Understanding Our Church

A Treasury of Arkansas Writers Discussing the Catholic Faith

To evangelize properly, one needs to be relatable to their audience

Published: November 19, 2022

By Paula Standridge
St. John the Baptist Church, Hot Springs

Isaiah 50:4 states, “The Lord has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them.” One of the most important aspects or tools of evangelization is relatability — the ability to relate or connect with someone.

To evoke emotion and hit a nerve to cause a person to listen, think and ponder. We have all heard sermons or homilies that we can relate to, as well as those that go over, under or around us and have no connection at all.

Few of us will be giving sermons, but all of us hopefully will be giving words of encouragement, dialoguing with others, participating in classes or ministries with others; these are all opportunities for connection, for touching or reaching another person at the human level.

One of the most important aspects or tools of evangelization is relatability — the ability to relate or connect with someone.

With our unique experiences, family dynamics, opportunities, disappointments, hurts, struggles or wayward paths, we are equipped to reach out to those people who are “in our lane.” If we suffer from depression, we have great insight into this disease that can reach the depths of another person’s pain.

If we struggle with addictions or sinful tendencies, we can find a common thread to talk to people who are lost or alone because of the same afflictions. Those who grieve understand great loss.

“Father Stu” is a film based on a true story about a young man living a precarious way of life before he experienced a profound conversion after a life threatening accident. His about-face was so powerful that he felt the call to become a priest, despite the overwhelming odds against him.

One of the most powerful scenes in the movie is when Stu and a fellow seminarian go into a prison as chaplains for the first time. The first seminarian starts praying and says, “we are sent by Christ into the darkest places to bring the light of Christ.”

As you can imagine, this doesn’t go over well with the inmates as it is insulting, demeaning, and generally unhelpful. Seeing the expressions on the inmate’s faces and sensing them closing off, Father Stu jumps in.

This is an abbreviated, edited version of Father Stu addressing the prisoners: “You guys get one phone call a week in here? Who you gonna call, huh? Your mama? You gonna break her heart some more? Your wife? Your kid? You don’t need no phone to talk to God. And don’t need a guard’s permission, neither. When no one else gives a **** what you got to say, God does. Because he made your *****. You damn right he’s disappointed in it, but he wants to help. No matter how hard you resist it, no matter how many times you say no. He still wants to make you better. He ain’t giving up on you. Never. Don’t you dare go giving up on yourself.”

The faces of the inmates visibly change and soften. Then Father Stu turns to the other priest and says, “You wanna try again?” Father Stu had lived a rough life, been in prison, hit the bottom.

He knew how to connect with these guys to evoke a reaction. Reaching deep to touch the basics of human emotion without a lot of eloquent words is powerful. We don't need to show people what we know but who we know.

Understanding Our Church