Views on evangelization have often clustered around two poles: “presence” and “proclamation.” The term “Christian presence” was minted in French Catholicism. Blessed Charles de Foucauld described his vocation as being present amongst people, a presence willed and intended as a witness of the love of Christ.
The term “Christian presence” means an evangelistic re-entry to renew contact with the world. It describes the way of life of those who have accepted Jesus and are following Him. It means being with others and knowing them. It is about “being-there”, in communion with them, through listening and service on behalf of Christ.
But evangelization should generally be more than just a presence. It also needs to be a verbal communication of the Good News; not in a mechanical and impersonal way, but in a personal and inspired way and in response to the needs encountered. St. Paul teaches that “faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ” (Romains 10:17). Our Lord has called us to be heralds of his grace and love to communicate the good news of salvation. Leighton Ford writes that “The word we preach is not a “mere” human word. It is the message of God Himself, in which He is present revealing Himself to man, and actually, a powerful word by which God creates faith and life in those who hear (Romans 10:8, 14, 15; 1 Peter 1:23-25)”.
This means that we must not dissociate “presence” and “proclamation”. Our mission includes both. There is an appropriate time for everything. Our Christian witness is to communicate love and peace and be an example of reconciliation with others. Our work of evangelization should be carried out with our whole life. When our existences will reveal and proclaim Love, holiness, peace and compassion, then we will be recognized as authentic witnesses of Jesus and his Kingdom.
This text is partly inspired by an article entitled Presence Vs. Proclamation, written by Leighton Ford.
Pierre-Alain Giffard, Director of Pastoral Work