A couple years ago I noticed there was a large “mega”-evangelical church not far from my home in Parker Colorado. Knowing that many of these types of churches included fallen away Catholics I wanted to see what they had to offer. Certainly not to join them and leave the one true Church, but to gain a perspective in potential future conversations. While reviewing their website I noticed they were offering a class titled “Just for Confirmed Catholics”. First, I was annoyed as this was an obvious attempt to draw in Catholics. But, then I said to myself, I am a “confirmed Catholic”. So, I took this as an opportunity to meet Catholics who likely were leaving the Church and try to intervene, although of course charitably. So, I enlisted my friend Bob F. (also a “confirmed Catholic” and we signed up for the six week course.
I thought I would write a series reflecting my experiences at this large Evangelical church. So, this is the first in this series of which I hope to write 5 or 6 articles over the next few months.
At no time did I want to reveal my true intentions, which was to help these fallen away Catholics see errors in their thinking and of why they left the Church. I had this from St. Paul in mind when he wrote:
19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews; to those under the law I became as one under the law—though not being myself under the law—that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law—not being without law toward God but under the law of Christ—that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).
I want to stress that I went not to engage in debates or arguments. I believe I was successful in achieving that. My approach was to simply raise questions about what was taught. This would open up discussions, in which I hoped to advance authentic Catholic teaching to refute the errors taught in the class.
It was a cordial atmosphere. To his credit the facilitator did not allow the classes to devolve into Catholic bashing. But, at the same time the intent clearly was to lead these “confirmed” Catholics out of the Church. In the first class there were between 25-30 people in the class. At the end of six weeks there were eight, with myself and Bob F. included in the eight. Included also in this number was Dan B. who eventually returned to the Catholic Church.
So with that background in mind I will provide snippets of what was being taught. This was from the first week (I kept notes). Each individual in the class was provided with a booklet which were the topics to be discussed during the six weeks. From that first class we were asked to read pages from the booklet to prepare for the second week. It included this:
What do the Catholic practices of the confessional, penance, and careful protection of the Communion elements seem to teach about the approachability of God (compare Hebrews 4:16)?
This was my written answer which I used to be part of the conversation. Hebrews 4:16 says:
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
As it has been a few years since I attended these classes, I cannot recall what the facilitator had to say about this. But, it would have been to suggest that our “Catholic practices” were somehow unnecessary, because God is always approachable. And that we as Catholics do not recognize this. In any case this is what I wrote at the time.
- Confessional and penance: This sacrament allows us to “approach” God free of sin. Scripture tells us that:
- “Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life”. (Rev 21:27)
- Therefore, the confessional and penance allow us to “approach” Him clean and pure and so we can enter into Heaven that way.
- Communion Elements: Jesus tells us:
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:51)
53 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. (John 6:53-55)
- By protecting the Communion elements Catholics are reverencing Jesus, since he says that these elements are his actual body and blood. By following Jesus’ words to eat and drink Him make Him “approachable” because Catholics believe it is him and we receive him each time in the Mass. To add emphasis, he is so approachable that he allows us to receive Him into our bodies.
In any case I wanted to provide a brief background of these classes and provide this church’s apparent objection to Catholic practices, and to provide a short Catholic response.