The Utter Inescapability of Kerygmatic Proclamation

Part One of a Five Part Series

EvangelisationKerygmatic Proclamation #1: Necessity
ObjectiveGet comfortable with undertaking Evangelisation centred on the basic Gospel Message
Seedtime1 hour (10 minute read and watch 50 minute video, taking brief notes)
Feedtime1 hour
DirectiveTake your ‘next step’ in terms of engaging with Kerygmatic proclamation. The details of what this may be are discussed at the end of the blogpost.
To check out how these boxes work, click here!

The first time I was ever introduced to Kerygmatic Evangelisation was the summer I turned nineteen. A few friends and I had been invited to a week long, ecumenically (but predominantly Catholic) run, faith festival in Galway and we understood that we were going to be evangelising as well as having a week of faith-based-fun with other Christians. Some of the things that happened at that week were familiar and I was ready and willing to throw myself headfirst into them. Like, for example, when we set up a gazebo in Eyre Square for Eucharistic Adoration. The location may have been novel, but Adoration was familiar – and I had a fair idea what to do with that…

The ‘Kerygma’ thing, however, was unfamiliar to my recently set on fire, but relatively typical cradle Catholic experience. Essentially the message itself wasn’t, perhaps, but proclaiming it directly didn’t come naturally. I remember walking out of the first training session where the message we were to carry was outlined and getting into a conversation with my friends that basically ran: “…do they actually expect us to go out on the streets now and talk to people like that?!?”

The second training session was better, in that it was more tuned into where the audience was at, helping us to understand how to enter into this kind of conversation with people we’ve never met before – but the whole concept was still very intimidating to us. As a result, in practice we fell back on what was familiar and sought ways to avoid trying what he proposed.

Accordingly, when they gave us free festival newspapers (with testimonies and Christian articles etc.) before sending us on the streets, we had a flick through and quickly realised that the middle pages had a programme for the week’s events. Part of that programme was a nightly Christian gig in a local restaurant. The musicians had been exceptionally well chosen and we decided that the best way to ‘evangelise’ was to hit the streets with our papers, open them at the middle pages when we got into conversations and invite whoever we were talking to… to a free gig! Now I’m not knocking this approach entirely. It was this kind of event-centred, invitation-led evangelisation that had brought me to the festival where I first really fell in love with Jesus. The friends who were with me had mostly come from similar experiences. It was what we were familiar and comfortable with, yes, but it was also something we knew had the potential to work. It was probably for this reason we had no hugely recognisable pangs of conscience in disregarding all our training and implementing our own methods on the street.

Nevertheless, there was a dull sense of guilt regarding something not entered into. Something avoided, that should not have been. Essentially the reason, for me at least, for not trying out what we were told to do was fear, grounded in unfamiliarity. As G.K. Chesterton said of the Christian ideal, so I could say of the direct proclamation of its basic tenants as a means of evangelising: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”

Just months after that I moved to Dublin and become involved with a mission team. My work was mostly with retreats and charismatic community events, but as my time in the city went on I increasingly developed a heart for connecting with the homeless. One night I was returning home rather late when I got into a conversation with a man on the streets. I think initially he was looking for money, but having realised I didn’t have this to give him, he started to walk along with me (I couldn’t stand still as I was headed for the last bus) and tell me his story. He was limping because he had been stabbed, his girlfriend had recently left him for his best friend and he was feeling hurt and betrayed. I listened, and as I did it became really apparent to me that this guy had quite a lot of bitterness, and there were things he needed to forgive in order to be free. I started to talk to him about forgiving those who had hurt him – and as I did, I watched his eyes glaze over and his participation get more and more removed from the conversation. Eventually, as we passed a doorway in the street, he decided he needed to sit down in it and rest, so he said goodbye. After walking maybe a few hundred yards, I had a strong sense that Jesus wanted me to take the little crucifix I had attached to my scapular off and give it to him. I resisted (as I was already in danger of missing the bus) but the sense persisted, so eventually I ran back to that doorway, detaching the crucifix as I did so. When I reached him, I knew I didn’t have time to enter into conversation (and as it seemed he was disengaged anyway I wasn’t inclined to), so I kind of thrust the crucifix into his hand and just blurted out the first thing that popped into my head as both my hello and goodbye. In hindsight, I understand very clearly that those words were given on the spot by the Holy Spirit.

“That’s to remind you how much He loves you!”

In the brief moment before I turned to run for my bus, I witnessed what was perhaps the most striking two second transformation I have ever seen. All he said in response was ‘thank-you’, but before doing that he looked at the Cross, and when he looked back up at me the glazing over his eyes was gone, his face was profoundly moved, and I knew that little cross in his hand and the Love it represented meant more to him than he could communicate.

I don’t know what became of that man, but the whole experience was a huge lesson for me. See the fact is, we are surrounded by the walking wounded. They might not be physically limping, they might not be materially destitute, but there is a whole world of wandering souls out there, who are deeply in need of Jesus. Whether or not they know it, whether or not they want to know it, He is the answer to their deepest longings, the reason they exist and the only real Hope in a world that is often callous and chaotic – Jesus alone has the message of eternal life… More than souls need an indirect invitation to an event or convincing that one particular devotion is worth taking up or teaching worth heeding – they need HIM. They need to know who He Is and how He Loves them – and then the rest, with grace and their co-operation, will fall into place.

I might have been convinced of that in the streets of Galway when I was inviting those people to free gigs, but I was falling short of assuming responsibility for seeking to communicate God’s Love to those I encountered directly. Why? Because that demanded of me a vulnerability that I was not yet prepared to accept. It required me to give something of myself that I wasn’t willing to. But in failing to respond to that calling I wasn’t just shying away from an optional extra, or an addendum to the Catholic faith. I was actually refusing an essential of the Great Commission. St. Peter tells us to always be ready to give an account – the Greek term signifies a philosophical or legal defence of a stance or action – for the hope that is within us. Not to always have something to invite people to, not even always to have a Miraculous Medal in your pocket to give away (though we do advocate this, and it is very powerful – see here!) As beautiful and helpful as those things may be, the bread and butter of our preparedness to Evangelise consists in our capacity and willingness to share the essentials of the Gospel message with those we encounter, in a way that helps them to perceive its value in their lives and be moved towards allowing it to change everything they know. Let’s take a look at how this can be done…

(N.B. You may well find it helpful to take brief notes on this video as you listen. This isn’t obligatory from a ‘rose’ point of view, but it might help with your task after watching!)

OK then, how do we turn this seed into a rose? Now you need to spend an hour taking your next step. If you have never tried to use this message to evangelise before, the first half hour can be given to preparation here. Go back (mentally, or using your notes if you took them) over the message you have just listened to. Think carefully about what in it most spoke to you, and what you would find most easy to relate to others. Are there parts of the message you would communicate differently – relaying the same truths but in a way that is more resonant with your experience, perspective and personality – or that of those with whom you converse? Think and pray about how you would share the Kerygma.

The second half of this time needs to be given to sharing with others. If you don’t need a full half hour to prepare, you can spend more time on sharing instead. If you want to take more preparation time you may – BUT to cultivate the rose you do need to spend at least half hour in conversation (whether one half hour conversation or a few shorter ones) about this Kerygma message. This cannot be replaced with preparation time.

A few pointers here: If you wait to begin with this until your feel perfectly comfortable you will probably be waiting too long. Take some time to familiarise yourself with the message – but then step out and trust the Lord. That said, your first bash at this doesn’t have to be with randomers on the street if that’s wildly intimidating. Prayerfully consider your level of confidence, and ask the Holy Spirit to show you who to approach. It could be that your next step is to approach a fellow Christian who is more mature in their walk and relate the message as if for the first time, asking for their feedback. If you are a little more confident, you may desire to talk to a friend or family member who doesn’t yet know the Lord. And you may wish to have your conversation with a randomer of the Holy Spirit’s choosing. That is left to your discretion, the important thing here is to begin to proclaim, and take your next step towards being at home in sharing the Word of God.

May the Holy Spirit guide and direct your efforts.

Follow on Roses

If you enjoyed this rose and would like to take Kerygmatic Evangelisation further, you can continue to cultivate roses in this area by doing the following two things, which together equal one rose for monthly bouquets:
1. Spend half an hour preparation, going deeper with the message through prayer and study
2. Spend an hour in conversation, or in several conversations, about the Kerygma

These follow on roses are a provisional way of continuing to use these skills until we have a more extensive programme for developing Kerygmatic Evangelisation.

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