In his book Christology: True God, True Man, Matthias Neuman explains to his readers how it is important in our work of evangelization that we understand our people’s (popular) images of Jesus Christ. According to Neuman, it is our task “to effectively blend Catholic doctrine with the very real images of Jesus Christ that hold sway in the people’s lives.” These popular images of Jesus Christ will “help people enter into a personal, living, and prayerful relationship with Christ.”
Thus, in our work of evangelization, we should help our people establish a conversation among (a) their image of Christ, (b) the Church’s doctrine about Christ; and (c) the historical Jesus, i.e., what we know historically about Jesus. To facilitate this pastoral conversation or dialogue, Neuman proposed these steps:
Step 1: Affirm the need for a strong image of Christ in people’s lives.
Step 2: Judge the power of the image of Christ in relation to the Church’s doctrinal teaching about Jesus Christ and scriptural investigations into the life of Jesus.
Step 3: Help people in relating their particular images of Jesus Christ to a concrete end in Christian service.
Step 4: Help people relate their images of Christ to their ways of praying.
∞ ∞ ∞
Building on Neuman’s suggestion and adapting it to our task of evangelizing through popular religiosity, let me propose this pastoral approach below.
The people’s stories and their deepest human needs are expressed in their popular religious rituals. If pastoral workers are really committed to enter into a dialogue with the people and their culture, they must begin by learning how to listen to the people’s most profound needs, their struggles and hopes as expressed or codified in their expressions of popular religiosity.
People’s little stories, their dramas in real life, are represented in their popular religious rituals.
Tell the whole story of Jesus Christ and his message of salvation to all.
God’s Big Story as revealed in the dramatic life of Christ – Jesus Christ in the scriptures and firmed up by the image of Christ as taught to us by the Church [=Evangelization, i.e., encounter with God’s saving drama in Jesus Christ]
Lead the people’s faith to find concrete and authentic expressions of Christian witness and service.
Our little stories seen within the context of God’s Big Story – must lead us towards Christian witness and service [=Liberation]
Lead the people’s faith to find ever-deepening ways of relating with God.
Our little stories seen within the context of God’s Big Story – must lead us towards a deeper way of relating with (praying to) God (Jesus Christ). [=Discipleship, Spirituality]
 Matthias Neuman, Christology: True God, True Man, Catholic Basics: A Pastoral Ministry Series, revised edition (Chicago: Loyola Press, 2009), 71-72.