Our task is to witness, not convert: AFL star

02 Jul 2008

By The Record

By Joanna Lawson
With World Youth Day just under two weeks away, the preparations for the event were boosted for the Perth contingent with a visit from the Archdiocese of Sydney’s Director of Evangelisation and Pastoral Formation, Steve Lawrence.

Steve Lawrence

Perth’s Street Evangelisation Team had a special sit down session with Mr Lawrence, a former AFL Hawthorn star and grand finalist,  has had a long involvement with the Emmanuel Community which specialises in spreading the love of Christ through various evangelisation initiatives.
Eleven team members gathered at the Catholic Education Office to be encouraged in sometimes daunting activities. Talking specifically about approaching strangers in the street, Mr Lawrence said it was important that evangelisers don’t place too high an expectation on themselves or measure their success by attempting to “win” conversions.
“We must respect the way the Holy Spirit is working in the person we encounter, and the way they respond to Him,” he said.
“Jesus stands at the door and knocks, he doesn’t break the door down.
“Be free of ‘outcomes’ – it’s liberating for us to allow the seed to fall where it will. Our task is to witness, not to convert.”
The workshop focused both on street evangelisation and the unexpected opportunities we all may have in everyday life to spread the good news of the Gospel.
Recalling an experience in Sale, Victoria, Mr Lawrence said that the shirt he was wearing with the World Youth Day logo on it prompted a conversation about the event with a sales assistant.
The best advice for those attempting to engage with non-Catholics was to follow the “traffic light” system.
“By gauging a person’s response to the conversation you can tell if there’s an orange light, in which case, be prepared to stop,” said Mr Lawrence.
“If it’s a red light then stop. Archbishop Fulton Sheen said that it’s more important to win a soul than to win an argument.”
The success of the session was evident by the number of Street Team volunteers who then headed out for a mission at Whitford city shopping centre. Enthused by the advice, they happily trooped out of the meeting to face the public.
Street Team co-ordinator Matthew Hodgson said that the mission went well. “We gave out quite a few tickets for the (Days in the Diocese) Youth Festival at Whitfords.
“Even though we had a couple of new guys on this mission, it was hard to keep track of them because every time I turned my back on them they were off talking to people in some other part of the shopping centre!
 “It was great because Steve had talked to us and really inspired us to not be afraid to go out there and be on fire for the Lord.”