Learning how to evangelize

by Corey Baumgartner

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“Ultimately, this is what we should be striving for – complete and utter abandonment to our Lord.” – Corey Baumgartner

As I continue to grow in knowledge about the church and desire to serve, I grow in desire to evangelize. A lot of us seminarians here at Sacred Heart Major Seminary like to evangelize on the streets of Detroit. We really desire to be bold enough to talk about God at any time to anybody.

Evangelization is necessary, firstly because as a priest this is a must-have skill. Secondly, because, as a Christian, Christ himself has told us to go out to all the nations proclaiming that he is Lord. I am convinced that we all have the call to evangelize. It looks different in our everyday life, but if you are Christian, then you have a call to bring people to Christ.

I will be the first person to say that I am terrified when it comes to evangelizing. Why? Well because I have to talk about God in public and I feel like I am bothering the person that I am talking to and maybe they are not having a good day. What happens if they don’t like me? What if I mess up? These are the actual thoughts that I have had while I am walking up to someone to talk to them about Jesus. I have even had these thoughts right after I have had a successful encounter. There are so many excuses that we can make to not talk about the Gospel, but when it comes down to it, it’s their soul that’s at stake, which is even more terrifying! So how does one get over the fear?

The first thing is to remember that even the disciples were fearful at the beginning. It took receiving the Power from on High in order to go out to the nations. This is why we need to pray and ask God to send us more of his Holy Spirit. We received it at baptism and confirmation, but we still lack the boldness. So we must pray for the Holy Spirit to pour into us more of himself, so we may love and be bold!

Something that I have learned about evangelizing is that it’s not about me, nor is it really about the other person. It’s about loving Jesus. It’s about putting him before yourself, and when you do that, the fear lessens. It’s like Peter in the boat. When Peter takes his eyes off Jesus, he becomes afraid and falls. Evangelizing is the same. If I’m thinking about messing up, or about the circumstances I’m in, I will most likely mess up or just not talk to anyone, because I was too afraid. But, if I have Christ as my focus, it is easier for me to love the other person. Which brings us to our next important topic: love.

Love is the driving force for all Christians. It drives us to do crazy things. It makes us act irrational at times. Love is what drove Christ to die for us. It’s what Christ calls us to do. Love is the most important part of any Christian life. It is then the most important part of evangelization. How do you keep yourself focused on the Lord? Prayer and loving Christ unconditionally. This summer I had a spiritual experience that made me ask myself, “What is it that drives saints to die? What do they have that I don’t have?”

I really pondered this because we are all called to be saints and, well, I love Jesus and so do they, but what is it that they have that I don’t? The answer is complete surrender and complete love of Christ. If you have ever met someone who loves Jesus and believes that he is everything, then you know that they cannot help but talk about him. They are so focused on Jesus that they do not want to do anything without him. It shines through their daily work and life. Jesus is there in every encounter they have during the day. Ultimately, this is what we should be striving for – complete and utter abandonment to our Lord.

This is our goal here at seminary. We desire that everything we do revolve around Christ. That means when we study philosophy, we study with Jesus. When we work out, we work out with Jesus. It doesn’t have to be a huge event to show that you are doing it with Jesus. All it takes is saying, “Jesus be with me as I perform this task,” or, “Jesus, where are you in my work?” When you carry Jesus with you everywhere you go, then it’s easier to keep your eyes on him when you feel that next tug to evangelize.

Baumgartner is a College IV seminarian at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Mich.

Editor’s Note: Seminarian Life is a monthly column written by current Diocese of Fargo seminarians. It gives New Earth readers a glimpse of what these discerning young men are experiencing. Please continue to pray for them.