When I read the recent results from a Barna Group report suggesting that just under half (47%) of Christian Millennials think it’s wrong to evangelize, I confess I felt a bit like the Apostle Paul, trying his best day by day, letter by letter to show his brethren that the promises to Abraham extend to all the world. At the time Paul was writing, of course, the story of God’s promises to Abraham was well known. Paul went to such great lengths—in his epistles to the Romans and the Ephesians, in word and deed, in every breath he took and every tear he shed—to drive home this point: “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and bestows his riches upon all who call upon him” (Rom 10:12). Again, “Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also…” (Rom 3:29).
But swirling around these and many, many more passages about the worldwide implications of the promises to Abraham, fulfilled in and accomplished through Jesus the Messiah and the Catholic—let’s not forget, universal—Church, we have Paul’s equally pressing concern: “But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?” (Rom 10:14). Some Catholics today answer Paul like so: “Well, through the natural law, of course.” No doubt, the natural law is important, but Paul is thinking of bigger (and better?) means to accomplish the task at hand: “And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless they are sent?” (v. 15).
We need preachers of the Gospel, not just good natural law thinkers. That is why the recent study by Barna Group is so concerning.
What’s going on here? And what has caused it? It is no coincidence that Paul confesses the need to preach the gospel within the context of God’s promises to Abraham. It’s easy to forget, but we do well to remind ourselves (especially in light of the Barna Group study), that God made promises, not just to Israel, but through Israel (Gen 22:16-18; see Sir 44:21). Paul, and the other early Catholics for that matter, were convinced that Jesus, Israel’s Messiah, has fulfilled—precisely in and through the Church—the worldwide promised blessing to the nations through Abraham’s seed.
For Paul, the apostolic mandate, the conclusion to the story, the way the narrative works itself out is through the Church’s mission to the Gentiles, the evangelization of the nations. Whatever else we might want to say about the Barna Group study, the one thing we must say is that 47% of Christian Millennials are truncating the story of the Bible by suggesting that evangelization is wrong.
What sort of story are they reading? Better yet: What kind of story are they living?
Read more at Catholic World Report.