Catholics coming to conversion in evangelical churches and then coming home


I’ve noticed a common theme lately as I read reversion stories and articles by lay people and even priests in publications such as our diocesan newspaper, the National Catholic Register, etc.

It seems that there are quite a few cradle Catholics who never really took their relationship with Christ or their faith seriously until they were evangelized by an “evangelical Christian” who opened their eyes to the love of God, giving their life to Him, etc. and they really accepted Christ’s grace and love for the first time and made a conscious commitment to live their life for Him - even though they have been baptized and receiving Him in Holy Communion for years. At this point they leave the Church but many come back once they realize the Catholic Church is the true church and they finally fall deeply in love with the Mass, the Eucharist, etc.

My question is this…what are we doing wrong? Why is it that so many Catholics do not "come to conversion of heart’ in the Catholic Church, but instead, need the “evangelical message” to really get them to commit to Christ and stop being a Christian/Catholic "in name only? Is it because our priests are not preaching conversion strongly enough and not talking one-on-one with their parishioners as many evangelical pastors do?


To be fair, a lot of evangelicals today are also crossing over to Catholicism, just as many Catholics are crossing over to fundamentalism.

I come from a Baptist background, for example.

I think a lot of Catholics can’t find a strong, close faith community and sometimes feel the Confirmation or RCIA programs are lacking, some are uneducated (for the same reason) about their faith and thus don’t know how to respond to persuasive arguments, and others because of interfaith marriages.

For Protestants, it’s intense research into the early Church structure for some, for others it’s a lack of substance behind the flash, and for others it’s marriage to a Catholic. (I fall under the first two categories.)


Yes, but that’s not really my point…who is crossing over to where. My point is that it seems to take a 'fundamentalist experience" for some - and I would almost say many - Catholics to finally ‘get it’ when it comes to loving and knowing Jesus, even though they go to Mass, and receive Him in Communion. Once they’ve ‘gotten it’, then the Catholic faith is the only thing that will fulfill them. Why can’t they realize that without first leaving?

Or, maybe your post helps expand upon my point, actually…when evangelicals cross over to Catholicism chances are they already have that commitment to Christ. Catholics crossing over to fundamentalism is often because it was the fundamentalist church that opened their eyes to “hey, I need to REALLY be in love with God and commit to Him, not just go through the motions on Sunday. There IS more to Christianity than just going through the motions. I actually have to make a commitment.”


I think that some Catholics leave the Church to an evangelical church for a few reasons. One, they just don’t seem to DEEPLY understand Catholic beliefs or view points. Whether it be the sacraments, sacred Scripture and Tradition, the authority of the Church, apostolic succession, etc. Another is that many of these individuals do not know the history of the Catholic Church. They are not aware of the writings of the Church Fathers.

Fallen away Catholics seem to get to pulled into these churches. I’ve been to some of them. Not on my own accord but because of being invited. The music is very emotional, the pastor is very enthusiastic and seems to know the Bible very well. It’s the perfect setting for someone who feels lost and confused. They become “born again” and all is fine for a while. After a while something is MISSING for the former Catholic because now he/she is really reading the Bible and starts to question what is going on at their new church. They begin to read the early Church Fathers and the history. After a while they come back.

Nothing against our protestant brothers and sisters. That is just my perspective.


Many times what they describe as ‘born again’ is a true conversion to Christ. We know we are ‘born again’ in baptism, but some Catholics don’t seem to take that next step…consciously committing their lives to Christ in a Catholic environment - they seem to be moved to do it when they get involved in an evangelical environment. What are we missing? Is it the initial appeal to emotion that you mention above that maybe, while I’ve always thought it was superficial, maybe there is value to it because emotion is often what gets people thinking and they eventually do make that commitment - prompted by emotion, but the decision is often real - then they can cooperate with the graces they have received at Baptism. Then once they begin really learning the Bible, many come back to the Catholic faith. I’d love for them to not feel as if they have to leave in the first place in order to ‘find Christ’.


In my opinion is the lack of teaching methods to the lay persons.

1.Teaching the Cathecism is poorly done. And the Cathecism is not enough. Teaching the Bible and the Early Church Fathers (the secret weapon in a interchristian debate) is poorly done when is done at all. The old “the church teach this” shall be replaced by "the Church teach this because the ECF and the first Councils"
The evangelicals protestants often teach their theology in a simplistic, sometimes dumb way but they do it very well, especially among the not well educated.
For example if I werent a science and history buff they probably have gotten me sometimes in the past. But I now how the Bible was done, the logical, linguistic and theological troubles with Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide, and the problems with Bible literalism so Im immune to the evangelicals prod beliefs. But I’m doing my faith journey alone becasue catholic evangelism is almost non existant. Is almost like a passive contemplative attutide from the Church. He are here, come and visit us and learn on your own. I have no problem with the latter I’m a autodidact but most people will go the easy way.

  1. Teaching the basic. Jesus, Jesus and Jesus is othen neglected in favor of the secundary. Marian dogmas, several devotions, the sacraments and the Church ecclesiology without ensuring first that the person got a relationship with God first. One you understand that you understand the other dogmas next.
    But often the Cathequesis is too focused on the more complex things and lose focus in the more important things.


I think I can pretty much agree with this. My own experience and testimony bears it out. I think there is a deception that occurs (albeit, I think it’s unintentional.) and those Catholics who “don’t seem to DEEPLY understand Catholic beliefs or view points” fall prey to the evangelism of various n-Cs. I do feel that some who leave the Catholic faith, do so for want of an easier (and IMO less Biblical) morality. This is especially true of departed clergy, though they generally seem to try to cover it with vehement a-C rhetorical attacks.
Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum.


The problem is also that for example, in our parish, we have a small prayer group, but on parish level there isn’t such thing as “community”. People get together for holy mass once a week, and that’s all (if I don’t count old women praying rosary). It’s “catholics anonymous”. Given that, even if you understand and believe CC teaching with your whole heart, you would still lack something so VERY important. And this is not problem of my parish only. Pentecostal churces are much better in this area, and in evangelization too.


I believe in my case it was watered down Catholic teaching of my youth (1960s and 70s). This was the ‘touchy-feely’ age. To me and my classmates, religion class was a joke. We were not taught simple doctrine, the sacraments, or church history. Everything was centered on ‘feelings’ in those days.
In High School we were taught some Bible, but by then it was too little, too late. Many in my age group agree with me about the deficiency of Catholic religious education in that decade (primarily the 70s). Many of my classmates are now non-practicing Catholics, atheists, or have gone into Protestant churches. I’ve often wondered if I would have left the Church if I had been given some simple tools with which to give an answer when the fundamentalists came knocking (figuratively). Today, everything I know about doctrine, the sacraments, the Bible, and Church history, I learned outside the Catholic Church.
Since I have returned I am encouraged by the fact that Catholic leadership is interested in educating the masses. Something like ‘Catholic Answers’ was unknown when I was a kid.


There are many ways to fix this.

Our parish has breakfast after morning Mass 6 days a week. A Wednesday night supper and Fridays as well during Lent. We are encouraged to get to know one another and my wife and I have had some very good discussions with others and made some friends at these events, which is their whole point.

Being involved in the parish ministry is also important. CCD and RCIA are always in need of people to help out.

However, one thing that I do love about my faith is that I don’t have to have other parishioners “in my pocket” all the time like it was in the n-C communities we used to belong to. It seemed forced and in many ways was just busybodies minding other people’s business. Frankly, I appreciate the fact that Catholics tend to respect your privacy and leave you alone when you need it.

Eucharistic Adoration is one somewhat solitary aspect of my faith that I wouldn’t trade for anything except Heaven.


I don’t know Just,

Remember that we also had access to Bishop Sheen’s great teaching and catechesis, but (in my own case) I was too dumb to avail myself of it.

I also had some very devout family members who would have dearly loved to help to build up my faith had I but been willing to learn.

In the long run, I don’t blame the church, I see it as my own failing and my reversion after so many years a work of the Holy Spirit.

My own religion classes were not so bad as yours, but again…I wasn’t receptive and I think that was the key.

Still the good news is that we do have access to so much good help today and may God help us to avail ourselves of it and share it with those He brings into our lives, right? :slight_smile:


Oh I blame myself a lot.
Maybe it’s my reaction to the philosophy of the baby boom generation, of which I am a part.
Education, particularily adult education is the key toward producing Catholics who know their faith. As teens grow into adults they have sincere questions, and the fundamentalists APPEAR to have an answer to that. And unless the person is willing to question those answers, they will be satisfied with the half-truths and outright lies of fundamentalism.
The Catholic Church has the answers, and they have to be adept at transmitting that truth.


:thumbsup: I fully agree with you my friend! Very well stated! :clapping: :yup:


Switching fron One Religion to another is a sign of weakness of one person to GOD. We should not blame the priest or any other person for our weaknesses. In fact, we should ask for forgiveness. And pray frequently to make our faith stronger and our wisdom to grow more. We are the only one who can fill ourselves the kind of love, faith and the right way to believe. We are the only one who can prove to ourselves that we have enlightened and that we are GOD"s children.



My answer both to your concerns and to the reasons you present for the current situation is a resounding YES. And where I am the pattern is much the same… the most on fire Catholics I know often were saved in Evangelical settings before they found their way into Catholicism (and that mostly happend theoretically /by books, and not by being reached by the preaching.)
At least where I am, the Catholic priests don’t preach. Its written in the Word that John the Baptist and Jesus preached “repentance to the forgiveness of sins”… but today our priests don’t want to preach … they are too afraid to get unpopular… or they want to be tolerant without realising what a horrifying tolerance that is.
I brought it up with my own parish priest… he said: “NO! I am not supposed to preach… I am to give an encouraging homily” :eek: He would not admit to anything being wrong, even though people look like they are falling asleep in the pews and I am so tired of listening to priests who say nothing… NOTHING. I know the extreme potential in words… a mans life could forever be altered by 30 minutes of real preaching… and no one else has the authority and the great gift that the priest has: that people sit there listening to them out of duty and tradition… sunday after sunday…
Admitted: I go to the Pentecostal church too… I am a double dipper and I have been for some years now. I am not being fed in the Catholic Church where I am right now. I dont plan to leave Catholicism but as long as the Word is not being preached I will not apologize for going and get nourished where it is.
The lack of good preaching and teaching from our pulpits leads to sin among our young people, falling away from the Lord, falling away from the RCC… Indeed …Id much rather have a brother who is brought to life in a Evangelical church than a brother who is spiritually dead sitting next to me in the Catholic Church.
Let’s be honest: the only real transformation of heart happens when people get a personal relationship with Jesus and they take that firm decision to follow Him because they have been seized by the Word that was preached with zeal and power and love… without that real conscious meeting with the Holy Spirit we may partake of all the Sacraments week after week but always be a sleep in our souls…

This is my experience…

Peter preached to the Jews in Jerusalem at Pentecost: He said: You have crucified Christ. He spoke with power and zeal. The audience felt a sting of repentance in their heart and grace started working. They said: "What must be do to be saved…?"
But today I only ever hear about my personal need for salvation and turning away from sin at Evangelical meetings… and even there the sickness of tepidity is seeping in so that these brethren too start thinking: “surely we will be alright…”

It’s a gigantic problem… but the thing that tempts me about it is not that there is a problem, but that there is a lack of willingness to admit that it is there.
How I long to find a Catholic parish where both laity and priests really believe in the Gospel and in their own active role in salvationhistory… a place where the ministries are… where the mighty deeds are evident and where the fellowship is thriving.



Halleluja… the truth is being spoken here! :thumbsup:


When I lived in a big city that was 90% Catholic, I saw this a lot. But moving to a town where Catholics are in a distinct minority (and fundamentalist churches are in the majority), I rarely see indifferance among Catholics here.


Over the years at different times I have been actively involved in Marriage Encounter, the Charismatic Renewal, Christ Renews His Parish Retreats, and RCIA. The common factor that I have learned through these involvements is that people become very fervent and active Catholics when they once find a focus on Jesus and He becomes the very center of their lives. As someone said above an emotional experience that brings one to Jesus seems to be an important first step. If the people of the Catholic Parish rally about this person as many Evangelicals do with love, support, fellowship, and further education you end up with a Catholic on fire for the Faith. If not, that emotional “Coming to Jesus” slowly dies away and the person begins to “drift away.” That initial realization of Jesus’ deep love for them and their commitment is a most important event. I think too we used to talk about the notion that one never really “got religion” without a crisis of Faith.


My small two cents:
as a member of the “younger” generation the media is always talking about being drawn to the TLM, here’s my observation-

to be authentically Catholic in today’s culture is to be counter-cultural, to be almost subversive. To embrace the Church’s teachings on the sanctity of all life, traditional marriage, family, and role of men and women in the Church, etc. etc. is to really swim against the prevalent tide. From my own (limited) observation, it is not Father and his homilies that are equipping Catholics to face this battle. And so, without the support needed to “fight the good fight”, culturally and morally speaking, that is such a huge part of being Catholic, ALL aspects of Catholicism fall away- including a burning love for Our Lord.

However, accompanying family members to their worship services (mostly non-denominational, but evangelical all), I have been struck by their pastors’ willingness to preach the “tough stuff”. “Tough stuff” that has more in common with Catholic teachings than one might realize. They are bonded together in a battle against the culture of death. They are fired up to be warriors for God. This fire, this passion easily flows to and from a passion for Our Lord. It is love of Jesus that causes them to so vocally identify with His radical teachings, and it is a belief in those radical teachings that fan the flames of love for Him.

Again, I in no way claim to speak for every parish in the Universal Church, only from my own experience. Experience that has never, ever included any teaching of any sort on topics that may be “controversial”.


Funny that there would be a thread about this today. Last night I watched Common Ground, a conversation between a Catholic priest and an evangelical protestant pastor. IMO, it’s worth the price of the DVD just to hear Fr John’s story about his encounter with the Lord.

Back to the topic at hand, Fr John says that a lot of Catholics don’t realize what’s happening at Mass and the sameness of the ritual (even though the sameness is by design, as Fr Larry Richards says, “There is only one Mass.”) doesn’t do anything for them. They go down the street to the protestant church and it’s different, very different from the Mass, so their virtual antennae are up and they hear about having a personal relationship with Jesus and they think it’s the first time they’ve heard it, simply because it’s a different presentation of Him. In truth, the Catholic Mass has all the elements in it (for a person with ears to hear) of the Gospel that is preached in protestant churches: Admit you are a sinner, believe that God alone saves, confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, receive Him as your Savior. :thumbsup:

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