I just listened to the kick-off sermon in a new series called “Next Steps” from Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD. (You can listen to “Next Steps 01” here). Within this homily, Fr. Michael White asserted, “the fastest way to grow in your faith, is to share your faith” [my paraphrase].
I’ve personally experienced this. At one point as a teenager, I didn’t yet have full confidence that Jesus had accepted me as a disciple–that Jesus was truly my Lord and Savior (and not just in the abstract). Praise be to God 🙂 that during this time, somehow the Holy Spirit let me to sacrifice some of my valued-teenager-time 😉 to do person-to-personal evangelization with a missionary-minded group of Christians. I shared the Good News of God’s grace in train stations and door-to-door…probably on a monthly basis. Thinking back to that time, that experience probably contributed more to my growth in faith than almost any sermon I heard or any spiritual book I read.
Why was this the case? It wasn’t because I became “good” at apologetics (I didn’t!) or was spiritually gifted in praying for the needs of those I met (I wasn’t!). I think it was because it forced me to rely on God. I knew I was inadequate. Very inadequate. Any time I walked away knowing that my conversation wasn’t a disaster was an experience of knowing that Jesus was working in me, was using me as his disciple.
The [Too] Long Road to Sharing
For whatever reasons, much of Catholic/parish culture in our country seems to somehow communicate the message that it takes a long time before someone is ready to share the Gospel. Look at the proportion of organized adult faith formation opportunities in comparison to the proportion of organized opportunities to share the faith. From a programmatic analysis, it seems that the unspoken consensus is that we need a lot of organized faith formation, but not organized opportunities for sharing the faith or discipling others. And I’m not knocking faith formation 🙂 here–I’m all about that too! But, the difference in most ministries and parishes is striking enough to wonder about.
In contrast, I’ve noticed how two campus organizations in particular, FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) and The Evangelical Catholic, do embody the idea of “growing in faith by sharing the faith.” Both FOCUS and Evangelical Catholic expect (based on their experiences) that new disciples of Christ can become disciple-makers–leaders of small groups and person-to-person evangelizers relatively rapidly (by parish standards). These ministries and other campus ministries (like the Aggie Catholics) with a focus on sharing the faith, are indeed places where many have noted seemingly exceptional growth in the faith. Especially when compared to the speed with which many parishes move from maintenance to mission.
I encourage you and your faith community to test this idea. Make it a regular part of your spiritual practices. See if Fr. White is correct–that sharing the faith leads to growth in faith.