The following post is my notes of Chris Castaldo’s talk at an event sponsored by Acts 29, Chicago Partnership for Church Planting, and Converge Mid-America. The event was held at Edgewater Baptist Church on February 20, 2013.
Let me read to you a passage from Isaiah 55:10-11:
Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God. Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who equip yourselves with burning torches! Walk by the light of your fire, and by the torches that you have kindled! This you have from my hand: you shall lie down in torment.
I think this passage would remind us that this is precisely where God puts his servant. God puts us in the darkness. God will use you brothers to be lights for his glory.
Introduction – The Sixty Day Challenge
I was a new convert living in Florida and was at a church that had just begun a 60 day challenge. Everyone in the church was encouraged to share their faith once a day for 60 days. On day one I was so busy helping with a fundraiser that the day was almost over and was driving in the car with a Catholic Bishop. Then I realized that I had to share the gospel with this bishop or I would have begun the challenge as a failure. I was really nervous and did not know what to do. My knuckles holding the steering wheel were not turning white. So I started to share my testimony and after I was done all I heard was silence. I had thought I was really going to hear it from the Bishop, but as I looked over and heard his loud breathing I realized that I had put the Bishop to sleep.
These white knuckles are a description of how many of us feel when we share the gospel and especially with Catholics who think they are already saved. Which brings us to the topic we have come to think through together today.
How Can We Share Our Faith WIth Catholic Friends
A few assumptions that I have about this issue that would be good to say from the beginning:
1. The Gospel Is Who We Are
Our identity is wrapped up in the gospel. We believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ and that we are saved by faith in alone in Christ’s work alone.
2. Some Catholics Are Born-Again
There are Catholics out there who are trusting in Christ alone even within their Catholic dogma.
3. The Pastor Job Is To Equip
It is our job as pastors and church leaders to equip our people to not only know the doctrine of our faith, but how to share that faith with gentleness.
As Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:24-25:
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth
How Do we Equip
Imagine a Catholic couple at a Christmas dinner and the question comes up at the table. “Why don’t you go to mass anymore?”
How that conversation goes is largely dependent on whether or not we have equipped our people well to answer people with gentleness and respect.
Ok. Those are my assumptions. Now let me get into the main portion of my message and share with you three encouragements that should help us share our faith with Catholics.
1. We Need to Have Perspective
One the one hand, we could be so open minded that we lose our doctrinal distinctives. On the other hand, we could be so aggressive like a pit bull that we show no gentleness or love as we share our faith.
I used be one of those aggressive people and one time preached the gospel in open air at large funeral procession of a recent deceased Catholic Bishop. I have learned that we must learn how to be like Christ who came with both grace and truth.
We need to have conviction and resolve that is also coupled with meekness and humilty.
2. We Must Learn What Catholic People Are Like
Many books about sharing your faith only talk about the doctrines, but not about the people and the differences they have. We need to learn about the people we are talking to.
a. The Traditional Catholic
The Vatican I variety. They do not read the bible. Their priest interprets Scripture for them. A personal relationship with Jesus is utter nonsense to them. They would never visit your church because they would consider it a sin to be in a protestant church.
If you were to engage a traditional catholic then you want to talk with them about Christmas, Easter, caring for the unborn, etc… Find the things that we both have in common.
b. The Evangelical Catholic
I am not making a doctrinal statement here when I say evangelical. It is called evangelical because they share so many similar values that are similar to protestant values. They are the Vatican II variety. They are common among charismatic catholics. They care about personal devotion to Christ and the centrality of the bible.
So if you were to engage someone who is an evangelical catholic you want to study God’s word with them.
c. The Cultural Catholic
These guys are like my cousins Franky & Vinny. They are not involved in anything, but they are not involved at all in the parishes. They are more like an agnostic who gives lip service to God, but really no personal faith in God at all. It is a post-modern relativism.
So how do we engage a cultural Catholic? Well, how would I engage an agnostic? I would build a credible relationship with this person, I would love them and I would share the gospel with them. I want to try to identify felt needs and where this person is hurting. Then address the gospel to those needs. I will not be talking much about Catholicism because there is just not much there to talk about because they do not really believe in it.
Here are a few other things we need to know about many of the Catholics we are reaching:
1. Assume they know nothing about the Bible.
2. Explain Bible concepts and terminology in a way that is clear.
3. Define yourself by Christ and not by your denomination or tradition.
4. Be serious about cultural engagement.
5. Speak with the Catholic Church with courtesy.
6. Express reverence and authenticity when you pray. Find the balance between the traditional prayers they are used to hearing and the familiar language we use in everyday conversations.
A few caricatures that Catholics have about us:
1. We believe in cheap grace.
2. We are un-intellectuals.
3. We are hyper-spiritual.
3. Why Do Catholics Turn Toward The Protestant Church
The main reason that Catholics turn to our churches is because they realize the truth of grace over guilt.
This is far and away the reason I converted to the gospel of grace. I had a massive burden I was carrying and one day when I heard the gospel the burden was lifted.
When I was a young pastor I taught a class entitled “Why I Believe In Purgatory.” It was a lame attempt to be clever and provocative, but I told them that the center of the gospel is that Christ purged our sins on the cross once and for all.
Catholics do not understand when we say that “We can KNOW that we are saved.”
Let me conclude with reading a section from John Bunyan’s Pilgrims Progress from chapter 3.