"If Necessary, Use Words?" Print
Written by Sherry   
Tuesday, 22 January 2008 06:16
There's a lovely post at Streams of Mercy by evangelical-become-Catholic, Heidi Hess Saxon, on the importance of gentleness and service in the mission of evangelization.

I resonate with her description of her experiences among evangelicals interested in evangelism, Her experience is by no means universal or even the norm anymore among evangelical practitioners (many of whom are evangelizing in ways that are much more wholistic, subtle, and geared to post-moderns these days) - but if you were raised on the fundy side of the spectrum, you will recognize it.

As Heidi sums it up:

" It has been a little disorienting, at times, to encounter Catholics who -- with all the best intentions -- "defend" Christ and His Church with the same zeal I used to encounter in the Evangelical camp. I have to remind myself that zeal has its place, that truth sometimes does cut like a sword, that the "faith warrior" has an important place in the Kingdom of God.

And yet, there is room for the more cautious among us as well. There is a need for medics as well as soldiers; mothers who nurture as well as fathers who lead. In His Mercy, God has given me a glimpse of certain dangers so I can avoid them. To do that, He led me from church to church -- and at times, even from country to country.

As a "Cross-Cultural Catholic," I depend on God's grace to carry on the work He gives me to do with a measure of humility and prudence, knowing how easy it can be to fall."

One of the refreshing things about understanding the charisms is knowing that all the charisms (whether evangelism or service, hospitality or music) reveal Christ, all the charisms help others by removing impediments to recognizing and responding to grace - but they do so in a remarkably wide variety of ways. Some of our current conflicts are charism-based but all charisms are useful and essential in the great mission of evangelization.

For instance, where the charism of evangelism is present, it doesn't look like the scenario that gives Catholics hives. In the presence of the someone with this gift, people want to talk about God, about faith - even those who ordinarily would shy away from the topic. Because they sense that it is somehow both safe and compelling to do so with this man or woman - it seems natural, not forced.

But someone like Mother Teresa with a charism of mercy or another person exercising a charism of teaching or encouragement can also be used at a critical point in our spiritual journey to bring us closer to Christ through different means. Preaching the gospel is never a battle between words and deeds. My individual part in the mission is narrow and focused, as it should be, about the charisms and vocation(s) that God has given me. But I must not project my own limited experience upon the whole Church as though it were the only way that Christ is revealed in this world.

The charisms are not in opposition to one another and there is no such thing as a "one size fits all" journey toward Christ. We need all the vocations and charisms that God has bestowed upon his Church if our mission is to be accomplished.