"Today we need a Church capable of walking at people's side, of doing more than simply listening to them..." - Pope Francis
Throughout the ages people have asked questions of great importance to their lives, such as: is there a God? Who is He and what is He like? What reasons are there for believing in Him? When you do come to believe in Him, where do you go from there? Is religion really necessary? Many people are still asking these questions and just because you or I may have already sufficiently answered these questions for ourselves does not mean that we can't or that we shouldn't discuss these questions with those who have not answered them. In fact, it seems vital that this discussion should happen, because often people are drawn to faith in Christ through the witness of faithful and authentic Christians.
Discussion about the divine, faith, and religion can be called "dialogue." A dialogue is a conversation between two or more people. That means listening to what another person says, but it also means responding. As Christians, we are called to dialogue with other people. This is the heart of the New Evangelization! This is what it means to preach the Gospel. It means we cannot stand on a soap box on the street corner like the Pharisees and speak just for the sake of hearing ourselves talk without any real understanding of who we are talking to. No, we must engage people in the grocery store, at the gas station, at the bar, and on the internet. We must listen to their stories, but we must, as Pope Francis says, do more than simply listen. As Christians we must reply in charity to the questions and lives of the persons we encounter every day. We must not be afraid to engage in casual conversation about the topic of faith. The faith of others may be sparked by this and our own faith can only be sharpened and strengthened by the challenges presented to it by the culture.
In order to be able to enter into conversation with other people, we have to meet them where they are at. We need to be able to enter into the culture and encounter people right where they are and still remain faithful in our witness to Christ. One way in which we can begin to meet people where they are at is through the social media. It is something that a vast number of people use everyday. Blogging, as Mark Shea points out in the chapter on blogging in The Church and New Media, has a great potential to begin dialogue because of its conversational tone and interactive possibilities. Readers can engage and respond to the material they are reading and authors can continue the discussion almost immediately. (It is a far cry from when you wrote a letter to the newspaper and waited weeks for a response...that is, if you ever got a response.) There are some great Catholic bloggers out there who do just this: write for the purpose of engaging people in conversation about topics of faith. Check out Marc Barnes, for example.
However potent social media may be, I have found in my own short life that face to face interactions with other human persons are the most fruitful form of dialogue. No matter what, there is a disconnect that happens when a social medium is used to communicate. Much is lost without the tone of voice and the facial and body expressions that are part of a face to face interaction between persons. So while I firmly believe that social media can be used effectively in the New Evangelization and that it should be used, I also believe that it is only a springboard. Nothing can beat a conversation with that person on the airplane or in the driver's license bureau. Do not be afraid! Go out into the streets and proclaim the love of Christ present in your heart! But don't forget to listen. This is not a soap box or a "holier than thou" competition...it is an opportunity to walk together with other persons up the mountain of faith.