Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Fr. Dwight Longenecker

5/2/2012 (3 years ago)

Catholic Online (

The fields are white unto harvest! Now we need the workers to step forward.

Through video, radio, internet, blogs, e-books and publishing on demand the world is opening up to the proclamation of the gospel as never before. What is needed now is an army of enthusiastic, well catechized, articulate and passionate missionaries--a new breed of evangelists is needed to tell the old, old story in a new way. The fields are white unto harvest! Now we need the workers to step forward.


By Fr. Dwight Longenecker

Catholic Online (

5/2/2012 (3 years ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: Evangelization, mission, social gospel, witness, testimony, apologetics, convert making, preaching, Fr Dwight Longenecker

GREENVILLE, SC (Catholic Online) - I can remember the Evangelical preachers of my youth railing against the purveyors of something they disparagingly called 'the social gospel'. The 'social gospel' was the liberal form of Christianity that had substituted the 'old, old story' of mankind's sin and Christ's sacrificial redemption for a mixture of trendy causes, political activism and ministry to the poor. As far as they were concerned, a missionary's work , whether at home or abroad, was to preach the gospel. All that nonsense about building hospitals and schools and soup kitchens was just "the liberals watering down the faith yet again".

Such a view of Christian mission is a dangerously simplistic reaction to a perceived abuse. The Evangelical preachers had a point inasmuch as there was a stream of liberal Protestant Christianity that had ceased to be dogmatic in any sense, and had substituted a bland activism for Christian truth. However, abuse should not undo right use. To react against the "social gospel" by avoiding all political involvement and social ministry was a gross abdication of Christian responsibility.

I experienced this one-sided approach to evangelization within the conservative Evangelical churches of my youth, but it wasn't until I became a Catholic that I realized that the prejudice could go the other way too. If those interested in preaching the gospel of sin, redemption and resurrection were sometimes biased against the "social gospel", I have come to realize that there are many sincere people in the Catholic Church who are doing excellent work in the realm of "peace and justice issues" who are very biased against the proclamation of the Christian faith in all its fully dogmatic and difficulty glory.

They cringe at the idea that we should point out mankind's sinful condition. They regard a call for conversion as "triumphalistic", the see dogma as "divisive" or "ecumenically unwise". They wish for "interfaith dialogue" to such an extent that the whole idea of conversion becomes anathema.

The clash between these two views is sometimes expressed as the "kergymatic" versus the "koinonia". In laymen's terms it is dogmatic versus community-based evangelization. The first seeks to communicate the gospel through preaching and teaching. It summons people to consider the claims of Christ and it calls them to conversion in the widest sense. The second communicates the gospel through works of charity, a radiant example and a heart of love. It seeks to draw people to the attractive and overpowering love of Christ. 

If there is to be a New Evangelization then there is simply no room for a clash between these two emphases. We will all, by nature of our background and temperament, be drawn more to one than another, but this is no excuse to marginalize and exclude the other side. Both are needed if a balance is to be maintained and the New Evangelization to go forward apace.

A friend of mine who is best described as "Catholic lay evangelist" told me of his experience attending a conference on adult catechesis and evangelization. The conference was attended by diocesan leaders in the field.  My friend is definitely one of those involved in "kerygmatic" evangelization. He calls people to turn to Jesus, repent of their sins and welcome the fullness of the Holy Spirit into their lives.

He is also very involved in the Church's social witness and makes sure that the "koinonia" aspect of evangelization is a vital part of his own ministry and outreach. However, he expressed his shock that at the conference the whole emphasis was on "koinonia" to the exclusion of the "kerygmatic". In other words, the form was there, but the content was missing. The "social gospel" had become merely social.

If Evangelization is to move forward, then it is vital that the "social gospel" be rooted and enlivened by the solid dogmatic content of the faith. The social dimension is vital, but if the faith is no more than "making the world a better place" - then why bother to be a Christian at all? On the other hand, a gospel of sin, repentance, and forgiveness is empty if the social aspect is neglected. The African missionary sums it up when he says, "I cannot give them the bread of the Eucharist if I have not given them ordinary bread for supper."

The Catholic Church is strong on the "social" aspect of evangelization, but too often we have been weak in proclaiming the gospel of salvation. Happily, with increased access to the world through the new media all this is changing. The world of communications is going through a revolution of an importance that dwarfs the invention of the printing press.

Through the new media instant global communication is available to all. Through video, radio, internet, blogs, e-books and publishing on demand the world is opening up to the proclamation of the gospel as never before. What is needed now is an army of enthusiastic, well catechized, articulate and passionate missionaries--a new breed of evangelists is needed to tell the old, old story in a new way. The fields are white unto harvest! Now we need the workers to step forward.

Fr Dwight Longenecker is starting a new evangelization project called Finding Faith. Keep up to date on his website and blog to learn more as it develops:


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'

Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for October 2015
That human trafficking, the modern form of slavery, may be eradicated.
Evangelization: That with a missionary spirit the Christian communities of Asia may announce the Gospel to those who are still awaiting it.


More Living Faith

3 Biblical ways to achieve small victories in our Walk with God Watch

Image of Walk with God.


Life struggles are inevitable but to look at them more than just a bump in the road is like putting rocks in your backpack before a hike. God doesn't want that - our journey to Him is meant to shape us in a way He planned for us. Little by little, we achieve victories ... continue reading

Families 'free us from the sea of loneliness and indifference,' Pope Francis says Watch

Image of After recently concluding a series of catechesis on the family as a lead-in to this year's synod gathering, Pope Francis explained that he would start a new catechesis on the

By Elise Harris, CNA/EWTN News

Family rescues us from indifference and loneliness and teaches us the essentials of life, Pope Francis said - adding that as the family of God, the Church has the same role and must evaluate how to live this out. Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - "Like Saint ... continue reading

Respecting life the Gospel way Watch

Image of

By Tony Magliano

For the sake of our salvation, we need to pay serious attention, and act with purpose, to what Jesus teaches here in Matthew's Gospel: "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will ... continue reading

Young girl blessed by Pope Francis during visit to U.S. believes the 'miracle has begun' Watch

Image of Julia Bruzzese was blessed by Pope Francis.


12-year-old Julia Bruzzese, who has been experiencing symptoms of Lyme disease, suffered from sudden paralysis that doctors are still unable to explain. However, following a blessing from Pope Francis, the young girl seems to be healing. NEW YORK, NY (Catholic Online) ... continue reading

'God did not create us to live in sorrow or to be alone,' Pope Francis says of marriage Watch

Image of Pope Francis' comments were made during his Oct. 4 Mass marking the official opening of this year's Ordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family.

By Elise Harris, CNA/EWTN News

Pope Francis formally opened the synod of bishops Sunday, telling participants that the union between a man and woman is the foundation of God's plan for the family, and a solution to the many forms of loneliness in today's world. Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - ... continue reading

FULL TEXT: Family synod prayer vigil, Pope Francis's full address Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Presiding over a prayer vigil in St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis led the beginning of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, at the Vatican. Drawing tens of thousands of the faithful, many were present in the Square since the afternoon for a ... continue reading

Vatican issues statement in regards to monsignor's declaration of homosexuality Watch

Image of


The director of the Holy See press office has issued a statement in response to Vatican official Msgr. Krzysztof Charamsa's declaration in a recent interview that he is homosexual and has a boyfriend. Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - Msgr. Charamsa, 43, granted a ... continue reading

Guardian Angels are always by our sides, Pope Francis says Watch

Image of Pope Francis explained that when Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, God could have left them to fend for themselves. Instead, as an act of love and mercy, the Lord sent with them an angel to guide and protect them.


Each of us has a Guardian Angel who, acting on behalf of God, advises us and protects us from evil, if we only listen to him, Pope Francis said during his homily at Mass on Friday. Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - "May we ask the Lord for the grace of this ... continue reading

Top 5 Bible verses to turn to when you're angry Watch

Image of What does the Bible have to say about anger?

By Kenya Sinclair (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

What makes you angry? Maybe you don't like the way your boss talks to you at work or your spouse spends too much money. What do you do when you feel anger coming on? Who do you turn to? LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - When we get angry we can say or do things we ... continue reading

Megachurch Pastor's new book tells people to 'get over themselves' Watch

Image of Pastor Kyle Idleman (YouTube).


Megachurch Pastor Kyle Idleman claims that to live life, "everyone simply needs to get over themselves" to truly "experience abundant life with Jesus," a theory he promotes in his new book The End of Me: Where Real Life in the Upside-Down Ways of Jesus Begins. LOS ... continue reading

All Living Faith News


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Joel 4:12-21
12 'Let the nations rouse themselves and march to the ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 97:1-2, 5-6, 11-12
1 Yahweh is king! Let earth rejoice, the many isles ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 11:27-28
27 It happened that as he was speaking, a woman in ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 10th, 2015 Image

St. Francis Borgia
October 10: Francis was a young nobleman at the court of the King of Spain. ... Read More