Question: I have a growing number of friends who are leaving the Catholic Church for mega churches. I want to share with them how amazing the Catholic faith is, but I don’t know where to begin the conversation. Can you give me some suggestions on how to approach the topic with them?
JAMES BLANKENSHIP RESPONDS …
Leaving the Catholic Church for mega churches is a growing trend among both youth and adults. Before you can engage in any conversation with a friend, family member, or coworker, you need to know why he or she is leaving. I would start the conversation very simply: “Why are you leaving?” My experience tells me that there are two reasons people leave the Church: 1) an individual doesn’t know how to have a personal relationship with Jesus, or 2) the individual disagrees with one or more of the teachings of the Church.
Get personal about Christ
If my friend needs support regarding having a personal relationship with the Lord, I would ask my friend to sit down and read the Scriptures with me. What better way to come to
know the Lord than by reading about his life? I would begin to share with my friend how to
use lectio divina to open up the Scriptures prayerfully. Finally, I would pray with my friend,
talking to Jesus as if he were there next to us. While many of us might be more comfortable with formal prayer, sometimes simple prayers “in the moment” can really move hearts. Don’t be afraid to pray together.
Get acquainted with doctrine
If my friend is leaving the Church over a disagreement with one or more teachings, I would make it my top priority to understand everything the Church has taught about that particular topic. How can one defend the Church’s teaching without first understanding it? Then I would politely engage with my friend with questions: “How do you disagree with the Church? What are your beliefs?” Then respectfully share what you have learned as you are able.
Listen and pray
Motivational speaker Steve Maraboli said, “Sometimes we just need to be heard. … There
are times in life when being heard leads to being healed.” Perhaps, by the grace of God,
your questions and conversation might begin to heal the rift between your friend and the
Church. Always speak the truth with charity, and don’t forget to ask the Holy Spirit to guide your friend. It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convert another’s heart. Our job is to stand in the gap and intercede for them, while always being ready to share our faith with conviction and love.
“Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15-16).
James Blankenship is the director of religious education at St. Francis De Sales Church in
Purcellville, Virginia. He is the founder of the St. Isidore Project, dedicated to the poor by growing food and offering education and community.
Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash