The work of effective evangelization can succeed only by means of true human relationships marked by a personal touch.
Successful evangelization depends, more than anything else, on our willingness to develop and foster personal relationships that are truly focused on the spiritual well being of the other, with no ulterior motives attached. It involves being attentive and responsive to the other’s needs, as well as handling the process of conversion itself patiently, knowing that all things come to pass in God’s time. And, while it is helpful to develop a knowledge of Sacred Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, papal documents, and the like for the purpose of being prepared to respond to questions that others might have about the Faith, it is often the case that simple acts – such as spending time in prayer with someone, or engaging in works of charity together with another – that end up having the greatest impact.
How do we "make" converts? First of all, we don’t – God does. Having made that abundantly clear, what is our first step in approaching someone to consider becoming a Catholic? Naturally the desire will flow out of our prayer life. To paraphrase the epitaph written on the tomb of the famous London architect Christopher Wren, “If you seek converts, circumspice (look around you).”
We come into contact with dozens if not hundreds of people in the course of our daily lives each month. They range from dearest family members and intimate friends to the butcher, baker, and candlestick maker. When we look at them, we should ask ourselves, "Could this person be open to our Faith?" If the answer is yes, move on to the next step.
It is said that the most effective way to raise money for a good cause is to simply ask for it. The same may be applied to our situation. The question, "Have you ever thought of becoming a Catholic?" – if addressed to many people over the course of our life – will certainly produce not only converts but also interesting and thought-provoking conversations and new personal relationships. You may have to practice this line in front of a mirror a few times just as you did before asking out your first date. You generally will be surprised at how flattered, if somewhat surprised, people are at the question.
Naturally, it has to be emphasized that we are not approaching perfect strangers. Indeed, if we are not in the process of developing a deep and lasting friendship with the potential new member of the Church, then our question lacks authenticity and will be rightfully judged as impertinent and insincere. The great majority will say that you are the first person who has ever asked them that question, and more than a few will say they have been waiting for someone to ask them that question all their lives!
A few will react negatively, but after all, not all "have eyes to see or ears to hear." We "shake the dust off our feet" and go on. We are not looking for success; rather, it is the "love of Christ that compels us." We may also be surprised to see after the passage of time – even many years – people coming back to us looking for answers, all because we had the courage to offer them our Faith at an earlier time.
We are challenging people to consider making the most significant decision they will ever make in their lives – a decision that is infinitely more important than the choice of school, profession, or spouse; a decision that will affect every fiber of their being for the rest of their lives, and have serious consequences in the hereafter. It is essential that you get to know them well – particularly their religious background, if any – so you know where they are coming from. Of use in this regard would be a thorough reading of Separated Brethren (Our Sunday Visitor), a survey of Protestant, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, and other denominations in the U.S. by William J. Whalen.