A very interesting debate broke out recently following my article on the attacks Denver Quarterback Tim Tebow is coming under from militant liberal secularists concerning his public displays of faith. Catholic writer David L Gray wrote this piece and of course there have been many others. The debate shifted to Tim Tebow’s father who is an Evangelical leader and who takes missionary groups to Catholic countries like the Philippines so the people can “Hear the Gospel.” These kinds of statements either make Catholics laugh or get them angry. Whenever I hear these groups say that they are taking the Gospel into Catholic countries I think we should all say, “We have been preaching the Gospel since before the Canon of the Bible came to be,” or “When did your church start? Actually, we have been under the same management for 2,000 years.” The crux of the matter is how do we willingly lead people to a place we think they most certainly want to go?
I have always found that outside of a few fundamentalist crackpots, most Evangelicals respect us when we humbly but boldly tell them about Church History, Apostolic Succession, the Real Presence and other Sacraments. Why? They sincerely want to know all they can about Jesus and with the aforementioned they aren’t even getting the Readers Digest version let alone the Fullness of Truth.
In some ways Evangelicals are the low hanging fruit of the religious world. They are eager people who want to know Jesus and boy can we show them Jesus. What about the Catholic Church Abuse scandals some say; shouldn’t that prevent them from coming home to Rome? Evangelicals are familiar with scandals, in many ways they have a belief that if a scandal brews it is the work of the devil and where the devil is you know that somewhere nearby the Gospel is being preached, otherwise the devil wouldn’t be there. The devil doesn’t waste his time fighting against with fluff, because fluff never saved souls. I dare say that some Evangelicals might also take to sites such as this or even sites like Michael Brown’s Spirit Daily that delve a little into Catholic Eschatology.
Some may say what about Catholics who have fallen away? Of course it is important for our lost brothers and sisters to come home. However, many are working on that, including Catholics Come Home which is doing amazing work bringing Catholics back home. Recently in Phoenix, 92,000 fallen away Catholics registered in Phoenix parishes thanks to a concerted diocesan campaign implement by Catholics Come Home, which included commercials on television and radio.
Some may say that reconciling the split with the Orthodox Church which took place in 1056 is the most important step, after all aren’t they closest to us in ideology and practice, and hasn’t reconciliation with the Orthodox Church been the primary push by Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI? Yes the last two pontiffs have made a big push with our liturgical friends to the East. However, here are a couple of points. There are more Evangelicals in the United States alone than there are Orthodox Christians in the entire English speaking world. Time is running out to bring our Evangelical brothers and sisters home. Why? Sadly most Evangelical organized churches outside the Southern Baptists are in a statistical freefall due to being raided by non-denominational mega churches. These mega churches which are increasingly becoming entertainment oriented churches have no sound theology to which to build their foundation. We all know what Jesus said about what you need to build your foundation on. (You might want to read the following article one on what liberals have done to churches in an article entitled: If You Want Liberals To Run Governments Look At What They Have Done To Religion; Left It In Tatters & the effect of entertainment churches on society in an article entitled; Margaritaville Christianity, God’s Way or Our Way?
This leads us to one of the most underreported religious stories of the year; the Catholic Diocese of Orange, California buying Dr. Robert Schuler’s Crystal Cathedral, the nation’s first mega church which had gone bankrupt. Some folks got caught up in the argument over whether a Catholic Church could even use something that hardly looks like a traditional church. However, think of the significance of the event. Rev, Robert Schuler was such a powerful name, his words were listened to and his church started an entire movement. Yet, look where his church ended up, going back home to Rome. What a metaphor for going full circle back to the Fullness of Truth, the Catholic Church.
While working on our upcoming national cable television show Non Negotiable, Producer & Director Christian Peschken talked about this very subject. Christian implored me that I needed to make this a bigger deal than it already was going to be for my upcoming book. He felt the symbolism of this the nation’s first and once most powerful mega church being turned over to the Catholic Church could not be understated. They who built their foundation on sand have now put their foundation on the Rock of Peter.
Christian and I also spoke about the need for discipleship and this is where the rubber meets the road. He said this has particulalry struck him as he translates Father Robert Barron’s critically acclaimed Catholicism series into Christian’s native German for German television. Christian related to me that daily he is amazed at the ability of Father Barron to explain the Fullness of Truth that is the Catholic Church to those who know of, know little of it, or know nothing of the Catholic Church. Imagine if Father Barron didn’t act upon the talents for conversion and reversion that the Holy Spirit has bestowed upon him? God has given us all talents and interesting connections of which we can tell our neighbors about the Catholic Church in a way they can understand. For example who better to talk to Tim Tebow about the Catholic Church than fellow southerner and San Diego Chargers Quarterback Philip Rivers; a fellow quarterback who is quite fiery and quite knowledgeable about his faith as well. Rivers has appeared on EWTN and spoke of his love of Catholic devotions, especially praying before the Blessed Sacrament. Rivers grew up in rural Alabama where his family had to drive many miles on Sunday morning just to attend Mass. Who better to speak to Tebow than Rivers?
Sticking with this discipleship theme; think about Eastern Catholics talking to Orthodox Christians whose Mass is very similar. Keep in mind Roman Catholicism is only one rite of the seven rite Catholic Church and of the seven rites there are many groups under the umbrella of those rites such as under the Byzantine rite there are Greek Catholics, Melkite Catholics, Ukrainian Catholics etc. God ordered things that everyone can disciple and evangelize with someone with whom they share a great deal in common.
There are many folks in the Coming Home Network who came from various religious backgrounds or were at one time Catholic and had fallen away. They have a unique ability to speak to those with whom they share something in common. I will conclude with an ending to a Steve Ray talk I heard a couple of years ago. Steve Ray concluded a powerful address by recalling the day he and his wife were received into the Catholic Church. He shared a common background with some Evangelicals like Scott Hahn who proudly at one time called himself anti-Catholic. Ray like Hahn only learned about the One True Church because someone decided to defend her teachings thus causing them to assess their beliefs.
Steve Ray stated that on the day he and his wife were received into the Church his wife said she was a little sad that this hadn’t happened years before, “Why didn’t someone who we knew to be Catholic tell us about these wonderful truths?” Why indeed? We don’t have to hit people over the head with truth but we can share it in a way that puts the ball in their court. Jesus himself didn’t convince everyone about his True Nature, not because He couldn’t but because He wouldn’t since everyone has free will to decide, and with that free will comes responsibilities and consequences. However, we must do our best and then as Jesus instructed us wipe the dust from our feet if those who don’t want to hear the truth reject our message. Again it doesn’t have to be that difficult. However, we have to at least try to inform them of the truth. If some of our acquaintances know who our favorite sports teams are, know the type of movies we like to see, and the kinds of concerts we like to attend, but don’t know anything about our faith life, we like those Catholics who knew Steve Ray’s family have let them down. Something for all of us to ponder.
Dave Hartline author of The Tide is Turning Toward Catholicism