John the Baptist could be considered Jesus' first evangelist. Mary went to visit Elizabeth because the angel Gabriel told her that Elizabeth was expecting. When Mary arrived at Elizabeth's home, Saint John leaped in her womb at Mary's greeting.
“And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the child in my womb leaped for joy.” RSV Lk 1:43-44
Let's consider five ways that we can follow Jesus like Saint John the Baptist did and improve our evanglism in the process.
Follow with joy
John's first response to finding Christ in his presence was JOY. Not surprise, not fear, not apathy, JOY. You can't be an effective evangelist if your attitude is a downer. People get interested in things because their friends are excited and happy about them. Eeyore is NOT your role model.
Ven. Fulton Sheen has a wonderful book on this topic called Saints Are Not Sad. Now, it is true that you can get into Heaven without being joyful but if you want to lead others there with you, you'll be far more effective if you are joyful about your Faith.
Joy is also one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Remember receiving the Gifts of the Holy Spirit at Baptism? Probably not, but you might remember them being emphasized at Confirmation:
“The Most Holy Trinity gives the baptized sanctifying grace, the grace of justification:
– giving them the power to live and act under the prompting of the Holy Spirit through the gifts of the Holy Spirit” CCC 1266
“From this fact, Confirmation brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace:
– it increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us;” CCC 1303
Now, if we are truly using the gifts that the Holy Spirit has given us, we should be experiencing the fruits as well. Are you joyful in your Faith? If not, you need to go back and see how you are using your gifts.
Follow With Humility
Can we find a better example of humility than Saint John the Baptist? His reply when asked if he was the Messiah, “I am not worthy to undo his sandal strap.” is recognized by almost everyone.
Saint John's entire life purpose was to point people towards Jesus. What is the point of our evangelism? Are we trying to get worldly attention by the number of people we bring to Christ? Are we trying to “Win” some contest in our heads? If so, we're doing it wrong.
Remember those fruits of the Holy Spirit? Humility is one of them.
If a signpost is doing its job, no one cares enough about a sign post to stop at the sign post instead of getting to the destination. People are thankful signposts exist, but if they don't make it to their destination, the sign post has failed in its purpose. Think about celebrity preachers. Many times it is hard to tell if those following them are really on the road to Christ.
Follow With Clarity
John's message was very simple. So simple, that his entire message only takes up twenty verses of the Bible, at it's longest.
Repent and follow Christ.
It can't really get more clear than that, can it? As evangelists, do we obfuscate the Faith? The Truth can't be told in half-truths or muddied up with our own personal opinions.
At a liturgical conference many years ago when he was new in Denver, Archbishop Chaput told the priests at the conference that every time you insert yourself into the Mass, the Mass becomes about you, and not Christ.
Evangelism isn't an opportunity for us to show off or incredible apologetics skill or our Bible verse memorization super powers. Evangelism is about presenting the Faith with clarity to the seeking.
Follow With Courage
Saint John didn't dress like everyone else, he didn't act like everyone else and he didn't die like everyone else. He dressed in the most humble clothing he could find. He ate simple food off the land and told the king that he shouldn't be sleeping with his dead brother's wife. For that, he was imprisoned and eventually beheaded!
Remember those gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit? Courage is one of the gifts! Known by another name, fortitude, it is also one of the Cardinal Virtues.
He wasn't afraid that living in humility would turn people away from his message. He wasn't afraid of calling the pharisees vipers or of calling people to repentance.
He exhibited one of the highest form of courage, also called fortitude, by dying for speaking the truth about the king.
Do we proclaim Christ with courage? Are we afraid that proclaiming Christ in His fullness will turn people away?
If we are proclaiming the Faith with joy, humility, clarity and courage, we can trust that the Holy Spirit will do the rest.
Follow With Selflessness
St. John the Baptist went out in the wilderness to proclaim Christ and didn't ask what he was going to get out of it. He knew what the Truth was and had to share it.
Even when Christ came and asked to be baptized, Saint John humbly said that Christ should baptize him but when Christ disagreed, John didn't say “Okay, now that you've had this Holy Spirit revelation and all, could you please baptize me, too?”
If you are asking “What's in it for me?” when you share the Faith, it's time to get some generosity lessons.
He lives with his lovely wife and eleven kids in northern Colorado.