This article was written by Patty Breen for Unleash the Gospel, a movement of joyful missionary disciples in the Archdiocese of Detroit. Learn more at utgdetroit.org.
When I was a new youth minister, a mentor encouraged me to read the book, “Sticky Faith: Everyday Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Your Kids,” by Dr. Kara E. Powell. Being new to “professional” lay ministry, I was hungry to absorb all I could in order to most effectively serve the young people entrusted to my care.
One of the points that has still stayed with me from that book is the idea for a young person to have a “sticky” faith — one where they stay connected, engaged, and have a personal relationship with Jesus. A “sticky” faith is nurtured by seeing the faith lived by a variety of different people: mentors, siblings, pastors, aunts or uncles, people whose faith is actually lived out and attractive to follow. A “sticky” faith needs models and examples that point a young person toward a life of discipleship in Jesus.
Ask the question
This notion poses a question we should ask ourselves from time to time, “Is my faith actually attractive to the world and people around me?”
That was over a decade ago when I read that book. While I no longer work in youth ministry, this single question is one I often think about. Is my personal faith in Jesus attractive to people around me? When people encounter me, do they experience a glimpse of the loving kindness and compassion of God? Does my faith point other people towards Jesus?
If I am completely honest, sometimes that answer is no (especially if I am chewing out the person in front of me driving for not using their turn signal!). However, there are other times where I sense I do a better job and hit the mark.
Faith should be attractive!
The necessity of a joyful, attractive faith is something our Church leaders seem to be continually reminding us about.
In Guidepost 8 of Unleash the Gospel, “Attraction,” Archbishop Vigernon says, “Effective witness to Jesus has these three attractive qualities: joy, hospitality, and generous service to the poor and marginalized.” He continues, “Unless we manifest to others the joy that is our’s from having found the ‘pearl of great price’ and from being sure of the Gospel’s invincible power, we will not attract others to listen to the good news.”
Pope Francis also called believers to leave their sour puss faces at home when he said, “An evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral!”
So what does this mean for you and I, friend?
Regardless of how long we have been walking in personal friendship with Jesus, we need to be men and women of continual conversion.
Reflect on your life
Spend some time in prayer and reflection. Write in your journal or go and sit with Jesus in Adoration and ask him for his insight and perspective on the following questions:
Is my faith actually attractive to the people around me (family, friends, co-workers, strangers, even people I don’t like)?
Are there areas of my life that give poor witness or are a bad example to my faith in Jesus? Do I say one thing but my actions speak another way?
Who is discipling me? Who are the people in my life calling me onto holiness, wanting me to become the person God created me to be?
Whom am I discipling? Am I walking with anyone on their Christian journey of faith? If not, why is that the case and what can I do about it?
What is the story God wants me to tell? Through my life and personal relationship with God, what is a story God wants to use me to bless, encourage, and love His people?
Where am I being called to grow and stretch beyond my comfort zone when it comes to my personal faith and relationship with Jesus?
We have all heard a story at one point or another where the joy of an individual’s faith so deeply radiates out of them. Something is just different about them! You see it in their eyes or the genuine warmth of their smile, or in the power of their words.
I want to be a person like that, and I imagine that you do as well.
If you and I are to become those people — people where others look and see that there’s something different and attractive about the way we live — we need to be living a faith that is beautiful yet humble, truthful, yet merciful, and gentle yet strong.
Fire of the Holy Spirit, inflame our hearts with love for your children. Give us a “sticky faith,” an attractive witness that will capture the hearts in a hurting, lonely world. May we never lose sight of loving your people, however, they come to us. Amen.