A recent television campaign has garnered a great deal of attention and has every appearance of having a significant impact on many people. I refer to the Catholics Come Home ads many of you have no doubt seen. They seem almost ubiquitous of late. This movement, or ministry, was founded by Roman Catholic Tom Petersen. Tom returned to the Catholic Church twelve years ago following a life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ at a men's retreat. Sensing God's call, Tom used his 25 years of experience in the advertising world and applied it faithfully to the task of promoting spiritual renewal among Catholics. This "apostolate" (which is what evangelicals call a parachurch ministry much like ACT 3) is dedicated to reversing the tide of lapsed Catholics, a tide that has grown into a tsunami of late. The ads use the warmest intonation and rely on technologically savvy forms of media, urging Catholics who have fallen away from their church to "come home."
My very good friend Rev. Chris Castaldo, the Pastor of Outreach at College Church in Wheaton, is the author of the very helpful book, Holy Ground: Walking with Jesus as a Former Catholic (Zondervan). I love Chris and this book. I think he addresses most of the real doctrinal differences between Catholics and Protestants in a tone and manner that we desperately need if we are to pursue what I have called missional-ecumenism. Chris is well-equipped to respond to Petersen's ad campaign and does so this week at "Speaking Out," which is Christianity Today's guest opinion column.
Whether you are a Catholic or an evangelical Protestant, like me, check it out. I think you will all find some incredibly helpful comments in this gentle and clear opinion piece.
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Just read Rev. Castaldo’s article and it was very good. It was of great interest to me because I am currently in an RCIA program at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in my area after 31 years as a Protestant. One thing is clear to me; people convert from Protestant to Catholic and vice versa all the time. Some probably don’t have the best reasons while others do.
Personally I feel I am experiencing more fullness than I ever did in my previous religious life. But I’ve been on this earth long enough to know that to equate what is working for me with what others should or shouldn’t do is a big mistake. It’s clear to me that God honors the sincere and humble heart of any who seek Him, and it is my wish to model only the simple Christian witness that Rev. Castaldo sites in his article. All of my family, wife included, remain Protestant, so I’m getting first hand and quick on the job training.
As Paul said, let each be fully convinced in his own mind. If I can do that but behave charitably toward others, I think I’ll be doing the best I can. Not that I always attain that flawlessly, but I do make the effort.
A wonderful and very helpful word Bruce. I meet more “new” Catholics, or “returned” Catholics, everyday and thankfully many are like you. The old polemical way is slowing dying in America. We have a long way to go but we are learning to embrace our faith, and our church, without being anti- or zealots who cannot love our own brothers and sisters. I honestly think Catholics generally do this better than evangelicals because they have a theological framework in which to do it better. Evangelicals are finding one, in the kerygma and the mandate to mission, but it is still being worked out.
I applaud Castaldo’s gentle tone and even treatment on both sides of the fence. Still, I am uneasy about what seems to be a fighting-for-market-share purpose behind the ads. To be honest, Protestant missions are at least equally guilty of that.
I will rejoice with you when those who are lost, find themselves suddenly embraced in the arms of God’s people, be they Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant. But I’m nervous about an eagerness that I see everywhere to fill our churches by drawing others out of one church into another.
I hope that is not the primary thrust of these ads, but it seems to be at least part of it.
Thanks for the post. Very interesting indeed. I suppose we could say that such a “new” tone in the Catholic-Protestant dialogue is befitting for the “new” ecumenism! Thanks for the post!
John, with all due respect, I fail to see the “market share” purpose in the ads. For believing Catholics like myself, it breaks our heart to see folks drifting/walking/running away from what we believe is the one, holy , catholic, and apostolic Church.
Keep up the great dialogue!
This is a very interesting post and I have enjoyed the comments as well. I have seen the ads for “Catholics Come Home”, and overall I like them. I wish they had been out several years ago. However, I understand the concern stated in the post. I don’t believe the target audience of these ads are Protestants primarily, but rather former or “fallen-away” Catholics who have joined various Protestant-Evangelical Churches; other religious groups; or those who have left the practice of any religious faith whatsoever. I believe that there are some Catholics, who for reasons known only to God, after much thoughtful prayer, study, reflection, and spiritual counsel choose to leave the Catholic Tradition and join an Evangelical or Protestant Tradition. It’s never my place to judge another person’s conscience in regard to where they ultimately choose to belong to Christ’s Body. However, as we both know, many Protestant-Evangelicals who are former Roman Catholics, like I was, have left the church for many of the wrong reasons, and often based on faulty understanding or complete ignorance about much of what the RCC truly teaches and believes. Many “cradle-Catholics” from my generation weren’t catechized well, and many of us did not discover a “personal relationship” with our Lord until we were confronted with this question by Evangelicals while sharing their faith with us. I am very grateful for the Evangelical experience I had and how much I learned from that Tradition, but I am also very happy and grateful to be “back home” in the Roman Catholic Tradition. I don’t think apostolates like “Catholics Come Home” should become a barrier to ongoing dialogue, discussion, and “Missional Ecumenism” among believing Catholics and Evangelicals; but at the same time I am of the opinion that apostolates like these are good for the Roman Catholic Church and might help both those who have left for various reasons, and those who are thinking about leaving and need help trying to find the right answers.