Maltese society needs intelligent evangelisation. To many people it’s become a sad cliche – a disruptive knock at the door and a list of platitudes addressed like some kind of sales pitch by wild eyed strangers. It’s a pamphlet delivered along with shopping catalogues and marketing dross, an all too often browbeating conversation with somebody less interested in what you’ve got to say and more concerned with what they’ve decided you need to know. Attracting a disparate and ever changing population will necessarily require new approaches that really speak to our lives, as citizens of a country undergoing massive social upheaval.
Unfortunately there’s a tendency in certain religious circles to speak down to people, in the misguided belief that treating us all as though we’re simpletons is somehow egalitarian. What’s actually happening is that individuals with half a brain are turned off altogether because the message gets so watered down, its presentation is so tacky and tedious, that you’re left with nothing worth presenting at all. We need people who are competent to bring their experiences out of the community and into society at large, to interact with the culture on a radical level.
Meeting God as an experience of beauty and intellectual fascination, as a tremendous outpouring of life in its immediacy, has very little to do with the sorts of activities you’d find at certain evangelising groups. No number of movie nights, fundraisers or jamborees is going to offer the living testimony desperately needed in today’s chaotic culture of fragmented experiences and threatened identity. By informing Maltese life in an assertive way, the message is no longer something to be sneered at or simply ignored – it becomes an active participant in contemporary culture, issuing challenges and demanding respect.
I don’t mean to disparage the work done by youth organizations and prayer groups – some people have very profound experiences there. But do they always afford the best opportunities for speaking with individuals who aren’t ready to ‘join the club’? Can more be done to bring the Good News to people whose lives don’t need restructuring within a new social milieu, but rather require a radical reorientation? The simple act of unconditionally welcoming and being welcomed (not dependent on conforming to a clique) is sorely missing in many present efforts to evangelise.
There’s a Maltese tendency towards forming exclusive circles, and we really can’t afford to perpetuate this when a core feature of any Christian community is its openness. It’s a dynamic series of encounters, where the flame of faith is passed from person to person – “soul by soul, and silently”, the Kingdom’s “shining bounds increase”. This can only be achieved by recognising people’s dignity and personal integrity. This is the heart of dialogue between individuals inside and outside the Church, promoting culture as something we must participate in and motivate – never allowing ourselves to get stuck in a safe zone that inspires nobody and creates nothing.
Positioned on the vanguard of Maltese culture, evangelisation would assume a new and powerful holistic expression – and in the process, it will offer unlimited opportunities for growth and encouragement.