Sunday, January 24, 2010

How (not) to Convert a Protestant

So I said I was going to write about this, and I finally found my notes, so here goes:

1. Pray.

2. Don't try to "win". Sometimes we can get so caught up in an argument that we just want to prove we are right. It becomes a selfish battle against the other person rather than an honest search for truth. Remember we are not fighting Protestants, we are trying to come together as Christians, as ONE church. As Bishop Fulton Sheen would say, "Win the argument, lose the soul."

3. Don't "trash other people's faith." Remember that because someone is Protestant doesn't mean they are on the wrong path. Don't look down on them or act like they know nothing. They are still part of the one Church, though in a less complete way. I remember listening to the Catholic apologist Tim Staples on Catholic Answers not long ago. A young Protestant woman was upset, thinking that the Catholic Church looked down on her as a Protestant and Catholics were arrogant in believing that only they were right. Mr. Staples, a convert, explained to her that he in no way looks back on his days in the Assembly of God as dismal days in which he was on the wrong path. On the contrary, he looks on them with fondness, seeing his time as a Protestant Christian as part of his early path towards the Fullness of Truth. She, also, was on the right track; she just needed to keep searching and she would find the Full Truth. Alex Jones, a Protestant preacher who recently came into the Catholic Church and brought his entire congregation with him said in an interview on Catholic Answers: "No, we don't trash people's faith, we don't try to proselytize them for their faith." Protestants do know the truth--they are Christians, and if they honestly continue searching they will find their way to fullness.

4. Preach by example. Alex Jones: "They don't need to hear preaching. They need someone who can share the love." Later in the interview: "Your life opens the door, your testimony, your walk before Christ opens the door for conversation and through conversation you can share Christ..." This applies not only to Protestants but also to those who do not know Christ at all. If we stay strong in our Catholic faith, don't hide it, and certainly don't compromise on any issues, then people will be curious. We must show others our passion for the faith. They will ask questions.

5. Answer questions honestly and without compromise. "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) Don't avoid conversations about faith so as "not to offend anyone". Proclaim the Truth!

6. Don't force it. God's ways are not our ways. Sometimes, especially in relationships, the fact that someone does not share the same Catholic faith can cause a lot of tension. But don't force anyone to convert or even look into the faith if she isn't ready. You may end up with someone who is just looking for flaws, for things to make her angry, and it becomes a stubborn battle. God will work in her heart when He and she are ready. When things get heated, it is best to leave it alone and cool it for a while. Sometimes there is only one thing you can do. Which brings me to the last:

7. Pray! God works on His own time, and He is the only one who can change hearts.

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