What the Evangelical Catholic Can Learn from Protestants

[ 55 ] January 22, AD 2014 |

The word “evangelical” is familiar to most Protestants, but it is an idea that more Catholics ought to be acquainted with as well. The title of George Weigel’s book Evangelical Catholicism communicates the intersection of these two seemingly disparate concepts immediately. The reality with too many with Catholics is a more privatized faith – Catholics, even if they attend regular Mass, leave their faith at the door. What we need is a missionary faith – exactly what the New Evangelization is calling for among Catholics.

The fact is, Catholics would be wise to accept and put to use some of the evangelical tactics of the Protestants. Although Protestants lack the fullness of the faith we have as Catholics, they are miles ahead of us in the evangelical zeal with which they share their Christian faith. To this tune, I offer two ways Catholics can become more missionary oriented and evangelical both with their faith and their lives.

Reading the Bible Regularly

We should not look at the Bible only through the lens that is offered at Mass as dissected parts in the Missal. We have a real need to take the entirely of scripture from the Missal into our households. One only needs to read Psalm 119 once to figure out that our lives are dark and empty without the light of scripture. Do I need to make a case for the usefulness of scripture? I don’t think so. But here are three ideas to put into practice right away:

1.  Read just one chapter a day from your Bible. Do not start with Genesis as that could be a recipe for disaster or disinterest. Along with this, follow your Catechism by chapter and verse. You will then be immersing yourself in Holy Writ as well as the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. That ought to deflect the tendency to come to personal interpretations which our first Pope speaks about at 2 Peter 1:20, “Know this first of all, that there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation.”
NOTE: This is not the solution for everyone. Like I mentioned up front, “just reading” any part of the Bible has a frequent effect of making people confused, leading to disinterest. I suggest the The Great Adventure Bible Timeline series by Jeff Cavins. Many people have come to love and understand the storyline of scripture through the great work of this Catholic revert.

2.  Begin memorizing special verses or even whole passages. Nothing will prepare you to fight against darkness like memorizing Ephesians 6 and meditating on spiritual armor, or coping with temptation like 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.” When you memorize a verse, which is God’s Word, your embed God in your heart and in your mind .

3.  Discuss scripture regularly with your friends. So long as you are on your guard with #1, you will not be in danger of personal interpretation, but it is useful to apply and discover scripture in a meaningful way in your life. You will pray better, you will live better, and your faith will be increased the more familiar you become with scripture.

I was slammed hard for this in online forums, but I will hold firm: Catholics need to become more accustomed to reading scripture in private. No, I do not mean to say that Catholics should generate private interpretations. One can read the Bible and gain spiritual nourishment without discerning a heretical interpretation.

Develop Your Testimony

The most important part of being an evangelical Catholic is being able to tell others what God has done in your life. More important than apologetics, more important than memorizing the entire Catechism, is your ability to impart personal testimony on another person. Why? Nobody cares what you know until they know that you care.

Being able to talk to others about Christ is vital because it utilizes the factor that exists inside all of us: empathy. Inside all of us is the power to learn from others who have similar struggles, victories, and pain. When you share your story about your miscarriage or your addiction to pornography, you connect with others in a way that nothing else on earth can. Your testimony helps others to identify with you and in turn causes them to listen to what you have to say. It’s no form of trickery nor clever whim; rather it is a universal means of capturing another’s interest and attention. The goal is for you to then tell them how God intervened in your life, whatever that might be.

This is a quick look at a book I am in the process of writing. Would you like to read and learn more?

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Category: Life, Vocations

About the Author ()

Shaun McAfee is a veteran of the Air Force and current civilian in the Army Corps of Engineers as a Contract Specialist. He blogs at ShaunMcAfee.com. Currently he is pursuing a Masters in Dogmatic Theology with Holy Apostles College and Seminary where he also serves as the Social Media Director. He also works for Patrick Madrid's Envoy Institute as the Social Media Administrator. A convert to Catholicism, he loves learning, explaining, sharing, and defending the faith. He is married and has two boys named Gabriel and Tristan. They live in Omaha, NE.
  • http://twitter.com/crucifixwearer Matthew Olson

    I’d read it!

  • Ana

    Nothing pushed me closer to my Catholic faith than good christian (read protestant) blogs! Actually all the credit goes to those family blogs I started reading back in 2008, not looking for faith or anything like that, but about some board games. I still remember with a loving heart those firsts blogs, some were about homeschooling and others were just family blogs, all of them were not shy to express their faith in Christ. The first memory verses I learned were Proverbs 3:5-6, John 3:16, 1 Cor 10:31, all because they were at the banner of the blogs. I started to reading the Bible so much and studying almost daily. Studying and memorizing scriptures it’s pretty much a daily habit for me.
    As a Catholic, I started to learn about what they believe and comparing it with what we believe, I learned about apologetics, I challenged everything our Catechism says, I put under scrutiny everything. My faith grew and my love for our church also grew. They did for me what no other catholic did before.

  • http://www.radice.org.uk/ John Radice

    Each in its different way has developed a privatized faith. Yes, Catholics (especially in Protestant majority countries like the UK) do not reach out enough to share the good news; but Evangelicals tend to confine the gospel to its effect upon the individual alone, and have nothing else to say about its cultural and social force

    • Ana

      Hello John, I believe your comment about Catholics not reaching out to share the good news applies also to countries were the majority is catholic, believe me, I live in a catholic country. I think we all need to work in that.
      As for the second part of your comment, I don’t understand what you mean, could you please elaborate more? I kind of grasped what you want to say, but because English is not my first language I don’t know if I’m sure I understood your point.

      • http://www.radice.org.uk/ John Radice

        I’m still trying to clarify a gut feeling on this. For instance, Evangelicals express great moral concern on issues like sexual behaviour, but don’t have much to say about how the rich oppress the poor. Everyone’s quite taken aback at how ready the Holy Father is to tackle these big social evils – he’s so refreshing and so true to the prophets in the Holy Scriptures. Do you agree?

      • Ana

        Oh yes, I completely agree with you =D. But I think Catholics are also sometimes more concerned with sexual behavior than with helping the poor. Why we need Pope Francis to tell the world about what we believe regarding the poor? Our actions as Catholics need to let that be clear.

  • johnnysc

    Jesus and His Church, the Catholic Church, are One and the Same. Many protestants will profess to love Jesus yet deny that a church or even religion is needed. One only need to look at protestant denominations that hold to women ordination, acceptance of homosexual marriage and even abortion as a result of that (never mind falling into the error of mis-interpreting His Word). That is what happens when you separate Jesus from His Church. To be sure the teachings of the Catholic Church are the teachings of Jesus and should be a part of any evangelizing and a Catechism of the Catholic Church should never be far out of hand when reading or studying a Catholic Bible.

  • Christian LeBlanc

    Catholics must claim ownership of the Bible. It’s not easy to do, but well worth the effort.

    • OneTimothyThreeFifteen

      You’re so right, Christian!
      So often ‘ecumenical’ endeavours are apologetic in the wrong sense. We don’t have to apologise for being Catholic.

      In fact, I refuse to play scriptural ping-pong with them. I explain to them that Catholics have a very high view of scripture and to play proof-text shootout is a sacrilege of the sacredness of scripture, and ask them don’t that believe it’s Gods’s word and not just some textbook? :)

      • Christian LeBlanc

        The Church has the biggest, most comprehensive grasp of Scripture. I too avoid verse slinging and instead aim for big-picture discussions using the whole of the Bible at once as much as possible.

  • aseret6435

    I have been so enriched by excellent group bible studies, where the focus is actually bible study and not just mingling. Drs. Michael Barber, Brant Pitre, and Scott Hahn’s bible studies are terrific. It enlivens your faith, and leaves you hungering for more. Way to go!

  • rbirds

    I wonder what kind of picture a target of evangelization would get of the Catholic Church, presuming one talks about something other than their miscarriage or their addiction to pornography. In my time as a Catholic I have found that other American Catholics hold wildly divergent attitudes of what Catholic doctrine might be.

    One poll a few years back found that one in three respondents identifying themselves as Christian believed Jesus sinned while on earth. Look at polls of American Catholics on their attitudes about same-sex marriage, abortion and other issues important to Catholics. Its hard to find much uniformity. That absence of uniformity would be reflected in the evangelizing message.

  • Randall Ward

    If you could take the best of the Catholic Church and take the best of the Protestant church and combine them, you would have a much better church. The hate that each church has for the other is not according to the word of God. Jesus taught us that if you are not against me then you are for me. And he taught us to not speak ill of the people under the judgement of God; that is not our job.
    Catholics should not be afraid to read the bible and talk with anyone about the bible. As a former protestant and now becoming Catholic man; I spent years studying the Catholic Church before ever entering one. Before that I spent years studying the bible as a protestant. I satisfied myself that the Catholic Church teachings are based on the bible. There is nothing to fear about what the bible says.
    Bible study; first you began to read and understand nothing. Next you began to understand pieces. Through constant reading and study you began to understand the message; the message is the important part, not the words. What is God telling me? The Holy Spirit will open your spirit and mind so you may understand the bible.(as the bible tells us He will).
    Many teachings of the church are in addition to what is in the bible and that is as it should be. The bible itself reveals this truth. The deeper understanding of God never ends and it certainly was not frozen at the end of the bible.

    • http://www.radice.org.uk/ John Radice

      What a lucid, faithful comment. Thank you, Randall. I share your gratitude for my own years (40) of Protestant / Pentecostal belief prior to coming home, for it built me up in areas which I see are weaker among Catholics, such as knowledge of the Holy Scriptures.

      You have set me thinking back about my early years of faith (I was converted and baptised at 21). Perhaps because I grew up in a bookish family, I immediately found the Scriptures to be readable and fascinating. Nevertheless, I owe so much to spending time with maturer believers in whom the Scriptures were deeply rooted. As in all areas of faith, one mainly ‘catches’ it from others. God always nurtures His children in a way which strengthens the sinews which join us together in love in the Body of His dear Son.

      • Randall Ward

        Thank you John

    • johnnysc

      I’m not sure I can agree with the statement about combining the best of each. If the Catholic Church, which was founded by Christ, has the fullness of Truth it should need for nothing, no? Also….since Jesus did establish the Catholic Church and since protestants
      left that Church wouldn’t that indicate that they are indeed against the
      Church? We must be careful not to compromise Truth in the name of ecumenism.

      • http://www.radice.org.uk/ John Radice

        Baptized believers in the separated churches are Christians – the Catechism makes that quite clear – and are ordered to the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church even if not in full communion. As such, they receive graces from God which I can appreciate, honour and seek to gain myself. Yes, our Church possesses the fullness of truth, but Catholics fall short and should be humble towards receiving any good thing from our neighbour. Until recently I wasn’t a Catholic: I’m daily receiving so much which God formed in me over those 40 years, as well as new treasures now!

      • Randall Ward

        I wasn’t thinking of actually combining the churches, but learning from each other. I actually think everyone should be Catholic.
        Remember that the Jews were once like the Catholic Church, before the Catholic Church began on earth. But the Jews lost the relationship with God as they once had because of their having a form of religion but not the truth of God. The same thing can happen to the Catholic Church. For that matter, how do you know the same thing hasen’t already happened to the Catholic Church? Is the Catholic Church the new Jew? There are an awful lot of protestants on the earth; too many to not have had the Holy Spirit help them. Like it says in the Bible; if God is with Him you can not stop Him and if God is not with Him he will fail. How do you know that the protestants are not the new “chosen” people?
        We don’t know, and that is the reason we should be as John R. says below, humble. We don’t know how God works, as the bible tells us; so be humble and listen to what your brothers say and listen to the Holy Spirit in your heart and in the bible.

      • johnnysc

        So you think everyone should be Catholic but you suggest that the
        Catholic Church may not be the One True Church? Not following that
        logic. But I know exactly where the One True Church is, I know that the
        Catholic Faith consists of the fullness of Faith and I know Jesus wants
        all to be in that Church. I know because Jesus told me Mt 16:17-19. If
        you are having trouble with this I suggest when you read your Catholic
        Bible have the Catechism of the Catholic Church close at hand. Being
        humble does not mean shying away from the Truth. Indeed we are called to
        defend the Faith and proclaim the Truth.

      • Randall Ward

        There are 22 or 23 different Catholic Churches, recognized by the Latin Church. Which one is the true church? Or are they all the true Church? During the times that the Catholic Church split in two in the past; which one was the true church? The true Church is the one that follows Jesus and his teaching.
        One of the teachings of Jesus is to always be ready to give a good account of the gospel if needed and to make disciples of all nations. Many Catholics are ashamed of being Catholics and most Catholics do not reach out to the unbelievers. I have asked people if they are christians and they answered; “well we are Catholics”, with the meaning that they were not good christians.
        It is the people that have become Catholic later in life, after learning the bible that see what the Catholic Church could be. The catholic lay people are sleep walking for the most part, they are not on fire for the Lord. They have their society they live in and they view outsiders as, well, outsiders, beyond the pale.
        I am not saying there are some in the church that are on fire, just that there are few.
        It is different in most bible churches, they reach out and seek unbelievers to bring them in to the church.

      • johnnysc

        The One True Church is the one that follows ALL of Jesus’s teaching. One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church.

        I am happy you are on a journey into the Church that Jesus founded, the Catholic Church but it is not very good for you to be on that journey with an attitude that only ex-protestants know what the Church could be. Talk about being humble. And as for the Bible…..the only reason you know what books were inspired is because of the Catholic Church.

      • hat

        Well go door to door like the Jehovas Witness. LOL.

      • hat

        Faith and truth have nothing to do with each other.

      • http://www.radice.org.uk/ John Radice

        Mmmm… I’m not with you on your comments about the Jews. You can’t sum up in that way the diverse and dynamic religious culture of the Jews at that time, or indeed afterwards and since. God did not come to us because the Jews had failed or lost their way, particularly. He chose precisely to come to them first, a great honour actually. What is true to say is that for the most part, they failed to recognise “the time of God’s coming”. In small ways, we easily make the same mistake.

        You are right to pose searching questions about the purposes God is working out through allowing and blessing separated churches. That would never affect my assurance that the Catholic Church is the Church, and God is not about to replace Her!

      • Randall Ward

        Right, Paul does say the Jews are not lost forever, but who is the Jew today; believers in Jesus or the people that are mostly atheists that call themselves Jews? The bible clearly says that the only thing that matters is belief in Jesus, those are the true Jews (Jesus).
        I am not one that believes that the OT is about the Jews, any more than the NT is about the Romans; they are both about Gods dealing with mankind. We would think it strange if the descendants of the Romans claimed to be the chosen people of the NT. We know that all people are chosen now.

      • http://www.radice.org.uk/ John Radice

        Oh Randall, there is more to understand. Read Romans 9 – 11, especially 11:25 – 32.

        (And it sounds dishonouring to my ears to dismiss Jews as ‘mostly atheists’)

      • Randall Ward

        Sorry but many studies have been done on the beliefs of Jews and about 10% are believers on most of the studies. Just google it. Most of the studies were done by Jews.

      • http://www.radice.org.uk/ John Radice

        Not sure you gave yourself time to re-read and take in Romans 11:25 – 32 before you posted!

      • Randall Ward

        I have read it lots of times. But who is Israel and who is the Jew? Paul refers to the OT and the quote is about Israel. But who is Israel? Paul also thought Jesus would return quickly, but he was wrong. Not everything Paul writes in his letters is from God, he puts himself in his writing and he plainly says so in some places.
        It took a long time for me to see the OT as it is, instead of the way I had been taught. To me the self identified Jews of today are just unbelievers like anyone else and have no special place. God says over and over that he will judge people by what they do on this earth. John the baptist said God could turn stones in to sons of Abraham and do not think being a son of Abraham will get you to heaven. Repent, for the kingdome of heaven is here.

      • hat

        Yes but the problem is no one has ever been turned into stone.

      • http://www.radice.org.uk/ John Radice

        Early on I once thought the same; and I remember how wonderfully God changed my heart, almost overnight, and gave me His own tender love for His first Covenant people – from whom His gifts and promises will never be taken back, as Scripture states.

        It is precious what God shows us “in our inner room”; but fortunately too we have the deposit of truth revealed to the Church, and Catholics are called to submit to the Magisterium. The CCC at 839-840 states:

        839 “Those who have not yet received the Gospel are related to the People of God in various ways.” The relationship of the Church with the Jewish People. When she delves into her own mystery, the Church, the People of God in the New Covenant, discovers her link with the Jewish People, “the first to hear the Word of God.” The Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God’s revelation in the Old Covenant. To the Jews “belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ”, “for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.”

        840 And when one considers the future, God’s People of the Old Covenant and the new People of God tend towards similar goals: expectation of the coming (or the return) of the Messiah. But one awaits the return of the Messiah who died and rose from the dead and is recognized as Lord and Son of God; the other awaits the coming of a Messiah, whose features remain hidden till the end of time; and the latter waiting is accompanied by the drama of not knowing or of misunderstanding Christ Jesus.

      • Randall Ward

        I do not take the same view because I am going to believe what Jesus teaches in the bible; which is everyone is on a level playing field now and really always were. The modern Jew is just like everyone else on earth, to obtain eternal life you must believe in Jesus, there is no other way. The republicans at the country club and the Jews at the golf course are all in the same boat.

      • http://www.radice.org.uk/ John Radice

        Dear Randall; if you cannot accept yet the authority of the Magisterium, it’s not really the right time to become a Catholic. That’s OK: be true to who and where you are for now. I can see you are still quite deeply Protestant in your outlook. Goodbye and God bless you.

      • Claire A

        what you are saying is not in the Catholic spirit at all. I charge you to take exactly what you have written in response to randall and present it to your parish priest or bishop. You think the magisterium is going to bring you salvation?

      • johnnysc
      • http://www.radice.org.uk/ John Radice

        Yes, they are – thank you! In a nutshell:

        “Meanwhile, Israel remains dear to God (cf. Rom 9:13), still the object of special providence, the mystery of which will one day be revealed.”

      • Claire A

        Amen to that

    • Shaun McAfee

      Awesome comment, thanks for sharing Randall.

  • Justas399 .

    The danger for a RC reading the Bible regularly will create major problems when he compares what the Scripture says with what the doctrines of his church say.

    • hat

      Yep.

    • Shaun McAfee

      Point taken, but I’m not sure how you can say that when the scriptures were born from the Body; the Body was not born from the scriptures. In other words, people were Chistian first, practicing what they knew from Jesus and when then wrote the scriptures, not the other way around.

      • Justas399 .

        The reason I say this is that the RCC has added so much in their doctrines that goes far beyond what Jesus and His apostles taught.

      • Shaun McAfee

        I’m not trying to be a smart alec here, but, how would you know?

      • Justas399 .

        Just look at what the RCC says in its doctrines about Mary, the papacy, indulgences or purgatory.

      • Shaun McAfee

        Okay with an answer like that we aren’t getting anywhere. Give me something concrete and provide and example and sources to show me how the RCC has “added so much”.

      • Justas399 .

        Just look at the claim that Mary was without sin. The gospels don’t mention how she was conceived nor does she or anyone claim she was without sin.

      • Shaun McAfee

        First, Why are you looking to the Bible in the first place? Don’t you know the scriptures are tradition? How do you even know what books belong there without a Church authority to tell you so? Answer me that. What you are doing is being your own personal interpreter to scriptures you were given.

        Please understand that the Church gave us the scriptures, and discerned which ones were inspired. Therefore, the Church, which is the body of Jesus himself has power and authority to interpret scripture. As an added bonus, you should also consider that the scriptures were written decades after all had happened. Christianity was not born with scripture in hand and those early Christians have other documents that agree with what I am telling you. In fact, you will not find you position anywhere in the early Church. Please consider that my friend.

        Your right about the Gospels not explicitly lining out that the Virgin was conceived without sin. However, you deny yourself the opposite charge, that she was conceived with sin, which the Gospels do not say either. It is unfair for you to make a requisite of one doctrine without it being in in the Bible, and charge another doctrine as false because it is not explicit either.

      • Justas399 .

        I’ve read a number of books on how the canon came to be. There were a number of “tests” used by the early church to determine what was Scripture and what was not. For example, was the book written by an apostle or one closely associated with one?

        Anyone who reads and studies the Scripture has to interpret them. This is also true of secular works.

        Actually it was Christ Who gave the church the Scripture since He is the ultimate author.

        The church has always had Scripture. The had the OT which was not determined by a church. The early church had the OT and the teachings of the apostles which eventually were written down.

        Its not even implicit in Scripture that Mary was without sin. She acknowledges her Savior in Luke 1:47 and she sinned when she accused Jesus of being insensitive in Luke 2:48.

      • Shaun McAfee

        I hope you’re not done in your search for the truth. No offense either. I pray one day you look at the Catholic Church in a different light. I wonder if you look at these things with an open mind and the possibility of conversion should you find some truth, rather than confirmation bias, but I cannot know your thoughts or motives.

        If you would like to keep the conversaion going, go ahead and contact me. You can find me at the website listed in my author profile above, and then click the “Contact” tab. I’d really be happy to continue with you but this isnt the forum to go back and forth in. I hope to hear from you and promise to be as cordial and respectful as possible.

      • hat

        Its highly perplexing to watch two people argue over whose imaginary friend is better.

      • Justas399 .

        Who is your imaginary friend?

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  • johnnysc

    If some of the comments from protestants here are examples of what I can learn from protestantism…..no thanks. Very timely from Pope Francis…..

    http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Pope-says-its-%E2%80%9Cabsurd-to-love-Christ-without-the-Church,-to-listen-to-Christ-but-not-the-Church,-to-be-with-Christ-at-the-margins-of-the-Church-30177.html

    Jesus Christ and His Church, the Catholic Church are One and the Same.

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