Sharing Our Faith With Catholics

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.

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13 Comments

Filed under Chicago, Church Planting, Evangelism, Pastoral Ministry, Sermons

13 responses to “Sharing Our Faith With Catholics

  1. SR

    I love the way you “lump” us all together here. Catholics are also indvidual people. We know about the Bible. I never heard one Catholic say that we believe you believe, “Grace is cheap.” “You are un-intellectuals.” “You are hyper-spiritual.” Never once have I heard that come out of a Catholic’s mouth, and I know lots of them because I am one. I am not saying it has never been said, but to lump this statement for “all” Catholics is wrong.

    We do not believe we are “already saved.” We work out our salvation with fear and trembling as Paul told us to do.

    I see no meekness and humility here sir. Only pride, that you think you know everything about us, and you do not. God Bless, SR

  2. SR

    Reblogged this on Being Faithful to Grace and commented:
    You know this post here truly has bothered me today. I cannot believe “Christians” say such things then call me a “friend.” I am so thankful I am Catholic. Does an agenda such as this truly have a place in Christianity? I am thankful I have the teaching of “the best witness we are for the love of Christ is when we do not say a word.” Read it and make up your own minds. God Bless, SR

    • SR – I think you are being a little harsh. I am also Catholic and while the post has some misconceptions on who Catholics really are, I believe we as Catholics have some misconceptions of who our brothers and sisters of other Christian denominations really are. The truth is we are all CHRISTIANS. What we should be doing is working TOGETHER to spread the Gospel of Jesus. And we believe in the same Jesus, the same God, and the same Holy Spirit. Let’s focus on loving each other and loving those who do not know Christ by sharing His love, and His compassion.

      • SR

        Hey Mithriluna,

        I have no misconceptions of who our “brothers and sisters of other Christian denominations are, as I was a Protestant for 48 years. Now in that statement I am not saying they are “wrong” or all of them “think this way.”

        This post hurt me and placed me on the defense regarding the Church and our beliefs. I could not imagine anyone thinking they know how often I read my Bible, that I know nothing of the Bible, and thinking they know about my salvation, just because of the Church I go to.

        If you think I was harsh I am sorry. St. Peter told us, “to be ready to defend.” Sometimes “defense” is harsh. I handled it in the best way I knew how. God Bless, SR

  3. Phill – I am disappointed that Christians like yourself feel the need to “evangelize” Catholics. For the record, people who call themselves Catholic and do not practice their faith should not be called Catholics.
    Before you preach about sharing your faith with Catholics, you need to educate yourself on what Catholics believe and even how Vatican I and II influenced the church. The Catholic faith is so rich and beautiful. Maybe you will, in some way, experience that rich beauty as you encounter Christ in the Catholic church (yes we believe in Jesus!) and then you can share with Catholics the beautiful richness of your own faith (which I am sure is very vibrant and inspiring). The one encounter with a Catholic Bishop should not cause you to think that all Catholics are like that, plus as a Christian, maybe you should give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he was exhausted from a very busy day (bishops are extremely busy). Maybe he was sick, who knows?
    What I am really trying to say is this. What I encourage between ALL Christians is a lot more dialogue than monologue. Monologues often are boring. Dialogues are much more interesting and when you include the Holy Spirit, it becomes a “trialogue” which becomes transcendent.
    If all Christians could work together, think of how we could transform the world!

    • meejay

      I agree with you mithriluna about all that you have said about this post. I am also a Catholic and I have a lot of Protestant acquaintances. It is good that I am part of an ecumenical healing program that it is not an issue to belong to another denomination. I think Christ would want us all to be one and that has always been the prayer of the Church. Each time we come before God as one in worship–Baptists, Evangelicals, Methodists, Anglicans, Pentecostals, Catholics, etc.– I believe God smiles.

      • Certainly, all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are one. Certainly, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. No responsible Roman Catholic, Evangelical, or Orthodox theologian would deny that fundamental reality. But this begs the most important question that most people don’t really want to talk about:

        What does it mean to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior?

      • meejay

        as they say, going to church does nto make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car! 🙂

    • We should evangelize (“share the good news”) anyone who does not believe in the good news. If you believe in the gospel and are a Catholic, then I would not evangelize you. If you do not believe the gospel and you would consider yourself a baptist, presbyterian, methodist, lutheran, etc… then I would evangelize you.

      So those are the people I feel the need to evangelize and I figure that out by having people tell me what they understand the gospel truly is. What is the good news? If they know it, great! If they don’t, then they need evangelized.

      What do you think the bible teaches about the gospel?

  4. Lyn

    Hey Phil…have you ever read any of Pope Benedict’s writings? I would encourage you to put aside your preconceived misconceptions and check out what the Church teaches from the source itself. Grace and Peace to you. A Bible reading, Jesus loving, former Protestant Daughter of the King.

    • I have read how Pope Benedict has clarified that the Roman Catholic Church has consistently taught that protestant churches are not true churches. Thus, only the Roman Catholic Church is the one true church, right?

      http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20070629_responsa-quaestiones_en.html

      QUESTION:

      Why do the texts of the (Vatican II) Council and those of the Magisterium since the Council not use the title of “Church” with regard to those Christian Communities born out of the Reformation of the sixteenth century?

      RESPONSE

      According to Catholic doctrine, these Communities do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Church. These ecclesial Communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called “Churches” in the proper sense.

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