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What Catholics Owe Evangelicals: An Appreciation

Over at The Evangelical Outpost, Joe wrote a post about what he appreciates about Catholics.  The first comment was from a Matt Anderson who suggested that Jimmy Akin write a similar post from a Catholic perspective.  Jimmy linked to Joe’s post but did not write the reply Matt had hoped (Jimmy’s a very busy guy).  So, in Jimmy’s place I present a Catholic response:

New forms of worship – Catholics have come up with hundreds of different ways to appreciate God, many of them under-utilized.  However, most of that innovation happened a long time ago.  In more recent times, it has been the Evangelicals who have had the pioneering spirit to find new ways to praise God through music and different forms of prayer service.

In recent years there has been a push in Catholic circles to find new ways to present Christ, particularly to the young.  Being out of practice at it, Catholics have spent a good deal of time following the Evangelical lead and incorporating Evangelical ideas.  For this we should be very thankful.

Use of Technology – All the way back to the invention of the printing press, Protestants have taken a more aggressive approach to using technology to spread the Word of God.  Today Evangelicals are the Protestants who continue that heritage.  I wonder if Catholics would have as strong a presence online, on the radio, on TV and in print if it weren’t for Evangelicals taking the lead in these areas.

Re-Evangelization – Pre-Reformation Catholic Europe had the disadvantage of having “no one to convert”.  All of the Christian formation within Europe centered on raising one’s children.  While there were strong efforts to spread the word of Christ around the globe, in many ways it seems that Catholics lost the ability to evangelize locally.

Evangelicals, as is made clear by the name they chose for themselves, have made conversion a central goal.  In our ever-changing society, we are faced with the reality that Christianity is no longer the majority.  Catholics have struggled to find their evangelical identity.  We owe them a debt of gratitude for all that we have learned from them.

Jesus as man – While the Evangelical notion of a “personal” savior has its issues for us Catholics because of it’s de-emphasis on God as savior for the whole world, that same mindset has also had a positive effect on Catholics.  It has helped many Catholics see God in new light, one that supplements their existing views.

Instead of seeing God in just a very Holy and awe inspiring way, it has helped many Catholics see God in his humanity.  While this has been a constant theme in Lent from the perspective of Christ dying for our sins as a man, the evangelical perspective has broadened that mindset to more aspects of our shared Faith.

Institutional focus on serving the congregation – Evangelical churches are very focused on meeting the needs of their members.  While there has always been a similar theme in Catholicism, the Pope isn’t called “the servant of servants” for nothing, often times the bureaucracy of the Catholic Church has hindered it in delivering on that mission.  Evangelical churches have set a very high bar in this regard and have challenged the Catholic Church to do better.

Just as Joe is not going to swim the Tiber, I too can’t imagine myself ever leaving the Catholic Church.  Nevertheless, there is much to appreciate in the Evangelical approach to Christianity and Catholics should be very thankful to the renewed vigor they’ve brought to spreading the Gospel.

One Response to “What Catholics Owe Evangelicals: An Appreciation”

  1. Paul Says:

    As an evangelical, I grew up under constant comments that implied, but never directly stated, that Catholics were not saved. I remember the first time I asked Ken what Catholics believed, and he pointed me at the Nicean Creed. It opened my eyes to a whole world that I never knew existed. the protestant world tries to pretend that St. Augustine and St. Francis of Assisi were not Catholic. We have tried to pretend that the heros of our faith were protestant. In the evangelical circles that I am a part of, there is a renewed recognition that these saints were Catholic, and a renewed appreciation for the Church. I am grateful for this and continue to pray for a united, visible, church.