We have all undoubtedly heard the catch phrase “the new evangelization” coined by our last three popes. For something to be new, there must have been something old before it, correct? Well, in this case, there certainly was. We could call this the “old” evangelization, and it goes back through the centuries all the way to Jesus himself. Eric Sammons examines the evangelization efforts of Jesus himself in his book The Old Evangelization: How to Spread the Faith Like Jesus Did.
Eric points out early on in the book that in some ways the moniker the new evangelization can be unfortunate in that it rejects the successes of the “old” evangelization accomplished by “two millennia of Catholic missionary efforts by the likes of St. Paul, St. Augustine of Canterbury, St. Francis Xavier, and our Lord himself.” We must consider that any of our efforts towards evangelization are a result of the fact that we stand upon the shoulders of those who have come before us. Our situation may be slightly different but the basics are still the same.
Eric’s book takes a look at encounters Jesus had with individuals during his earthly life and even one after. These one-on-one encounters display a personal interaction that brought the listeners heart to the faith. When we read these “case-studies” it soon becomes obvious that flashy evangelistic programs have their place but are not necessary. We can evangelize and win people back to the church through personal interactions.
What are these encounters? Here are a few Eric includes:
The appearance to Mary Magdalene
The healing of the boy with a “dumb spirit”
The confrontation with the Pharisees and scribes
The encounter with the rich young man
The raising of Jarius’s daughter
The appearance to John on the island of Patmos
The key theme running through the book as I mentioned above is the personal experience of evangelization. We must remember that we can do this. A degree in theology is not needed. You do not have to be an eloquent speaker. As Eric says, “You just need to have a love for Christ and a desire to tell others about him”.
This book is a great guide for anyone interested in evangelizing. Each of the eleven chapters includes the encounter of Jesus, a story of an evangelizing saint, a self-examination to apply to ourselves, exploration questions that take readers even deeper and exercises to apply in real life situations where we find ourselves with the opportunity to share the faith. Eric has written a volume that serves as an effective tool in aiding readers in doing this necessary work of the Church. Remember, Christ himself commanded in Matthew 28:19-20 that we are told to go and make disciples of all nations. Our work need not be complicated. We only need to reach out one person at a time to those we encounter in our daily lives.