This is the seventeenth part of a 24-part series of responses to a street evangelist I met from Lighthouse Baptist Church (Newark, DE). Please click here to see the first post, which contains a set of links by topic to all the posts in the series.
17. Baptist Converts to Catholicism. I mentioned that I have an iPod full of the personal testimonies and conversion stories of Baptist pastors who have converted to Catholicism. Now, I fully acknowledge that people convert from every church to every other church. The reasons I brought up these stories are:
a) even though we all know in our minds that people convert in every different direction, it seems unthinkable to most Baptists that a Baptist pastor would convert to Catholicism;
b) what is important is not that Baptist pastors are converting, but why they are converting. Why would they make such a huge personal sacrifice, where they give up their job, their pastorate, and often many friends, to join a church that, in many cases, they would have once said was the last church they would ever consider joining?
Yes, people leave Catholicism all the time. In some cases, Catholics leave because they were very poorly catechized, went to a parish that was not very alive, and found a nice evangelical church much more friendly and welcoming. To that, I say bravo to the evangelical churches! Many Catholics are learning from you to improve our own church, and those of you who have converted to Catholicism bring rich graces into the life of the Catholic Church! In other cases, Catholics leave because they have embraced a life of sin (either through contraception, divorce and remarriage, abortion, etc.) and have decided to find a denomination that teaches that these sins are okay. Sometimes, Catholics also leave Catholicism because they have been taught lies by people who are against the Catholic Church, and leave the Catholic Church on the basis of these lies. For instance, if I was gullible enough to believe the person from LBC who told me that we recrucify Christ in the Mass, I would leave the Catholic Church immediately, because the Bible clearly says (as the Baptist would definitely point out) that Christ was sacrificed “once for all.” However, I know my faith, and I’m not gullible, so I can see through a false claim when one is presented to me.
Even though the motivations behind the types of conversion outlined above are very different, notice that neither one presents a good reason to leave or join any church. (We shouldn’t leave because another church is friendlier, to avoid conversion from sin, or because we have been fed a lie.) Rather, the main reason we should join a church is because it is true. It is the truth that will set us free.
And…when you listen to these Baptist pastors who converted to Catholicism, they all say that as much as they loved being Baptist pastors, it was the truth of Catholicism that drew them in (even against their wills, sometimes). As one book of conversion stories is titled, these converts were “surprised by truth.”
Here’s what I recommend: take some time and listen to 10 stories of Catholics who left the Church, and compare them to 10 stories of Baptist pastors who joined the Catholic Church. Discern what all their motivating factors are, and most importantly, try to determine how well they seemed to have a grasp on their former faiths. When people leave the church, are they headed toward a greater or lesser unity? What about when people join the Catholic Church?
The easiest way to get to them is to get to Baptist pastors’ conversion stories to Catholicism is at EWTN. Click on this link, and then enter “Journey Home” in the search space for “EWTN programs” (not “series”…you want the second space down). This will bring you to over 600 conversion stories to the Catholic Church, many of them by Protestant ministers of one stripe or another. Scroll through the pages to find stories of Baptist converts. There are well over fifty of them. Also look for “former fundamentalist,” or former “Bible missionary.” These titles also apply well to people at a place like LBC.