The bishops who wrote Go and Make Disciples in the early 90’s acknowledged concerns about the term. Maybe they should have come up with the moniker “new evangelization” all those years ago. It sure seems to have caught on more broadly in this century. Many concerns seem to have vanished when the adjective “new” is applied to a term that conjures, for some, associations with Protestants.
Those of short memory might consider the fuss generated when “new” is applied to the church, though. But “evangelization,” let’s be mindful, is a term of the Lord himself. “Church” is not. Give them credit: the last generation of bishops were willing to dive in with the e-word, no adjective:
Still, we use the word “evangelization” because its root meaning is “Gospel” (Good News) and because it calls us, even if it is uncomfortable, to live the faith of our baptism more openly and to share it more freely.
The bishops cite Evangelii Nuntiandi 24 when they elaborate a bit more:
We want to make it clear that evangelization means something special for us as Catholics. We can see what it means by looking at what happens to evangelized people. Not only are they related to Jesus by accepting his Gospel and receiving his Spirit; even more, their lives are changed by becoming disciples, that is, participants in the Church, celebrating God’s love in worship and serving others as Jesus did. (GMD 25)
Top loyal Catholics embrace the term today and even put it on the front of a book. I don’t think our reticence about “evangelization” is well-placed. It is not a Protestant word. It is a Christian term. And more than a mere theological term, a way of life. In this way of life, we become disciples. No longer believers only.