’ve deemed important, then we reduce human beings to a nothing more than a means to achieve our goals.
So ask yourself, “What is MY definition of success?” It may not be about numbers or filling a specific role. These are just examples. But seriously ask yourself what your definition of success is. And then ask yourself, “What might GOD define as a success for this ministry?” Maybe you’ve aligned your ministry work with God’s understanding of a true victory. Or maybe you need to adjust your approach, just a little bit. And that little adjustment makes a big difference.
2. Don’t Assign Our Limitations to God
A few years back, I ran a weekend retreat for only six high school students. After the weekend, my boss explained how it was a waste of resources and how he wished he could “write me up” for my poor decision-making. But he said this without the benefit of hindsight. Within a matter of months it became obvious that some small victories on the retreat were helping benefit both individuals and the ministry program in significant ways. Two teenagers from the retreat seriously discerned religious life, and two adults who helped lead the retreat, joined our volunteer team.
But God isn’t burdened by the restrictions of time. In fact, God isn’t burdened by any of our limitations. Being outside of time, God has a perspective on things where we can only speculate.
Your reach is limited. God’s is infinite. Your schedule has conflicts. God is always available. Your energy runs low. God’s energy.…well, you get the point. Whatever ministry work you do (freelance, parish, Diocesan, social media, etc.) remember that it’s God’s ministry. Trust our Heavenly Father to use it in HIS way. As Pope St. John XXIII used to say before going to sleep, “I’ve done my best I could in your service this day, Oh Lord. I’m going to bed. It’s your Church. Take care of it!”
3. Pray to Avoid the Desire to become “Catholic famous”.
Over the last twenty years, the Catholic media landscape has been revolutionized. And that’s because the media landscape has shifted in a way more dramatic than any other time in the previous hundred years or so. Think about it. Sure, the invention of the television was groundbreaking, but access to the broadcast airways was incredibly limited. But since the turn of the millennium, access to media production has changed noticeably.
There are over 23 Million YouTube channels. There are over 500 Million Tweets sent every day. Instagram has over 1 Billion active users (500 Million of which are accessed daily). 2.7 Billion people are on Facebook. There are over 750,000 shows available on podcast. (For example, Bishop Barron’s weekly Homily is listened to by about 50,000 people via podcast each week.) And because of this, we can all name someone who is Catholic famous: Mark Hart, Leah Darrow, Fr. Mike Schmitz, Scott Hahn, Sr. Helena Burns, Matt Fradd, etc.
Now let me be clear, there is NOTHING wrong with being well known. Bishop Fulton Sheen was one of the most well know people in North America thanks to the modern medium of the day, and he is on his way to Sainthood. But being known should never be our goal.
Most of us have good intentions. We want to increase our reach so we can bring the message of Christ to others. And that’s fantastic! Bringing Christ to others is the Apostolic Mission given to us by Jesus himself. But occasionally, we each need to check in with ourselves and examine our motives. Are we seeking praise for ourselves or directing others on their journey to know, love, and praise God?
So pray daily to avoid the desire to be “Catholic famous”. But go a step further. Pray that you won’t care about your number of social media followers. Pray that you won’t determine the success of your ministry work by how many subscribers your blog has or how many people hire you for speaking opportunities or whatever you are doing to serve God. But take it a step further and pray that you reach one person, just one. Because to bring even one person closer to Christ is more beautiful than we can even imagine.