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Last week Dave Palmer interviewed me for the Guadalupe Radio Network of 30 markets on How to Give Your Testimony During the Holidays. We had a lot of fun with the interview, and it was well received. Here is a link to my portion of the show, “Giving your Testimony during the Holidays.”
For me, the best way to prepare for interviews is to draft some potential questions and answer them in writing. This process brings me clarity as well as talking points. Almost always, I over-prepare. As you can hear on the recording, lots of the information in this blog did not make it on the air. And I answered some questions I didn’t expect, such as the Ten Tips for Sharing Your Faith Story from my DVD and workshops that Dave knows about from previous interviews. After the interview I rewrite the talking points, changing them from Q&A format into a blog.
‘Tis the season to evangelize
‘Tis the season for getting together with family, friends and business associates – and to evangelize. What’s the best way to evangelize? Saint John Paul II said that that the most effective way to evangelize is through our personal witness. Wherever we are, we can be ready with our personal witness.
Festive settings are ideal for sharing what the Lord has done in our lives this past year. Even if we are new or hesitant to witness, we can look for openings to share our faith. In fact, 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to stay attentive to opportunities around us.
Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence.
Many of the people we meet during the holidays – and all year long — are hurting and misguided. They need the reassurance of God’s love and mercy for each of us. We can bring them hope. That hope lies in what God is doing in us – in the personal relationship he is developing with us. When we tell our story, we share in God’s transforming work in us and others.
We’ve heard evangelists tell dramatic stories of a conversion to Catholicism or a return to the Church after years of truancy. But how do we formulate our faith story? It’s our personal story of God’s mercy, his salvation, redemption, conversion, and transformation in our lives. Our faith story is our conversion – our renewal – our healing – our prayers God answered and miracles he performed for us.
We often hesitate because we don’t see ourselves as evangelists. As Catholic Christians, we were given a life mission at our baptism. We were anointed to be evangelizers. Yes, everyone baptized person is meant to evangelize. The life of God we receive at Baptism grows within us through the sacraments and transforms us with sacramental grace. When we are open to that Spirit within us, we feel a nudge to share our faith with others proactively. Then the life of God overflows from us like a fountain of grace. We cooperate with the Holy Spirit transforming us and inspiring others.
We each have a unique story only we can tell. God expresses his love through our story. He created each of us as an unrepeatable expression of his presence.
He builds our faith each time we encounter him, in our prayer time or reading the Bible and especially in the sacraments. Each time we tell our story, we reveal a unique expression of God’s presence to those around us. Often we inspire one person God wants to assure of his love and mercy. That’s someone he can reach only through our story. That’s how we evangelize. And that’s a marvelous privilege!
Cue: What’s new?
In our day-to-day living, especially in this season, we don’t have to look far to find opportunities to share a bit about how God works in our life. Informal get-togethers are perfect for spontaneously sharing with one or two people who naturally ask you, “What’s new?” Are they are asking about our family, our career, our health? All of these are openings for what God is doing in our life. How he got us through a painful family struggle. How he provided for our family through a job change. Perhaps blessed us with a physical healing. These are all elements of our personal witness that Saint John Paul II talked about when he said that the most effective way to evangelize is through our personal witness.
Before we can tell our story, we have to know our story–and know it well enough to tell it spontaneously and succinctly. With a little preparation, we can have in mind something brief to share in a few moments at a party or family celebration. We need an elevator speech to draw the interest of listeners. We show up ready with a one- or two-sentence talking point to entice them. If they are intrigued, they will ask for more. Then we can open up and give our personal witness. That’s the story we know best, and the one only we can tell.
The elevator speech of my conversion to the Catholic Church goes like this:
I grew up in a churchgoing Protestant family, fell in love with a Catholic in college, and married him in the Catholic Church. I converted to Catholicism three years later when I discovered I belong in the Catholic Church.
The response that usually follows is, “How did you discover you belong in the Catholic Church? Tell me more.”
Where do we start?
First, we pray, asking the Holy Spirit to show us the most significant moment of conversion to Catholicism or renewal of our faith. We expect and accept the grace of that answered prayer.
Then we journal, writing down the thoughts that come to us as you pray. We create our faith bio. We start with our baptism and then list the other sacraments and significant events in our life. We include high points when we felt close to God and low points when we felt far from him.
In that faith bio, our personal witness is centered on a God-moment when we knew that God was real and that he loves us personally. Perhaps it was a holy moment at Mass, reconciliation or a retreat when we made a decision to follow God.
We delve into our faith bio – one-on-one with God. Then we have the confident assurance to articulate not only that God-moment but also all the other blessings in our life. We know our story because it brought us to who we are now.
The emphasis of our sharing is not what we have suffered, overcome or accomplished but what God has done to transform us into the person he created us to be. We tell our story to glorify him and to inspire our listeners to discover him in their faith stories.
Remember that in sharing our faith stories we are doing the work of the Holy Spirit. He will show us the right time and place. The Holy Spirit will remind us of everything that Jesus has told us about our faith and our faith story. Then he will help us tell it.
We don’t need to worry about our ability to share our story. God cares more about our availability than our ability. When he nudges us to give that elevator speech or tell a little story about an answered prayer, a healing, an unexpected blessing, he’s right there waiting for us.
We can expect his presence to carry us through what we say and carry it beyond what we can ever imagine. His grace makes our story a baby step or giant step in the spiritual life of someone else because we were available and let God use us as his instruments of evangelization. And we are the one most blessed. Let’s look for those opportunities this season to grow our faith by sharing it with others.
How can blogging help you prepare for your next interview?