Tag Archives: Reversion

Witnessing To Friends And Family

An interesting point was made at the deacon meeting I attended last week.  The question was raised as to whether or not a newly ordained deacon should continue to attend his home parish or move to the parish where he was assigned as a deacon.  It was noted that, although some deacons continue to attend their original parish, it can be advantageous to move entirely to the parish of their assignment and develop new relationships there.

Some men have been at their parishes for a long time and people know them quite well.  In some cases, this dynamic may actually hamper their ministry as a deacon.  Since people know them so well, they may have difficulty taking them seriously as an ordained minister.  This is similar to the phenomenon Jesus referred to when he said that a prophet is not accepted in his own town.  People are often more accepting of a minister when they know him only as a minister and not as “that guy we grew up with.”  Jesus encountered this reaction when people who knew him said, “Who does he think he is?  Isn’t he that carpenter?”

The same principle may apply to anyone who tries to witness to friends and family members about spiritual matters.  It can be hard for friends and family to look past the person they know so well and receive the message being delivered.  On the other hand, the opposite may be true.  When a person’s life has turned around for the better, friends and family members may be the most amazed and impressed at the difference.  Or, like the Prodigal Son’s older brother, they may resent the spiritual awakening of a family member.  Only God knows the hearts of people.

Some people readily accept input from family members while others bristle at the thought of a family member offering any advice at all.  Parents of adolescents often experience the frustrating sentiment that “if Mom or Dad says it, it must be wrong.”  Adult children of aging parents frequently find themselves at a loss when Mom or Dad “won’t take any of my advice or even entertain any of my suggestions.”  The aging parent may be thinking, “You are still my child, so who are you to tell me what to do?”  Longstanding sibling rivalries may cause brothers and sisters to regard each other with skepticism.  Family dynamics such as these affect more than just communication about spiritual matters.

So, when we have friends or family members that we wish were more open to the message of Jesus Christ and his Church, we must not be discouraged when our witness has no apparent positive effect on them.  First, we do not know how the message is being processed in their minds and hearts.  Secondly, the message may need to come from someone outside of the family.  Personally, my return to the Church was prompted by people I had never met.  My family cared for me, influenced me and prayed for me, but nothing they said to me triggered my reversion.  God used the voices of people outside of my family for that.  It had to be my decision to come back to the Church.  I decided to be Catholic because Catholicism is true, not just because my family is Catholic.

Like a new deacon who must go and create new relationships as a deacon, we must allow our friends and loved ones to experience new people and new places.  God has a plan.  God knows who we need to encounter and when we need that encounter.

What can we do for our friends and family to help them find Christ and his Church?  Love them.  Be available to them.  Listen more than we talk.  When we do talk, speak the truth in love.  Be ready to answer their questions and hear their complaints without judgment or criticism.  Be patient.  Let God do His work.  Pray for them.  Specifically, pray that God will give them encounters with people that awaken their hearts and minds to His truth.  Sometimes the last person one needs to hear from is a family member.

Another Great Reversion Story (Plus Marriage Tips)

I came across this post and was impressed with how applicable it is to the American Catholics of my generation.  I identified with much of her reversion story.  It is not a short read, but every bit of it resonated with me in some way.  If you are a Catholic born in the 60s or 70s, chances are good that you share at least part of her story.  If you are a Catholic that left the Church (or know Catholics that have), this story is also for you.

Her blog also has some interesting marital information from a woman’s perspective worth checking out.  If any of you have read the books she mentions, I would love to hear your opinions since I have not read them.

http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2012/11/this-is-my-story-it-might-be-your-story.html

 

Peace!

Hey, Let’s Go To Church. Ok, Where Is It?

I’ve been pondering the word “church” today and considering the various ways it is used.  Here are a few examples:  a church building; a denomination; a personal adjective, as in “church lady;” the entire body of Christian believers; an assembly of believers; an event, as in the expression, “Let’s have church.”  The word “church” is used a bit like the word “love.”  So many meanings derived from one single word.  When Jesus said, “I will build my church” what did he mean?

People generally think Jesus meant that he would create a body of Christian believers.  That is true.  The Church is a body of believers.  This is where many folks stop, however.  Ask them to point to the Church that Jesus built and things begin to get murky.  They may respond that the Church built by Jesus can’t be pointed to because it is invisible.  Since only God can see the heart, only God knows who is saved and who is lost.  Therefore, it would be presumptuous to point to any person or any group and say, “There is the Church.”  Or, they may respond that all of the Christian denominations are the Church.  They simply disagree on non-essential issues.  They all believe in Jesus, so, they are all the Church that Christ founded.

I used to hold to an opinion that combined the two views.  I decided that no one knows who is lost or saved, and every church was a mixture of saved and lost people (the wheat and the tares).  There is some truth to that, but if someone were to ask me to point to the Church that Jesus Christ built I would essentially have to say, “Take your pick.”  Eventually, I ran into some problems with my perspective.

First of all, if the Church is completely invisible, how can anyone find it?  How can an invisible Church be a light for the world?  The “invisible Church” idea sounds more like a Church “hidden under a bushel.”  It is true that only God knows the heart, but it is also true that Jesus started a visible organization and placed men in specific offices within that organization.  The apostles were left in charge of the organization, and they passed their offices on to their successors (i.e. the bishops).  What Jesus started was an organized religion.

Furthermore, Jesus said he would always be with the Church and that the gates of Hell would not prevail against it.  The Church would remain an organized religion with Jesus at the head and the successors of the apostles in charge until the end of time.  Modern day Christendom with its thousands of denominations and conflicting doctrines does not fit the model of what Jesus said he would build.  Jesus prayed for his believers, “That they all would be one as you and I, Father, are one.” (John 17:21)  Can Jesus and the Father have conflicting doctrines?  No.  The Church was to be a visible, organized religion with a hierarchy of leadership and unity of doctrine.

Another problem I ran into was the take-it-to-the-Church concept.  Believers are told that if there is a conflict that can’t be worked out in private, “…take it to the Church.”  If the offending party won’t listen even to the Church, then they are to be treated as a heathen (Matt 18:17).  This simply cannot operate in the modern, multi-denomination world we have today.  One can find YouTube videos galore of different denominations debating various essential topics of Christian doctrine.  For instance, when a Church of Christ believer says that baptism is necessary for salvation, and a non-denominational believer disagrees, how can they resolve their dispute?  Which “church” do they take it to?  All they can do is debate each other endlessly.  They have no final authority to call the shots.  They are both appealing to the Bible as the final authority, yet the Bible is telling them to take their dispute to the Church, something they cannot do.  In other words, the Bible points to the Church as the final authority and the “pillar of truth.” (1Tim 3:15)  But, which church?

Jesus built a Church that is a visible body of believers, has offices with a hierarchy of apostolic successors and functions as the final authority in disputes between believers.  There’s really only one Church that fits that model consistently since the time of Christ.  That’s one of the main reasons I went back to Catholicism.  Submission to the Church built by Christ is submission to Christ.  The two are inseparable.  The final authority for faith and morals is no longer my personal opinion or even my pastor’s opinion.  The authority rests squarely where Christ placed it 2000 years ago, even before there was a Bible.  Like it or not, the authority rests within the Catholic Church.  This is not arrogance.  It doesn’t mean all the people in the Church are perfect.  Far from it.  If not for the Holy Spirit, the Church would have imploded centuries ago.  It’s still here because it’s Christ’s Church.  He started it and he holds it together even when we try to tear it apart.