In Light of the New Catholic Pope

pope_francis

I belong to the third largest denomination in America – former Roman Catholics.  We RCs are hard nuts to crack.  Ask anyone planting in any northeastern city.  Surely the next largest denomination is composed of “inactive” RCs.  These are folks who still identify themselves as Catholic but never or rarely attend.  My wife and I were both educated in Parochial schools – Toni in Philadelphia and I in New York.  As a young kid in Brooklyn I didn’t know anyone who was not either Catholic or Jewish.

By age 15 or so I dropped out of going to Mass except for special holidays.  I left home at 17 to enter the U.S. Navy and never returned to the church of my family.  Upon my discharge from the Navy at 21 – now married with two children – some neighbors invited us to visit their church.  We had moved to California and the watchful eyes of family and friends were not around to inhibit us from accepting the invitation.  The people who led us to Christ did a textbook job.

Some observations:

  1. They NEVER condemned Catholicism.
  2. They patiently answered our endless questions.
  3. Every conversation was somehow redirected to our need for a personal relationship with Jesus.
  4. They related everything they said to how that was reinforced in the Scripture.
  5. They never mentioned: praying to the Saints, worshipping Mary, the infallibility of the Pope, the relationship of Peter to successive church leadership, the Apocrypha, or anything else that would needlessly divide us from them.
  6. They loved us unconditionally.  (I’m sure that was hard)
  7. During our investigation period Toni’s father unexpectedly died and one family cared for our 2 and 3 year old kids for over a week so I could go to work while Toni flew to PA to be with her family.
  8. They let me play on the church baseball team.
  9. They visited us in our home every other Monday night for two years!
  10. They invited us to be part of a home Bible study with three other couples.
  11. They never embarrassed us.
  12. They waited.

We attended for 24 months before receiving Christ. We had a lot of stuff to un-learn.  Today, as the RC church reels from scandal at many levels be reminded that there are elect among them.  It’s our high privilege to search them out and introduce them to the Lord of Glory – whom they know only by name.

My heart is heavy having watched tens of thousands waiting for the puff of white smoke from the stack on the Sistine Chapel.  “For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh,” (Romans 9:3)

I grew up with a Bible on the coffee table in our living room.  It was as pristine on the day I left as it was when I was born.  Never opened.  There are 70 million American Catholics.  If 99.9% of them remain lost that means that there might be 70 thousand who will respond if challenged.  Surely this is a reasonable expectation.  I urge you then to support church planting in our North Eastern cities and other places where there are Catholic strongholds.  If you want help, contact me.  For I was blind but now I see.